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How to remove details from an image the easiest and the quickest way

Content-Aware Fill

Which picture of your friends would you keep?

You are back from your holidays with lots of photos: none of them is a masterpiece yet you will certainly share them among your family and friends, and you will keep them as a memory of your trip.
Question: would you better share the first or the second picture?

Most probably you will end up choosing the first one, that which has a couple of disturbing people removed. The sea is still not level, and some details are not what they should be if you were looking for high quality images. Yet all you really want is a picture of your group of cheer friends at the beach. And the first picture is the one your friends and you will like more.

Now, you might be interested to learn that for quickly editing the image above I just clicked on a single button: there is a software taking care of the removal and fixing the area with the right pattern and content.

Automagically fixing images

It often happens that you find a nice picture (either in your mind’s eye or inside your memory card) but some details disturb you: it would be nice to let them disappear. And right this is what painters can so easily do: a couple of broad brushstrokes, and the disturbing element has gone.

Maybe not everybody knows that an amazingly useful plug-in called Resynthesizer has been around for years, running inside the powerful free retouching software called The Gimp. Such a magic tool not only is useful to intelligently remove spots and speckles without resorting to the Clone Stamp, but it can perform the most difficult actions: automagically removing wide parts from an image and recreating what should or could have been behind them.
So, you can clone out a lot of disturbing details in a bunch of seconds.
Just select the area you want to correct and press the button: the whole magic is performed for you by such an astonishing wizard before you can even realize it!

Removing a cross from the top of a mountain — photo by alles-schlumpf - Daniela Hartmann

Gimp does the magic by the click of a button (see bigger) © alles-schlumpf - Daniela Hartmann

Using Gimp for the quick and easy removal of objects spoiling otherwise good photographs has been a consolidated practice for years.

Carefully watch the whole video here below and see how fast, powerful and useful such a tool can be for touching up your pictures: even recreate the missing edges of a composite.


The good news is that (better late than never) also Photoshop has included a similar technology among its tools in 2010: content aware fill can recreate the texture that should replace a deleted object.

Admittedly such intelligent synthetic fill technology (both in the Gimp and in Photoshop) is in its very early stage and still has a long way to go. It seldom provides high quality fills, particularly on wide areas and geometric patterns. But it can yield interesting results, nonetheless.

Boy playing soccer at the beach — photo by Armando Lobos

Distracting people were erased with a single click © Armando Lobos

The boy playing soccer has an intense expression, and I feel that passers by are just distracting: eliminating them was only a matter of selecting them and pressing a button.
All was done within seconds and, which is more, without any effort.

I believe that many of us can easily enhance many photographs this way. Of course, critical photographs will still require manual edits, but we all have tons of images (including personal and family pictures) which will really gain a lot thanks to the automagic fill, and it’s not hard work at all.

This story has a moral at the end

It is worth stressing here what I already wrote may other times: photography is not the flat, straight, faithful reproduction of all that lies in front of the lens. Definitely not.
Instead, it is just a tool for sharing thoughts, emotions, knowledge,…
Read it again a couple of times, please.

Before you leave

  • Gimp is free software and works quite fine: I have successfully been using it for many years now. See more about Gimp
  • Photoshop is not free, but could be worth buying if you take photography that seriously. Buy Adobe Photoshop from this link if you want to help me running this website
  • Think about sharing this article with your friends, and contribute a comment, if you like
  • Interested in more automagic editing? Try reading this page about content aware image resizing

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  1. By kirpi, on May 29, 2011, at 11:35 PM
    Lloyd Konneker has recently taken over this plug-in from Paul Harrison: you can find the most recent release here.


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