When I prepare to lead a safari group, I pack my safari photography kit with the minimal amount of equipment. With airline restrictions and limited space for bags in vehicles, I choose a medium sized bag and an assembly of lenses which will give me a good coverage range for the most likely subjects.
When I arrive at the lodge, by bag contains everything I need for the whole trip. Each day I reconfigure my bag to hold just what I need for that day and location.
For a Game Drive
The Bag: Guru Gear Kiboko 22L+ with butterfly closure for quick access either side
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with LensCoat body bag
Canon EOS 5D Mark 3 with LensCoat body bag
Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM Lens with Really Right Stuff LCF-52 foot and lensCoat protective cover.
Canon Extender EF 1.4x III
Canon EF 100-400 F4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens with Really Right Stuff LCF-54 foot
Canon EF 24-105 f4 IS USM lens
Nikon 10×42 Monarch 5 Binocular
Black Rapid RS-4 camera strap
Point and Shoot pocket camera
Extra camera batteries and charger
Extra memory cards
Hydro Flask water bottle ( 621 ml )
Sometimes with me on a Game Drive:
For a Night Drive
Canon Speedlite 580EX II with Visual Echoes FX3 Better Beamer
Gitzo tripod ( GT2531 ) w/ Really Right Stuff ballhead ( BH-40) with screw-knob style quick-release clamp w/ bubble level
Wimberly SK-100 sidekick gimbal head
Canon timer remote controller ( TC-80N3 )
This tripod setup is also perfect for capturing the wondrous night time starscape; capturing images of star trails and the Milky Way.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II USM Lens
Items that travel on the trip with me but stay back at the lodge
Nexto DI ND2730 card reader and portable storage device -for doing backup
Lexar Professional USB 3.0 duel-slot card reader
13” Macbook pro
How Often will I need the Big Lens?
I took a look at the metadata in my Adobe Lightroom catalogue to see how many images I take with each of my safari lenses.
I reviewed this data after I had culled and rated my photos so this is a curated collection of just the “keepers” .
Please keep in mind that this data is from my South Africa safaris which combine private reserves and Kruger National Park and may not be reflective of other safari destinations or tours.
Lens % of images
16 – 35mm 4%
24 – 105mm 14%
100 – 400mm 58%
400mm 24% (with extender EF1.4 x 3)
Images Taken in Kruger National Park
16 – 35mm 5%
24 – 105mm 3%
100 – 400mm 53%
400mm 39% (with extender EF1.4 x 3)
From this, it shows that subjects in Kruger can be further away. We also tend to see some special bird species in Kruger.
My best advice:
Keep your camera bag streamlined with a thoughtful selection of lenses. Use a smaller camera bag because it will fit better in the vehicles and save your shoulders while carrying it. Less hassles in the airport too.
A Collection of some of my favorite Safari Story Posts
A safari is an adventure and like all adventures it is full of stories and special moments.
With or without a camera, it is those stories and having been there in that moment that make the vivid memories. The great photographs enhance and help tell the story.
Over the years of leading safaris, my guests and I have been present for many moments which culminate great stories. I have told many of these stories here in my blog. Here is a collection of my best African safari stories.
Stories from our 2017 September Safaris – One safari is One hundred stories
Learning to be a Leopard: A young cub must quickly learn to drag a kill up a tree and eat it up there.
A newborn elephant: We were present to celebrate a birth with the family herd. Just an hour old it was a very special encounter
Lions Hunting Buffalo: From the planning to the (failed) execution of the plan: we were there to see and photograph the exciting event
When a predator makes a kill and settles down for a meal, it is an invitation for many different players to come to the party: the hyenas who hope to steal it, vultures who want their share, jackals who just want to sneak a small meal without being noticed, and others.
Many vultures will show up to a kill sight. Of the many species, each has a specialized function and morphology at the carcass. Some vulture species can not eat without another species to first do their part.
To Go on Safari is to Return with Hundreds of Stories: Predator vs Prey, Survival, and Cooperation among Wildlife
Learning to be a Leopard
The Sabi Sands Reserve is famous for its resident leopars. Our guests were treated to a 4 leopard afternoon game drive.
