Cloning in Photoshop

Photoshop's Clone Tool Can Save You a Lot of Time Having to Re-shoot

Cloning in Photoshop – The clone tool has, on more than one occasion, been my best friend in this line of work. There are going to be times when it is simply invaluable;

  • To clean up rubbish, leaves, stains or spots from your images
  • To remove unwanted wires, marks, objects or people that you missed whilst photographing the property
  • You can even clone IN items such as flowers, books etc, to improve the image as long as you do it right

When cloning in OR out, it is important to do it right, anything else will just look bad.

Do not under any circumstances remove permanent fixtures or fittings. Items such as doors, walls, trees or bushes or anything that will be there when a person visits. Misrepresentation is not the work of a professional.

Clone Tool

The clone tool should be used to simply enhance an image and only to do what could be done easily anyway. For example, a stain on a wall or carpet could easily be actually removed before or after any visits. They won’t stand out as much as removing a chimney pot to make the house look nicer for example.

For my first example, see the image below. The 2 white arrows in the image, point to objects that we wish to remove. One is a cable from a lamp and the other, a black folder on the white sideboard. Both items really stand out and the image would be enhanced with their removal.

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.1

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.1

When cloning at this level always zoom in to 100% or more, it doesn’t matter if the image appears very "pixelated", work on it and when you zoom out, all is well again.

Cloning in Photoshop: Brush Type and Size

I generally tend to use a "fuzzy" brush with soft edges and a flow of between 10 and 30%. For really fine detail it is best to use a smaller flow % to work the areas extremely slowly and gradually to prevent "obvious" changes. Think of it like painting; bold, harsh paintbrush strokes really stand out, whereas an airbrush lightly spraying paint onto a canvas gives a more subtle approach.

Cloning in Photoshop: Sampling

To remove items seamlessly and convincingly, you need to take your "samples" for cloning from areas directly surrounding the item you wish to remove. This will keep in with the general look and feel of the image and make the alterations invisible.

In the image below, you can see that I am taking information from an area very close to the object. The cross denotes the area from which the information is taken. The circle shows where it is being placed or cloned to.

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.2

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.2

This will keep the lighting and textures as uniform and consistent as possible for a more realistic effect. If you end up with areas that stand out after cloning, you can either:

  • Use a really fine, slow flowing brush to gradually merge and blend the 2 areas
  • Try the small "healing" brush to blend them together

Should you come across more difficult areas such as the lines or grouting in between the tiles, take your sample from dead center on the line and make sure that you begin cloning from dead center along the line further up. Try practising this as your accuracy is very important.

If you get it wrong, just CTRL+ALT+Z to step back a stage and try again.

The more you practice, the more you will become familiar and at ease with all the settings. Cloning will become second nature.

As you can see below, the untrained eye would never know that there was ever anything there other than clean tiles. Especially when you have zoomed back out and viewing the whole image.

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.3

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.3

Cloning in Photoshop: Shiny Surfaces

Watch out for reflections when cloning. Use the same rules as above and remember to follow the lines and general feel of the image. You may need to get a little artistic to replace lost information. Just take it, once again, from a nearby area to keep it uniform and seamless.

As in the image below, keep the cross and circle (sample and target) in line with the lines of the wall. That way, if you stray, you won’t be painting extra lines anywhere.

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.4

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.4

Do the same for the reflections on the surface area, try and keep it real as in the image here.

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.5

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.5

Once more, when zoomed back out, you can see the effect that cloning and cleaning up an image can have. Make sure that you learn to do this well as it will become your best friend too!

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.6

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.6

Cloning in Photoshop: Extreme Example of Cloning

When it came to the exterior shots of a villa I once photographed, I stepped outside of the expensive property only to find the swimming pool completely surrounded by a metal fence. Rather than tearing it down and replacing later, the owner asked if I could magically remove this in Photoshop to assist the viewings and potential sales as the exterior shot would be the main image for promoting the property…great!

Cloning in Photoshop Fig 7

Cloning in Photoshop - Fig.7

Being the kind, professional chap that I am, I said "Yes! No problem!"

Once I loaded the image in Photoshop, I realised that it may be a little more difficult than I had first thought. Not only was the meshing quite fine, but there were places where it overlapped other parts of the fence AND I had the reflections in the pool to deal with.

Intricate Cloning

I won’t go into TOO much detail about how I did it, but the 3 images below show just how intricate the work was in some parts.

Cloning in Photoshop Fig 8

Cloning in Photoshop Fig 8

Cloning in Photoshop Fig 9

Fig 9

Cloning in Photoshop Fig 10

Fig 10

This first image above shows a close up of the cloning area. I was using the smallest brush possible, just ONE PIXEL!!! This was necessary to follow my rule above whereby I took the samples from areas directly surrounding the information I wanted to remove. Once you have done a small area, you can increase the size of the brush and spiral outwards whilst cloning.

The next image shows slightly a more "zoomed out" image of the area…

And the last picture shows the area as a full size image, it really was time consuming.

This crop of the swimming pool shows just how much detail I had to remove and the following image shows the result. All the reflections of the house have been kept in to retain all of the original detail. It isn’t 100% perfect by any means, but when viewed at full size, it is barely noticeable.

Cloning in Photoshop Fig 11

Cloning in Photoshop Fig 11

The last image shows the final result which, I am happy to say, the owner was fairly pleased with.

It seems like so much work for so little return at the time. However, people remember things and will (hopefully) tell other people about your dedication to your work.

Try to make the effort on all of your jobs and you will soon start to get a reputation that will excel you in the photography world.

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