After Before Forum; Bearded Dragon

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.

This week I went to the city Zoo which does not have the widest selection of animals but it is pretty good considering its size. I always find photographing in a zoo a challenge and that is part of the reason I like to go. The glass and the fences between me and nature are a photographic obstacle. Although I have found shooting at f1.8 can blur away the fence.
wk44 before Benjamin RoweThis week’s picture is of a Bearded Dragon also known as a Pogona. For my Australian readers his face may not seem as rare as it is to me in Europe.

Most of the adjustments I made in my editing were due to mistakes I made and the conditions I was shooting in. First I didn’t switch my white balance to auto when I entered the reptile house meaning my colours were completely out. Secondly the humidity and shooting through glass as well as the positions of the light in the Pogona’s tank helped to create a soft and hard mix of contrast.


First thing I did was change the white balance to get some normalcy in the colours.


I then made a many changes with the basic adjustments I brightened the whole image by increasing the exposure. I also increased the contrast and clarity to spread my tones out more and create more definition between the tones. To stretch my tones some more I increased highlights and decreased shadows. I only wanted the strongest colours so I reduced the vibrance and then increased saturation.


Using curves I increased the midtones to brighten the image some more, but added an anchor to reign in the shadows to help protect them.


I was shooting at quite a high ISO due to the lighting in the reptile house. I removed most of the noise with noise reduction and also sharpened the image.


I made some tweaks to camera calibration to make sure I could get the best out of the colours.


The colours were still feeling a bit wonky, so I added a split tone to balance the highlight and the shadow tones.


I wanted to softly darken the area around the head of the Pogona. I reduced the shadows and increased the midtone contrast and also reduced the noise here. Since there are no sharp details in this area, I can reduce the noise more without worrying that I will flatten details.


I made a few tweaks to the curves and increased the overall contrast some more.

Pogona Bearded Dragon

What I like about the final picture is that the head is obviously the focus with everything else softening into the background including the contrast. I think I have balanced the colours well but the lighting in the retile house is a mix bag.  The reason I think I have got two areas of contrast was due to his head was directly under the hot lamp and the rest of his body was being lit by normal lights. Whatever the situation I feel I got a good image out of the day.


Let me know in the comments below what you think of the final image.

Also please head over to Stacy’s blog to see the other participant’s entries into this weeks forum

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22 thoughts on “After Before Forum; Bearded Dragon

  1. Very good editing sequence, Ben. And thanks for the details on the process, it was well explained. I was intrigued by your reduction of the Vibrance combined with the increase in the saturation. Nice touch.

  2. Great edit, Ben! You really pulled it out of the funky white balance issue, and made the face so detailed! I love the touch of blue in the background that nicely complements the yellow on his face. Zoos do bring interesting challenges with the glass and the fences, but it’s always sweet success when you are able to work around them and get a great image, as you’ve done here. 😀

    • The white balance was a bit funky but that was all me when shooting, lso makes me glad I shoot raw. The blue was from the split toning really there as you said ton contrast and in a way frame the face.

  3. Ben, I liked be reminded about reducing vibrance but increasing saturation to bring out the strongest colors. I tend not to touch the saturation slider, but in this case, the effect was just what was needed. I’m also curious about how you add an anchor to the tone curve – what a great tip. All in all, you did a great job in rescuing this image of this incredible fellow!

  4. Great work, Ben. You’ve retained some yellow on his back (lower right, out of focus) that balances the yellow in his face. It’s a great shot!

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