An older female leopard called – Ingrid Dam – was watching her cub (unnamed) eating an Impala kill up in a tree, it was having a difficult time eating in the tree because of the position of the kill. The Impala kill and the young cub fell out of the tree. We knew and the leopards knew there were hyenas nearby wanting to steal this meal should the opportunity arise. Was the mother going to come down and take the kill back up the tree for her cub? We watched and waited. Though the cub seemed to be asking for help, mother decided on tough love and stayed in the tree watching as the cub learned to drag the impala kill back up the tree. It was a hard and physically challenging lesson to learn, but the cub had succeeded for the first time to save his meal from those who would steal it away. The effort involved with dragging a kill up a tree is the leopard’s way of out maneuvering scavengers.
As New as it Gets – A Newborn Elephant
We were on a game drive on a private reserve near Kruger enjoying some great lions, a buffalo herd, and a leopard up a tree when we had a radio call from another safari vehicle about a great sighting. We hurried over to find it was a newborn elephant calf. At first we could not see the little one since the calf was hidden among the large legs of the mother, her sisters, and the herds older children. They were all vocalizing and moving in small, strange movements as if dancing or chanting. The mother was throwing dust on herself and the calf. Soon the crowd parted and we could see the newborn. Cute, wrinkly, and very unsteady on the feet, it was obvious the calf had only been standing for mere minutes. We were very close and felt very privileged that the herd let us be this close and share their joy at the new arrival. The calf tottered and fell a few times and we worried until the little one struggled to stand again.
The next week, we had wonderful continuity when we spotted the herd again. It was wonderful to see the infant prospering, healthy, and nursing.
The Unicorn of Safari Experiences: Lions Hunting Buffalo
It was our last game drive on the last day of safari and getting to be the time to turn around and head back to the lodge. It was a great drive, but about to get even better. We spotted several female lions concentrating on a medium sized herd of buffalo.
It appeared the plan was to slowly move into positions around the herd to separate certain buffalo. The lions separately made their way around the buffalo herd. Suddenly something goes wrong – one of the lions must have blundered – and the buffalo started to run. Wait a minute; they are not running away, they are charging the lions! One of them was running for their life straight toward us.
It is hard for lions to give up when things do not go to plan. Some of the pride continued to run with the stampeding buffalo to see if there could still be a chance to salvage the hunt. It was not to be.
Still, it took a long time before the lionesses could let this one go – they continued to watch the buffalo herd move out of reach.
As I look through my images, my memory goes back to watching the events unfold in front of me. They are much more than the best image: it is the dozen images before and after that one great image that make up the safari stories that I will tell my friends and family. While images help to make the story real; nothing compares to having been there and witnessing it live.
Contact us about a safari or with any questions about choosing, preparing for, and going on a safari. It is just my wife and I but we correspond with all inquiries personally.
Or just join our newsletter list so you get trip dates, specials, Safari Reports.
My two May 2017 safaris were filled with special wildlife encounters, good weather, good company with some really terrific guests. I have presented below what I felt were themes present in each safari that made it special.
Learn about my Photo Safaris in South Africa on my website: http://www.AfricaWildSafaris.net
The Magic Effects of Africa:
I was delighted to have families and friends traveling together among my photo safari guests. They were fun and engaging and quickly fell under the spell of the South African bushveld thrilling at the huge expanse of stars at night, and the way South Africa and the wildlife had a relaxing and healing effect. Everyone enjoyed the tree houses and the fun and uniquely African touches like outside showers featured at the lodges.
Conservation and Education
Our guests are always very interested in learning about wildlife conservation and our rangers, guides, and hosts tell them the real story behind poaching in our area, wildlife rehabilitation, national parks, and how wildlife reserves operate. We want our guests to understand the animals they see and their role in a healthy environment. Also, it is necessary to understand the challenges faced by wildlife in South Africa. Our guests were so moved by a lion and rhino poaching presentation that we invited the founders of Flying for Rhinos to detail the work they do to help anti-poaching efforts. They returned with plans to have fundraisers to help this organization. They also were delighted to see several wild white rhinos in Kruger and were able to photograph a very rare encounter with a black rhino.
