Following on from my article about the importance background plays in the overall appeal of an image, I thought I would share with you the main photoshop tools that I use to remove any distractions from the background and just give images a much more clean and pleasant look.
It will begin a series of tutorials on the photoshop tools I most use and how to best employ these methods to make the most of any image you may take.
located in the tools panel in Photoshop
The first, and probably most used tool is the Spot Healing Brush Tool. This tool is fantastic for removing those specks of dust that find themselves on the camera sensor and leave little dark circles on your images. Particularly noticeable in the sky of landscape images, but they can show up anywhere. And if you are like me and love to shoot waterfalls or the ocean, tiny drops of spray or splash can end up on the camera lens, leaving all kinds of tiny specks all over your image.
removing specks of dust or small imperfections
Fortunately these are really easy (if not time consuming if there are lots of them).
The Spot Healing Brush paints with sampled pixels from an image or pattern and matches the texture, lighting, transparency, and shading of the sampled pixels to the pixels being healed. Simply select the Spot Healing Brush Tool from the side menu and adjust the size of your brush using the bracket keys = larger brush size, and click on top of the area you wish to remove. Photoshop automatically samples from around the retouched area and takes care of the rest.
various options for the healing brush
You have a few options as to the type of “healing” that you can perform, and these appear in the Options Bar on top of the menu screen once you have selected Spot Healing. Proximity Match will sample pixels from the general vicinity of the area to be healed and blends them together with the underlying pixels. Content Aware however endeavours to recreate the texture based on the surrounding pixels rather than just blending pixels you just painted over. Experiment with both and see which gives you the best result in each circumstance. I usually prefer Content Aware, but every image is different.
If you are removing something like a distracting tree branch from a nature shot or like in this example, wires over the water, you can hold and drag the Spot Healing Brush along the entire length of the subject being removed and as soon as you have let go of the curser, the healing will take affect.
sweep across the entire length whilst holding the curser down, then release to heal
Most of the time the Spot Healing Brush will do a very nice job first go, but sometimes you don’t get the desired result right away, in which case you can go over it and try again until you get what you are looking for. If this still isn’t giving you a nice clean edit, there are some other techniques that can be employed at this time and I will explain these further in the next article.
If you are working on multiple layers you also have the option to sample all layers, and this option is available from the top Options Bar. Speaking personally, I prefer to get all my “clean up” done on the first layer of the image before I add the type of stylising that requires multiple layers. But it’s good to know that you still have that option if required.