How to Remove Objects from a Background


Props or unwanted items often end up in photos captured at home or in a cramped studio, but Adobe Photoshop has the tools you need to clean up. I’ll show you a few techniques I use to remove objects and clean up a background in a photo.

Before You Start

Here’s my still shot if you want to use it to try these steps, or practice with your own.

Step 1: Arrange the Scene

You can create your own photography studio almost anywhere. You’ll find some helpful tips in How to Set Up and Light a Home Studio. I arranged the scene below in front of a window in my house to have a ready-made light source, and held light-colored cardboard to bounce light onto the subject. I took the picture with my phone.

Step 2: Hide Your Production Secrets

Open your photo in Photoshop and create an artboard from the new layer. Click the flyout menu on the Layers panel and choose New Artboard. Photoshop adds handles to help you crop and resize while preserving the photo in case you want to change it later. Drag to hide unwanted objects such as my thumb and the sliver of table edge in the lower right.

Step 3: Draw a Selection

Polygonal Lasso is a great tool for selecting shapes with a straight edge, such as the section of window in the background. Click each corner just beyond the window and then click the starting point to complete the selection.

Step 4: Fill the Space

When you want to remove an object that’s surrounded by consistent color and texture, Content-Aware Fill works well to blend the scene. With the window still selected, choose Content-Aware Fill from the Fill dialog box to have Photoshop fill the selected area.

Step 5: Tidy Up

Content-Aware Fill cleans up this photo nicely. If you see areas that still need touching up, use the Spot Healing Brush or the Clone Stamp tool to remove spots or blemishes. With the Spot Healing Brush, drag over the area you want to fix. Use the Clone Stamp to paint over one part of the photo with another. First hold Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS) as you click the area you want to use as the source, then brush over the area you want to clean up. It took me a little while to get the hang of this tool, but after enough practice I found it quite handy.

Step 6: Get Ready to Edit

The composition looks much better with the extraneous objects removed. Now use the Camera Raw Filter to modify the colors throughout this photo. First, convert the layer to a Smart Object so Photoshop will remember the Camera Raw settings in case you want to edit them later. You can do this from the Layer menu or simply right-click the Layers panel and choose Convert to Smart Object.

Step 7: Enhance Light and Color

Once you access the Camera Raw Filter from the Filter menu, use the sliders to adjust the light and color throughout the photo. Each photo is different, so experiment to see the effect of each setting. Click the Y icon at the bottom of the Camera Raw window to show the before and after version at any point in the editing process. I made edits in three categories; see the Basic settings below. I’ve provided the edited PSD in the practice files in case you want to see all of my adjustments. Just double-click the Camera Raw Filter in the Layers panel to open the settings if you ever need to modify them.

Build a Portfolio

Using a few items you have around the house, arranged in different ways, you can create fun and elegant compositions. Tag @UnlimitedEffect; we’d love to see what you do.

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