Our guests were surprised how close we can get to the animals: My longest lens is a 400mm, but I use my 70 – 200mm or 100 – 400mm for most images. Our drivers know their reserves very well and can track prides of lions, rhino, and herds of buffalo day to day. When we find the animals we can get close up and detailed images of elephants, big cats, and giraffes.
Sometimes we are too close for some of our lenses and have to back off, but we can also get some really great images that isolate different parts of the animal’s anatomy
Behavior and interaction
We highlight the relationships and interactions between species. When we see buffalo we will also see oxpeckers cleaning parasites off of the buffalo.
We were thrilled to witness an unusual coalition of 5 adult male lions who live, defend territory, and share female pride members. It was a bit intimidating to be so close to these large and intimidating beasts.
We were lucky enough to encounter several prides of lions with cubs. Most had cubs in a range of ages. We enjoyed watching and photographing the cubs playing and interacting with their parents. There were some great moments of a mother’s care and love for her cubs.
Young giraffes stayed close to their mothers and baby elephants were kept safely in among the herd by the older females.
Birds are very prevalent now that the weather has returned to normal and provided abundant food for them. We always see the spectacular lilac breasted roller. It lights on branches near the dirt roads so we can get images of this colorful bird with shorter lenses.
We also sighted the large predatory birds; Kori Bustard and secretary bird.
Hornbills are charismatic to photograph and we found the less common red billed hornbill and the even more rare grey hornbill.
We get great close up portraits of animals, but it is the wide shots that can translate the beauty and mood of South Africa: the sunsetting behind a giraffe as she eats and wildebeest feeding in the early morning fog.
Beauty is also in the small details like dew on a spiderweb.
It was a fantastically successful two safari groups with every guest returning with good images of a huge variety of species: more high quality sightings than they expected . I want to thank all of the guests who made these trips so much fun with good conversation, nights on the deck watching nocturnal animals, great questions, and most of all continuing friendships and forming new friendships. I sincerely hope they can all return again in the future.
Elephants are frequently our photo subjects while on safari. Their size, shape, intelligence, and trunk are just a few things that make them great subjects and very interesting. There are many opportunities for unique, beautiful, and descriptive images of elephants.
Elephants are very unique in shape and texture. Images showing the whole elephant(s) are great to show the elephant in its environment, but can not describe the all the unique features and details of an elephant. Taking close up images of the trunk in action, tusks, skin, eyes, and ears gives your audience a chance to focus in on details and discover shapes and colors and learn about elephants in more detail.
Using perspective and symmetry
Elephants come in all sizes and travel in herds so highlight these different sizes and ages in a way that gives geometric order and symmetry to your image. Contrast of size creating perspective lines vanishing into the horizon is a pleasing effect. Elephants will often line up and if you are patient you can grab moments when trunks, ear, etc are pleasingly arranged symmetrically.
Interaction with other elephants
Elephants are social animals and this gives many interaction moments to photograph. Sometimes the golden moment is a hidden detail in a wider image. Cropping can highlight this “picture in a picture” moment between two elephants. Elephants also have greetings, reassuring gestures, and rank showing moves that you can watch and wait for then highlight through cropping and framing the images
Interaction with other species
Showing how elephants interact with other species is capturing their role in their environment. Other species feel safe near elephants and trust their strength, awareness, and intelligence. You can photograph mixed herds, birds that groom elephants, and when they assert their dominance.
Obviously their size is a major feature of elephants. Showing large and small elephants together is not always enough to communicate their size. Try to show other animals such as zebra which are a familiar size to your audience to show how large they are. Manmade objects like vehicles are a good contrast as well.
Movement / Behavior
With their unique body form and parts, photographing how the elephant and its parts moves adds another dimension to your illustration of elephants. Also try to isolate and highlight unique behaviors of the elephants such as mock fighting, and the million ways they use their trunks for different things
Take the usual front view and side views to new levels
Front and 3/4
¾ is a flattering angle that has been drilled into us for portraits, but a straight on frame filling front view is eye catching. A creative crop creates interesting negative space and also increases the impact
Elephants have an interesting shape so a side view shows off this shape. Think about negative space and other elements to contrast the rounded lines of the elephant such as straight trees or grass
Elephant rears are unique and large with great tails. A nicely framed rear shot shows the elephants in and interacting with their environment. Walking off “into the sunset” communicates that these elephants are wild and free.
