Last weekend my wife and I went down to New Orleans to see my lovely daughters. While we were there we went to visit the Audubon Zoo. The animals were pretty darn smart, as most of them were resting comfortably in the heat. Sometimes it is a challenge to get clear photos of the animals, as the backgrounds can be cluttered and distracting. Here is a quick technique using Photoshop which can help make them stand out more. Giraffes are a big deal in my house, they are all over the place—so naturally I needed to get some portraits. I shot this nice young male, but thought the green of the trees really overwhelmed him. So, I just edited the picture in Photoshop and added an adjustment layer which removed most of the color. There are lots of ways to do this, but for this one, I took a very simple approach. There are many different types of adjustments you can add on top of your image. You can make complex adjustments to the highlights and shadows or simple adjustments to the brightness/contrast. For this effect I added a Hue/Saturation layer and pushed the saturation down until there was just a trace of green. If it had gone to 0%, it would be black and white. In Photoshop, when you add an adjustment layer, it automatically adds a layer mask at the same time. A layer mask is a powerful tool which allows you to decide how much of the effect you want to see. If it is all white, you see the full impact of whatever you chose. If it is black, it completely hides that layer and whatever is below it can be seen. For the giraffe, since it has such nice clean lines, I just used the brush tool and painted black on to the mask to allow the original image to show through.
The baby orangutan was a little trickier, because of all his hair. I actually created and saved an “alpha” channel—a topic for another day, so I could reuse it as a mask and adjust it afterwards if needed. For this picture, I did take the background all the way to black and white, because the rocks were pretty boring.