Little Birds... and a Big Bird

The Fix


Kevin Carden
Kernersville, NC

The problem: Yes, yes, we know we're always running feature and how-to stories exhorting you to add drama to your landscape photos! But you can have too much of a good thing. This beachscape certainly says warm sand and blue sky in capital letters, but it's way oversaturated for our taste. We also think it distracts from the real subject, the merry line of sandpipers strutting along water's edge.

What now: Working with the original file, we cropped so that the birds are larger in the frame. We used the Shadow/Highlight tool in Adobe Photoshop CS3 to tone down highlights, then used Curves to add some warmth to the sand (but not too much) and some more blue to the water (but not too much). We were going for a more natural effect, but did we now make it too dull, Fix fans?

Next time: Look for a happy medium in tweaking your photos.

Tech info: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT with 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Canon EF IS lens, 1/4 00 sec at f/11, ISO 100. Edits such as blue gradient added to sky/ocean, and yellow to sand, in Ulead PhotoImpact.


Gilbert M. Gillespie
Mount Pleasant, SC

The problem: The pendulum swings the other way with this lovely study of an egret that's just too subtle -- the bird simply doesn't stand out enough. Also, the subject is centered, and you know how much centered subjects can bug the Fix Team.

What now: We used Curves in Photoshop to brighten the egret and bring up contrast. In doing so, we noticed that the bird's head and beak were just a little soft, so we used Smart Sharpen for local sharpening. We were in a quandary about cropping to place the bird off-center -- if we maintained a horizontal format, it would have meant losing most of the bird's reflection, which is vital to the picture. But then we made like a Hasselblad shooter and cropped to a square, which keeps most of the reflection.

Next time: A little touchup can go a long way, so don't be shy. For the purists out there, let us remind you that this is just the darkroom equivalent of going to a higher-contrast paper, and doing a little dodging during printing.

Tech info: Nikon D80 with 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor, 1/160 sec at f/10, ISO 100.