Personality / Cute Babies
Elephants appear to have individual personalities and we often can see some of ourselves in their movement, behavior, and interaction. Anytime we can photograph this connect to ourselves it makes a more impactful image. They show happiness, companionship, nervousness, and aggravation through their actions and interactions. Capture moments of joy when they are in the water or doing something crazy.
Elephant babies are very cute and are well looked after by their mothers and other herd members: it is not hard to capture intimate moments between mothers and babies.
Sometimes lighting on a safari is challenging, but taking bad lighting and turning it into a silhouette shot can give you a special image. Elephant’s unique shape works very well against a sunset.
When you get out on safari and see elephants, get to know them and capture some images that illustrate everything that is fun, interesting, and unique about them. There are not many subjects so expressive and charismatic.
Last year Adobe released a new version of Lightroom CC which contains their newest adjustment tool: The DeHaze slider. It is found in the FX menu of the Development module (way down toward the bottom of the list).
You must have the CC version of Lightroom to use it, but if you have Photoshop, there is a way to access the tool and take it further using a few medium/advanced PS techniques. (see at the end of this article for details). Also this tool works on the entire image – in Photoshop you can target the area where the effect takes place.
The purpose of the Dehaze slider is to either add or remove atmospheric haze from a photo. In Adobe’s words:“The Dehaze technology is based on a physical model of how light is transmitted, and it tries to estimate light that is lost due to absorption and scattering through the atmosphere.” The obvious use is for adjusting landscape images, but I have found it useful with safari images where there was quite a bit of dust in the air and even for some underwater images where the water was not clear. (the underwater equivalent of dust)
For me, it is a tool that combines Contrast, color saturation, and midtone sharpening into a single tool. Using a combination of tools it is possible to achieve similar results to the Dehaze slider, but if time is an issue, you can get great improvements with just one adjustment. Investing a bit more time you can build on the improvements Dehaze adds to your images by combining it with further adjustment tools.
Here is an example of how I used Dehaze for an image that was not a landscape.
The drought has made everything very dusty and it really effects this image taken in the mid morning light.
With just one adjustment, the colors pop and the contrast is greatly improved.
Now I experiment with doing some Exposure adjustments first before applying the Dehaze.
My method for this is to temporarily Desaturate the image so I can analyze it without the distraction of color.
I used the Tone Curve tool (you can also use the 4 sliders under Exposure) to add contrast by darkening the Shadows and Darks and lightening the Lights. I left the Highlights as they were since there is a bit of bright light in the mane and sky. I then restored the color to see the following improvement.
Now I add the Dehaze adjustment – a little bit less than I used when it was my only adjustment.
Dehaze has taken the image a step better than exposure adjustments alone.
Looking at the results in detail, I want to bring some lightening back to the Shadows range of the midtones. I go to my Darks slider in the Tone Curve tool (or the Shadows in the Exposure section) to lighten these tones up. I can now see the details in the lion’s face better.
Now my image is acceptable or I can add details such as small color adjustments (to saturation or hue) or some targeted sharpening or highlighting on places like the eyes.
Here are a few other images with a simple Dehaze adjustment.
For those without Lightroom CC who have Photoshop or those who take the technique further with more targeted results:
Open the image in Photoshop.
Make a duplicate of the background layer.
Go to the Filter Menu and find Camera Raw Filter
Dehaze appears under the FX tab
Make your adjustments and choose OK to return to Photoshop.
Now you will make a Layer Mask which will hide the effect where you do not want it. – in my example I will mute the effect in the background.
Add the layer mask to the layer which has the Camera Raw Filter adjustments. Use a paintbrush and black color to mask out the effect. You can soften your brush and/or lower the opacity at the transition points.
