How to quickly erase unwanted items from your images

By , May 28, 2016

Snapheal

Today we are going to show you how to remove unwanted objects from your images in just a few easy steps, using the simple yet powerful app Snapheal by Macphun.

If you are like me, you have a lot of images that you were lining up to take, and at the last minute someone or something got partially into your frame, right as you fired the shot. Maybe it’s an elbow or a bird. It happens. We usually just wait a moment for them to clear, and then take another shot. But sometimes you can’t get another shot at it, or don’t have time to wait for it to clear.

Let Snapheal come to your rescue in these situations!

This post is part of a mini series of photography tutorials written by professional photographer Jim Nix and brought to you by Macphun. Over the course of several weeks, Jim will share quick and simple tips to dramatically improve your photos with easy-to-use professional software.

Snapheal allows you to quickly and easily remove unwanted items from your images. You can learn more on the Macphun page dedicated to Snapheal. Snapheal is sold as either a standalone app or as part of a bundle from Macphun known as the Creative Kit (free trial), which includes several other powerful tools for photo editing.

Snapheal has multiple erasing modes so you can try different methods to get the best result, and it also offers fabulous clone and stamp technology. Lastly, it also gives you the ability to make some basic edits to your photos, which comes in really handy at times.

It’s very powerful and great at erasing even the difficult items, but the user interface is streamlined and easy to use. You will see for yourself in just a moment!

Like in our previous lessons, we will start in Apple Photos. The photo I will use today is below. It was taken while I was in Norway, hiking up a mountain towards their famous Pulpit Rock. It was a strenuous hike with a lot of incline, and this was taken in the one flat part of the hike. As I caught my breath, I looked up and just liked the scene before me.

Base image

The wooden boardwalk meandering into the distant trees was a great leading line, and the jagged distant peaks were a perfect frame for it. The only thing I didn’t like were the other folks ahead of me on the boardwalk, but I couldn’t wait it out. I stopped and took a quick iPhone snap, knowing there were others coming right behind me.

This sort of thing happens to me a lot, and I am thankful that I have Snapheal to clean it up for me. Let me show you how it works!

1) Once you select your image in Photos, double-click on it and then hit Edit, and it will take you to this screen. Click on Extensions, and then choose Snapheal.

SS1

If you want to download a free trial copy of Snapheal, you can do that here.

This is the screen you will land on when you arrive in Snapheal. Notice in the upper right that there are 3 modes: Erase, Retouch, Adjust. We will spend the majority of our time in Erase mode, since we will be erasing objects, but at the end we will jump over to Adjust for some simple photo enhancements.

Focus on the menu panel on the right hand side. You will notice a few simple sections that you will soon be very familiar with:

  • Selection Tools – this is where you choose a paintbrush, eraser, or lasso tool which you will use to “paint” over the objects you want to remove
  • Clone – you use this to copy a part of the photo and paste it to another section
  • Draw – here you select the size of your brush
  • Erase! – you cannot miss the big button, which when clicked does the erasing for you
  • Erasing Modes – you choose either Global, Local, or Dynamic
  • Precision – you choose how precise you want the erasing to be

SS2

2) The first thing you do is make sure you have highlighted the paintbrush icon, and then adjust the size of your brush by dragging the slider left or right. We will next paint over the items we want to remove. As you can see, I have chosen a small diameter because the people I am removing are small. Here I have painted over the people in the photo:

SS3

Before you begin erasing, you need to choose your Erasing Mode and Precision. You can see both in the previous screenshot – they are right below the big button that says Erase! on it.

For this photo, I chose the Local Erasing Mode, since that one works well for smaller objects, and I chose the Highest setting for Precision. When I need to remove a tiny dust spot or something like that, I normally use Norm or High for Precision, but because this removal job is a bit more complicated, I wanted to go with Highest.

3) Once you have that all ready, just hit the big Erase! button and you will be treated to little bits of trivia while Snapheal works its magic.

