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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.

Removing unwanted objects from images

The impact of a photo can easily be spoiled by an unwanted object in the frame. In the modern world, it’s often difficult to photograph even a remote landscape without capturing a fence, power lines, satellite dishes, or litter—mundane clutter that can reduce the drama of an otherwise perfect shot.

Photoshop Elements offers several tools to help you improve an image by getting rid of extraneous detail. As you’ve seen, the Recompose tool lets you remove areas as you scale a photo. In this set of exercises you’ll use the Spot Healing Brush tool to remove an object without altering the overall composition.

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  1. If you’re still in the Editor, switch to the Organizer by clicking the Organizer button (common10.jpg) in the taskbar at the bottom of the workspace. If necessary, click the check box beside the Lesson 07 tag in the Tags panel, to isolate the Lesson 7 images in the Media Browser. Right-click the photo 07_05.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 Photo Bin. Select the Healing Brush tool (common63.jpg) or its variant, the Spot Healing Brush tool (common64.jpg)—whichever is currently visible in the toolbar. If necessary, click the Tool Options button (common47.jpg) in the taskbar to open the tool options pane.

Using the Content-Aware healing feature

In the last project, you may have used the Spot Healing Brush in Proximity Match mode to help smooth skin blemishes in a portrait photo. In this exercise you’ll set the Spot Healing Brush to Content-Aware mode.

In Content-Aware mode, the Spot Healing Brush tool compares nearby image content to fill the area under the pointer, seamlessly matching details such as shadows, object edges, and even man-made patterns like brickwork or wooden decking shot in perspective, as shown in the illustration at the left.

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  1. In the tool options pane, check the header and buttons at the left to make sure the Spot Healing Brush tool (common64.jpg) is the active variant, and see that the tool is set to Content-Aware mode. Set the brush size to 100 pixels.

  2. Press the Z key to switch to the Zoom tool, and then drag a zoom marquee to zoom in on the signpost and a little of the sky above it. Press the J key to reactivate the Spot Healing Brush. Center the circular cursor over the top of the signpost and drag downward, stopping just before you reach the yellow sign.

  3. Press the right bracket key ( ] ) six times to increase the brush size to 300 pixels. Center the cursor over the yellow sign (the horizon should bisect the circle) and click once; then, center the cursor over the smaller sign and click again.

  4. Press the left bracket key ( [ ) 6 times to reduce the brush size to 100 pixels; then, make a short downward stroke to remove the remnants of the signpost, stopping just before you reach the top of the litter bin.

  5. Use the Zoom and Hand tools to focus on the area previously occupied by the late signpost. If you see any noticeable artifacts, such as blurring or misaligned texture, press the J key to reactivate the Spot Healing Brush and click or make very short strokes to remove them. If a stroke fails, or makes things worse, undo and try again, resizing the brush and varying the stroke direction as needed.

  6. In the tool options pane, make sure the brush size is 100 pixels. Focus your view on the shadow of the litter bin. Starting at the right, make a series of overlapping clicks, keeping the brush on the grass. Don’t be concerned about a little repeated detail, but undo and try again if you introduce any of the rocky foreshore.

  7. If your overlapping spots have produced noticeable smears or obvious repetition of detail, reduce the brush size to around 50 pixels and remove them; very short strokes should do the trick, if single clicks are not enough. You can remove the scraps of white litter at the roadside while you’re at it, if you don’t mind.

  8. In the tool options pane, set the brush size to 350 pixels. Drag down over the litter bin, starting below the crest of the wave behind it and ending your stroke before you reach the gold band near the base as shown at the left, below.

  9. Make a short horizontal stroke with a 250-pixel brush to remove the base of the bin; then break up any misplaced detail using a few clicks with a smaller brush.

As you’ve just discovered, the Spot Healing Brush in Content-Aware mode enables you to remove even a very prominent, irregularly shaped, shadowed object from a complex background quickly and easily, without the need to make fussy selections.

  1. When you’re done, choose View > Fit On Screen. Choose File > Save As. Name the new file 07_05_DumpingOK, to be saved to your My CIB Work folder in JPEG format, and included in the Organizer but not in a version set. Click Save. Click OK to accept the JPEG Options settings; then, close the file.

Creative fun with Guided edits

The Guided Edit mode offers far more than just correction, adjustment, and retouching tasks. In the Fun Edits and Special Edits categories you’ll find guided procedures that let you experiment with a range of striking and unusual creative treatments for your photos—all presented with step-by-step instructions.

Accelerating an action shot

The Fun Edits category in Guided Edit mode offers a suite of three dynamic effects that can add a sense of speed and excitement to your action photos—or even create the illusion of motion to liven up a static shot.

Traditionally produced by zooming in on a subject manually while the shutter is open, the Zoom Burst effect creates an impression of speedy motion toward—or away from—the camera. As a bonus, the limited area of focus serves to draw attention to the subject.