If I had turned my copied layer into a Smart Object, I would be able to return to the Camera Raw adjustments and amend them as I wish.
The Dehaze tool is now my go to tool for images that need contrast boost – especially if it was taken in dusty conditions.
During our small group photo safaris we travel an hour and half south of our Tree House Lodge to the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. This is a very old reserve (one of the first to be decided as a nature reserve) and we stay in the section which is bordering the Kruger National Park. There is no fence so wildlife is free to range into both areas.
We come to Sabi because they have the rivers and tree conditions that leopard prefer and thrive in. They also have a long history of tracking and knowing their leopards very intimately so the rangers quickly find the leopards and can tell us each animal’s story.
We had many wonderful leopard moments over the course of our September safari groups. This evening game drive was especially nice: we tracked a male leopard named Tingana while he went on his early evening rounds
We catch back up to our leopard after the sun has set. There are lions moving through near by. A leopard can be harassed or killed by lions so he is becomes very alert and circles back to his tree where he had a kill stashed away.
After a snack in the safety of a tree he goes back to resting.
The next morning we catch up with Tingana and he is on the ground under the tree still guarding it from lions and others who would steal it.
On a previous visit to Sabi Sands we saw Tingana with a zebra kill up a tree. It is amazing to think of the strength this animal must command in order to drag a small zebra high up a tree.
See our photo safaris which include a visit to Sabi Sands in 2017 & 2018 on our website Africa Wild Safaris
Though there is no hiding the stress of the long drought on the animals and plant life of the bushveld, we had excellent wildlife sightings. The predators thrive during these conditions with so many herbivores loosing condition to lack of food. There was hope in the first good early rains. We enjoyed the cooler than average temperatures and watched the drama of nature unfold. These are some of ours guests and my own favorite moments from our recent 3 safari groups.
I use a Canon 5D MKIII and most of my images are shot using a 70 - 200mm lenses, sometimes with a 1.4 teleconverter. I also use a 300mm lens for the long shots in Kruger - this also with a teleconverter. I use a monopod as stabilization as this method works in all vehicles, is light, and versatile.
I have now upgraded to the Canon 5D 4 and look forward to its first trip to Africa in April 2017
Martial Eagle Makes a Large Kill
Martial eagle has made a kill
Most of our large raptor sightings are of the bird of prey scouting from the top of a tree or involved in a crowd of birds on a scavenged carcass. The eagle was able to take down a steenbok. The bird plummeted with enough force to knock the weakened antelope to the ground then held it in a choke hold.
Following a Leopard on His Rounds
In the early evening we tracked a leopard as he surveyed his territory and looked for hunting opportunities…and took a nap
Our trackers knew where to look for this male and we found him early in our game drive. He is a very robust male who has obviously had success hunting lately. We had a wonderful time seeing the daily life of this predator.
Leopards love warthogs and this one spent some time checking likely dens while listening and watching for some to return for the night.
It is possible this leopard has a recent kill stashed up a tree (his stomach does look a bit big) and thus he is only surveying territory tonight and hunting only what is easy to get.
Most times we see hyenas at the kills made by lions, or harassing a cheetah. We had a chance to see a more sympathetic side of hyenas at a den sight with multiple pups.
The den had several cute puppies and the dominant female (mother) was very attentive and affectionate to them. The usual subadult den assistants were also there keeping the bold puppies close.
Seeing and photographing lions is always a thrill. We have seen many different lion kills and pride groupings this year. Observing the social dynamics of the group at feeding times is very revealing. The physical demands of eating a carcass is surprising as is the effort put into guarding the meal from vultures and scavengers even after all the lions are so full they can hardly move. We can get very close and see every detail for different positions.
Learning about Conservation Efforts
We are lucky to have many wildlife conservation and rehabilitation centres near our lodge.
It is always an educational experience for first time guests and repeat visitors like myself. We visited an orphaned baby rhino, the raptors recovering from poisoning, and other permanent and temporary species.
Great Wildlife Moments at the Lodges
Often we don’t have to leave the lodge to have great wildlife encounters: it is all around us. The night skies are magnificent in the near total darkness and the sounds are exotic.
