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Beyond Photoshop Basics to Make Wildlife Photos Look Alive

How to get the best edit from your animal images and make them come alive

Things You Can Do Beyond Simple Edits to Make Your Wildlife Shots Come Alive

You’ve spent thousands to go and see African wildlife in its natural habitat and get some killer photographs. The problem is your images aren’t so much “killer” and more “kitten”. If your lion isn’t quite as wild as you wanted or your elephant is just part of the foliage. The only way you can adjust your images is with some creative photo editing. Good editing means that your images can go from merely interesting to professional snaps with very little effort on your part, especially if you choose to have a professional do it. Here are a few of the things they might do to get things going.

Change the Background

Backgrounds are really distracting if they don’t help you focus on the subject. If your African wildlife is supposed to be prowling through the Serengeti but there’s a herd of Jeep’s full of other photographers in the background then it’s not going to look so majestic. To help your photography out, they’ll likely either clone them out, trim the background down, or possibly paste your lion into a different background so that it looks like there’s nothing else near but you and that lion. This isn’t easy and takes a lot of practice to get right and make it believable.

Change the Lighting

Most of what makes photography stand out is the lighting. Good photographers know that it’s almost always about the lighting. When you’re traveling on a preset tour you may not have a choice to shoot in the golden hour. If you’re stuck in bright midday sun because that’s when the tour says you’ll be there then it’s tough for you. Harsh daylight is something that just happens when shooting African wildlife because it’s almost always sunny with very little cloud. By adjusting the contrast, levels, curves, adding filters, brightness, and luminance your animals will look like you happened to have the perfect off camera strobe ready and waiting. In fact, by using filters you’ll be able to change the entire lighting to look like it’s really the golden hour no matter what time you were photographing Africa wildlife.


Nothing makes a bad photo, like blur. If you’re trying to do African wildlife photography then you’re probably trying to shoot a moving target or shoot from a moving vehicle. Sharpening and adjusting the clarity of your image editing will make things stand out more.   The key with this is not to overdo it. While it’s tempting to edit a lot over-sharpening an image degrades the quality. If you’ve gone on a “once in a lifetime” trip, you don’t want to ruin your photos, in which case this is best done by a professional image editing service.

Use Plugins

There are many different plugs available for editing which can change how your pictures look. The best ones for animals, sharpen the image so that the photography seems hyper-clear and gets every blade of grass looking like you could touch it. Some also have 3D effects so that you can adjust how your layers look to make them face behind or come forwards. This is especially useful if you have changed the background as it helps create that necessary distance so it doesn’t look pasted on top. Don’t forget plugins that also add lighting effects as these can fix the problems above much quicker.

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