Article: How birds make colorful feathers

I came across this article that made me think of the thread Enhancing glossiness, iridescence and sheen.

It provides an overview of pigmentation and structural colors that we associate with birds. While pigmentation is important for the coloration of many birds, the blue color that we find in blue birds such as Indigo Buntings are usually structural, resulting in light scattering, where the bright colors of a hummingbird’s throat are created by refraction that results in iridescence. There’s even cases where certain pigments fluoresce a bright red when exposed to ultraviolet light.

The article doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but it’s a fun read:
How Birds Make Colorful Feathers


Yes indeed, not so easy to translate the knowledge of how the colours are produced across to DT controls that enhance the colours.

The various contributions to your play raw produce some good pictures, but I think most people neglected the green feathers of the bird that were in shade. These should be intense and glossy.

I had a try with the latest dev version of DT and it is noticeably easier to get the job done - color calibration - colorfulness - blue slider seems to control the flowers quite easily.
Relighting the shaded parts of the bird with a second instance of exposure allows for a bit of glossification of the greens.

My screen isn’t calibrated, so hopefully it looks OK on other monitors and shows a bit of sheen.

All my images are covered by

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License


I gave this shot another go with DT 3.9+1760, and I agree that the edits are easier with the Filmic and Colorbalancergb improvements, not to mention a bit more experience on my part. The blues are much easier to control and I had an easier time toning down the intensity of the bright red flowers to make them less distracting

I think the greens on the bird in your version may be a bit too bright for the scene and they tend towards a uniform yellow-green. In this version I masked off the bird in Colorbalancergb and simply applied contrast to the green to enhance the details. It’s far from perfect, but I think it accentuates the intensity of the green feathers.

While this is an older play raw, I’ve added the file and the license here for good measure.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
_MG_0113.CR2 (33.4 MB)
_MG_0113.CR2.xmp (22.1 KB)

Yes the green back is probably a bit too bright, but I was really just playing around with the various DT techniques I had picked up on these forums. Clearly you can mask the bird’s back and belly separately, to give the effect of shifting the light source round so that the bird’s back is no longer in shadow. However, this requires a lot of care to get a natural look, and probably there are many other shots of the same bird that will give better results.

I’ve been going back over my old bird photos with DT 3.9 and almost always get an extra 10% clarity and colour improvements. For the astro and sunset shots the improvements are dramatic . . .