Exercise: Alteration

The final exercise in this part of the course is deliberate, out-and-out alteration of the content of the image, and requires Photoshop, for its clone stamp tool and its cut and paste abilities. There are many possibilities, limited only by imagination and skill, but to keep this exercise simple in concept (if not necessary in execution), we will concentrate on removing a major element of an image.

Take a photograph which contains one distinct subject occupying an area between about one eighth and one sixth of the total image (this is very approximate). It could be a person in a garden, for example perhaps one of two or three people.

The aim is to successfully remove this one element, replacing it with elements from the background or foreground, ‘successfully’ means that a viewer coming fresh to the picture would not be able to tell that there had been any retouching.

Relevant techniques are:
1: The Clone Stamp Tool – used to replace areas with adjacent areas.
2: Making a selection of a background area, copying, pasting and moving over the area to be retouched.
3:The Patch Tool – used to replace areas with adjacent areas.

For this exercise, I decided to use an image I took whilst in Milan. I was in the castle and spotted these interesting bird figurines that had been placed all around the castle. It was empty when I decided to snap a photograph, however, out of no where, a small boy decided to run right into the frame, and stood right in front of the bird figurines. I waited a while to see if he would run off, but unfortunately he didn’t, therefore I left. I was then left with an image containing this boy which I didn’t want. I knew that this image would be great for this exercise, as I could try to salvage the image, by removing the child, and the woman walking in the background.

Before I began the exercise, I found an interesting article in one of my Practical Photography Magazine, regarding the clone stamp tool. In February 2015’s issue of the magazine, there is an article written by Matthew Higgs.

He writes ” Removing distractions from images is a key skill for all photographers, and the clone stamp tool is often the go to tool for the majority of situations. However, for highly detailed images, the clone stamp tool can prove a little too crude, resulting in cloned areas that stand out….The healing brush tool however, samples pixels from a selected area just like the clone stamp tool, but instead, it matches the texture, lighting, transparency and shading of the area”.

For this exercise, I will be using a mixture of the Clone Stamp Tool and the Healing Brush Tool, to try and remove the people.

Original Image:

I took a copy of this image, and opened it in Photoshop Elements 9. I made a duplicate background layer for the image. I zoomed into the bottom right hand side corner, I selected the Clone stamp tool, and began removing the young boy.

Clone stamp tool

I swapped between the healing brush tool and the clone stamp tool for this image.


I made two final images, one with the door removed and one without.

Altered Image:

Overall Opinion:

This exercise took a very long time to complete. I have never removed anything like this from an image before. It took several hours, and multiple attempts. I am happy with the results somewhat, I must say that I am not happy with the right hand side foot of the pink statue, the one that was hidden by the young boy. I found this area extremely hard to try to clone, as there was so much detail, and I had to try and build a new foot for the statue, and also the wing area. This is noticeable, but if you just look at the image quite fast, you may not notice it. This is the only thing that does give away the fact that something has been removed from the image.

For my first attempt, I am pleased. I do think that over time, and with some more practice, and learning how to master other tools, I may become better at using them.

In regards to whether or not this is a legitimate adjustment, I think it depends on the situation. I think I have a good reason why the young boy and the woman walking in the back should be removed, as they walked into my frame by accident, and the image would have looked better if they had not walked into the frame, therefore meaning that I should remove them. In a way I have altered reality, as I have removed something, however, there was a valid reason behind this, and I would argue that this is an innocent removal.


  • Practical Photography Magazine. February 2015. Pages 96-97.

Article Retouch detailed images with the healing brush, By Matthew Higgs.


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