Orquid "Phoenix"

Orquid "Phoenix"

by ceinmart

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I'm very excited about the new Scalado Remove App for Android/iPhone. Let's say you're taking a picture of your friend in front of a landmark with several people walking by. The app allows you to remove the people from the photo, leaving only the background and your friend. The app isn't just doing a clone of the surrounding image to paint over unwanted subjects. It's actually taking multiple images, detecting which objects are moving, and letting you select them for removal. This sounds awesome! But I don't want to be limited to taking pictures with a smart phone.

I would like to take multiple photos of the same scene. (Maybe with a tripod, but it would be better if I didn't have to use a tripod.) Then I would somehow blend them together to remove unwanted elements. How do I do that? I know there are tons of photoshop tutorials out there, but all the ones I find just tell you how to use the clone tool.

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This must be a solved problem. They were real good at removing people from photographs to "correct" history, and that was 50 years ago. –  Olin Lathrop Mar 7 '12 at 0:47
    
I know that in Photoshop CS5 there's some sort of 'smart fill' function where you select an area and it works out from whats around it, what should be there, and fills it in. Don't know how it works tho.. –  Mike Mar 7 '12 at 12:39
    
To add to what @Olin is referencing - fstoppers.com/… –  rfusca Mar 7 '12 at 15:04
    
Another resource for history of this, by the CIA's photo interpreter (Cuban missile crisis, etc.) amazon.com/Photo-Fakery-History-Deception-Manipulation/dp/… –  Pat Farrell May 16 '12 at 22:36
    
Some cameras do that. I forgot which model but I did review one which had that exact feature. Its one of those which was made easier with the advent of CMOS sensors. –  Itai May 17 '12 at 3:52
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4 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

To do this in Photoshop:

  • File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack
  • Select all layers and use Edit > Auto Align to align them (if necessary)
  • Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object
  • Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode and choose Median

This will compare pixels between all your images that you've stacked, and use the median value, which means if a person was in a spot in one or two frames, but that spot was empty in 6-8 frames, Photoshop will use the most common value (which is were there was no person there).

This would remove most "ghosts" from the image. You could then manually mask out anything left with Mark J P's method. If there is still someone there (because they were sitting in one spot in all your frames, THEN you will have to resort to the clone tool.

It looks like this feature has been around since CS3. PhotoshopNews has a description and tutorial with example images here

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Do note, though, that you'll probably have to have one "clean" image from which you can paint your friend(s) back into the final image—the average live human can't stay still enough for long enough to become good median pixels over multiple frames. Align again, and use a layer mask (easiest if you Shift-Alt-click on the mask to go into "rubylith mode"). There's no need to be perfect (usually), you can colour outside the lines a little except where another person overlaps. –  user2719 Mar 7 '12 at 0:52
    
Quite right, I completely forgot about the friend! –  MikeW Mar 7 '12 at 1:08
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Believe it or not, completely forgetting about the friend in real life once was why I remembered this time. And I was so proud of getting rid of all the people so easily, too... –  user2719 Mar 7 '12 at 1:15
    
What's the first version of photoshop with those features? –  Stainsor Mar 7 '12 at 17:41
    
Looks to be CS3. Found a link with an example of this technique, which I'll add to my answer. –  MikeW Mar 7 '12 at 17:46
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There is another trick to remove (that is a trick, not real 'remove') people from a busy place/road/in-front-of-an-architecture in daylight. Just attach a ND filter (to avoid your image being washed out in day light), place your camera on top of a tripod and shot it for longer time, say 20 seconds.

Now check out the output :)

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Damn - this is exactly the answer I was going to submit!! I have a 10-stop ND and it works wonders for this sort of thing. People walking through the shot just 'disappear'!!! :) –  Mike May 16 '12 at 13:26
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You have multiple options/techniques available, including cloning people out manually (which can be quite time consuming/tough to do effectively) and the content aware fill in Photoshop which again can be quite powerful but is far from perfect.

Alternatively you can do exactly what you described the mobile phone is doing, i.e. you make sure the camera is not going to move between shots (put it on a tripod or wall etc) and that the exposure/white balance settings are fixed then you take a number of photos making sure that you capture everything you need for your final image (i.e. empty areas in all parts of the photograph).

Once you are back in Photoshop (or equivalent) you can merge all of the photos together by adding them all as layers and then pick one photo as your main shot. Now just mask out the people that you don't want visible to reveal the layer underneath which hopefully does not have the person in the same place and leaves you with an empty area. Now you can merge the two layers and repeat this process for each person in the shot and provided you captured suitable images when taking the shot you will be left with the composition you wanted.

A quick Google search revealed this blog post (which has nothing to do with me) illustrating what I am describing: http://dsphotographic.com/2006/12/how-to-remove-tourists-from-your-photos/

The description might sound like it is a lot of effort but it's really not and once you have done it once and understand it this whole process can be done very quickly.

I hope this helps.

Mark

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The Content-Aware Move tool in the latest version of Photoshop (CS6) is making removal of people and objects almost too easy. You can see a nice summary of what the tool can do along with a remarkable demo video produced by Adobe at this page:

http://9to5mac.com/2012/02/15/adobe-demos-content-aware-move-in-photoshop-cs6/

The demo illustrates that a process to remove from or move a complex object such as a person in a digital photo and to seamlessly patch the background now takes a matter of seconds. In the past, to achieve this quality of editing would require a lot of experience in Photoshop and a considerable amount of time.

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I don't know if you have actually used this, but it is far from perfect. It is great, I use it all the time, but it isn't "too easy". The demo's that Adobe provides of course makes it seem that way so you are enticed to buy the product they are selling. –  dpollitt May 6 '13 at 0:47
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