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Simple Editing In Photoshop To Remove Unwanted Objects From Your Photographs

Updated on January 12, 2015

Simple Uses Of The Clone Stamp Tool In photoshop

Have you ever thought that a super photograph is spoiled by an unwanted object that was not noticed when you took the shot. Or perhaps it was simply in the way and you took the shot anyway.

Maybe it is an advertisement or lamp post or telegraph wires which intrude into a shot.

It may be possible to save the day using the clone stamp tool.

I have a step by step explanation in the tutorial below, of its use for the uninitiated with one or two examples of its use. In this image a set of power lines were removed to improve the look and feel, I thought that they detracted from the quality of the photograph.

All photos and images are the work of the author.

Abbey House Gardens Malmsbury - Galadriels Mirror
Abbey House Gardens Malmsbury - Galadriels Mirror

Why Remove Distractions On Photographs?

Does It Matter?

This a debateable point. But for at least two reasons, you may want to edit your photographs to remove extraneous objects.

In the example (of a small pool surrounded by stones) below, is a beautiful scene which is lit up at night, a relaxing garden in a hotel which I visited. The spot-lights are visible and in my view spoil the appearance of the sight especially in a photograph which does not have to reflect the context of the shot. I used the clone stamp tool in my copy of Photoshop to remove the light I couldn't miss in the photograph.

I have similarly removed people and in snaps of places I have visited, sometimes it is not possible to wait until there is no activity around. it may not matter if it is just a holiday snap but for use as an illustration, the distraction would spoil the effect of the shot. Maybe it can simply be cropped out of the picture, but maybe not. With this option at least the photo may be saved.

The more serious you are about your photography then the more annoying are the little distractions in your photographs. I recently took a photo of a crenellated (had battlements) tower to illustrate a poem. But across the field and in front of the tower there were power lines. Most annoying and called to be removed. I couldn't erase them or hide them with anything so using the clone stamp to over-write the image with the background sky was a must. (see above example)

Another occasion, I took a photo of a statue in Glastonbury, just what I wanted to illustrate another poem. However it was positioned outside a shop and in the window was a visa sign. It had to go. Not wanting to leave a hole in the image, the clone stamp tool was again utilised. (discussed below)

A third example was to remove a wheelbarrow from a photograph of a garden ornament from a private garden we visited. Note the offending item in the image here, I could go on but perhaps you get the idea. (see below)

I will show all these example below, with the procedure used.

Digitally Removing An Offending Artifact

Galadriel's Mirror

Here is a back to back example of the difference that removing an unwanted item from a photograph can make. The ornament, known as Galadriel's Mirror, is a large brass bowl filled with water. The reflection is of the main building out of shot.

Do you agree that the edited image is a much better photograph?

Did you notice the garden wheelbarrow, and did it spoil the shot for you?

glastonbury
glastonbury

Removing Unwanted Distractions

Some Considerations.

The adjacent image was taken in Glastonbury. There were a large number of New Age and similar shops which interested my wife and I photographed several of the frontages. But being a popular tourist spot and a busy high street, it was impossible to find subjects without parked cars or people in them. I include thus as an example of what may be possible and what may not. The cars would present a problem to remove because I am not explicitly aware of the background. I would probably have to invent something and it would look obvious as they are quite large areas.

In the case of the woman, I have access to the door (background) that the she is passing and so with care, it would be possible to use the clone stamp tool to remove her from the photograph.

Before discussing its use however, lets consider one or two other ways of removing unwanted objects.

  • Erasure, An easy way of removing any area of the photo but will obviously leave a "hole" in the image
  • Obscuration, either hide the object with a different object; using layers to position the new object / area. This new area could be taken from the same or another photograph. For instance, in the introduction image, the lamp could be hidden by another rock.

    Alternatively for faces or number plates, do a "google". Blur the area to be obscured.

  • Crop, If posssible crop the image to remove the offending item. Quick and easy if the unwanted object is positioned outside the required area.
  • If neither of these options are suitable then the clone stamp tool is a canndidate for relatively small areas when its background can be cloned from somewhere on the photograph. If it is a small area away from the centre or focal point of the image then there should be no problem. Simply be aware that you may need to move the cloned area often to avoid patterns or replacing one unwanted object with more unwanted patterns, etc. A usable method is outlined below.

A Simple Example

To start with lets discuss the simple example from the introduction.

Removing a lamp from a natural setting.

Removing A Small Object Digitally From An Image

Using The Clone Stamp Tool

The image to be modified is of a water feature in a natural setting. Unfortunately after cropping a small lamp is still visible on the lower left of the image. There is plenty of area that could be cloned and as the lamp is quite small it should be easy to remove it using the clone stamp without leaving too many visible signs. It is off-center and at the size of the image to be used the edit will be virtually invisible. The original image is shown below.

How do we start?

