Mallards RAW and Edited


Do you like hearing about how I take my photos? 

These images are of a very common duck, but taking flight images of them on a cloudy, snowy day makes them a bit dull in comparison to my post on Wood Ducks.

A before and after editing image is at the end of the post, along with the editing process to get there, but…

These posted images are straight out of the camera, unedited  RAW images optimized for WordPress into a jpeg, except at the end where I show the editing steps.

I get questioned why I shoot the same subject both RAW and jpeg on different cards within the same camera. Many times the images are not that far off from one another in quality where editing is not necessary.

While RAW basically allows for recovery and latitude, it can also act as a safety net. RAW has the ability to recover more blown out information over jpegs, but I aim for camera settings to get the best exposure in camera, so jpegs work most times for online posting.

I shoot the throwaway jpegs to post online to Facebook or my blogs. I shoot RAW for shots I know I took in poor light for instance. Or I shoot RAW in case I need an image that might be a shot worth keeping. Most of them have no real purpose beyond posting online.


To get an image to edit for my Facebook group, I had to find one needing enough editing. I always dump the photos of poor exposure or even those slightly out of focus, but did find one in need of more editing.

I used Auto-White balance in camera for these shots. If it is off, I will make an adjustment in Lightroom or Photoshop when necessary. New cameras are very good at selecting an appropriate white balance.

Setting WB deals only with adding amber or blue, so it is easier to let the camera assess and automatically shift the overall white balance for images that are neutral in color. Make a guesstimate WB if you like and you can still fix it later. I find in snow especially, if picking Cloudy WB for instance, it can be a starting point. In Photoshop I used no correction filter, but a technique on my edited image. If requested, I will tell you how to do Opposite Color Neutralization in another post.

The theme for my Facebook group today is “before and after editing, savings grace”. The group most probably always shoots RAW, so I edited a RAW image.


Since most of my photos are not ones I edit, I had to look for one that was under-exposed and needed a slight white balance adjustment like above to remove the blue color cast. White snow like below is the aim. It really is balancing all the values in the shot.


For the Facebook theme, I first adjusted exposure, got a good white point, and lightly sharpened the image in Lightroom. I then send it off to Photoshop for further editing.

In Photoshop, I remove branches, some of the duck heads, remove the color cast, selectively sharpen, remove noise, blur the background and crop the image to focus on one subject. Then I add a key line stroke. I can do most of this in Lightroom, except a complicated step removing a darkened blemish behind the duck’s wing.

Needless to say, this is a lot of work, and why on my blogs you see mostly straight-out-of-the camera shots. It is also why I aim for good exposure every time. Good composition is important, but with fast-moving wildlife, that can be hit or miss.

This group of duck images were only cropped and had a file reduction. Sure they could use a bit of work, but honestly, for any social media posting that is repeatedly compressed and optimized, why bother?


Facebook Edit

Now, the gallery of edits to the image for the group. Only a portion of the editing steps were screenshot, but I did title what was done.

The Finished Edit

Notice the dark shadow behind the female Mallard is gone from the Cropping image above. I decided I did not like that dark blob behind the duck. First I dodged it, then I used Content Aware and Cloning (once I was near the wing). I then blurred the repair. Also note the twigs now missing. I just used Content Aware to remove them.


Blue shadows are now gray, and the snow is whitened. A few twigs and a few duck heads are removed, background repaired, lightened, and blurred. The edits helped to focus on the flying Mallard.

See more RAW, unedited images in the previous post. Color makes a big difference in RAW from the dull images of this post. A series on Wood Ducks, bright and beautiful.

This entry was posted in Birds, Nature, Photography, Photos, wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Mallards RAW and Edited

  1. Ted says:

    Thanks for sharing Donna, sometimes editing takes time but when I can’t be out shooting I don’t mind kicking back and enjoying my editing software.

    • donna213 says:

      I love using software for artistic edits, graphic art and photo manipulation, etc. but when I do wildlife, I try to get by without altering the image. I guess because I run two blogs, the time is just not parceled that way. Since I paint on the computer, photo edits just seems more like work. Much of my real work is computer based and art driven so playing with photos never had the same appeal.

  2. avian101 says:

    Great shots Donna! 🙂

  3. Hillechien says:

    Thanks for the information

  4. Denzil says:

    Fascinating Donna. Some great and useful tips here.

  5. gwenniesgardenworld says:

    wow ! great pictures !

  6. Your photos look great fresh out of the camera!

  7. neihtn2012 says:

    I like to read about how you take your photos. What you display on your blogs are some of the best that I know of.

  8. aussiebirder says:

    Wonderful snow shots Donna, and great sharing of technique. This is similar to what I do using different gear. I love the challenge of getting the photo to where I think it should be. Sometimes my wife will say, what a shame … such and such is in the way or whatever and I will will say that’s fine wait and see. Digital photography has truly opened the door to us to do so much more, and make our photos artworks of expression, where we can select the subject and areas of emphasis we want to highlight in each photo to produce an artwork more than just a photo of what we saw. This dimension of birding is a growing trend that never use to be before digital photography brought the professional tools into the hands of everyone. I love the way you capture the snow and the movement of the birds in it, it just makes me want to be there! It is so hot and humid here, this is one of the hottest summers ever. I have been thinking of going back to RAW, though I took over 8 gig yesterday compressed. My daughter is a professional photographer and she shoots in RAW, and says similar to you, I might experiment again, now we have 64Gig SD cards. Thanks again Donna I really enjoy your work, and the wisdom you share.

    • donna213 says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Ashley. I appreciate you adding to the conversation in how you too express your art of photography. So true on how photography and technology came together in the last 15-20 years. Without digital, many would not have this opportunity. I came from film and was a long time holdout to digital, but once I switched, I never would think of going back. I have had Photoshop since it came out and would never give that up either. I just use it differently than many photographers. While others find joy in making an image sing through apps, I find it better if it came from the camera singing. I feel an accomplishment without comparison to editing the image. I can edit and make any of my images better or even manipulate them into something not in the image, but don’t do it as “photography”, but rather art.

      • aussiebirder says:

        Thanks Donna, I am finding the art aspect more inviting as I enjoy birding, as nature and landscape were my original subjects before being hooked on the challenge of bird photography. I love to capture the unusual and peculiar aspects of I can, and my scientist side seeks to learn more about why they do what they do. You certainly have much experience and it shows in the quality of your images😊

  9. ALESIA says:

    You bring so much to the table when you edit and explain to us your readers how you do it.

Your comment is appreciated.

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