Fixing Up Tiger Using Lightroom, Photoshop, and PhotoTools

While I do love post-processing, I'm definitely in the "I don't do a lot for every photo" crowd. Unless it's something I *know* has the potential to be really good, or I'm showing it to people, or using it in my portfolio, most times I don't bother. I also do try to get stuff right in camera, as much as humanely possible.

I took a photo of a tiger at the zoo. Here's the before, and after next to each other. 

Notice the "before" is really dark since the tiger was in the shade (while the other tigers were in the sun), but when I looked at it on my computer, I thought it had potential.  It's the old adage, "you never know until you try!"

First I decided to try some adjustments in Lightroom. I changed the White Balance to Shade to see what that would do. Note that I was able to do that because I shoot in RAW. Otherwise inside of Lightroom you can do a custom white balance, or choose Auto. It did help, but the picture was still pretty dark, so I added +.35 of Exposure, and +15 of Fill Light.

At this point I decided to see if I could do any more exposure compensation in Photoshop, and then possibly do some other touchups in PhotoTools. In Photoshop, I duplicated my background layer (always a good idea!), and decided to try the "set white point" dropper under the Image->Adjustments->Exposure menu and clicked on part of the snow, which made the snow whiter and brightened up the photo more. After I did that, I realized I could've done the same thing in Lightroom by using the White Balance dropper, but either way works! Actually as a secondary note, anything you do in PhotoTools can normally be done inside of Photoshop or Lightroom, but PhotoTools just makes it easier, and puts everything all in one place.

When I go into PhotoTools, I normally don't have a clear picture of what exactly I'm trying to achieve. I'll look at the filters I've marked as Favorites to see if anything strikes me, otherwise I'll just start going through the categories, and just try different things. In this case, I knew I wanted to make the tiger stand out more from the background, but first I wanted to make the colors more vibrant. Choosing Auto Tone and Color and setting it to 42, yielded me this:

Not bad, and not much difference, but I still wanted the tiger to stand out more, so I choose Boost Color with a fade of 42 as well, and used a mask to just put it on the tiger. 

When you do masks (by choosing the brush tool at the bottom) in PhotoTools, it defaults to Paint Out, with the effect over everything. In this case, I thought it would be easier to start without the effect showing at all, and just paint it in on the tiger. In order to do that, you can click Invert Mask, and Paint In, and start brushing on the tiger. If you can't change Paint Out to Paint In, then make sure you've selected the brush tool, since that option doesn't become active until you do that.

Now I was getting closer, but I still wanted the background to look less saturated, so I used the Brush Less Color effect on the background with a fade of 79. Since I didn't want to affect the tiger, I did the same thing as before, except I painted out the effect on it, bringing back the color.

Lastly, I ran the whole image through High Pass Sharpening, and voila!  Instant tiger!