Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Making people disappear, part of Photoshop Image Cleanup Workshop.
In this lesson I'm going to show you a technique for automatically removing people or other moving subjects from a series of photos, in order to create a single image. This process does require that you capture multiple images of your subject first, so that you can blend those images together. For example, here I have three images of stairs rising up a cliff wall. In each photo the people are in different positions. So it's possible to blend the exposures together, to create a single image with no people in it. First I'm going to show you how to perform this task with the extended version of Photoshop.
This is a more expensive version of Photoshop, but it does make this task much easier. Let's see how it's done. I've opened all three images, so I'm going to choose File > Scripts > Load Files Into Stack from the menu. In the Load Layers dialog, I'll click the button to Add Open Files, since I've opened all three of my images. And I'm going to turn on both check boxes, I want to automatically align the source images and I also want to create a smart object after the layers have been loaded.
With those options set, I'll simply click okay and Photoshop will process the images. The result is a single image that is actually comprised of multiple images contained inside of a smart object. And this enables us to use one of the smart object modes in order to blend the images and remove all the people. To do so, I'll choose Layer > Smart objects > Stack mode, and then median from the menu. Choosing this option we will blend the images in this mode object keeping only the pixels that match between all of the layers.
The result is no people in the image. Of course this particular method requires the extended version of photo shop. Let's take a look at how you could perform this task with the standard version of photo shop. I'll go ahead and close this image so that we can work only with my original three images and then I'm going to choose File, Automate, Photo Merge, from the menu. I'll choose the Reposition option to simply reposition all of my images so that they will align with each other, and I'll turn off the Blend Images Together option because I'm going to blend them manually.
And I'll click the Add Open Files button, so that the open images, my stairs images, are added to the list of source files to be processed. I'll then click Okay, and Photoshop will process these images, assembling a multilayer document out of them. In the process, it will also attempt to align the images so they match up more readily. At this point I'll evaluate the individual layers, and decide which one represents the best starting point. I'll turn off stairs one, and stairs two so I can take a look at stairs three. And it looks like stairs three is pretty well absent of people at the bottom half of the image or so.
And stairs two has some people at the bottom, but not too many people at the top. And stairs 3 has people mostly at the top. So I'm going to start with stairs 3 as the basis of my image here. It looks like this will be the one that has the fewest people, and so all I need to do is remove people from this layer using information on the other layers. I'm going to go ahead and turn on my other layers now, and I will select my stairs to layer, and add a layer mask to it. But I want to add an inverted layer mask so that this layer, this stairs to layer, is effectively invisible. So I'll hold the Alt key on Windows, or the Option key on Macintosh, while clicking on the Add Layer mask button.
The circle inside of a square icon at the bottom of the layers panel. This will add a layer mask that is filled with black so these stairs two layer is now completely invisible. I'll do the same thing to stairs one, clicking on the Layer to make it active, and then holding the Alt or Option key while clicking the Add Layer Mask button in order to add a layer mask that completely blocks this layer. Now I'll take a look at my underlying image layer. That's the only layer I can see at the moment. And I see there's a person down towards the bottom of the stairs. So, I'm going to turn off the mask for stairs two temporarily.
I'll hold the Shift key and click on the layer mask. And sure enough, in that image, this area of the image does not contain a person at all. And so if I click on the layer mask for stairs two and then choose the brush tool from the tool box, press the letter x to swap the foreground and background color so that white is my foreground, I can now move out into the image and adjust my brush size as needed by using the left square bracket key to reduce the brush size or the right square bracket key to increase the brush size...
And then I can paint with white onto the layer mask, in order to reveal this image in this portion of the image. And because there is no person in this image layer, that will cause the person to effectively disappear. I can then zoom in a little bit and take a look and see if there are other people within the image. And it looks like we might not have any people up near the top, at the moment And in fact perhaps we only have one other person to deal with or maybe two people to deal with it looks like.
So, I'm going to deal with this person over here. I will once again disable the layer mask for stairs too and it looks like that is a good source for this area of the image. So once again on the layer mask for stairs two, I will simply paint with white in order to reveal that layer, showing the lack of a person, showing the image layer that does not have a person in that area. And similarly, I can look at the area here on the platform, and I have the same situation. So I can simply paint in white to reveal that area of the image.
And I'll continue panning through these stairs here to see if I have anyone else that I need to take care of. And it looks like that may actually be it. So it turned out to be a much easier job than expected. I only needed two out of my three images in order to create a result. That has no people in it. So this stairs 1 layer actually ended up being unnecessary because I had enough portions of stairs 3 and stairs 2 to create a final image that didn't contained any people.
And the only other step I need to perform is to crop this image since the alignment caused a small adjustment to the edges of the image. I'll go ahead and fine-tune the cropping here, just get it a little bit inside the edges of the image. And then I can press enter or return on the keyboard to apply that crop, and I have my final result. As you can see regardless of which version of Photoshop you're using it's possible to assemble multiple images of the same scene in order to remove moving subjects in this case people from the final image.
- The ethics of cleanup
- Reviewing the image
- Nondestructive cleanup
- Cleanup tools and techniques
- Removing strong color casts
- Gradient adjustments
- Extending the frame
- Using multiple exposures to remove subjects from an image