Calling All Photoshop Experts


Well-known Member

Wifey wants to have one of my photos enlarged and hung on the wall.

I took advantage of a £2.99 poster offer at Photobox last week, and the resulting print isn't good enough to put up.

The shot was taken on a bridge camera under a canopy of trees, so the image has quite a bit of noise which looks REALLY bad at poster size.

I need to order again (at a smaller size) but wonder if it's possible to skilfully apply noise reduction and carefully select the wren (including the contents of it's gob) and blur the background, as that's where most of the noise is?

I've had several goes with Elements, but I can't get it to select around the spider's legs etc.

I am open to other ideas, or tuition. It may be useful to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate PP skills to me and others watching.

Here is the unedited image, but I'm happy for it to be cropped in to remove the fern on the left and any other enhancements added etc.

Wren by Monkey Prince, on Flickr

Anyone fancy a go?


Jon :hiya:

Edit: Not sure if that's the original file size, so here's a direct link to the original file
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Distinguished Member
Very good GC - thought you'd have gone the whole hog and got rid of that bit of fern though ;)


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Jon, glad you liked it.
Initially I thought that using photoshop to remove the noise from the image was just going to create more work than was necessary due to the amount of fine detail that was present. Lightroom was my preferred method, so with that in mind I imported the image and made the adjustments. First impressions were quite favourable viewed on a laptop screen. However as you posted, the idea was to blow the image up to poster size. Under greater scrutiny all was not as rosy as I had expected. Despite using maximum noise reduction there was still a lot of noise still present. Okay it wasn't a vast swathe of noise but it was still there in isolated points, it would be as much an annoyance and detrimental to the picture. So photoshop running, time to eradicate this noise for good.
Taking into account your original post you mentioned "I've had several goes with Elements, but I can't get it to select around the spider's legs etc." I'll address this point first though I'll make a case for a different approach later.
As you know there are a couple of different selection methods available in elements, depending on the version you use. The most obvious being the Rectangular selection tool and its sibling the Elliptical tool. Both pretty much self explanatory, click and drag the required shape and size. Result a rectangle or ellipse shaped selection defined by the easily recognised "marching ants". Other selection tools include the Polygonal lasso tool, similar to the rectangular tool other than the user picks the points of the area in a series of clicks at the shapes corners. The siblings of that tool are the Lasso tool and the Magnetic Lasso tool, a freehand selection tool and a selection tool that automatically selects areas based on its set-up options, respectively. Next is the Magic Wand tool, again driven by the options it makes selections of areas of a similar colour to a lesser or greater degree. Again the selections made are recognised by the "marching ants" in all of the above examples. The final group of selection tools is the Quick Selection tool and its sibling the Selection Brush tool. The Quick Selection tool does exactly that, it will select vast areas of similar colour and/or pattern. The Selection Brush tool is the tool I used in the picture above.

The Selection Brush tool has two different modes, Selection and Mask. The former mode allows you to click and drag the cursor across the image. The greater the area you cover the greater the selection, once again the result is the "marching ants". The Mask mode works slightly differently. The most obvious difference is that instead if making a selection in the conventional sense, it paints a Colour overlay over the areas your working on. The big advantage of this is that you can clearly see where you have worked and intricate areas are easily edited. Imagine working on something really detailed that has parts selected as an inclusion and others that are to be excluded. Those "marching ants" just become chaos. Another advantage of this particular tool is that because it's a brush tool it can be edited for its size and its hardness. Zoom in on the image and reduce the size of the brush to make really fine selections, reduce the hardness to blend areas thus reducing the abrupt steps between the sharp and blurred parts of your picture, it's also more forgiving for those who find it difficult to trace along those spindly spiders legs. Which brings me conveniently to the next point, when you make a mistake and select something you weren't supposed to it's a simple job to reverse the selection to de-selection by pressing Ctrl shift i make the necessary correction and toggle back again using the same keystrokes.
Once you've painted your Colour Overly over the entire bird and the contents of its beak it's just the simple task of clicking on the Filter drop down menu and clicking Gaussian Blur. I opted for a radius of 3 pixels , hit ok and admire that smooth blurred background.

Ok with that covered here's the way I prefer to work, though saying that I never say never to the various options available. Layers. I nearly always work with layers. They are non-destructive. It's possible to make an adjustment to an image on one layer then make another adjustment on another, they could even be the same adjustment... you prefer the result of one layer to the other the just deselect the layer you don't like and select the one you do.
In the example above the first thing I did after loading the image to photoshop was to create a duplicate image ( ctrl j ). Making sure the duplicate layer is highlighted go up to filter and click Gaussian Blur. As in the previous method pick a radius of 3 pixels . Now you need to create a layer mask, in this instance you need a white mask which should be the default, If you want a black mask hold down the alt button while clicking the Add Layer Mask at the base of the Layer palette. On this white mask, making sure it's the mask highlighted and not the image, start painting in black over the areas of the bird, this will reveal the un blurred image below. Once again as this is a brush tool you can adjust its size and hardness. Flicking between black and white will either reveal or conceal the lower layer.

I appreciate many of you readers will understand the principles of layers, however there are a few on here that occasionally post that they should get to grips with it. Now's your chance...

Finally there was another method I used that although didn't give the creamy blur that was achieved by using Gaussian Blur was quite effective. Using the layers method above just replace the Gaussian option and use the Median option in the Filters dropdown in the Noise sub-group, here I used a radius of 2 pixels.


Well-known Member
GC you're a hero :clap:

Not only did you kindly take the time to help me with the photo (after already helping me with the owl composite a month or so back), but you've also provided a detailed and informative précis of how it could be achieved.

I hope there are others who will benefit from your guidance, and I intend to follow the steps and have a go myself.

A big thanks once again :beer:


Distinguished Member
Could you repeat that in English (or Scottish if you like) please GC ? :devil:



Distinguished Member
Would you prefer it if I numbered it Jim? :rotfl:

Good idea - also shorter sentences to break up the paragraphs and some punctuation might help :D


Distinguished Member
You cheeky bugger. :nono:

I typed it out first in a word-processing program, highlighted the lot and copied. Pasted into the forum and lost all the formatting. :facepalm:
Ohreally?funnywhenthathappensisn'tit? :D
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