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Removing distracting objects with content-aware tools

From: Enhancing a Travel Photo with Photoshop and Lightroom

Video: Removing distracting objects with content-aware tools

When you're shooting a travel photo, you can't control everything in the scene. You may have a distracting background, or a clutter in the image, or a person, or a car, or a boat may enter the side of your photo. In this case, the sun was about to set, and I knew I wasn't going to have another chance to get this photo, so I went ahead and shot it, even though there is more clutter than I would like in the scene. Fortunately, Photoshop offers a number of sophisticated retouching tools which you can use to remove some of the clutter here, and in your other travel photos.

Removing distracting objects with content-aware tools

When you're shooting a travel photo, you can't control everything in the scene. You may have a distracting background, or a clutter in the image, or a person, or a car, or a boat may enter the side of your photo. In this case, the sun was about to set, and I knew I wasn't going to have another chance to get this photo, so I went ahead and shot it, even though there is more clutter than I would like in the scene. Fortunately, Photoshop offers a number of sophisticated retouching tools which you can use to remove some of the clutter here, and in your other travel photos.

So, let's take a look at what we can do to clean up some of this image. Before I start retouching, I like to make a separate layer to hold my retouching patches, and that gives me a lot more flexibility if I change my mind about what I've done. So, I am going to go to the Layers panel, and click on the topmost layer, and create a new layer by clicking the New Layer button, and I'll name this new empty layer retouch. Next, I am going to double-click the Zoom tool to zoom into 100%. I'll hold the Spacebar, and I'll pan over to this area, where there are a couple of items I'd like to try to eliminate.

Let's start by trying to eliminate this boat, and the post behind it. Often, the first retouching tool I'll try is the Spot Healing Brush tool, because it's semi-automatic, and it often does a really quick job. So, I'll go to the toolbar, and I'll select the Spot Healing Brush tool. Up in the options bar for this tool, I want to make sure that Content Aware is enabled. This will help the tool blend the patch that it's making in with the surrounding area, and I'll be sure to check Sample All Layers, so that as Photoshop builds this patch, it will sample the content from all of the layers, not just the retouch layer, but the layers below, including the important photo layer.

Then I'll move into the image, I'll put my brush tip on top of the content I want to eliminate, and I'm going to make the brush tip just a little bit bigger than that boat and post, and then I'll click. I think that's done a pretty convincing job of covering the boat and post, and blending the patch in with the surrounding area. I'll come over to this post, and I'll make my brush tip a little smaller by pressing the Left Bracket key, and I'll eliminate that post too, and up here I see something that looks like an airplane in the distance, so I'll make my brush tip much smaller, again, pressing the Left Bracket key, and I'll eliminate that.

Now let's take a look at how that works by holding the Option key, or the Alt key, and clicking the eye icon to the left of that retouch layer to turn off the visibility of all the other layers for a moment, and here you can see the little patches that the Spot Healing Brush tool created for me, and those patches are covering up that content. If I Option+Click or Alt+Click again on that icon, that turns on all the other layers. So, if I wanted to, I could select one of those spots, and just delete it to bring the content back, but I am going to leave things as they are.

Now let's pan down to another area of the photo. Here there is a metal object floating in the water that I'd really rather not have in my photo. I could try to eliminate this with the Spot Healing Brush, but I think that the Patch tool is going to do a better job. So, let's take a look at the Patch tool, which is over in the toolbar behind the Spot Healing Brush. I'll select the Patch tool and I'll go up to the options bar. Now, with the Patch tool, it's very important to change the Patch menu from Normal to Content Aware, and that's something that you may forget to do, because it's kind of a hidden feature, but it's very powerful, because it gives the Patch tool the power to blend its patch with the surrounding area, like the Spot Healing Brush tool.

I'll also make sure that Sample All Layers is checked here, and that's an option that you don't have unless you change the Patch tool to Content Aware. Then, with the retouch layer still selected in the Layers panel, I'll move into the image, and I'm going to use the Patch tool like a selection tool to draw a selection around this object. I want to be sure to include in the selection I am drawing a little bit of the surrounding water, because the Patch tool needs that to do a good job. Then I'll click inside of the selection I just created, and I'll drag to find an area from which to sample the water.

I want to make sure to get an area that has similar tone and texture to the area I am trying to cover, and you can see a preview inside of my original selection of how it's going to look. I think that's fine, so I'll release my mouse. Now, in this case, I think we got a pretty good result, but sometimes you don't get a great result, and if that happens to you, just click inside your selection, and try moving it to a different area, and if you still don't like the result, the you can come up to the options bar for the Patch tool, even after you've made your initial patch like this, but before you have deleted the selection, and you can try some different Adaptation methods, and this is really just a matter of experimentation.

When you're working in a texture area like this, often Loose or Very Loose will get you a good result. If you're looking closely inside that patch, you can see the result change as I choose between these different Adaptation methods. So, I'll go with Loose in this case, and then I'll eliminate the marching ants at by pressing Command+D, or Ctrl+D on the PC. Now let's go back to look at the image in full screen view by double-clicking the hand tool. So, those are some ways that you can start to eliminate the clutter in this image.

I think it looks better already. If there are some other things you'd like to try to eliminate, perhaps this boat coming in over here on the right, or this boat up here, you can give those a try using the tools that I have showed you here, and stay tuned for the next movie, where we are going to tackle a more challenging retouching job: moving this post away from this boat.

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Image for Enhancing a Travel Photo with Photoshop and Lightroom
Enhancing a Travel Photo with Photoshop and Lightroom

12 video lessons · 5783 viewers

Jan Kabili
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