How do you deal with a subject partly in the shade? See below two male lions sleeping side by side in Savuti, Chobe National Park.

Lions sleeping in Savuti, Chobe National Park

Two male lions sleeping together. This photograph was created in the Savuti Game Reserve, in the Chobe National Park – Botswana.

ISO 1000 | f/4 | 1/2000 | Av Mode with no manual exposure compensation | AI servo focus

This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens, the Canon EOS 5D mark II supported on a bean bag.

Those two male lions are peacefully taking a nap together under the shade of a Mopane tree. The big issue with subjects partially shaded (like under a tree!) is that it will be nearly impossible to obtain a great exposure. In this case I had made the mistake not to manually overexpose with the manual exposure compensation coupled with Av mode. I thought it was a mistake. In reality I was lucky doing so! Why? You want to expose your images so that you don’t blow up the highlights and thus obtain a non clipped histogram the furthest possible to the right. How to deal with the dark areas then?

In this specific case I followed a three step procedure with the best image editing software:
1. Increase the brightness of the overall photograph in Photoshop so that you achieve proper exposure on the face of the subject. As you may see in the animated GIF further below, the original capture is quite dark.
2. Run Detail Extractor from NIK software (see our link to the right) on the two lions only put on a separate layer. Note that it is usually much better to select the area of interest and paste it in its own layer for best results.
3. Run a Linear Burn on the highlights all over the image. How do you this? Under Select / Color Range…, you open the color range selection wizard. Select the bright areas with the eye drop. Click OK, and then click on the Refine Edge Wizard in your top bar with the Radius at 50 pixels. This will give a smoother separation. Paste the selection on its own layer by clicking Ctrl+J, then choose Linear Burn in the blending mode.

If you are at a loss with all this Photoshop editing, keep an eye open for a group of Photoshop video tutorials I will be soon offering!

Lions animated GIF


Would you like to have a chance to be in the African savannah to create such a photograph? Join me to the BOTSWANA & VICTORIA FALLS PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR next September 2014! I will teach you step by step how to create the best photos. From beginners to semi-professionals. THE FIRST THREE PEOPLE TO REGISTER WILL BENEFIT FROM A $1,000 DISCOUNT!

Botswana Victoria Falls photography tour

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