Photography tips – fixing imperfections

Although, I know my children are almost perfect little beings, sometimes the pictures of them need to be fixed.   Not their cherubic smiles or sparkling eyes, oh no!  I’m talking about food, markers, paint, dirt and boogers on their faces.  They are kids, and kids are rarely clean.  I know there are purists out there that would admonish me for fixing such seminal moments of childhood and accuse me of creating a Utopian image of my children.  I say to them, “What’s wrong with that??  I don’t need reminders of boogers…they are ingrained in my memories forever more!”

Now, how to fix?  There are several methods, but I will tell you which ones I use the most.

Clone tool – This tool is located on the side toolbar and looks like a stamp.  Basically, this tool copies one section of the picture and stamps/places it over another.  Be careful as is it copies the whole area, so if you are using this tool on the copied area a lot it may copy over sections you don’t want.  When it starts to do that, start over and copy again.  To use:

1.  Select the tool.  I like to have it be a round soft brush, and I set the opacity to around 50%.  Remember you can use the shortcut keys – [ – to make it smaller and -]- to make the brush larger.

2.  Find the area you want to copy.  I try to keep the brush the same size as the area I want fixed.  Hit Alt and click on the area to copy.

3.  Now go over to where you want it fixed and right mouse click to copy over it.

Healing brush – This tool samples the pixels surrounding the area that is being fixed and copies them over.  To use:

1.  Select the tool.  Again, I like to have it be a round soft brush, and I set the opacity to around 50%.

2.  Keep the brush as close to the area to be fixed as possible.  This will make sure that the pixels it samples are as close to the area to be fixed as possible.  Click your mouse and drag it over the area.

The Patch Tool – This is similar to the clone tool, only you select an actual area to replace the area to be fixed.  It doesn’t use a brush.  This one is faster if the areas are similar and blend well.  Sometimes I find the edges aren’t as nice so I may use the clone tool on those.  I found a great tutorial using it in internet land here, but it is also shown in detail in Scott Kelby’s photoshop book.

I use each of these tools depending on what I need to fix, how large of an area that needs to be fixed, etc.  Experiment with them to see how they work, since that is the best way to learn!

Some uses for the tools:

  • The aforementioned food, dirt, markers, boogers, etc.
  • Pimples and/or really bad acne (you don’t have to fix everything, but just reduce the visibility of it)
  • Stray hair across the face
  • Harsh light causing a blowout on a part of the face.
  • Sunburned nose
  • Background objects that you want removed.
  • Cloning a backdrop that ended too soon.

I have used these tools to fix a myriad of factors, and they are so helpful to turn a ruined picture into a workable one.

6 Replies to “Photography tips – fixing imperfections”

  1. Fun! I’ll have to look though my pictures! Often I have to expand a background or something like that for pictures I take for the newsletter that I do. But I’m still not great at it.

  2. Cloning is the only one of these tools I have used – I need to expand my repetoire! Alas, my Elements doesn’t offer healing or patching…

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