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Reframing, Retouching, and Recomposing Images

Chapter Description

This sample chapter from Adobe Photoshop Elements 2019 Classroom in a Book teaches a range of techniques for cropping, retouching, and rearranging the composition of images.

Recomposing an image within its frame

Do you have a group shot in which you wish the group had stood closer together? Or a photo in which a walk-on extra draws attention away from the stars? With the Recompose tool you can fix these image composition problems in a few easy steps.

Essentially, the Recompose tool enables you to crop your photo from the inside rather than at the edges. Whether you want to bring people closer together, fit a horizontal image to a vertical space, or remove extraneous elements that spoil the composition, the Recompose tool puts image editing magic at your fingertips. In this exercise, you’ll use the Recompose tool to tighten the arrangement of a group photo and reframe the landscape format to create a square composition.

  1. If you’re still in the Editor, click the Organizer button (common10.jpg) in the taskbar. If necessary, click the check box beside the Lesson 07 tag in the Tags panel to isolate the images for this lesson. Right-click the image 07_03.jpg and choose Edit With Photoshop Elements Editor.

  2. Make sure the Editor is in Expert mode; then, choose Window > Reset Panels. Hide the Panel Bin and the tool options pane, if it’s visible. Double-click the Hand tool, or choose View > Fit On Screen; then, press Ctrl / Command together with the minus sign (−) key to zoom out just enough to see a little empty gray space around the photo in the Edit window.

  3. Click the Recompose tool (common61.jpg) in the toolbar. If necessary, click the Tool Options button (common39.jpg) in the taskbar to open the tool options pane.

A live bounding box now surrounds the image, with control handles at the corners and at the mid-point of each side. For simple recomposing operations, all you need to do is drag the handles; the Recompose tool makes use of content-aware scaling technology that distinguishes people and other featured objects and attempts to prevent them from being distorted as the background is compressed around them. For this exercise, however, we’ll use the special Recompose brushes instead. For more complex images, this generally produces better results.

  1. Select the Mark For Protection brush—the brush with a plus sign (+)—at the left of the tool options pane. Either type in the brush size text box or use the slider to increase the brush size to about 300 px. Make sure that Threshold and the aspect ratio are set to the default 100% and No Restriction, respectively.

As its name suggests, you can use the Mark For Protection brush to define those areas in the image that you want shielded from any scaling operation.

  1. Click the Tool Options button (common39.jpg) in the taskbar to hide the tool options pane.

    195fig01.jpg
  2. Paint over the girl at the left of the photo. Extend your strokes to the left edge of the image, as shown at the right; the girl is very close to the edge of the frame and unless this “buffer” area is protected it will be compressed during the recompose operation. If you find you’ve over-painted, use the eraser with the plus sign, beside the protection brush in the tool options pane, to modify your strokes. Use the left and right bracket keys ( [ , ] ) to decrease or increase the size of the eraser as you work.

    195fig02.jpg
  3. Right-click the image and change the brush mode from the default Use Normal Highlight to Use Quick Highlight. In Quick Highlight mode you can mark an area for protection by simply drawing a line around it. Show the tool options pane for a moment to set the brush size to 50 px. Draw an outline to surround the three girls at the right, including the space between the group and the right edge of the photo. When you’re done, release the mouse button; Photoshop Elements fills the area inside the outline automatically.

  4. Right-click the image and reset the Recompose tool to the Use Normal Highlight mode. Show the tool options pane and select the Mark For Removal brush (the brush with a minus sign). Set the brush size to 100 px. Scribble through the space between the girl at the left and her sisters to mark the area for removal—rather than compression—during the scaling process.

     

  5. Now for the fun part! Move the pointer over the handle on the left side of the bounding box and, when the double-arrow cursor appears, drag the handle slowly in toward the center of the photo. Watch the photo as you drag; some areas of the image are removed while others are compressed and merged with their surroundings. As the proportions of the image become closer to a square, keep an eye on the width (W) and height (H) values in the tool options pane; stop dragging and release the mouse button when the two values are equal.

  6. Click the green Commit button at the lower right of the recomposed photo or press Enter / Return to accept and render the new composition.

  7. Choose Image > Crop. A cropping box appears on the image; drag the handles to crop the file to the new square format, trimming away the transparent area. The edges of the cropping box snap to the edges of the image to make the operation very easy. Click the green Commit button or press Enter / Return.

  8. Choose File > Save As. Name the image 07_03_Recomposed, to be saved to your My CIB Work folder and included in the Organizer but not as part of a version set. Change the file format to JPEG. Click Save; then click OK to accept the JPEG quality settings. The recomposed image is saved as a copy. Choose Edit > Revert to restore the original photo, keeping it open for the next exercise.

The Recompose tool is as easy to use as it is powerful—with creative possibilities that are virtually limitless. Play with as many pictures as you can; you’ll learn how content-aware scaling works and what to expect from different types of images as you have fun finding creative new ways to make the most of your photos.

