Photoshop Tutorial: A Fantasy Wildlife Shoot

by Jim Zuckerman

Before
Before
© Jim Zuckerman
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I very much enjoy using Photoshop to put detailed dinosaur models in my landscapes. It helps assuage my disappointment that I can’t actually photograph these extinct reptiles in the wild – I missed that opportunity by about sixty five million years. I satisfy this desire vicariously through these composites, and I imagine how outrageous it would be to really photograph these monsters in the wild.

The limitation, of course, is that a dinosaur model is fixed in one pose. I placed the parasaurolophus that you see (right) into Oneonta Gorge in Oregon, and the first image shows the original pose where the animal is looking in the direction its body is facing. It occurred to me, though, that animals are so keenly aware of their surroundings that if I were this close to the reptile it would most likely be watching me cautiously – or aggressively. Therefore, I created the second image you see below.

After
After
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All Rights Reserved

Photoshop Technique: How to Do It

The way I did this was to photograph the model two additional times. I placed the model at about a forty-five degree angle to the lens axis for one shot, and then I had the model face the lens directly for the next shot. (All the photos of the dinosaur were taken in shade because the lush green canyon was shaded, and the lighting always has to match).

Using Photoshop, I first cut and pasted the head and neck from the forty five degree angled shot onto the original profile picture, and then I used the clone tool to blend the skin to look correct. Using a layer mask (Layer > layer mask > reveal all) and the paint brush tool, I erased the underlying parts of the head and neck from the profile shot so I was left with a side view of the dinosaur and a forty five degree angle of the head and neck. Finally, I cut and pasted the straight-on view of the head to create the final version you see below. Note that when you paint away an underlying layer with the paint brush tool in this scenario, the foreground color box in the tools palette must be black.

Finally, I used the burn tool to darken the belly and the underside of the neck, suggesting natural shadows that are always seen, even on overcast days.


In my Creative Techniques in Photoshop course here at BetterPhoto, I explain how to cut and paste images or parts of images together. This is one of the most amazing and creative things you can do with Photoshop. Having this knowledge will totally transform your ability to be as inventive and artistic as you can possibly be with photography.


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Jim teaches many excellent online courses here at BetterPhoto, including:

Note: This Photoshop tutorial was adapted from one of Jim's photography blogs at BetterPhoto.com (see Instructor Insights).




Article by Jim Zuckerman. To learn more about photography, explore the many online photography and Photoshop classes offered here at BetterPhoto.com.