One of the things that I enjoy doing with my family is visiting zoos. This lends itself to photography as the subjects, some of which you may only get to see in a zoo setting, are ready to be photographed. I have blogged about our love of zoos before and talked about things like shooting through the glass and the backgrounds and you can search the blog for those articles. In this post I wanted to talk about how to turn your pictures into that fine art look, almost like a lithograph. I am sure that if you have visited a zoo, there have been times when you may not have taken a picture because the lighting was not right or the background was cluttered making for distracting picture. Hopefully after this post you will reconsider and maybe look at how you can really make an otherwise bad click into something special. Let’s begin. Here is the original shot.
Certainly not a good shot for sure. Shot through glass, reflections galore, clutter from the lions enclosure and just generally not a keeper. This is where I am asking you to think outside the box and look at the potential. I visualized this shot in black and white knowing full well that the distractions would start to disappear in post-processing. Certainly just converting this to black and white made and cropping it a bit tighter made it look much better.
The actual process of getting to the final image is done 95% of the way in Lightroom and the other 5% in Photoshop. I begin by cropping the image to the dimensions that I want. In this picture I increased the clarity to almost 100% then I applied a vignette to get the majority of the image darker.
This gets me in the ballpark. Now for some fine tuning. I use the adjustment brush to to darken the rest of the image. I have found that for me and the way that I like to do the fine art, setting the exposure slide all the way to the left (-4) works best. I make sure that as I get near the subject I have Auto Mask turned on to avoid underexposing the subject. It can a take a little bit of time, but I like the end result.
The finishing touch on this image was to take it into Photoshop and use the plug-in Color Efex Pro > Bleach bypass and it really finishes the image. In the future think about trying the method and developing your own Fine Art type of images. It really is fun to do and see the result.
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