Feature: Erase People and Things From Your Pictures
Remember the old Twilight Zone episode in which the little boy could “disappear” anyone who made him angry? As a kid, I often wondered how I’d use the power to send people off to the proverbial cornfield anytime I wanted. Would it be for good? For evil? Would I use the power on a whim, or would I show maturity and restraint?
Now that I’m an adult, it turns out that I really do have that power–over my digital images, at least. I’ve long used the Clone Brush in my image editor to erase unwanted elements from pictures. Sometimes it’s just a telephone pole or mailbox. Other times, it’s an entire person. And now I know how I use this power: for good. At least, for the good of my photos.
I recently took a picture of my son in front of a sweeping mountain vista. It’s not a work of art, by any stretch of the imagination. But my vision was marred by the presence of a light pole in the rear left of the scene. Can it be removed? You bet. I just used a little Clone Brush magic.
The Clone Brush Explained
The Clone Brush works this way: You choose a source location somewhere in the picture. When you paint with the brush, you paste copies of pixels from the source location wherever you click. In this way, you can “paint over” the unwanted element with nearby pixels from the background. When it’s done well, you’ll never know there was ever something in the background.
Let’s review the steps I used to remove that light pole; you may want to download my original image and follow along in your own image editor.
Wielding the Clone Brush
In Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro, the Clone Brush is accessed via the eighth icon down from the top of the tool palette. Since it shares this cubby with the Scratch Remover, you may need to pick it from the list. Just click the drop-down arrow on the right side of the cubby and select Clone Brush.
Now that you’ve selected the Clone Brush, look at the Tool Options toolbar at the top of the screen–it includes options for shape, size, step, density, opacity, and more. If you don’t see it, turn it on by choosing View, Palettes, Tool Options from the menu.
Set the size. You can ignore most of the controls, but you’ll definitely want to set the size, which determines the diameter of the paintbrush. If you make the brush too small, the cloning won’t look natural and it’ll take a long time to completely erase the unwanted element. If it’s too large, you won’t be able to get an accurate, natural-looking brush stroke. Start with a size that looks like it will allow you to erase in realistic looking “bites” (you can see the size of the brush after you put in a pixel value). For our sample picture, try a size of 20 pixels. As you get lower down on the pole, however, you may want to reduce the number of pixels as low as 10 to duplicate bands of color in the background.
Pick the source. Now it’s time to pick the source. Move the mouse a bit to the right of the pole and right-click. Now left-click on the pole and you should see some of it disappear.
Erase that pole. Carefully move the mouse and click again, erasing parts of the pole one click at a time. You could simply click, hold, and drag, thus creating one long brush stroke, but that method would probably introduce noticeable irregularities.
It helps to zoom in for a better view and re-select the source occasionally. See the mountain outlined against the lake, for instance? Before you paint over that area, right-click with the mouse pointer positioned directly over the edge of the mountain. Then reposition the mouse to the left and left-click on the pole so the mountain continues perfectly through the spot where the pole used to be. Carefully painting with the Clone Brush in this way can yield professional results.
That’s it! When your work with the Clone Brush is done, save the image and you’ll have successfully sent a light pole to the twilight zone.
Dave’s Favorites: Photoshop Tutorials Online
I keep running across tutorials for Adobe Photoshop and other image editors in places I least expect. Just this week, in fact, I discovered a veritable treasure trove of photo tips on a Web site called Bair Art Editions.
Bair Art specializes in reproducing and printing fine art and art photography. It’s not the sort of place you’d expect to find a wealth of Photoshop help, but you’ll find tutorials on using masks and layers, levels and curves, knocking out backgrounds, and printing. Indeed, there’s a great assortment of useful advice. If you’re struggling to master Photoshop, give this site a spin.
Q&A: How Do I Transfer Old Movies to Digital?
What do I need in order to copy old Super 8 and VHS movies to a digital format like DVD? Please don?t tell me to send it to some lab–I have hundreds of hours of movies to copy.
–Mike Frankland, Newark, New Jersey
Wow–good luck, Mike. You have a long road ahead. I recently transferred about two dozen VHS tapes to DVD and turned the resulting “Johnson Family Boxed Set” into a holiday gift for my parents. I even crafted a box to hold all the DVDs! It took a lot of time and isn’t something I’d want to do again.
First, the Super 8 movies. I don’t know of any easy, high-tech way to do this. Your best bet is to simply project each movie onto a screen or blank wall in a perfectly dark room and film it with a digital camcorder that has been properly positioned on a tripod. Professionals at your local camera shop may offer a transfer service, but odds are good that they’d do it basically the same way. Once you’ve got the movies on digital tape, you can transfer them to your PC using the camcorder’s FireWire or USB 2.0 port, then use any video editing program to burn them to DVD.
Videotape is a bit easier. If your digital camcorder has analog video inputs, you can simply connect it to a VCR and play the old tapes while recording directly to digital tape.
If your camcorder lacks such inputs, then you might want to buy one of the many USB video converters that are on the market. Connect a gadget like the Instant DVD 2.0 from ADS Technologies between your PC and VCR. It imports video to your hard disk through the USB port. Once you’ve got the video in your computer, you can edit and burn it just as if you had shot it on digital video.
Hot Pic of the Week
Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality and technique. Every month, the best of the weekly winners gets a prize valued at between $15 and $50.
Here’s how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don’t forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.
This week’s Hot Pic: “Volga Church,” by John Harrington, Herndon, Virginia
John writes: “I took this photo when I led a Smithsonian group on a Russian river cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg. For the first few days, the boat cruises up the canal to the Volga River. It was there that we passed this church. The Soviets had built an artificial waterway to connect Moscow to the Volga, and ended up flooding neighboring villages in order to complete the project. This church actually stood in the middle of a village that had been flooded and its entire first story is still under water. (The level above the water is the second story of the church). I took several shots using an Olympus C2020 as we approached, and this one, with the reflection, was the best.”
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