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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Advanced Cloning

Retouching techniques give photographers more control than ever. Try a combination of tools for removing distracting elements from almost any scene.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

In Photoshop, the combination of several tools when applied correctly will do the most effective job. In this image taken at Yellowstone National Park, McNeal was unable to change his perspective to achieve the image he had in mind, so he chose to remove distracting elements in post to emphasize the contrast, color and local terrain.

Each year, the number of visitors to our national parks grows, looking to see and photograph their favorite icons. That means more human elements are put in place to accommodate the increase—more buildings, signs, roadways and people are the consequences. This ultimately affects the natural setting of a park's beauty, so as nature photographers, how are we able to photograph these iconic spots without the inclusion of people and the heavy impact they leave behind?

1 Increasing the canvas size provides more editing space.

2 Flipping the canvas horizontally with Edit > Free Transform removes the boardwalk.
This can be achieved in postprocessing, and with the recent advances made in Photoshop, the task of removing elements from an image has become simple, yet effective in its results. In Photoshop, there's no one tool that can do it all in image cleanup; rather it's the combination of several tools when applied correctly that do the best job. The key to removing elements is moderation, brushing in increments that get credible results.

The main process involved in image cleanup is cloning and healing with a variety of tools. Depending on what's being removed or edited, the size of your brush and its hardness are crucial. In most cases, you want the hardness of the brush to be soft when healing and harder when cloning. The brush size also must be in proper relation to the selection being removed.

3 Cloning removes telltale repeating patterns from the sky.
In this example, the sapphire thermal pool was surrounded by a boardwalk and fence. I want viewers to feel like they could place themselves within the image and imagine they're the only ones present, so I chose to remove the boardwalk that surrounded the pool.

Before I work on an image, I previsualize what I want the final image to look like, so I always follow a few important rules when I begin my editing. The first step is to create a new layer from the background layer; go to the Layer menu and choose Layer > New > Layer Via Copy. Next, label this layer something that makes sense to you, such as "Clone Outer Edge," for use when returning to reedit layers. Never edit on the background layer, as this is destructive to the image and degrades the final quality. By duplicating the background layer, you create a buffer to protect the background layer.

4 The Heal tool gives you All Layers and clone sources options.
Always start with the most pressing problem and work your way from there. The size and nature of the boardwalk was the first thing I wanted to clone out. In this case, when substantial elements are going to be removed, like a whole boardwalk, it's vital to increase the canvas size in order to make editing space for the cloning. Go to Image > Canvas Size and open this dialog box. You'll be presented with a few options; the ones to be concerned with are Width, Height and the Relative box. Make sure the Relative box is checked and insert new numbers into Width and Height, allowing the new changes in the Canvas Size box to reflect the size needed for removing the boardwalk. In my case, I added five inches to the left-hand side. You can determine where you'd like the changes to occur by clicking on the arrow box just below the Width and Height options. Click on the arrow in the direction you want the changes to happen. Now you're ready to start cloning.


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