Category Archives: Wildlife Photography 2011 – 2012

Creating Hand Colored Photos With PhotoShop Elements 5.0

In the early years of photography photos were all monochrome. In  an attempt to create more realistic images or more artistic images photographers and artists would hand color the photos.

According to Wikipedia they would use watercolors, oils, crayons or pastels, and other types of paints or dyes and apply them to the surface of the photos. To do the coloring they would use brushes, cotton swabs, or their fingers. In later years airbrushes even came into play when hand coloring an image.

Then, like that wonderful scene from The Wizard Of Oz, came color! Bright glorious amazing color. And the art of hand coloring photos began to fade away.

I decided that I would like to try my hand at coloring a photo. Well at least my mouse. 🙂 My medium of choice was not to be dye or paint, or even pastels. Nope I planned to use good ol’ photoshop. 

I headed outside to see what I could find to use for a subject. Not much going on out there today. I finally found a little spring robin sitting on a fence and took a quick shot of  him. Good thing I wasn’t planning to use that image for anything too important!

Here’s the SOOC shot. Not so great. Yikes!

But that’s ok, I had plans for that little robin…

Yep, he was to have all his color removed and then hand (I mean mouse) painted.

I’m sure there are many ways to hand color a photo using photoshop and other similar programs. They may even be easier than what I did. I don’t know, but I will share with you how I did it. The final results aren’t that bad if I do say so myself.

Oh, you want to see it? Ok; you asked for it.


The Painted Robin

Now for the how to’s…

  1. Open your photo in elements 5 and adjust the levels as you normally would then crop however you like.
  2. Now convert your photo to black and white.
  3. Copy that black and white photo to a new layer and name it “edges” or something like that.
  4. Increase the contrast of your new black and white layer; mine didn’t need much but yours may need more just play around with it a bit.
  5. Apply a slight gaussian blur to this layer. Very slight, I think I may have taken mine a bit too far.
  6. Next using those wonderful filters find the edges. Filters -> Stylize -> Find Edges.
  7. Change the blending mode to overlay and you have done all you are going to do to your “edges” layer.
  8. Now copy the “edges” layer to new layer and name it “painted”.
  9. Change the blending mode on the “painted” layer to soft light.
  10. Select a fairly large brush and change the blending mode of the brush to dissolve with an opacity of somewhere around 5%.
  11. Now select a background color; I picked green. Brush your background color over the entire photo. Choose a slightly different shade of the same color and brush over the photo again. I think I used a total of three shades of green on this robin.
  12. Next you will need to pick a fairly small brush size, set that brush’s blending mode to normal with an opacity of somewhere around 80%. Now choose the colors you would like for your subject and carefully paint your photo. I started with a nice shade of brown and painted in the fence, then a darker brown for the birds legs, and yet another brown for his back and wings. I picked black for painting his eye, yellow for his beak, and what else but a nice shade of red for his chest. You may want to play around with more than one shade of each color setting the opacity to a lighter % as you work to layer on the colors. I did this with the reds and layered on three different shades. Have some fun like a kid with a coloring book; just take your time. As you paint over an area you will see your background (the green spatters in this case) disappear and small details of the image appear. That’s all you are going to do to the “painted” layer; for now.
  13. Next move the “edges” layer so that it is on top of the “painted” layer. That changes things a bit doesn’t it?
  14. Back on the “painted” layer adjust the contrast and saturation until you are happy with what you see.
  15. Finally merge the layers, give your image a name, and save.

That’s it you are finished and you have just hand (rather mouse) painted your photo. Nicely done!

 As usual I have uploaded the finished product to my photog site and created several Zazzle products with it as well. *shameless self promotion time* 🙂 Be sure to check out the Variety Store and You Say It!

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Have a great weekend everyone.

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Backyard Birding And Photography


Male Downy Woodpecker – 1

I have come to discover that photographing backyard birds is not as easy as it would seem. Those little guys move quickly, are usually shy, and you can’t really control the light, or tell them  where to perch, or direct them to pose a certain way. Yep, I’ve decided that shooting birds in the backyard is a real challenge.


Male Downy Woodpecker – 2

You can however control where they feed by placing your bird feeders in the areas of your yard that get the best light, and trim back a few little branches to encourage your feather friends to perch where you would like them to. You can also put out an assortment of feeders with different types of seeds and even fruits and nuts to attract a variety of birds. (I’m still learning what kinds attract what birds but I do know that the birds around here really like the mixes with fruits and nuts!) Use traditional feeders with seed mixes, suet feeders, and blocks or bells. Some birds even prefer to eat off the ground or enjoy a pile of seeds placed on a fence post.


Male Downy Woodpecker – 3

Once you start to see your new feathery friends visiting your yard all you have to do is sit back and relax. Have some fun watching them and learning how and when they come to feed. When you get a feel for the traffic at your feeders head outside and stand or sit quietly and wait. Just wait for them to show up. It may take a few days of sitting out there for an hour or more before they get comfortable with the idea of having you hang around but they will eventually relax a bit and enjoy their free meal while you enjoy your photo session.


Male Downy Woodpecker – 4

All the trees that we have planted in our yard are finally getting big enough to look inviting to the passing birds, the few feeders I have out are usually busy, and I have finally started to get a few good shots. I think that the next step will be to add a bird bath or something so that they will have a source of water for the summer.


Male Downy Woodpecker – 5

I think that my feeders paid off yesterday when this little woodpecker came for lunch in the rain. He was a lot less shy than his girlfriend who has been coming around for a couple of months now. He let me walk right up close for his very first photo session. Hopefully he’ll invite some friends next time!


Male Downy Woodpecker – 6

I hope you are all enjoying the wildlife in your backyard, from toads and bunnies, to bees and birds there are lots of critters out there to shoot!

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