Quick recomposing and editing of images to remove unwanted artefacts, people and copyright

As a remote editor for Dreamstime, I often come across perfectly good images that we cannot accept as royalty free stock because they include copyright and/or people, without valid property and/or model release(s). More often than not, these are unintentional and minor features of images that can be removed very quickly and effectively with Photoshop, or similar software, dramatically improving image composition in the process. Obviously, I’ve chosen to demonstrate how I deal with these sort of artefacts using a picture of a shark.

Silky sharks under boat in clear blue water

Some subjects and situations, like this shark encounter, don’t always allow you to the time to compose the perfect image at the time of capture. In this case the subject is a moving shark with the underside of a boat on the surface of the sea in the background. However, the original image is cluttered with unwanted features; exhaled bubbles on the right of the frame, a distracting photobomb by a little jack in the lower left, and a little backscatter from particles in the water column. We also have two more sharks that we may or may not want to include in the background.

Imaging instead, a beautiful Scottish landscape with a highland cow in the foreground, replete with copyright in the form of ear-tags and a B&B sign on the fence in front of it, add a person’s face intruding into the bottom left and an ugly electricity pylon on the right of the image and you have an image that we would struggle to accept, even as editorial stock. It’s a scenario that plays out all too often in review and it can be fixed in less time than it takes to write a good title, description and set of keywords. Let me take you through my workflow for quickly dealing with these kind of issues.

Silky sharks under boat in clear blue water

1. Correcting wide angle lens distortion. unwanted objects around the edges of wide angle images, like the face of the jack in the lower left corner of the original image, can often be removed simply by applying lens correction such as Photoshop’s Adaptive Wide Angle option from the Filter Menu. No more need to worry about a model release for that jack. (Time required 5s and easily automated)

Silky sharks under boat in clear blue water

2. Next, think about cropping and rotating the image to improve the composition, excluding as many unwanted features as possible. Even just straightening a crooked horizon can end up excluding unwanted features around the edges of an image. The simple crop above solves nearly all of the issues with the original image. (Time required 5s)

Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop

3. Remove smaller unwanted features from the middle of the frame using spot removal tools. These vary a bit in how they work, and Photoshop has quite a choice, but the default setting on its Spot Healing Brush Tool works extremely well and you can easily customise the size of the tool and other features of its application.(Time required 5s/spot)

Content-Aware Fill in Photoshop

4. Remove larger unwanted objects using Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill option. Basically, outline the object you want to remove and choose Fill from the Edit Menu, or more simply press the Backspace Key, and select Content-Aware from the drop down menu in the dialog box, before clicking OK or hitting the Enter Key. The results may need to be fine tuned using the Spot Healing Brush Tool, but it can deal with surprisingly complex backgrounds.(Time required 5s)

Silky sharks under boat in clear blue water

......and that's it. Very quick and easy editing of a cluttered composition that might not only be used to remove potential copyright or model release issues but also produce several different good compositions from the same original image.

Silky sharks under boat in clear blue water

Photo credits: Jeremy Brown.
Jeremy Brown
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  • Jeremykeithbrown
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
I'm a recreational scuba diver who takes photos. Sometimes they're quite pleasing, and some of those are on sale here. Go on, buy some!

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March 11, 2018

Fantastic tips!


March 10, 2018

nice tips. thanks for sharing.


March 10, 2018

Thank you!


March 08, 2018

NB. It's worth checking out the video from the GoPro on top of my housing while the shot was captured, you can even hear the shutter, although I edited out the stobe flash. https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-footage-silky-sharks-jardin-de-la-reina-cuba-swim-clear-blue-waters-video77319240