How to Remove Tourists From Photos

December 17, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

It can be very frustrating taking shots of buildings inside or out at busy Tourist spots choked with people distracting from your potential perfect shot. One such location is the staircase of the magnificent Opera Garnier in Paris. Take a look below at an original shot full of people.
 

Opera1PeopleOpera1PeopleOpera original
 

 

Followed by the final version after a fair amount of editing.
 

Opera after editing no peopleOpera2NoPeopleOpera after editing no people
 

 

There are 3 possible techniques to try-

1. If you are able to use a tripod try using a neutral density filter. With something like a 10 stop filter in a situation with low lighting you can readily get an exposure lasting several minutes. Hey presto, save for anybody staying stubbornly in the same place all the people disappear. The problem with many locations inside though is that they will usually ban tripods. In a  place like Opera Garnier in Paris shown in the example photo you might get as far as getting a few tripod legs extended before being swooped on by officialdom.
 

2. Trying to hold the camera in the same place take a number of shots over a period so each shot has the people in different parts of your shot. Ideally try to get about 5 shots over say 5 minutes but less can still work as will be shown here. You then need processing software which can use layers such as Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Paint Shop Pro. Note that Lightroom does not work for this as it does not support layers. My example image was taken in 2012 before I knew about this technique. However I happened to have taken 2 shots taken from close to the same position. The first stage is to open the images in the software as 2 separate layers. There are a number of ways to do this. The simplest which will work with any of the programs mentioned is to open the first image. Then open the second image. Go to select all for the second image and then copy. Go to the first image and click edit and paste. The second image will appear above the first as a layer.
 

The next stage is align or line up the 2 images. By reducing the opacity of the top image using the slider in the layers panel we can see the difference between the 2 images, in this case a lot.
 

Opera3Layers OpacityOpera3Layers OpacityLayer Opacity
 

 

It is possible to line up the images manually using the move tool and moving around the top image. To get perfect alignment though it is better to use the auto align tool. In Photoshop elements use New-Photomerge-Panorama. In Photoshop hold shift to select both layers and then go to Edit- Auto Align Layers.
 

Opera4AutoAlignOpera4AutoAlignAlign Layers
 

 

Next by adding layer masks to each image we can rub out people in seconds by painting onto the mask with a black brush which has the effect of showing through the mask the other lower image without that person in it.

3. For the people still there the final technique is cloning. This could be a Blog post on its own but for a symmetrical picture like this one a hidden part of the clone tool which can be incredibly useful is the mirror function. First bring up the clone source panel by clicking Window in the main menu and then Clone Source. You will see there a label for Offset. Click the arrow to the right of it. You can now use as a source for cloning an area opposite. As an example the stairs on the left can be used to clone over the stairs on the right and will appear as a mirror image. Now just line it up and the lady taking a picture at the foot of the stairs disappears.
 

Opera4CloneMirrorOpera4CloneMirrorClone Source panel mirror After all the editing I liked the final image better in Black and White. See this again below.
 

Opera2NoPeopleOpera2NoPeopleFinal Result
 

Edwin Jones
 


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