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Dad blog uses photoshop elements to retouch photos

Photography: Content Aware Awareness

When I’m taking shots of the family, I’m trying to be aware of what’s going on in the subject…are they looking at the camera, smiling, tall in back/short in front? …and then I’m all adjusting the camera settings, fiddling with a lens…blah blah blah.

There’s a lot of multi-tasking going on when you’re making memories. And you only get one shot at that memory on “film.”

“Okay wait, let’s light the candles again, and this time when you blow them out I need your brother to move in the frame closer to your sister.”

  1. I don’t want to sound like I’m art directing a shoot for work
  2. My kids would be already eating the cake by the time I got to “let’s light the candles again…”

So you live with the memory you captured in the photo as-is, or you use something to fix it after. And if you’re an OCD-stepford-crazy-photo-must-be-perfect kind of person, then you use Photoshop Elements 12 to make that photo worthy of a cholesterol medicine ad.

You know the ads where Mom, Dad and 2.5 kids are walking on the beach while their golden retriever is playfully interacting with the ebb and flow of the tide—all under a perfect sunset, collecting museum-quality shell specimens. Mom is really happy because sissy doesn’t seem so disengaged during this vacation, while Dad knows that life is getting better thanks to that prescription. And that other thing that was a problem just seemed to work itself out. And there’s a bonfire somewhere.

Yeah, a photo like that.

Back in reality, my photo is more like:

Dad is nonexistent since he’s always taking the photo. Mom’s eyes are closed since she didn’t notice the picture was being taken at that moment as she’s trying to get the youngest to move closer to his brothers and sister. The middle brother hates photos so he is wearing his pouty face or his mad face, or his face is buried into his chest with his arms crossed. The sun has almost completely set because you have been trying to take a photo for 20 minutes and the dog is about a half mile down the beach chasing seagulls.

So Photoshop Elements can probably fix most of that stuff. And I covered changing faces from one photo to another in my last post.

This time I wanted to explore the content aware features. Content aware is basically some mystical Photoshop wizardry that knows what the background texture of your photo is and can automagically recreate it.

Say you have some stupid kid that photobombs the most-perfect shot of your daughter with a princess at a theme park, then you can wipe that little brat right out of your shot with a stroke of the brush—and content aware just recreates the background where his snotty little head was.

Or, if you have some creepy dolls that your wife collects and you want to sell them on ebay but you forgot to place them close together so you’d recoup some big $$. You can use the content aware move tool to move them right next to each other—just like they’ll be packaged in the shipping box when I gleefully send them on their way to a new home and get some money to buy hot rod parts.

The only thing content aware won’t do is move the dog out of the doghouse to make room for me this weekend (after writing the latter).


I started with this photo. Why? read on…

I started with this photo. Why? read on…

I used the photo of the dolls because I wanted to really challenge Photoshop Elements. If content aware can recreate a background, then the background of these pillows and comforter will really give it a run for the money. I want to put it to the test, through the paces…

Kinda like when Pete and I get a rental car.

How well does it do off-road? Can the stereo really go that loud? How high will it rev? What happens when it’s revving that high and I slam it into Drive from Neutral? How many donuts in the parking lot of the BPOE until we start getting nauseous?

You know you do it too.

BTW, click on any image below to see a larger version.

I started by opening the photo in Photoshop Elements Editor and selected the Content Aware Move tool. It's the one highlighted on the bottom left of the window. Oh, and I'm working in expert mode here. But you don't have to be an expert. Just wait and see.

I started by opening the photo in Photoshop Elements Editor and selected the Content Aware Move tool. It’s the one highlighted on the bottom left of the window. Oh, and I’m working in expert mode here. But you don’t have to be an expert. Just wait and see.


You simply have to draw with the tool around the object, person or creepy doll that you want to move. It’s a little hard to see but my selection with the tool is not at all super accurate, it’s actually kinda lazy.

Now just move the object and Photoshop Elements starts working.

Now just move the object and Photoshop Elements starts working.


Now you can see that the content aware move tool replaced the background where the doll used to be. It wasn’t perfect, but pretty darn good for a complex pattern.


Now I’ll try to clean up a few bits on the comforter and pillow using the spot healing brush. All you do is “paint” the area that needs some attention and content aware technology goes to work replacing it. That dark area in the photo is where I used the brush. Mind you, I’ve got all of 30 seconds invested in this retouch job so far…


BAM. Look at that. It filled in the area with a similar pattern that surrounded it. Again not too bad. If this was a shrub or green grass, I bet you wouldn’t have to go much further, but remember, I’m trying to push the limits with a really complex pattern area to fill.


Here I’m using the spot healing brush to paint out some of the shadow area in the pattern left over from the doll’s legs prior to moving it.

Not too bad again. You can see small deviations in the pattern but pretty good for under a minute. This is where I could get all OCD and use the rubber stamp tool to clone areas and touch up a bit more, but I’m pretty happy with how good the content aware techno-algorithm-programmy stuff did.


Here’s the final shot. Two creepy dolls closer together, ready to excite some collector into spending a few extra bucks. All done with one tool (well, two tools) and about 60 seconds of time retouching in Photoshop Elements.

So what do you think?

Tell us what you fixed with the content aware tool, or pick up a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 and fix something and share it on the Adobe Photoshop Elements Facebook Page. Or comment about your journeys in a rental car.

Disclosure: Dadand received review software and compensation to test and post about Adobe Photoshop Elements—a company whose products we love and use everyday. We believe in every product and service we review at Dadand, and promise to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even when we’re trying to break the stuff we receive.


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