How to Remove People from Photographs

A Skill Photographers Should Possess

You may be in a situation where you took what feels like the perfect shot, but with one little exception. Someone unanticipated made it into your shot. Knowing how to remove people from photographs is a skill all photographers should possess.

However, you should know that this isn’t always a good idea. People, especially locals, give your images a sense of place and add color and life. It would be best to always come back with images of locations with people in them for context in many circumstances.

But sometimes, you want a picture of a location without the people. The easiest way, of course, is to go when there are no people, but sometimes this is not possible. It’s best if you minimize the people you have to remove later. For most locations, early morning is best. Even crowded tourist destinations will be almost empty if you get there just after sunrise. This will give you the best light for your shot anyway.

Setting Up Your Shot for Post Processing

This technique will require a working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop or similar software, like Gimp. It is also much easier if you use a tripod to take the shots. You are going to be taking at least three images, and as many as ten to twenty.

You want the subject to be in the exact same spot. If there are only a few people and you have good light, it is possible to handhold the camera, but a tripod makes it better. Also, a cable or remote release will make it easier, as you can watch the scene as you shoot.

Put your camera on the tripod and frame up your shot. Take a few test pictures and make sure you have your camera settings just right. You don’t want to change any settings once you start shooting. When everything is set, take your first shot.

Now, watch the scene, and as the people move about, take more shots. It’s easier to keep track of with a few people, but it’s possible with more. What you are looking for are shots so that you have at least one with no one in each spot. In other words, if someone is standing in front of a door, you need a shot with no one in front of that door. If you have anyone that is standing still or sitting, you will need to wait for them to move to get the shot.

Using Photoshop to Remove People from Photographs

When you get home, load all of your images onto your computer and open Photoshop.

  • From the File menu, click on Scripts and then Statistics.
  • In the drop-down for Choose Stack Mode, select Median.
  • Next, click Browse and select all of your images.

If you held your camera by hand, click the Auto-Align checkbox. It won’t hurt to choose it anyway.

The processing can take some time, depending on how many images and the power of your computer. When it is done, all of the people should be gone!

The software is selecting portions that exist in every photo, so moving people are removed. Afterward, you may have a little cleaning up to do with the brush tools, but your image should be ready to go with no people in it.

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