After and Before Forum; Battered Butterfly

The After and Before forum is organised by Stacy Fischer, it is a place where amateurs as well as seasoned photographers explain the wow and how about their photo and editing decision.You can read more here about how to take part.

Abforum wk 30 Benjamin Rowe BeforeIt is just a few days until Christmas and this is the last After and Before Forum of the year. It’s ok, we will all be back after New Year with new weekly posts showing how we get the wow in out photos.

This week I have decided not to edit more pictures of cold barren winter landscapes, instead something harking back to summer. Taken in the botanical gardens I used my 50mm lens with 50mm extension tube to get in close to the butterfly. My ISO was set to 250 the same as my shutter speed with my aperture at f/16. Since it was really bright I didn’t use my flash to fill in and that is one of the drawbacks of this shot, it is a bit under exposed.

In Lightroom, I first tweaked the exposure to create a slightly more balanced exposure and adjusted the shadows to bring out more detail. I lowered the white point to stop any clipping in the background and I also added a bit of contrast to give a it a bit of a punch.


Next I used the curves to continue the overall tonal adjustment. I locked in the darkest shadows and moved the middle of the curves to brighten the midtones as well as moving the highlights up as well. The idea of this was to brighten the image without sacrificing the shadows.


Next came colour toning using the selective tool I raised the saturation of prominent colours; like the purple in the flowers, the orange on the butterfly and the green in the background.


Now came the more mundane side of editing, I selected the automatic lens correction to fix any distortion created by the lens. I also sharpened the image and reduced the noise.


Although overall the picture was looking ok the details were not popping in the butterfly’s wing. I used the elliptical adjustment tool and increased the clarity as well as the contrast and later raised the shadows.


I went back to my basic adjustments and tweaked them all slightly.


Although the composition was ok I wanted a tighter crop and cropped the image to the ratio 4×5. I placed the butterfly in the right two thirds of the picture with the head in the bottom right of the centre third.

Abforum wk 30 Benjamin Rowe after


Although I like the edit I still think there is something lacking in the picture, something is missing.
I would be really interested in what you think, drop me a message in the comment box below.

Also please head over to Stacy’s blog to see the other participant’s version of the image.

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18 thoughts on “After and Before Forum; Battered Butterfly

  1. I’ve been thinking about joining Stacey’s after/before posts. Perhaps I’ll join this evening? I’m at work now (technically speaking I’m being paid to write this comment), but I know that I have some good candidates for a post in one of my folders art home. Do I have to post it today or is it fine if I join the after/before Friday on Saturday?

    • Hi, we normally send our pics to Stacy via email to be on the main forum post and then write our post for Fridays (that is when her post goes live). I don’t see a problem with you joining late this week.
      All the info is on Stacy’s blog. I would prob contact Stacy to find out the info for the next post on the ninth of January.

  2. If I may be so bold with my limited knowledge, I think the overall image is too bright. I adore the wing, it has a nice texture, colors are very warm and well-balanced, it looks like a leaf. I wonder if decreasing brightness and increasing contrast for a bit would look better. But I am impressed with such a nice capture without a macro lens. I know how hard it is to get close and take a quality image without it. Good job.

    • You may be bold and limitations of knowledge are for me not a big issue. I think global darkening would need to be balanced with local lightening of the butterfly and could be an answer. I would be cautious about adding more contrast as it may muddy the details more.

  3. I have to agree with Lore above (Snow’s Fissures and Fractures). I love what you did with the image overall but the background could be placed more in shadow for the butterfly to really pop!

  4. I’m not sure of the name of this butterfly, but my recollection that it is one of those that have a plain underside as a camouflage defense. At any rate,I am less concerned about the brightness than the sharpness. But, from a post-processing standpoint, you have done extremely well in bringing out details and color from the original. The steps are described in a clear and easy to understand fashion. The use of the auto lens correction and the elliptical adjustment tool remind us that there are many ways to nudge an image toward a better state.

    • Robin you’re right their is a softness there possibly if I run it through shake reduction in photoshop I can reduce some of the blur.
      The weakness in this image is that I didn’t use a fill in flash, the elliptical tool may have rescued this slightly but you can’t fix all your mistakes in post.

  5. I’ve been thinking on this and at first I thought perhaps lowering the exposure to the background… but as you have replied taking the whole image’s exposure down isn’t really what it needs. So I’m staring at the photo and asking where do my eyes go… and occasionally they jump to that white flower just on the left edge… what do you think about a minor crop where that flower is just removed? It would take some of the lighter area away from the image.

    Also, what do you think about just popping a touch of light to the butterfly’s face? Basically trying to encourage your viewer’s eye to the butterfly rather than the light background. Just some thoughts…

  6. Hi Nic, thanks for your thoughts, I took them on board. I have just written a post where I have re-edit the image again that will go live later today, that covers your comment. Hope you can keep your eyes peeled and see what changes i have made based on your and others comments.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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