Monday, September 24, 2012

How To Clear A Room Using Photoshop

There's nothing like getting special, off hours, access to a building like the one in today's image.  Having the luxury of taking your time, setting up the shot without the hassle of seventeen people milling around, intruding on the shot.  Well, that's not exactly what happened with today's image.  There was, indeed, seventeen people wandering around, on the floor, on the stairs, on the balcony, in the other room, through the doorway, just about everywhere you can think of.  Thank goodness there's Adobe Photoshop (in this case) CS6.  Those of you who have played around with Photoshop probably know what a pain it would be to have to clone out seventeen of anything in an image.  Luckily, something was introduced in CS5 that made life easy when trying to do this type of "cleanup".  Some things were easy using the Healing Brush (J) with the Content Aware button checked.  The rope and stands blocking off the table and chair in the lower left were ideal for the Healing Brush (J).  One swipe and a portion of the rope was gone.  Another and the stand became history.  A little attention to detail and the part of the rope that fell along the arm of the chair was no more.  Things like that are easy.  Getting rid of seventeen people without a whistle, a gun or a whip and chair?  Not as much.  To find out what makes it easy, hit the "Read More".

Adobe, with each introduction of a new version of their Creative Suite, puts in, and wildly discusses, the "hero" additions to each application.  Photoshop typically gets the most fanfare because it's the most widely used part of the Creative Suite.  The "big ticket" additions have tutorials, websites, videos and live events showing them off.  The rest of the additions get a "oh yeah, we also put this, this and this in this time around".  They aren't the big, sexy things.  But, they can be used to great advantage if looked at with a jaundiced eye.

The "also ran" addition, introduced in CS5 that helped made getting rid of those seventeen people wandering around is the Auto - Align Layers (Edit/Auto - Align Layers).  Obviously, multiple copies of the same scene are required to make this work.  I've used Auto - Align Layers with shots taken outside, hand held, to insure any camera movement is minimized.  Inside, at Gillette Castle (today's image) the camera is going to be on a tripod, so camera movement should be zero.  Due diligence was done, making sure the tripod was solid, the camera locked on, a remote trigger was used, all the pieces were in place to be able to get a series of shots that would be one exactly the same as the one before.

The "trick" to getting rid of those seventeen people is to take a shot, wait, take another shot, wait, take another shot, wait (you get the idea).  Unlike the rope and the stand that was taken out with the Healing Brush (J), people are mobile.  Take a shot, there's a person on the stairs.  Take another shot, the person on the stairs is gone but now someone is standing in front of the settee just about centered in the image.  Shoot again.  No one in front of the settee this time, but someone is up on the balcony.  (Again, you get the idea.) 

Auto - Align Layers aligns everything that's stationary.  So, take several shots, use A-AL and put Layer Masks on each Layer.  The easier method is to Invert the Mask (CTRL I [eye]) to get a black Mask.  That way you can "see" down to the Background Layer.  If someone is standing in front of the settee, use a White Brush (B) and mask him/her out.  Once you have everyone you can eliminate on that layer, select the next Layer up and do the same to get rid of the people on the Layer below.  Keep working up to your upper most Layer and you "should have" gotten rid (in today's image's case) all seventeen people.
I can't tell you how many Layers you'll need because every scene will be different.  It could be as few as two or as many as twelve.  It all depends on what's going on.