Moving objects to enhance a composition

The Content-Aware Move tool lets you reposition an object within the frame, and then uses content-aware photo magic to cover your tracks, blending the object with its new surroundings and patching the hole it left.

The Content-Aware Move tool is perfect for dealing with objects that are too close to the edge of a photo or separated from the main action, enabling you to improve an unbalanced composition and turn a bystander into a star. In the first part of this exercise, you’ll use the Content-Aware Move tool on the image from the previous project—this time, reuniting the sisters without altering the photo’s proportions.

  1. With the image 07_03.jpg still open in Expert mode in the Editor, double-click the Hand tool, if needed, to see the whole photo as large as possible; then, select the Content-Aware Move tool (common62.jpg), beside the Straighten tool in the toolbar.

    197fig01.jpg
  2. Open the tool options pane and make sure the tool is set to Move mode, rather than Extend, and the Healing slider is set to the central stop. Draw loosely around the girl at the left. Include some of her surroundings in your selection, but draw the line closer at the right of the girl’s form.

  3. Press and hold inside the selection; then, hold the Shift key and drag the girl close to her sisters. The Shift key will constrain the movement horizontally, maintaining the girl’s distance from the viewpoint. Release the mouse button, and then release the Shift key. Click the green check mark to commit the operation; the girl is blended into her new position and the hole she left is filled with detail to match the surroundings. Click outside the selected area to deselect it.

  4. Draw around the four girls. Include a reasonable amount of the surrounding detail, except at the right where your line should follow the older girl’s form closely. Press and hold inside the selection; then, hold the Shift key as you drag the sisters to the left to center them horizontally in the frame. Release the mouse button, then the Shift key. Commit the operation; then, deselect the group.

  5. Choose File > Save As. Name the new image 07_03_Move-1, to be saved to your My CIB Work folder with all the usual settings. Activate the option Save > As A Copy; then, click Save. Click OK to accept the JPEG quality settings, and then choose Edit > Revert to restore the original photo, keeping it open for the next part of the exercise.

  6. Draw around the girl at the left of the photo with the Content-Aware Move tool, just as you did in step 2, except that this time you can include the same amount of the surrounding area all of the way around her form.

  7. Drag the selection on a downward diagonal to the right. Position the girl about half as far from her sisters and the bottom edge of the photo as her original position.

    198fig01.jpg
  8. Hold down the Alt / Option key as you drag a corner handle of the selection’s bounding box to scale the selection up from its center. Watch the width and height values in the tool options pane and stop when they are close to 200%. Press and hold inside the selection; then, hold the Shift key as you drag to center the girl below her three sisters. Click the green check mark to commit the transformation; then, click outside the selected area to deselect it.

  9. Choose Image > Crop. In the tool options pane, set the cropping ratio to No Restriction. Starting outside the upper-right corner of the photo, drag downward and to the left to produce a balanced, portrait-format crop of the same height as the original image; then, commit the operation.

  10. Choose File > Save As. Name the new image 07_03_Move-2, to be saved with all the usual settings. There is no need to save the image as a copy. Click Save; then, click OK to accept the JPEG settings and choose File > Close.

Experiment on your own photos with the Content-Aware Move tool to get a feel for its capabilities. Switch from Move to Extend mode to copy your selection rather than merely move it. Tweak the Healing slider to improve a blend that is too obvious or produces artifacts; move the slider to the right to prioritize the selected content in the blend, or to the left to introduce more detail from the surroundings.

Changing the perspective in a photograph

The distortion caused by perspective can sometimes detract from the impact of a composition, especially when circumstances have made it impossible to capture the subject “head on.”

The Perspective Crop tool makes it easy to correct perspective distortion and improve your composition by putting the subject front and center.

  1. Select the image 07_10.jpg in the Media Browser, and then click the Editor button (common9.jpg)—not the arrow beside it—in the taskbar. If the Editor is not already in Expert mode, click Expert in the mode picker. Hide the Panel Bin, if necessary, and then choose View > Fit On Screen.

  2. Select the Crop tool (common23.jpg), and then select the Perspective Crop mode in the tool options pane. Click outside the upper-left corner of the photo, and then drag the crop rectangle to cover the entire image.

    199fig01.jpg
  3. Hold down the Shift key and drag the upper-right handle of the crop rectangle to the left until the angle of the guides at the right matches that of the right edge of the sunlit wall. Drag the upper-left handle, without the Shift key, so that the upper guide is aligned as closely as possible with the edge of the roof, and the angle of the left guide is consistent with the perspective in the pillar at the far left of the photo. Hold down the Shift key again as you drag the lower-left handle up slightly to match the angle of the lines where the pavement meets the building.

  4. Click the Commit button (common36.jpg); then, choose View > Fit On Screen. The areas outside the crop rectangle are trimmed away as the perspective is corrected.

  5. Choose File > Save As. Name the new image 07_10_Perspective, to be saved with all the usual settings. There is no need to save the image as a copy. Click Save; then, click OK to accept the JPEG settings and choose File > Close.

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