There is no escape from removing clutter, people, electric lines and other stuff from your photos. If you are back from a holiday you will notice that your photos are full of people, cars, etc. messing with your photos that you probably delete the whole collection at one site. Photoshop has made available the Spot Healing Brush Tool but many times I found this tool not efficient, specially at a crossing borders of the area you are retouching.
In Photoshop, there is also the old Healing Brush and in Lightroom there is the Healing Brush. Those are great for removing sensor dirt spots or birds in the sky but when it comes to the serious surgical stuff, there is no substitute for the Clone Stamp tool. Unfortunately, there is no Lightroom substitute for this tool yet. I wish Adobe engineers just listen to this need and add a similar tool in the next version of Lightroom.
The Clone Stamp tool is easy really to use. You just have to tell Photoshop from where you want to replace the pixels in your photo. So you have basically a target area and a source area. To use the Clone Stamp tool, just select the source area by pressing the Alt key and move your cursor to the source area. Click your mouse in that location. Release the Alt key and start painting in the target area.
That was easy! But if you have used the Clone Stamp tool before you have surely realized that there is a lot more involved. This article is not about how to use the clone stamp tool but rather to provide you with some tips to use that tool efficiently.
Always work on a separate new layer
Any changes you make should be made on a new layer. You can flatten the image when you’re done afterwards. Why? Well, because is a non-destructive manner meaning you are not changing the underlying pixels of your background image. Also, when you use a new layer, you can always delete it if you don’t like the outcome. One thing to remember though is that you have to make sure that “All Layers” is selected as your source in the Clone Stamp Tool settings (top bar).
Keep the brush hardness level to 0%
That will help blend in the effect better. However, when you are working near a defined edge in your photo you might need to increase that hardness. Try 50% first and increase as you see fit. always remember though that the higher the hardness, the harsh the transition.
Start with the easier parts first
Most of the time your photo will have some easy things to clone out. Start with those first as this will help you create clear space to use in more difficult areas. By making the easy changes first, you are creating replacement pixels that will make your job easier when it comes for the harder, more in-depth changes.
Make use of the tool settings
You can change the shape of the brush or the angle of the replacement pixels. You can mirror the effect (like when you are cloning from the left eye to the right eye). You can flip-horizontal the brush strokes. This can be extremely useful in many instances since often you will be dealing with a symmetrical subject where you can now draw from the other side.
Blur the effect
Sometimes it help to blur the results of the clone stamp tool to better blend the results. Just remember to work on an empty layer then use any blur filter like the Gaussian Blur and go subtle with the blur effect until you notice a better blend.
The Clone Stamp tool will save you from deleting rejected photos. If you master it, you can remove almost anything you do not want. Always remember, if you have any feedback or tips, please provide them in the feedback box below. Now! Go out and shoot some clutter...