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Thread: Some issues with a bee shot

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    Snarkbyte's Avatar
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    Some issues with a bee shot

    I got this carpenter bee at the park yesterday, but the shot does have a couple of problems, so perhaps someone here has some advice. I know this isn't the best crop, but I cropped to make the issues easily visible, not for best composition.

    First, the foreground bokeh of the flower stalk left of the bee just looks... odd. This was taken with a Canon 100mm L macro lens, and the lens produces great bokeh for background objects, so I was a bit surprised by this. I doubt anything can really be done (other than trying to avoid foreground objects like this), but I thought I would ask anyway.

    The other thing is that these bees are BLACK... I mean really, really black, not just dark. I've tried to pull out some detail with some selective dodging on the bee in a separate layer in PS, but I would welcome additional advice here. I know the requirements here are somewhat contradictary, but I'd like to get some detail without making the bee too bright.

    Thanks in advance!

    Some issues with a bee shot

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    jiro's Avatar
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    Willie or Jiro is fine by me.

    Re: Some issues with a bee shot

    Al, try to use a level adjustment layer on top of the image layer and set the input black level value to 23 and the midtone o rmidpoint level value to 0.92. After this invert the level adjustment mask and just paint a white colored brush only on the bee area to selectively apply the effect of the levels layer. A lens blur effect might work on the background and then apply a mask so it will only blur the areas you want to further blur. Just a suggestion.

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    Re: Some issues with a bee shot

    As you said, Al, that crop gives far too much prominence to the flower on the left.

    I think your only hope is a substantial crop and some selective brightness adjustments as Willie mentioned. Then I would do a selective sharpen to just include the bee as well as Willie's blur effect.

    But in cases like this, whatever you do by way of camera settings will come down to the simple fact that a black bee in a bright background is going to be extremely difficult.

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    Re: Some issues with a bee shot

    Thanks Willie and Geoff. I've been playing around a bit, and I've found something that does help somewhat with the bee. I have the bee on a separate layer, and done some Levels adjustment before the selective dodging (forgot to mention that in the original post). What I've done now is to create a Channel Mixer adjustment layer for the bee layer, and set the blue channel to Monochrome. I then increased the blue channel slider a little and reduced the Constant slider to a value of -5. This gets rid of the "blueing", so that the bee really is black, and brings out some contrast without introducing any color. In effect, the bee looks blacker than before, but more details are visible.

    As for the foreground blurring, it probably doesn't help that there's nothing in focus between the blurred foreground and the blurred background on that part of the image. There is enough room in the original image to crop so that the bee is on the left of the frame, and what little remains of the foreground flowers can probably be cloned away. I'll play with this a bit more and post an updated image later. Thanks for your comments!

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    Re: Some issues with a bee shot

    OK, here's my latest attempt. This involves putting the bee in a separate layer and then converting that layer to B&W with an adjustment layer. This bee is completely black... not a hit of color at all in real life, so the B&W conversion is true-to-life, gets rid of the blue tint and brings out more detail, since all channels are just tonal values. I recropped to avoid the ugly bokeh of the foreground plant and made vibrance and levels adjustments to the background layer. Add some levels and curves adjustments, a tiny bit of selective dodging, and sharpening for the bee. I like this better, there's definitely more detail visible in the bee, and it still looks fairly black. Whadya think?

    Some issues with a bee shot

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    Re: Some issues with a bee shot

    That is a lot better, Al, but I think I would try to tone down the background highlights a bit more and very slightly increase the brightness on the bee's head and thorax. Not very much though, it's almost perfect now.

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    Re: Some issues with a bee shot

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    That is a lot better, Al, but I think I would try to tone down the background highlights a bit more and very slightly increase the brightness on the bee's head and thorax. Not very much though, it's almost perfect now.
    I think you're right, Geoff, thanks! I'm also thinking I might play around with the bee a bit in Silver Efex Pro2, just to see what I can make pop. This has turned out to be an unexpected and interesting case where selective color (usually used entirely for artistic effect) is quite useful in a practical sense, and worth keeping in mind when detail is needed for a black subject in against a brightly lit background. Just getting rid of the blue tint is helpful, converting all channels to tonal values only is a big help in bringing up contrast. There's not much tonal range to work with, but most of it is in the blue channel, so converting this to B&W can be a huge help.

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    Re: Some issues with a bee shot

    One thing which I have listed in my 'must try list' is the method which has recently been discussed here concerning a b&w 'sandwich layer' to increase contrast.

    When I tried it, on an outdoor scene, the sky went too dark so I thought about adding a mask to the monochrome layer but haven't had any 'experiment time' available recently.

    I often use a duplicate layer, plus mask, to increase saturation/brightness selectively so it should work in much the same way.

    Some people recommend setting the Blend Mode of these duplicate layers to Overlay then reducing the opacity to suit before editing the mask; but I find that Soft Light Blend often works best for me.

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