SS4

After a few moments, and a couple of different interesting trivia facts, Snapheal will give you its first pass at removing the objects. Remember, this one is a little tricky, which is why I chose it for this example. A simple dust spot or distant bird in the sky is really simple. Just paint over it and it’s gone. But this one is challenging because the people overlap the boardwalk and the grass, and that’s why I chose it for today’s lesson.

SS5

4) As you can see, the people are gone, but the boardwalk is a little wonky. That’s ok, we can fix it easily. I think Snapheal did a great job here actually, because it has to guess what is supposed to be behind each item we are removing. Sure, we know what it is supposed to look like, but Snapheal does not. But, we can fix it quickly.

Note: In my normal processing, I would typically erase each grouping of people separately, instead of doing them all at once like in this example. Results do vary with each image, but I prefer to remove more complicated items like this in stages. I find it gives me the best results. For reasons of expediency, I did them all at once today.

Remember that above I mentioned the Clone tool? We are going to use that next.

So, click on Clone in the upper right. You will see that you have some sliders you can move to adjust the size of it, just like when using the paintbrush a moment ago.

If you start trying to “paint” right away, you will get this error message.

SS6

This is because the Clone tool needs you to first select what you want to copy, before you begin “pasting” it onto the image.

What we are going to do is clone some of the boardwalk and paint it over the sections that look a little wonky. So as you can read in the error message, you first press your Option key and then click on what you want to clone. This means you select a section of boardwalk that you like. Then, you release the Option key and start painting where you want to replace the wonky bits. Basically you are doing something like a cut and paste, a stroke at a time.

After a few moments applying the Clone tool, I now have the boardwalk looking like this:

SS7

I think it looks a lot better. The people are gone – there is no trace of them, either – and the boardwalk appears pretty much normal. It looks like I was the only one there, which obviously was my intended result.

Certainly you could work on this more if you wanted to be incredibly precise with it. Anytime you are removing complicated objects, I find that it takes a little while to get it exactly to my liking. Sometimes after the Clone tool, I may go back and use the Erasing mode to remove little things that were accidentally cloned into the shot. It just comes down to how precise you want or need to be with the image. Snapheal can get you there easily, it just takes a little experimentation and practice to get it done.

But we aren’t done just yet!

5) One of the great things about Snapheal is that it also has some editing tools built into it. You can further adjust your photos’ tones and colors after removing your unwanted objects. This allows you to create your final look for the photo right here in Snapheal.

So the next thing we do is, at the top menu in the upper right, click on Adjust. You will then be on the screen seen below. This section allows you to make further refinements to your image. You can adjust Saturation, Temperature, Tint and more. It’s a great addition to this product!

I have moved several sliders, as you can see in the screenshot below, in order to increase the Saturation a bit and adjust the tones of the final photo, warming it up a little.

SS8

6) At this point, I have completed my work on the photo. I am ready to save it, so I just click on Save Changes in the upper right corner of the screen. This will return my photo to Photos.

Then on this screen, I simply click Done and it drops me back into my Library view in Photos.

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Here is my final version of the photo after all of those changes.

Final image

In a few quick steps, we were able to take a travel photo that unfortunately had some people in it, and remove them quickly and easily. Then we made some simple adjustments to the colors and tones to get us to our final image.

Snapheal is a dream to work with. A clean, simple interface makes it easy to use and masks the powerful engine that runs underneath it. I use it all the time and it has literally saved many of my photos from the trash bin!

Catch up on previous photo tutorials:

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave comments or feedback below!

Jim Nix is a traveler, photographer, and wanderlust sufferer. He aims to inspire others with his photos, tips, adventures and more on his blog. You can connect with him on Facebook, or YouTube

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  • :D

    I did this somewhat decent job in under 2 mins using Pixelmator’s retouch tool alone

    • nice result

      • :D

        Thanks! Credit goes to Pixelmator, though – I was just clicking.

  • Tommy

    I hope your next tutorial is more “straight to the point” and less story-telling. It’s a great tutorial. But reading through your every single thought as if it were a story was just tiresome. Great tut nonetheless.

  • Stephaughn Alston

    Curious as to what type of DSLR you use? I understand you said you used your iPhone for this shot.