I often find compositions that I think would look really nice if not for some thin object in the foreground, such as a tree or lamp post.

For example, a nice scene 100 meters away but with a light post 30 meters in front of it. If I move a meter to the side, the position of the light post moves within the composition.

  1. Are there techniques for using multiple images from slightly different vantage points to remove foreground objects?
  2. Does this concept have a name in common usage?
up vote 12 down vote accepted

The phenomenon you're describing is called parallax. I've heard the technique called either "Parallax Removal" or the "X-Ray Brush."

Taking 2 or more pictures of an object in one plane by moving the camera in a second, parallel plane. Objects not on the target plane will "move" relative to the target plane as a result.

You can do layer them into a "clean" image manually by lining up the layers and erasing the top layer to reveal the underlying layer without the offending object.

I generally leverage Smart Objects in Photoshop for this. You'll need to take at least 3 images, being careful to keep your camera and subject on their own planes, then line them up and convert the layers into a smart object. Then select Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median to automatically select the average pixel, and because you have two pixels of the desired object, and one of the offending object, you'll get the desired pixel every time.

This doesn't work well with things that aren't stationary (leaves, water, etc).

  • 1
    Cool technique but unless you have a dolly on rails your chances of keeping the camera alignment on the 3 pictures are small, so you won't get exactly the same perspective on all three shots, but you can use tools such as Hugin to align the pictures.... – xenoid Nov 14 at 16:27
  • 3
    @xenoid Very true, but I never said it was easy :) I've had reasonably good results even hand held with this method using only Photoshop's internal alignment tool. At the very least, far superior (and faster) results to trying to hand clone the objects out. I generally use this for removing power lines or chain link fences, which is much easier top accomplish because you can raise or lower the post on a tripod and keep things pretty much in alignment. – LightBender Nov 14 at 16:39
  • 3
    Vertical parallax,... clever, will think about it next time. – xenoid Nov 14 at 17:22

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