Bill Clean-up « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Bill Clean-up

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This Willet was photographed at LaJolla, CA with the handheld Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens and the EOS 50D. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/4 set manually.

Aside from working on the eyes of most of my avian subjects, I often spend considerable time cleaning a bird’s bill.   I work large, often at 500 to 800%.  Tip: hit “Z” for the Zoom Tool and then click-draw a box around the area that you wish to work on.  To eliminate sand, dirt, birts of food (if I opt to do so), specular highlights (I hate bill shine!), and or small areas of discoloration or damage, I usually use the Patch Tool and the Clone Stamp Tool (that often in cases where I wish to divide a larger problem area into two sections before using the Patch Tool.  A times I use a Quick Mask or two and more rarely, the Spot Healing Brush.  Detailed instructions on using these tools can be found in Digital Basics:

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This tight crop shows extensive areas with specular highlights.
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Ten minutes work most with the Patch Tool yields a nice clean bill.

(As always, you can click on any image to see  a larger version.   I’ll be back soon!

8 comments to Bill Clean-up

  • Hi Artie

    Yes it was me 🙂

    Hope all is well with you. We hope to get to FL in Feb, maybe we’ll run in to each other again 🙂

    I’m a full-time photographer now, with studio and digital services bureau (aka Lola, our picture editor!).



  • I’m sorry but i believe it is unethical to use photoshop tools on nature photographs.

    I think the shot is lovely as is.

  • avatar Randy Stout


    Thanks for the zoom tip. Very handy way to center and enlarge the area of interest all in one step.


  • The problem is, by taking away all the specular highlights, you’ve taken away some of the three dimensionality of the bill. It looks flat now. When we do this on shiny skin we do the clean up work on a separate layer and then fade the opacity back so you get just a hint of highlight showing through. I reckon that would look better here too.

    • Is this the Martin of Martin and Karen Plant??? Either way, thanks for the tip; I have done the same thing by toning down the highlights with the Clone Stamp Tool at 50% Opacity. It is not a problem for me because in a series of images of the same bird there are often some that show the specular highlights and others that do not. I did leave the highlight near the bill tip but the ones at the base of the bill were simply butt-ugly to me.