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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

photoshop tips: make your pet's eys pop!

Okay, so here goes — my first Photoshop tutorial! Now, I should preface this with the following disclaimer: I am by no means a Photoshop expert. At all. There are probably processing gurus out there who would be mortified by my editing techniques and if that's you, then please avert your eyes for a brief moment while I finish this post. There are probably better ways to edit, but this is what works for me.

I'm going to start off with a really easy trick that anyone can do to help make your pet's eyes sparkle a little more. I use this trick on the photos I take for the Burlington Humane Society — since I photograph so many animals there (you can see some of them here and here), I can only afford to spend a minute or two processing each photo. This usually involves brightening them up, adjusting the white balance if necessary, popping the eyes and then optimizing for the web. That's it. I'll usually use more complex techniques on client images.

This tip works best on cats and dogs that have light-coloured eyes. I'm going to use this photo of Scout as my example (she has since been adopted!). This is straight out of camera — no adjustments.

Open up the photo in your editing software. I use Photoshop CS5, but any version or program with dodge and burn tools will work. After opening, go under Layer and click Duplicate Layer. This ensures you aren't working directly on the original photo.
Next, click on the Dodge tool in the toolbar — it's the one that looks like a little paddle.
Then in the top toolbar, in the drop-down menu, click Highlights. In the little box to the right of that, set your exposure. I usually go with around 8-10 per cent. If you choose a number higher than that, the results start to look unnatural. We want to keep the pop subtle.
Next, make sure you choose a soft brush in the Brush drop-down menu at the top left and adjust the size using the slider or the bracket keys on your keyboard.
Dodge the irises of the eyes lightly. A note of caution: if there are whites of the eyes showing, avoid dodging them or do it very sparingly. If you are too heavy handed, the result will not only look unnatural, it will look alien and just plain freaky.

After a few passes, here is my result:

After a quick sharpen and flatten, here is my before and after:
There you go! A super quick and easy way to add a little zing to your pet's eyes. Just remember not to go overboard. What do you think of this tutorial? Was it helpful? Leave a comment and let me know!


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At February 8, 2012 at 2:03 PM , Blogger nattyjphotography said...

What a cute kitty!! I love photographing pets!!

At February 8, 2012 at 2:15 PM , Blogger Brenna King said...

This is very helpful! Great tutorial, and great photo!

At February 8, 2012 at 2:30 PM , Blogger Kimberly Smith Photography said...

Great tutorial!

At February 8, 2012 at 4:09 PM , Blogger eyefull photography said...

love tutorials. this one included. that cat is so smooch!

At February 8, 2012 at 4:22 PM , Blogger MW Photography said...

Great Post I have always wanted to photograph pets! your images are awesome!

At February 8, 2012 at 4:50 PM , Anonymous Sue said...

Great info and well done tutorial! Cute cat too :)

At February 8, 2012 at 5:11 PM , Blogger Christine K Photography said...

Great tip. Gotta love the dodge tool!

At February 9, 2012 at 7:21 AM , Anonymous Tara Colburn said...

Great tip, I always do things the hard way, maybe this will save me some time.

At February 9, 2012 at 10:01 AM , Blogger De tout, de rien said...

I gave that cat her name! Wow, great tutorial, I must get Photoshop.

At February 9, 2012 at 10:11 AM , Blogger stacey said...

Thanks everyone. Sometimes simple is best. Hope it was a little bit helpful!

At February 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM , Anonymous Cindy said...

Thanks for the tip! It inspired me to dig out an old pic of our pup and play. The eyes ended up being darker and not brighter in my case, but I like it all the same. It made her look a little more soulful.

At February 17, 2012 at 1:31 PM , Blogger stacey said...

Cindy, are you sure you're using the Dodge tool and not the Burn tool? It works best on light coloured eyes or eyes with highlights. But I'm happy it inspired you nonetheless!


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