Both of the other dynamic effects create the impression of motion across the picture plane. Speed Effect applies a motion blur to a selected subject in the direction of your choice so that the subject appears to be moving past a stationary camera.

In this exercise, we’ll look at the Speed Pan effect, which applies a motion blur to the background rather than to the moving subject, giving the appearance that the camera has “panned” to follow the action, keeping the subject in focus.

  1. In the Organizer, select the image 07_07.jpg; then, click the Editor button (common9.jpg). If you’re not in Guided Edit mode from the last exercise, switch modes now and click the Fun Edits tab above the preview pane.

  2. Click the Speed Pan effect—the second-last guided project on the Fun Edits tab. In the panel at the right, click the Quick Selection Tool button. By default, the tool opens in Add mode.

  3. Drag to select the girl and the toy car, releasing the mouse button every few seconds so that you don’t lose too much work should you need to undo. Pay attention to the girl’s face and hair, the spaces around her hands and the steering wheel, and the chromed bar that represents the windscreen. Make sure the shadowed area under the car remains unselected.

  4. Click the Add Motion Blur button. Increase the Intensity setting to around 180 and drag the Angle control just a few degrees counterclockwise.

  5. Click the Refine Effect Brush button; the tool opens in Subtract mode, ready to clear the motion blur from areas where it’s not wanted. Use the brush at full opacity to deal with any blurring of the girl or the car. Switch the brush to Add mode and paint over any background areas around the borders of your selection that remain unblurred. Set the brush size to 100 and reduce the opacity to 50%; then, experiment with adding a little blur to the trailing edge of the selection. You can undo your brush strokes if you’re not happy with the results.

  6. Click Next at the bottom of the panel; then, click the Save As button. Name the file 07_07_SpeedPan, and save it to your My CIB Work folder in Photoshop (PSD) format, with the Layers option enabled. Include the new image in the Organizer but not in a version set. Choose File > Close, or click the Close button (X) at the upper right of the Guided Edit preview pane.

Combining photos for a double exposure effect

For another type of artistic treatment, the Double Exposure guided edit enables you to merge two images in a variety of striking ways to create atmospheric, evocative picture-stories or surreal, dream-like effects.

  1. In the Organizer, select the image 07_11.jpg; then, click the Editor button (common9.jpg). If you’re not already in Guided Edit mode, switch modes now. Click the preview for the Double Exposure effect in the Fun Edits category to start the project.

The first two steps in this guided edit are not strictly essential; once you are familiar with the process you may choose to skip them, depending on the images you’re working with and the effect you wish to achieve. Step 1 asks you to use the Crop tool to center your subject; in Step 2, you select the subject, either by dragging a selection rectangle with the Auto Selection tool or by painting a selection onto the photo with the Quick Selection tool. The effect is as you see in the before and after previews; the background around the selected subject is replaced by white and the overlaid image is visible only inside the selection.

For our lesson image, neither of these steps would have any effect; the subject of our studio portrait is already centered and surrounded by a white background. We’ll start with the third step: choosing a second photo to create the effect.

  1. In the Double Exposure pane, click each of the three preset images (Forest, City, and Cloud) to see how well they work with our base photo; use the Intensity slider to control the way the photos are merged.

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  2. Click the Import A Photo button; then, locate and open the folder Extras inside your Lesson 7 folder. Select the image DSC_0229.jpg, and then click Place.

  1. Use the slider below the preset thumbnails to reduce the intensity of the superimposed image to 92%; the numerical value is displayed in a tooltip as you drag.

  2. Choose View > Zoom Out. Click the Move tool provided in the Double Exposure pane. Drag the center handle on the top edge of the bounding box upward until the tooltip displays a height (H) value of 7.4 inches. Drag the center handle on the lower edge of the bounding box down to set a height (H) value of 8.2 inches.

  3. Click the image, and then hold Shift as you press the right arrow key four times to nudge the image to the right. Drag the center handle on the left edge of the bounding box to the right to set a width (W) value of 9.8 inches. Click the green check mark (common36.jpg) at the lower right of the preview to commit the changes.

  4. Click the Effects button; then click the thumbnail at the upper right.

The images are better aligned, but the girl’s nose is still obscured. We’ll switch to Expert mode, where we can correct the problem in the Layers panel.

  1. Click Next at the lower right of the workspace; then, under Continue Editing, choose In Expert. If necessary, choose Window > Layers. In the Layers panel, click the layer Screen Mode—the higher of the two layers with the rose image.

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  1. Select the Eraser tool in the toolbox. In the tool options pane, choose a soft-edged brush. Set the size of the brush to 220 pixels and its opacity to 75%; then, make three or four passes across the girl’s cheeks and nose. Reduce the brush size to 60 pixels and its opacity to 60%; then, use three or four clicks or short strokes in each eye to reveal a little more of the girl’s pupils and lashes.

  1. Choose File > Save As. Save the file with all its layers in Photoshop format, with an appropriate name and all the usual settings; then, choose File > Close.

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