Correct Flaws and Distractions in Close-Up Photographs

Many factors can cause visual distractions in a macro or close-up photograph. These tend to detract from the subject and can cause images to appear messy or unclear.

From a technical standpoint, you might have dust on your digital sensor that’s making its way into your photos. This causes spots to appear in the areas where the dust is.

Another problematic issue can be that the subject (or another element in the scene) has flaws on its surface, such as dust, scratches, pimples, litter, or smudges. And in some cases, your scene might include an element that you wish wasn’t there, like an awkward, half-eaten leaf on a flower’s stem, or an unwanted label or logo on your subject.

Make these types of distractions disappear by using the clone stamp or the healing brush in postproduction. Each of these tools enables you to sample an area from the image that’s similar in texture to the area you wish to clone out.

With the sample, you can brush over the unwanted area until it’s blended with its surroundings. If you use the tool properly, viewers never know the difference. This photograph shows an example of an image in which distracting elements were cloned out.

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100mm, 1/250, f/8, 200

You can easily remove dust from an image with this technique, because it’s small, and the changes required are so minor. A simple click of the mouse can remove a dust spot.

Larger areas of distraction, however, require more strategic methods for cloning them out. You don’t want to make it obvious that you replaced one area with information from another, as this creates a pattern that people can easily pick up on.

When cloning large areas, constantly select new sample points to ensure that your cloned area contains details from various areas and doesn’t appear to be a direct replica of the area you sampled from. Choosing only one sample point results in repeating elements (or plainly visible patterns.) Check out this photograph for an example of what not to do.

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