Image Editing

Taking the picture is only half the fun, once you have transferred the images from your digital camera to your PC, there is still more work to be done.

The fantastic digiscoped images you see on the internet have all been improved on a computer, it's all part of the digiscoping method. Because you need a very fast shutter speed to freeze the subjects movement, inevitably, a lot of your images may be under exposed.

To improve my images, I use a piece of software called Adobe Photoshop, It's not cheap to buy, but there are scaled down versions available far cheaper, even free with certain digital camera models. The Nikon Coolpix 4500 is bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements which has all the features you need to improve your images.

Improving a digiscoped picture using Adobe Photoshop

First I start by making a copy of all my digiscoped images that I have taken on the day in to a separate folder, just in case I ruin one of my best shots.

I then go through all the images taken and pick out the sharpest images with the most potential. Select an image that you are happy with, if my image is under exposed, I usually start off by lightening the image using Image / Adjustments / Curves. I use the bar and move it around until I'm happy that the image is nice and punchy with plenty of contrast. I sometime use the Image / Adjustments / Brightness-Contrast settings after using curves for further improvements.

I then move on to Image / Adjustments / Levels. If my image has blown out white areas or very dark areas, I use the scale to add or decrease density.

If the image is suffering from noise (grainy image) I use the filters / noise reduction tool, being careful not to apply to much. To much noise reduction can lose detail and make your image less sharp.

If your image is a particularly contrasty picture, for example a dark bird in front of a bright blue sky, you may get colour fringing on the edges of the bird - usually a purple, blue or pink colour. If so use the colour picker to select the offending colour then go to Image / Adjustments / Replace Colour. Alter the Fuzziness bar so that just the fringing is showing, then use the hue, saturation and lightness bars to mute out the colour fringing.

I then draw a rough feathered path around the subject matter using the lasso tool (usually approx 30 pixels) I inverse the selection and apply a small amount of Gaussian Blur to the background to make the subject stand out more.

I then reverse the selection, so that I'm now concentrating on the subject, I apply doses of Unsharp Mask (between 50%-100%) until the subject looks nice and sharp, but not over sharp.

Finally, I use the sharpen tool from the tool bar and gently apply it (approx 10% opacity) over the birds head and eye to really give the image some punch.

Crop the image to make a nice picture composition or to eliminate any vignetting.

Once finished I save the final image, if you are presenting your images on a website like this one, I would recommend reducing the image size down to approximately 700 pixels wide and apply one more dose of unsharp mask. Save the image as a separate file name so that you don't save over the original.

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Proceed to camera settings information

Before starting work on a digiscoped image, always save a back up of your original picture. That way you've always got something to go back to, should you make a mistake.

Always apply filters in moderation, build up in stages rather than applying 100% straight away, it's easy to go to far and ruin the image.

Don't over sharpen images, they will look unrealistic if you do.

Don't blow up your images past their original pixel size, they will drastically lose quality.

Rather than using the sharpen image filter, use the unsharp mask instead, it's more subtle and you can control the amount of sharpness applied.

If saving your images as a JPEG, don't compress them too much, the image quality will suffer if you do.

The advice on these pages is based purely on my own preferences and should be treated as guidance only. You may find other settings work better for you and your equipment.

The internet is packed with many digiscope websites to learn the best techniques, the digiscoping links page is a great place to start.