Background to the Future: Syrphid Fly Portrait and Alleviating Flash Fall-off

syrphid fly standing on parsley buds light background

Syrphid fly portrait with lightened background.

I was digging through the archives and found this syrphid fly photo that I’ve always liked but have never processed. The main reason is, while I liked the low angle and the isolated areas of focus and larger-than-life quality about the fly, I did not like the background. It was dark, not quite black but it might as well have been. The dark or black background in macro photography isn’t uncommon especially when you rely on a flash to light the shot. Feeling a bit more confident in my post-processing skills (practice does help!), I decided to tackle this one.

There is usually a lot of ways to skin a photograph, so to speak, but I essentially made a heavy adjustment to the shadows. What this invariably does, is add a lot of noise into the image. Because the parsley and fly were fairly well exposed the setting didn’t add too much noise to those parts of the photo, which meant when I moved along to GIMP I could selectively denoise what is primarily the background of the photo. Normally, I only do mild denoising (using the “Wavelet denoise” filter in GIMP), but here I cranked up the volume to get a soft, if also dull, green color. It’s not a light color, but I think it’s an improvement over the original dark background (which you can view below for a comparison). If I wanted to I also could have put some time into smoothing out the noise in the transition areas, though I didn’t, mainly because it isn’t very noticeable at this file size/resolution.

The one thing that may stand out to you is the “shadow outline” around the fly and parsley buds. This sort of haloing was an artifact of the original Shadows adjustment. I kind of like the effect, but perhaps it appears unnatural or detracting to others.

syrphid fly standing on parsley buds dark background

Syrphid fly portrait with dark, mostly unedited background.


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