50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Editing, Photography

A “Smart Object” Snowy Owl

I took this photo of a Snowy Owl a few weeks ago.  The original was a nice shot but really too dark.  I used a slightly different editing method than I have used in the past, just to see if it would work.  Here is the edited photo:

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/4 1/640

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/4 1/640

When I was shooting the photo I increased the ISO a bit because of all the shadows.  I had my f-stop at a low number because I want to have the background mostly, but not completely, blurred.  The lens I was using is a 50mm 1.8, but I went with an f-stop of 4 to make sure that the whole owl would be in focus.  I also used a high shutter speed to stop any motion in the bird.

My original photo as you will see below is too dark.  Because I shot in RAW I was pretty sure I could fix that in my post editing.  I opened it in Camera Raw and adjusted the exposure to get a good exposure on the bird.  This made the background too bright.  So I opened my photo from Camera Raw into Photoshop as a “Smart Object”  Once I had it open in Photoshop, in the layers panel I chose -New Smart Object via Copy.  Then I double clicked on that new layer which actually opened it up in Camera Raw again.  That version I changed the exposure to make the background correct and saved that.  Once back in Photoshop, I had two layers, one with the owl at the right exposure and one with the background correct.  On the background correct layer which was on top I put a mask, then I used a black paint brush to paint over the owl.  This had the effect of revealing the correctly exposed owl that was the lower layer.  Then I merged the layers.  Then I did some sharpening and cropping.  Here is the original image:

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/4 1/640

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/4 1/640

What do you think?  Beautiful bird isn’t it?  This editing didn’t take too long and I was pleased with the results.  Have you ever tried this method?  I think it is pretty effective when you have a photo that really needs two different exposures.  Are there other situations where you have found it useful?  I love to hear what you think below.



25 thoughts on “A “Smart Object” Snowy Owl

  1. kirkistan says:

    Posts like this give me courage to plunge forward with post-processing. Since I’ve been reading your blog I’ve begun shooting in RAW+JPEG and have just become comfortable working with the tone curve and adjusting brightness and exposure. This post gives fresh ammunition for some problem areas i have with the technology I’ve been shooting. Thanks for sharing your experiments and your process. Terrific owl, by the way.


  2. Good editing tips … brought up the light tones beautifully. I was shown a nifty little trick using PS to rectify light or dark tones using Levels in layers … by setting the object to be edited at it’s correct tone; command Control + I to invert and then using the brush to bring up the lower layer. Quick and easy, and very useful for exposure contrasts 🙂


  3. Pingback: Travel Theme: Short | Photography Journal Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.