A Simple Way to Erase People in Photoshop

February 02, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Have you ever wanted to photograph a landmark or historic site or an interesting piece of architecture, and wished you could do it without including hundreds of tourists in your shot?

Photos of crowded places present a problem if you plan to submit them as stock – unless, of course, all the people in the shot are your friends and will gladly furnish you with their model releases.

Well, there is a way around this. You will need two things (besides your camera): A steady tripod and Adobe Photoshop Extended, version CS3 or higher.

Set up your tripod in a place where it won’t be bumped by anybody, compose your shot, and start taking pictures (preferably using a cable release). Make sure to set your focus manually and turn the autofocus off. Since the camera is mounted on a tripod, you also should turn off the image stabilization on your lens (if you have this feature). The idea is to expose all the stationary elements of the scene in a series of shots. The number of shots and time between them will depend on how crowded the scene is and how quickly people move about. Take note of people sitting on benches or standing in the same spot without moving. It is best to set your camera on manual exposure – hopefully the light won’t change too much during the shoot. Aperture priority mode will also work.

Back at your computer, open all the images from the series in Photoshop. From the top menu, select File -> Scripts -> Statistics. In “Choose Stacks Mode” dialogue, select “Median.”

That’s all there is to it! After crunching some data, Photoshop will spit out a new image without anybody in it. You may need to use some of your individual files to clean up a few artifacts generated by the process. In this example, I took 25 exposures during approximately 15 minutes (the place was incredibly busy as you can tell from the first picture). The clouds had shifted, so I “borrowed” the sky from one of the shots. Here is the final result:

Now how about taking a photograph of a highway interchange in downtown with no traffic?


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Here are some links that I think may be useful for those of you who are just starting with photography (or thinking about it), as well as for more seasoned photographers. No matter how long you have been doing it there is always something new to learn.


http://www.betterphoto.com/allAbout.asp - this is a very good place to start if you are new to photography

http://luminous-landscape.com/ - tons of techniques and tutorials, hardware reviews, etc.

http://scantips.com/  - must know for anyone dealing with digital images. Very comprehensive explanation of resolution.

http://computer-darkroom.com/ - Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom tutorials, printing tips, color management

http://retouchpro.com/tutorials/index.php - extensive collection of Photoshop tutorials on retouching.

http://www.russellbrown.com/tips_tech.html - scripts and tutorials from Photoshop guru Mr. Russell Brown.

http://www.ronbigelow.com/articles/articles.htm - very good collection of articles generally targeted for more advanced hobbyists.

http://planetneil.com/tangents/flash-photography-techniques/ - learn how to use your flash.

http://strobist.blogspot.com/ - lighting with off-camera flash. Brilliant! You need to understand photography basics before coming here.

http://photoserge.com/ - great collection of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom tutorials by French photographer Serge Ramelli

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