LIGHTROOM FOR ANIMAL PHOTOGRAHY
I was catching up on some videos from last year and ran across one that turned out to be really interesting. It is called How to Turn Your Zoo Photography into Fine Art with Lightroom by Serge Ramelli. Since I like to photograph animals at the various zoo and theme parks around here, I gave it a go and thought I would share his rather simple workflow. Be sure to check out the link as Serge offers 5 Develop presets and 2 Adjustment Brush presets to use on your images (and he also has some other very good videos on Photoshop at his site).
The image above is of a Sumatran Tiger from the Jacksonville Zoo – this is one of the tigers they use for demonstrating his breed – very nice cat. Once you have downloaded the presets and placed them in Lightroom (his video goes through this at the end), I always create a Virtual Copy to work with so the original can be used again if needed.
- Try looking at all his presets and choose one that looks good. The above image used his Zoo Base I preset. All the settings are set up so only a tweak here or there might be needed. The Develop Basic and Detail sections are where the adjustments are made. You can always go back to these after finishing the steps and adjust them more if the effect is not quite right.
- Now is a good time to Crop the image before you set up the Gradient Filters, but it can be done later.
- Select the Gradient Filter and add a New dot on on the right side of the image. Set the Effect drop-down field to Exposure or try out the Zoo Darken Brush. Now move the Exposure slider to select the correct amount of vignette, he softened the Clarity a little as it smooths the dark areas, and finally the Noise is set to +100. Just drag out the gradient towards the subject. Do this for the other three edges.
- Select the Adjustment Brush and in Effect drop-down, choose Zoo Darken Brush and paint in on parts that need to be darkened a little on main animal or subject. Switch to Zoo Brighten Brush in Effects drop-down and paint over areas that need to be lightened – basically doing dodging and burning here. Can adjust any of the other sliders to get the correct look and can add new points to get a great finished look. Try adding one for just the eyes by zooming in.
- Go back and tweak any of the settings since this is the beauty of Lightroom!
This is when I take my images into Photoshop and add some more filter effects. The tiger image used the Nik Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in applied to it in specific places using Darken/Lighten Center, Detail Extractor (control point on face only), Glamour Glow and Pastel (set to 46% opacity) filters. That was all that was done. Not sure mine exactly fine art but it does give a very pleasing look and the background has definitely been toned down a lot. Serge used more vignetting in his images so check out the video link for those settings.
This guy was definitely watching everyone in the area – I think he is in charge of this part of the Jacksonville Zoo. Used the same preset as above – the Zoo Base I is my favorite. Added the gradient filters and adjustment brush strokes and took the image into Photoshop. At this point the image had a lot more background color and was not cropped to the final size. In Photoshop Nik Viveza 2 was used to do a little more sharpening and brightening in the right places. A black and white Adjustment Layer was added and set to 37% layer opacity to slightly remove the color. Then the final crop was done. The desaturated look seems to suit this guy.
This Giant Tortoise resides at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and is hard to miss! I think he is eating twigs. This time the Zoo Sepia preset was used as a starting point in Lightroom and more of the Basic sliders were adjusted to get a global effect that looked good. Then the Gradient Filters were added and the Adjustment Brush was used to brighten up his face. In Photoshop Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Detail 3 Highlights was opened and the Highlight Detail 1 preset was selected. A black layer mask was added back in PS and just the focal areas were painted back in. On a Stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Texture Effects 2 was opened up and a new preset was created. Used a rusty edged grayish texture, some edge blur for the background but not the turtle, a light leak that had some turquoise for the shell, and a few Basic Adjustment settings were applied. In the masking section, painted back the face a little. This layer was set to 67% layer opacity. On another stamped layer, used Nik Viveza 2 just on the face to lighten it up a little more. Last step involved adding a Levels Adjustment Layer to slightly flatten out the dark edges – painted back the face so it was not affected.
These presets are very nice. It is an easy way to really set off the animals and remove some of the distractions that are usually inside the cages. I am still experimenting with this technique, but it appears to have some good possibilities. I would encourage you to at least try out the presets and see what you thing. Serge has several other videos and presets available so check out those also. Hope everyone is enjoying this early Spring!…..Digital Lady Syd