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Capturing stunning wildlife photographs is an art form that goes well beyond the click of your shutter. 

In this digital age, post-processing plays a crucial role in bringing out the full potential of your wildlife images. By leveraging the power of software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, you can enhance the beauty, clarity, and impact of your wildlife photos. You just need to know how to use the software, in a soft way, to get the image that you want. 

At Wild Africa Photo we escort amateur and professional photographers on safaris through the Kruger National Park, and in this, our latest blog, we are going to have a chat about some post-processing secrets that will take your wildlife photography to the next level.

Organising and Importing Your Images

Before diving into the realm of post-processing, it is essential to establish an organised workflow. After you have removed your images from your SD card, you should create a logical folder structure and then import your images into a catalogue in Lightroom. This will ensure easy access and efficient management of your wildlife photo library. Before you do this, filter through the RAW images and throw away any that is blurry or too under or over exposed. Only import images you know you want to edit. 

Mastering RAW Processing

Shooting in RAW format gives you so much more flexibility when it comes to post-processing. 

You need RAW images to fully adjust exposure, recover highlights, boost shadows, and fine-tune white balance, as these details can sometimes be impossible to recover in JPEG images. Remember, RAW processing is the foundation for achieving accurate and vibrant wildlife images. 

Enhancing Details and Sharpness

Wildlife photos often benefit from a boost in clarity and sharpness to bring out fine details. These tools are available in Lightroom or Photoshop and they are ideal for enhancing the textures and feather details of birds, fur patterns of mammals, or intricate scales of reptiles. 

A word of caution though, before you jump in. Clarity and sharpness can be overused and the result can make an image look unnatural. Don’t go more than 50% when using these tools. 

Fine-Tuning Colours and Contrast

To make your wildlife images visually captivating, refining the colours and contrast is important.

Lightroom’s HSL/Colour panel allows for selective adjustments of individual hues, saturation, and luminance. 

You can tweak these parameters to enhance the vibrancy of bird plumage, bring out the richness of animal fur, or accentuate the vividness of a natural habitat. 

Use the tone curve adjustments in Lightroom or curves adjustment layers in Photoshop to fine-tune contrast for more impactful results.

These tools are also ideal to use if you want to scale back colours. Sometimes greens can come out a little too vibrant depending on your camera settings, so if you are shooting in a dry location, you’ll find having a colour tool useful for evening things out.

Removing Distractions and Enhancing Composition

Wildlife photography often presents challenges such as unwanted distractions or elements that may detract from the subject, like branches or leaves half covering the subject or just looking strange. 

In these instances, you can use Lightroom’s spot removal tool or Photoshop’s healing brush to eliminate distracting objects or blemishes without compromising the integrity of the image. Additionally, cropping or straightening the composition can help refine the focus on the subject and create a more visually pleasing image.

Finalising with Export Settings

Once you have perfected your wildlife image, it’s time to prepare it for sharing or printing. Pay attention to the export settings to ensure optimal quality, since the image on the screen might look completely different from the print in terms of how light or dark it comes out. 

You should also consider whether it’s for online platforms or high-resolution prints, and adjust the file format, resolution, and sharpening settings accordingly.