  • From the TOOL PALETTE, select the CLONE STAMP TOOL (in the same position as the pattern stamp tool). Right click on the stamp icon and make sure the clone stamp is selected, then LEFT click on the icon to select it for use.
  • Zoom in and magnify the image to a workable level
  • Select an appropriate brush size for the area to be replaced, consider area and complexity of object and background
  • Press ALT and left click to select the area to be cloned from (cursor becomes a target)
  • Paint over the object to be removed, click and drag mouse, you will see a cross-wire where the cloned area is as you paint
  • If the object is not evenly covered, consider repositioning the cloned area. You may need to do this several times

You should end up with an image where the offending object is removed and invisible, having been replaced by its background

I used this as a background for a Budha statue which was photographed in a bedroom. (Another tutorial perhaps).

hiding a lamp by overlaying a rock
hiding a lamp by overlaying a rock

Comparing Hiding With Removal

Hiding The Lamp Behind A Rock

Just for comparison, I have modified the above photograph by adding a rock in another layer to hide the lamp. Which would you prefer? Here's a quick method:-

  • I used the lassoo tool to select a rock.
  • Copied and pasted into another layer.
  • Increased its size slightly to hide the offending lamp whilst positioning the bottom edge of the rock out of the picture (use transform with the new layer selected).
  • Flattened the image.

I personally prefer the use of the clone tool because it appears more natural. I can see the rock I copied (as it is duplicated) and further more the new rock seems redundant as it is not on the edge of the pool. Of course you may be able to use this method in other circumstances but it is up to you as the editor to select the best tool for your purpose. Most things can be done in photoshop in many different ways; play with the tool and learn how to use it is the best advice.

Photo Editing Software from Amazon

Photoshop is very expensive for beginners who may not get on with it, but it is the so-called industry standard. There are cheaper tools and some of these come in stripped down or older versions sold less expensively, or even free. I used Serif's photplus for a long time without needing any more options, as a learner. But the commercially available software will come with support and add-ons, etc..

There are also many excellent free programs to download or use on-line. A number of on-line applications including photoshop-express can be linked to from this review

Removing Unwanted Wires From A Photograph

Using The clone Stamp Tool

In this example, I took a photograph of a "Black Tower" which I came across on a trip to Old Sodbury (yes that is the real name of the place for our non-UK readers). it is in the Cotswold district where the usual stone is an oolithic limestone, a buff coloured material. The villages and towns are built from this and have a look which identifies them as being from the area. In fact planning laws now state that new builds must be in keeping with the appearance and this structure could not be built. So i was intrigued. I wrote a poem about it, and you can read this and more about the tower (Built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel) on my poetry blog,

But to the point, there are power lines across the tower and the sky. I could have added a more interesting sky but again, that is another tutorial. I decided the power lines had to come out, removing them from the sky was easy. However the lines in fromt of the tower were another kettle of fish entirely. I had to use a very small brush at very high magnification and probably would have made a better job of it if I had altered the pixels one-by-one. But in the end I was satisfied. If you look at the blog you will see that I only removed the lines from the sky area. You may not even notice the lines across the tower unless they are pointed out. But for this tutorial I decided to remove them as far as possible. This was the result:-

A wireless tower!

Is Editing Of Photographs Worth The Effort? - Are You A Perfectionist?

I know, some of you will be saying, "What's all the fuss about?" But I really do find that for use in my on-line writing I like my photographs to be just so. I wouldn't expect to write sloppily and for it to be accepted, so why should I use less than "perfect" photographs?

Do you Use photo editing tools to touch up your photos? If you have a point to make please use the comments box below.

Removing An Advert Or Similar

Using The clone Stamp Tool

In this example, an offending advert is removed from an otherwise great picture, which is just what I wanted to illustrate a poem on another hub, A Poem A Day. The poem, called Avalon, was about Glastonbury and the photograph was taken in the courtyard of The Glastonbury Experience. The original photograph is shown from a screen shot and includes an image of the tools palette in Photoshop; showing the stamp tool.

This again was quite an easy removal. I could have tried to add the leaded window frames back in but was satisfied with simply removing the advert:-

Another successful edit!

Share any experience with us; was it successful? Have you found a new tool to use for editing your photographs, have I helped you? Or just tell me how you found the lens, it is always nice to see feedback from visitors.

Have You Any Experience of this Method?

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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very useful tips. Thanks!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very useful tips. Thanks!

    • gmubeen profile image

      gmubeen 3 years ago

      Really helpful tutorial. Distraction in images are obvious, we can't control them while we click the captures button. But Photoshop surely provides great tools which can remove distractions with ease. my favorites are Clone stamp tool, Healing and Patch tools and vanishing points filter.

    • profile image

      Donna Cook 3 years ago

      Great lens! Need to get up to speed on Photoshop because I just opened up a Zazzle shop.

    • John Dyhouse profile image
      Author

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      @EEWorkouts: I am quite new to this and have been experimenting with editing photos I have taken, I will be aware of your advice now tho', thanks

    • EEWorkouts profile image

      EEWorkouts 5 years ago

      I have done this and added people or object to existing photos, but I think it's important to be aware of lighting when adding things.

      Nice lens!

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 5 years ago

      Thanks for including screen capture of the actual selection to use to pick a particular tool - very helpful.