How to Remove Distractions in Your Photos using Photoshop

In this article we talk about how to remove distractions and unwanted elements in your photo using Photoshop.

Just when you thought it was safe, to click on a blog link again!!! No really it is safe. Don’t be scared, no sharks here. But when we think about it, sharks are really good at eating things. Sort of like Photoshop. What? Yes, Photoshop can eat all the things out of your photo that you don’t want so you can get a nice, clean image without clutter or distraction.

As usual, if you want the RAW files for this tutorial and all my other free presets and goodies, just subscribe to my newsletter here. You can also follow along on my video tutorial for this lesson here.

This is a photo that I took a while ago in 2007 it is one of my favorite photo of Paris. It doesn’t really look like much, but it does have a magic charm and because I used to work in this areas when I was starting as a photographer, it holds a lot of good memories for me.

In photography a very important thing to take in consideration is the message. That is why I am going to show you how to take out everything that distracts you from the message you want to communicate.

First, let’s retouch it in Lightroom:

Step 1. Adjust the Highlights and Shadow. First thing I did was I brought the highlights to -100 and the shadows to +100 as usual. (If you’ve read my tutorials or watched my videos, you know this is part of my workflow. You can get a more complete statement on why I do this in almost all my photographs by reading this how to article here. )

Step 2. Adjust the Whites and the Blacks. Next I will increase my whites to +43 and my black to -24. (If you’ve read my tutorials or watched my videos, you know this is part of my workflow. You can get a more complete statement on why I do this in almost all my photographs by reading this how to article here.)

Step 3. Adjust White Balance. For the white balance I choose daylight because it looks better with blue in it so I add some blue +4850 and green -1, that works for this photo:

Step 4. Adding Clarity adjustments. I add some Clarity +50 and Vibrance +36 to really make the photo come to life:

Step 5. Enable Profile Corrections. Go to the Lightroom Lens Corrections panel and choose Enable Profile Corrections. It is a simple thing that can remove distortion caused by the spherical nature of the lens glass. And I remove the chromatic aberration in case there is any:

Step 6. Lens Correction Section. I tried the Upright function but it didn’t work well so I did it manually in the tab called Manual and I rotate (-2,2) it until I like the position of the photo:

Step 7. Cropping. I crop the photo in a way that I take out what doesn’t contribute to the message like the crosswalk:

Step 8. Post Crop Vigneting. To center the interest of the photo I like to do some Vignetting so I set the amount at -15:

Step 9. Adding even more Clarity and Presence adjustments. I add some Clarity +76 and Vibrance +51 and lower the overall Exposure -0.40 to make the photo perfectly exposed :

Step 10. Create Radial filters to Complexify the light. To make the lighting more interesting I usually use a Lightroom Local Adjustment filter like the Radial filter. I create a circle and invert the mask to have the effect applied inside the circle, I feather it at 100 and I boost the exposure +1,61:

I duplicate the filter a few times and put it at random places to give more dimension to the photo and break up the evenness of the lighting patterns:

Under the light pole I add some Magenta +25 and Yellow +33 to the Radial Filter to warm it up:

I want to make the city light brighter so I take my radial filter, I make it smaller to fit in the lantern and I boost the Exposure +0.40, push the Lightroom slider for Color Temp to add even more Yellow (+55) and then push the Tint Slider to get more Magenta (+50):

This is the before the radial filter:

This is the after the radial filter:

Okay, starting with the basic retouch is always a good way to go because then you can actually look at the photo and see what’s right and what’s distracting. That garbage can is terrible and so is the graffiti. So let’s go from Lightroom to Photoshop.

Step 11. Remove object in Photoshop. So I just right click on the photo and choose Edit in> Edit in Adobe Photoshop CC:

I duplicate the layer.

The man on the bridge is fine but I want to remove the graffiti, I use the Spot Healing brush tool

I click on the graffiti bit by bit as I think it gives a better result:

Sometimes it can be a bit blurry so I use the Clone Stamp Tool:

I just copy a part of the texture and copy it next to it:

It’s always easy to take something out when it is surrounded by texture. But the trash can is going to be harder because there isn’t as much texture. We are going to use the Stamp Tool to remove the white box against the wall first. So press the alt key to have a target point and with the alt key held down I can choose which part of the texture I want to use as my duplicate. So start by selecting a part the texture and if you let go of the alt key your clone stamp tool will show you a preview of what you selected and what it is going to look like so I click and drag down to cover the entire box:

This is how it looks like now, it is not perfect but it is better;

So to make it better looking, I press the Ctrl and alt key and drag my mouse to make my Stamp Tool smaller (you can also use the controls at the top of the screen or the [ ] keys) and then I copy a bit of texture around and paste it to break up the pattern and make it more random, it is good to look a something else for little bit because you can see if there is any harsh lines:

This is before the Stamp Tool:

And this is after the Stamp Tool:

Now to remove the garbage can, I call this the Protective Erasure Technique. Actually I just invented that. Now I can’t use the Stamp Tool just over it because of the wall so I am going to use the Pen Tool, I press P to get the Pen Tool and I follow the wall like so:

Basically it is going to protect everything around the garbage can to protect it from the cloning bleeding onto areas we don’t what touched:

I right click and select make a selection:

And I feather it at 1 pixel:

The wall is protected so now I can just take some texture and drag it down:

Because you are working within the selection, it helps you keep your cloning restricted to that specific area.

This is before the Stamp Tool:

And this is after the Stamp Tool:

Pretty impressive!

To make it even more natural I copy some texture from the other wall and go over the area to make it more random:

Now whenever you have a photo with graffiti it can give a mood so you don’t always have to remove it, but from my experience, a terrible looking garbage can rarely does! So let’s see the result with the distractive items removed:



You can spend more time to make it look even better but it is a pretty cool result!

My main point is that it is always useful to get rid of stuff that doesn’t help to communicate what you want to say with your photo. Ok?

Awesome my friends! Have a great day and happy shooting! And I am sorry if I got the Jaws theme stuck in your head!

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