One hot afternoon our guests were relaxing in the pool when giraffes came to eat buds off their favorite trees.
Our safaris are full of wildlife which will thrill photographers and those without fancy cameras. We also believe that all the wildlife needs to be presented within a context of current conservation efforts, successes, and challenges. We celebrate and appreciate each species of bird, insect, plant, and animal for its role in the whole ecosystem of our corner of South Africa.
Our safaris are educational, fun, exciting, surprising, and fulfilling – and some say life-changing.
Every October and November, polar bears congregate in the Churchill area to await the return of the sea ice and access to their preferred prey: the ringed seal. We headed up in late October, which is the middle of the aggregation of the bears and usually before the ice forms and they head away.
We traveled by way of Winnipeg and a flight up to Churchill. Our group stayed inside the Churchill Wildlife Management Area at he Northern Studies Centre, a research facility that houses those conducting research. Each year the Centre welcomes a few visitors such as our group. While at the Centre we were introduced to ecofriendly facility, learned of the current research, and had a thorough orientation to polar bears in this region from the researchers. We enjoyed the observation deck and night observatory dome.
Our first two outings were on “Tundra Buggies” or “Bear Buggies”; specialty build vehicles which can travel the roads and overland in the Wildlife Management Area with minimal impact to animals and environment. I dare say we would not have been able to reach the remote areas had we not been on such an accomplished and purpose built vehicle.
The back of the vehicle is an open deck from which we could photograph the bears and scenery. It was also possible to get shots out the open window, but we spent most of our time outside.
Our bear sightings started right away on our way form the airport. Our first two days yielded some very nice encounters with a male polar bear along the water and napping in the snow.
It snowed these first days decorating the rocks and scrub bushes. The snow actually made spotting the bears easier as they appear yellow against a new snow. They seemed to be getting excited and energetic feeling that ice and seals were getting closer.
One curious male came to check out our vehicles one at a time. He peered up at us in curiosity and gave the vehicle a good smell underneath.
We encountered a female escorting her two cubs at the edge of the Bay – perhaps checking to see if the ice was formed yet, or just looking for a meal. The cubs were very full of energy and roaming all over not following mom. It was difficult to get a nice family shot, but fun to see the young ones out learning how to survive on their own.
The bears were hungry as they have not had a good meal of seal since coming to shore last spring. We spotted them eating kelp and browsing berry bushes.
For our last day we used a different mode of transportation: a private van tour with a local expert. He spacious vehicle was comfortable and his knowledge allowed us to find bears but also other wildlife such as a snow owl, ptarmigans, and fox. Though outside the Wildlife Management Area, we had excellent polar bear sightings. A young female came toward us then thrilled us as she picked a nice patch of moss among the rocks and took a nap just meters from our vehicle.
We tracked a male polar bear for some time. We were out of the van photographing at photographing something else when the bear snuck up behind us and came toward us. We quickly got back in the vehicle and when he arrived at the vehicle we had some very close shots of him as he checked us out.
The private van was a great way to enjoy all the wildlife and scenery. Our guide showed us a couple of abandoned structures and other sites that illustrate life in Churchill and its history.
A fox follows a bear at a safe distance hoping to get some scraps
Though short, this was a very successful and fulfilling opportunity to photograph polar bears and their arctic landscape. It was both exciting and educational; I feel a deeper understanding of the polar bear’s lifecycle and how the climate impacts them in very significant ways.
To join a future Polar Bear Trip – Join our mailing list by using our contact form – Our mailing List members will have first access to the limited spaces on this trip (6 guests only)
A South Africa photo safari will be full of opportunities to photograph animals at close distances. These images have all the details and interesting poses found in modern (human) portraits. You can apply current portrait processing techniques to your wildlife portraits. This technique gives the image added depth and dimension and adds the illusion of the face coming forward.
The key characteristics of this technique are Light, Contrast, & Sharpness
Areas with contrast and sharpness draw the viewers attention and lighter areas seem closer to the viewer building intimacy and connection between subject and viewer.
Begin in Camera Raw or Lightroom
Start with a basic White Balance adjustment if the image is too warm or cool.
