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- 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
Skill Level Beginner
Sometimes you'll find that it's easier to clean up an image by blending two exposures rather than by working directy within a single photo. And that's certainly the case with this particular photographic subject. I found this really cool staircase going up the side of a cliff wall. The problem is that at any given time there were people on that staircase. And so I knew it was going to be virtually impossible to capture a single image with no people in it. However, I also knew that if I captured two images, then in each frame I would have people in different locations.
So that hopefully I could blend the two images together and end up with a single image with no people in it. To get started I'll select both images in Bridge. I've clicked on the first image and now I'll Shift click on the second image. And then from the menu in Bridge I'll choose tools, Photoshop, and then Load Files into Photoshop Layers. This will cause both of these images to be opened and then merged into a single document in Photoshop. So you can see on the Layers panel, I have both images stacked together into a single document. If I turn off the topmost layer, you'll see that most of the people disappear. But turning it back on, you can see that there are plenty of people here. I need to mix and match between these two in order to produce the best result. Of course, before I can do that, I also want to make sure that the images are aligned as accurately as possible.
I'll go ahead and select both layers by clicking on the first layer, and then Shift-clicking on the second layer. And then I'll go to the Edit menu and choose Auto-align Layers. I'll leave the option set to Auto. I don't want the Vignette Removal or Geometric Distortion options turned on. I'll go ahead then and click the OK button, and Photoshop will process those images. I'll turn off the top most layer and turn it back on again and, sure enough, it looks like Photoshop did a great job aligning those images. I do need to crop the image but I'll save that for just a little bit later.
Next I'll add a layer mask to the top most layer. So I'll click on the Thumbnail for the top layer to make sure it's active. And then I'll click on the Add Layer Mask button, the circle inside of a square icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. That will add a layer mask. It's filled with white, by default. And in the context of layer masks, black blocks and white reveals. So at the moment, this top layer is entirely visible, and it's blocking the layer below. But if I paint with black on this layer mask, then parts of this top image will be blocked from view, revealing what's underneath.
I'll go ahead and choose the Brush tool and then I'll press the letter D to make sure that the colors are set to their default values. Followed by the letter X so that I switch the foreground and background colors so that black is my foreground color. I'll make sure that I'm working with a soft edge brush so that I get a little bit of blending in my painted areas. The Blend mode should be set to normal, and the opacity at 100%. I'll then move into the image and adjust the brush size as needed. The right square bracket key will increase the size of the brush, and the left square bracket key will decrease the size of the brush.
I'll then zoom in on some of the people, and as you can see I can then simply paint to erase the people. And what's actually happening is I'm blocking this layer from view in that one area, revealing the image below which does not contain people in that area. I can then continue painting in additional areas of the image as needed in order to remove all of the people from this photo. It seems a little bit like magic, and it's actually pretty easy to do obviously. I simply need to paint in all areas of this image that contain people.
Blocking those people from view here, and revealing the non people layer down below. Obviously the layer down below does contain people. I'll go ahead and turn off this top layer. And we can see people down here at the bottom of the staircase for example. But those people are not revealed because mostly I'm seeing only the top image layer. I only see the bottom image layer in a handful of spaces. I'll go ahead and turn on that top layer and zoom out, and then turn off the underlying layer. And you can see that I've essentially erased portions of this image. I've actually just blocked areas.
If I'd made a mistake, I could switch my foreground color to white, and then reveal portions of this image, by painting back into it. But in this case I think I'd done a reasonably good job here. So I'm just blocking small portions of the upper image, to reveal the image down below. And since between these two frames, for any given position on the staircase, there are no people in either one frame or the other, I'm able to blend the two to remove all people from the overall image. Finally, I can crop the image. I'll go ahead and choose the Crop tool, and then I'll drag each of the edges inward just to make sure that all four corners of the crop are inside the actual image area.
We do have some transparent pixels in some of the corners especially, so I'll go ahead and refine my crop just a little bit. And I'll turn off the Delete Crop Pixels check box to make sure that any pixels outside of this crop box are not actually being deleted, but rather just hidden from view by causing the canvas size to come inward just a little bit. I'll go ahead and apply that crop and you can see that I now have an image that contains no people thanks to just a little bit of layer masking and a crop to finalize the image.