Removing Unwanted Image Content

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Signs of wear and other types of physical damage aren't the only things you might want to get rid of when editing your images. A person, car, garbage can, building, plant, tree, or just about anything can become objectionable if you didn't want it to be in the picture in the first place. Rather than tearing all your wedding photos in half, consider replacing the unwanted spouse with more of the background or a large potted plant. Someone forget to move the car before taking a picture of your house for the real estate brochures? Get rid of the car, replacing it with curb and grass as though the car had been in the garage all along.

It might seem like some sort of complicated sleight of hand, but replacing one piece of content with another is really rather simple. If you've already tried repairing scratches, stains, and tears, you're more than ready to tackle the process of removing unwanted people, places, and things. You need software that has Clone and/or Patch tools (or reasonable facsimiles), and you need to understand how the Clipboard works (so you can copy and paste content in big chunks). Sound like too big a job? Never fear — it becomes clear in the next few paragraphs!

For example, no matter how much we love them, we sometimes wish family members would make themselves scarce, if only for a little while. But what if your ex-family member — someone you thought you'd never have to see again — is still haunting your family photos? Starting with a group photo, follow these steps:

1. Identify the unwanted person and use a selection tool — preferably a freeform or magnetic selection tool — to select him or her.

Book V, Chapter 2 has descriptions of the generic selection tools found in most image editors.

You don't have to worry about getting a little of the surrounding image as long as it doesn't remove someone else's arm or the side of a face.

2. Press Delete to get rid of the selected person.

The background layer or any other underlying layer's content now shows through the hole.

3. Fill the hole with other content — more of the photo's background content if you were all standing in front of one of those lovely painted backdrops, or use the sky or extend a nearby wall or stand of trees.

Whatever's behind the rest of the group can be extended to fill in where the now-missing person once stood. Your choices for filling in are as follows:

• Copy content from elsewhere and paste it onto the hole.

• Use the Clone tool to fill in the hole with sampled content from elsewhere in the image.

Which method you choose depends on three things:

• How big a hole the deleted person left behind

• Whether you have a lot of alternate content to use as fill

• Whether there are lighting issues

Perhaps everything but the deleted person is in shadow, and you can't seamlessly apply that dark content in his or her place. If lighting is the problem — and you have Photoshop — you'll want to use the Patch tool (a kind of super-Clone tool that adjusts for texture and lighting) so that the lighting of the destination is preserved when you patch the hole. If the hole is huge or there's no background to use, you might need to copy content and paste it into the hole, perhaps even going to another image to get the filler. Figure 1-21 shows a Before and an After of the same image. In the after version, the unwanted element (in this case, a goose in the background) has been replaced by more of the surrounding pond.

What if the unwanted person isn't against a background or is sitting in front of someone else and deleting him or her will leave you with half of a person? Consider bringing someone in from another picture and putting him or her in place of the person you're deleting. You can always resize a new person from a smaller or larger image, and you can use your image editor's Burn or Dodge tools to adjust lighting if the substitute person comes from a darker or lighter image. Use the Blur or Smudge tools to make the stand-in blend in so that none of the edges are obvious.

Figure 1-21: Hide the extra goose behind the water of the pond.

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Photoshop Secrets

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