|Original Lionfish Photo|
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
200 mm, f/10, 1/40 sec, ISO 1600
What follows is how I processed this image.
Step 1 – Adjusting Exposure
I normally do exposure adjustments first. I used Colors > Curves and set one point at 5,0 and another at 240,255. This improved the contrast.
Step 2 – Sharpening the Image
I decided to do a little sharpening, so I used my usual Gaussian Blur method, using a blur of 9% and an opacity of 49% on the Grain Merge layer.
|Grain Extract of 9% Gaussian Blur|
Step 3 – Removing the Background
The background was basically fine except for the green plant sticking down off the fish's rear end. (How unattractive!) I created a new copy of the adjusted fish image, added a layer mask to it, and added a solid black layer below it.
- Right-click in the Layers dialog > New from Visible
- Right-click on new layer > Add Layer Mask; White (full opacity)
- D to select foreground black, background white
- Left-click on Create a new layer icon; Foreground color
Then I used the Paintbrush tool to paint black on the mask over the plant, thereby causing the black background to show through. Once I was happy with the removal of the plant I created a new visible layer.
|Plant Masked Off of Background|
Step 4 – Making the Fins Pop
I liked the blue light highlighting the rear fins, but thought it looked a bit subdued, so I added a new transparent layer above the fish, painted some white over the fins, then changed the layer mode to Soft light and set the opacity to around 50%.
|Light for Fins|
Step 5 – Intensifying the Color
I like a little stronger color in my images, so I created another visible layer, chose Colors > Hue-Saturation, and played with the Saturation slider. I eventually settled on +10. It's a subtle effect and more noticeable in a close-up.
Step 6 – Removing an Inappropriate Line
While zooming in and looking around I noticed a visible line from the glass over the fish's lower fin. Well, that had to go! I created yet another visible layer and used the Clone tool with a small brush radius to paint out the line.
|Before Line Removal|
|After Line Removal|
Step 7 – Smoothing
I was happy with the final product, but I've seen other photographers do interesting processing of their images that involved smoothing, so I decided to play with G'MIC a bit. Smooth [anisotropic] is found on the Repair menu. I set Sharpness to 0.05 and Anisotropy to 1, leaving all other parameters at their defaults.
[G'MIC] Smooth [anisotropic] : -gimp_anisotropic_smoothing 60,0.05,1,0.6,1.1,0.8,30,2,0,1,1,0,0,24,0
I think the smooth version is pretty nice. Here's a comparison.
Step 8 – Cropping the Image
The last thing I do is crop the image depending on how I want to use it or where I want to display it. I usually make a 2x3 (3x2) crop (standard photo aspect ratio) and a square crop (useful for pillows, tote bags, keychains, etc.). Sometimes I also make a 5x7 (7x5) crop (common greeting card aspect ratio).
|Final Image - 3x2 Crop|
|Final Image - Square Crop|
Here's my final Layers list of my main image file.
|Lionfish Image Layers List|
Step 9 – Improving the Square Crop
Since the square crop is quite tight because the fish is very close to the top of the image, in order to make it useful I copied it into another file and put it on a larger square solid black background. Because the left side of the fish has a blue glow around it, I had to add a layer mask and remove some of the blue glow with the Paintbrush tool (Hardness 050 and a large brush size) so that it blended into the black background properly.
|Before Blending the Blue Glow|
|After Blending the Blue Glow|
Step 10 – Cutting Out the Fish
Sometimes I like to cut an image completely off its background so I can put it on a t-shirt or a sticker. I copied the smoothed version of the fish to another file, cropped close in to the fish, then added a layer mask and used the Free Select tool on the mask to cut the background away from the fish. I used a solid white layer below it so I could easily keep track of how I was doing. Finally, I ran a small Gaussian Blur on the mask to slightly blur the edges of the fish, then hid the white layer and exported the file as a PNG with a transparent background.
This image is available on a wide variety of products at Redbubble and Zazzle. It can be licensed from Getty Images.