Using Spot Weighted DxO Smart Lighting with Bird Images

Each of us has own our approach when processing RAW bird images in post. This article discusses using the Spot Weighted DxO Smart Lighting tool with bird images.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-3200

First let’s have a look at an image of a New Zealand Tomtit. The photograph was captured in poor light in a wooded area adjacent to the Mirror Lakes. The jpeg above was made from the RAW file using my standard V3 bird preset, without any additional corrections. When using the DxO Spot Weighted Smart Lighting tool it is best to do some experimentation with the size of the area to be adjusted, as well as the strength of the adjustment.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-3200

The jpeg above was made with a ‘slight’ Spot Weighted adjustment on the bird’s head.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-3200

I then tested a ‘medium’ strength adjustment on the same area of the bird’s head.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-3200

And, finally a ‘strong’ adjustment as seen in the jpeg above. Depending on the bird image I typically find that a ‘slight’ or ‘medium’ adjustment yields the best results.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-3200

I decided on using a ‘medium’ adjustment level with the DxO Spot Weighted Smart Lighting tool. I then reduced the highlights, lightened the shadows, then added a touch of black and vibrance in CS6. Very slight adjustments to contrast and structure were done in Viveza 2 to finish the image.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 241mm, efov 651mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-3200

Here’s another image shot under poor lighting conditions in a heavily forested area near Bluff New Zealand. I only had a few seconds to capture this photograph of a tui before it flew off deeper into the woods. The jpeg was produced from a RAW file using my standard V3 bird preset.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 241mm, efov 651mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-3200

Here’s another jpeg made from the same RAW file with a ‘medium’ strength Spot Weighted Smart Lighting adjustment applied to the bird’s body and wing.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 241mm, efov 651mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-3200

The jpeg above was made after adjusting shadows and highlights in CS6 and adding a small amount of black. I also used the Dodge and Burn tools in CS6 to reveal some modest details of the tui’s eye in order to give the photograph more context.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 192mm, efov 518mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-1000

This photograph of a black swan was captured in the Westport area of New Zealand. A small wedge of black swan took flight just as I raised my camera to capture an image. All I had time for was a single burst of images captured at 10fps in AF-C with subject tracking. As per the other sample images, the jpeg above was made from a RAW file using my standard V3 bird preset without any other corrections.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 192mm, efov 518mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-1000

In this case I applied the Spot Weighted DxO Smart Lighting adjustment to the white area of the bird’s wing as I wanted to bring out more highlight details. The jpeg above incorporates a ‘slight’ strength adjustment.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 192mm, efov 518mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-1000

Here is another jpeg from the same RAW file, this one with a ‘medium’ strength adjustment.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 192mm, efov 518mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-1000

The jpeg above utilizes a ‘strong’ strength adjustment.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 192mm, efov 518mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-1000

Here is the final, finished jpeg image. I decided to use the ‘medium’ strength Spot Weighted adjustment, then made some aggressive adjustments in CS6 in order to get as much feather details as I could. These included taking Highlights to -100, Shadows to +100, Black to -40, and adding +15 to Clarity. Some minor tweaks to contrast and structure were done in Viveza 2. My final adjustment was in CS6 with some slight brightening done to the image.

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro/PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

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