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Object removal is the most prominent function that people associate with digital photography in general and, more specifically, Adobe products. On television, digitally altering an image is fast and painless. In reality, it’s tedious and time-consuming. Over the last few years, Adobe has created multiple tools for object removal that are genuinely remarkable.
Peter Parker – AKA Spiderman
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
This is as good a time as any to talk about the ethics of object removal. I work very hard while I am photographing to make sure my backgrounds and edges are as clean as possible. I am inherently lazy, and I would rather be at the Safari Lounge than fix images on my computer. Inevitably, there will be a time when wielding your photoshop knowledge can “save” a photo opportunity. To remove the stigma of heavy editing, I call the process gardening because basically what I need is already there, I just need to clean it up!
Removing the Hand of Man from A Photo
I photograph mostly nature and wildlife, and I rarely want to see the hand of man in my work. For example, these Camargue Stallions had a go right in front of some sort of temporary barrier. I really had no choice, it had to be removed.
These poor macaws were going to fly straight into that out of focus palm tree. To make sure the birds had a clear flight path, the tree had to go.
Object Removal is a Slippery Slope
When I first made edits to the Ani, my goal was to get rid of the bright shiny blob in the corner. Then I saw the out of focus leaves and part of the tree. Eliminating that distraction brought the background on the right side to my attention. See, once you get hooked, it is hard to stop gardening.
The Right Tool For The Job
It is a little bit of trial and error when you are trying to decide which object removal tool to use. I find the Spot Healing Brush works best for dust bunnies, and small objects.
Content-Aware Fill is best for large objects, and it works best when there is plenty of space between the object and the something that you intend to keep. Taking a bird out of a blue sky is super easy, but taking a bird out of a flock is not.
The Clone Stamp Tool and the selection tool work the best when you need to be precise with what you are keeping and what you are removing.
Object Removal Tool Video
I made a video to show you how I work with these tools. It’s about 12 minutes long, get your coffee now!
I hope you learned a thing or two about Object Removal in Photoshop. Remember this, just because you can, does not mean that you should. It’s your art, so of course, you are free to edit as you wish. I try to keep it as real as possible, and when I do things like replace skies, I always make it very clear the image had been altered.
Share your thoughts and Object Removal stories in the comments, I love to hear from my readers!