Deke’s Techniques 091: Removing Unwanted People from a Photo with Photoshop

091 Removing people from a photo

Hello everyone. Happy New Year, and welcome to the first anniversary of Deke’s Techniques. I began this weekly video series on January 4 of 2011, and I am assured by the good folks at that it will last well into the future.

What better way to celebrate the outset of 2012 than with a wedding photo? And not just any photo, but a candid shot with a bunch of unwanted people in the background. My friend, Mary (the bride), asked me to remove those interlopers so that she and her groom, Billy, can enjoy some much-needed time alone. Which is exactly what I do in this video.

Here’s the official description from

In this week’s free technique, Deke uses Photoshop to remove unwanted folk from a wedding photo. Now that may sound harsh, and I don’t want to imply—on my dear friend Mary’s behalf—that her beloved wedding guests were not considered treasured witnesses of her blessed event. But sometimes, you just want to pretend that the camera didn’t capture the whole crowd, rather just the happy couple. (OK, some of you may want to remove people from your life altogether, but that’s beyond the power of Photoshop.) In this case, Mary and Billy just asked Deke if he could temporarily remove the extraneous folk from this image:

Unwanted people in the background of a candid photograph

Now Photoshop CS5’s Content-Aware Fill is designed to ‘magically’ fill in spaces where undesired objects reside in a photo. But it doesn’t always work exactly the way you intend.  The process Deke demonstrates here allows you to get around one of the limitations of Content-Aware Fill, namely that it fills your voids with information from the entire photograph. If you were to simply select the unwanted folk and try to fill them in, Content-Aware Fill would sample the areas that include the very people we’re trying to remove (and, in the process, make a duplicate of Mary’s head which would probably leave Billy confused when it came time to kiss the bride). So the trick to achieving good results on this project is to use Content-Aware Fill to create a new layer composed entirely of foliage. Then you can put the masked couple back on top of the purged background.

So by the end of this free video, Deke will show you how to arrive here, with the background established but Mary’s head in need of restoration:

The unwated people removed in Photoshop, albeit with some problems

Sure Mary’s lost a little bit of ear (and some brain matter), but you can see that you now have a nice leafy background devoid of interlopers. Then, in this week’s two new exclusive Deke’s Techniques videos—“Masking People Back into a Photo” and “Hand-Painting a Mask”—members of the Online Training Library will see how Deke eventually restores Mary to her full bridal glory. It takes some planning and patience, but eventually Mary and Billy can begin their lives together sans hangers on. At least in this final result:

The good people restored against an organic background in Photoshop

Now that we’ve gotten rid of the uninvited guests, our newly married couple can have whomever they like back for drinks and chowder at the reception.

And Deke will be back with another free technique next week!

To check out those two (count ‘em, two!) members-only videos, go to the Deke’s Techniques landing page at And by all means, let me know what you think!

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