|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
Wildlife photography is a challenge. It requires lots of patience, dedication, trips to the animals and time. But quite often, no matter how much time you spend, how patient you are, how many trips you take, and how dedicated you are, the animals don't cooperate. The light wasn't right, the animals never showed up, they appeared but displayed little behavior, their head angles were wrong, etc. This is where image processing can rescue you from your dilemma of not getting “the shot” no matter how hard you tried.
I use Photoshop to create an illustrative wildlife image to combine two or more files into a single photo. I use the word illustrative in that I don't want to give the wrong impression that the photo was made as a single capture. This is where digital processing gets a bad reputation unless the maker of the photo comes clean. For the sake of those who want to maintain the integrity of every photographer, if you do create composites, please don't to pass them off as single captures.
In the illustrative image I composited for this How To, I used the same bird from two frames, but because of the way he positioned himself in each, it gives the impression that one is chasing another. In actuality, the bird that was doing the chasing didn't cooperate, and I completely left him out.
Step 1: Find two images to composite. It's best if the light is identical, the setting is the same, and the background is plain and simple. Open both in Photoshop.
Step 2: Click on the Lasso tool and make a selection of the subject to move. Leave extra room around it. Go to Edit>Copy. Click on the photo to which the selection is to be moved and go to Edit>Paste. A new layer will appear on the layers palette. Use the Move tool to position the added subject to the desired location.
Step 3: Go to Image>Adjustments>Levels and tweak the midtones slider to get as close a density match as possible. This will help alleviate any variations in exposure from one file to the next.
Step 4: Add a Layer Mask to the new layer. To do this, click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. Click on the Brush tool. Make sure the layer mask is active - it will have a thin black line around it. Be sure your foreground color is set to black and the opacity is set to 50% in the Options Bar. Paint away the edges of the new layer to blend the two images together. Use a very soft brush so the transition is feathered. If you paint into the layer that was pasted and need to get the pixels back, change the foreground color to white and paint over the area that needs correcting.
Step 5: Click the eyeball of the new layer ON and OFF to preview how natural the addition looks. Some clean up cloning may be needed in addition to other tweaks. If so, perform these steps.