Why is your insect subject so clean? This question comes up very often when I post a stacked image on Facebook or Flickr. The reason for this question is probably due to the fact that most insect subjects are “dirty” – pollen, dusts, or other little things that are part of insects’ life, so it is hard to get “clean” look when they are photographed.
So how do I get them to have a clean look?
The first thing is to clean the subject using some techniques described in other posts. But what if there are still a lot of debris left on the subject after cleaning? This happens very often and it is very common. I have personally encountered this kind of situation many times and initially I simply “throw” the image away, ie, not showing it to anyone. But some images are just so close to be a “keeper” such as following image and amount of time spent on cleaning and stacking them are just too valuable to admit a failure.
Here, there are some sensor dust trails (A), imperfections (B) and some dusts (C)
There gotta be a way to rescue these images. As always, I turned to modern digital image processing tools. Not being a fluent user of the king of all digital image processing application, the Adobe Photoshop, my first tool is actually a free image software, the Painter.Net. Using a tool called Clone Stamp in Painter.Net, it is easy to “clone” out the sensor dust trail shown as A in above picture.
The spot marked as blue D is the “Clone Stamp” tool in Painter.Net
But then it would be REALLY difficult to use clone stamp tool to fix imperfections B and dusts C where there are a lot of texture and details. It is almost impossible, believe me, I have tried. My friend, however, has this image application on iPad that can magically remove some winkles from faces and it works so well, I was really impressed. But the catch is, that iPad app can only work on JPG files and it is limited to a rather small size, though good for web media.
So since I am paying subscription of the king of image processing tools, the Adobe Photoshop, so I decided to find similar tool in Photoshop. A quick glance of Photoshop’s toolbar, I found the tool I needed — the “Healing Brush”. After setting the healing brush to “Content Aware” type and set the size just a little bigger than the imperfection B or the dust spot C, I started it clicking on them.
This is the “Healing Brush” tool of type “Content Aware” in Photoshop
Guess what, it is just like magic, those imperfections are “healed”. Some more dabbing around I ended up the image below. Great, right? It looks clean yet very natural, the extra dabbing around also even out some discoloration around the eyes.
This is cleaned up in post, a big difference.
The conclusion is that post processing can sometimes saves an image from being thrown away and can even make it better without creating artificial marks. Of course, it is not a good idea to over do it and rely heavily upon post.