Also quickly adjust the tone for good exposure and add some contrast. We will add more contrast later and do further work on the overall Tone.
You can also add punch to the eyes now, but I like to leave this as the final touch.
Dodge and Burn
Dodge and burn will increase contrast and bring out specific details that you think are important. Details around the eyes and character features on the face are good targets. For animals with facial markings, it is good to bring these out.
This step is done in Photoshop since it will be achieved using a layer mask. Switch To Photoshop from Lightroom by accessing the left click menu and selecting Edit In – Photoshop.
Create a new Layer with blend mode of Soft Light
Fill with 50% gray
Choose Dodge tool
The Dodge/Burn tool has controls which limit the effect to specific tonal ranges: Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows
Start with the Dodge Tool: Set range to Highlights with Exposure between 5 – 10% Paint over areas on the face to brighten highlight areas and other areas you with to appear closer to the viewer. Repeatedly go over areas to make the effect stronger or raise the Exposure setting higher.
Switch to the burn tool and darken midtone and shadow areas in the same way.
It is a bit of a pain, but try to burn and dodge in the whiskers and eyelashes: they are unique to the animal and thus important to present to the viewer.
Contrast and Sharpening
If you are familiar with using Smart Objects, you can duplicate your image layer and convert it to a Smart Object. Then choose Filter – Camera Raw Filter.
The alternate method is to run the Camera Raw Filter on the layer. The difference is that with the Smart Object, you can go back and fine tune your Sharpen and Clarity values.
In the Camera Raw tool, choose the Adjustment Brush, then set Clarity to around 25 and all other sliders to zero. Check the Mask at the bottom of the dialogue box and paint over the face where you want the effect. Click it off to see the effect, then also increase the Sharpness around +10 – +25. Press Ok to return to PhotoShop.
Press D to set Foreground and Background to default colors of black and white.
Create new Adjustment layer and choose Gradient Map Adjustment Layer . In the properties panel click on the gradient ramp to open the gradient editor
Drag white color stop left toward the center to intensify the highlights.
Drag midpoint slider to the left or right a small amount. ( you might want to try midtones both to the left and right on separate layers to see which you like best.) Click OK . Reduce layer opacity to 30% or a percent that gives the look you want. You still want a hint of color instead of a completely monochrome image. The amount that looks good to you will vary depending on the image.
Add some Fake Depth of Field
If the image could use more depth of field, this step will add some.
Add another merged layer to the top of the stack
Use the Filter Blur Gallery Iris Blur and place the oval over the face
Adjust it to fit and so none of the sharp areas are covered
Increase the blur amount. Since animals do not have oval shaped faces (ears etc. ) you can add a mask to the layer and paint black to remove blur from these areas.
Make a merged copy and name it Sharpen. You can make this layer a Smart Object f you wish. Choose Filter Other Highpass. Add radius of 1 – 5 pixel: enough to be able to see the hairs and whiskers, but without a large halo around edges. Change the Blend Mode of the Sharpness layer to Overlay. If the effect is overdone you can reduce the layer opacity or adjust the radius.
At this point you can also add a layer with texture to add a gritty effect. Use a mask to block the texture effect from the eyes so they stay sharp.
Adjusting the Light
The idea here is to darken the background and leave the face bright.
There are several ways to achieve this. One way is to add a curves adjustment layer then mask out the areas you want to remain bright.
Another method is to add another Merged layer to the top called lighting
Do a Camera Raw filter and choose the Radial Filter tool to draw oval to encircle the main part of the face. Adjust Exposure to darken outside the oval. Alternately use the Adjustment brush to navigate the non oval face.
Add punch to the eyes
If you have used all Smart Objects and Adjustment Layers, you can go back to the Dodge and Burn layer and add some contrast to the eyes. If you have used stamped layers, you simply add a layer at the top, fill with 50% grey and set the Blend Mode to Soft Light. Use the Dodge and Burn tool.
A vignette or cropping might also be a good edition.
Use this series of adjustments on several images to give a consistent look to a collection.
Follow our adventures on safari in South Africa and underwater