Remove Distractions from HDR Images with Cloning
Tone mapped high dynamic range (HDR) images don’t always come out of your favorite HDR application looking perfect. Sometimes distracting objects can take attention away from the subject or make the scene less than desirable. Notice the large shadow to the left in this figure? Nuke it.
Select the Clone Stamp tool (in Photoshop or Elements). Create a new, empty layer and name it clone. Use this layer to apply the new material to. This is yet another way to blend. If you don’t like the job, you’re not stuck. You can switch to the Eraser and erase the changes you just made, and then start over.
Change the size of the Clone Stamp tool to cover a reasonable amount of space. You don’t want it too small, or it will take forever. Nor do you want it too large — that makes your fixes easier to spot. Nor do you want it too hard — that makes the edges too easy to spot. You want it juuust right.
Select the Sample All Layers check box (on the toolbar) and make sure that the empty clone layer is active. This is the layer you want to paint on. Alt-click (Windows)/Option-click (Mac) to set the source location, and then paint over the destination; see this in action in this figure.
Select a new source area regularly. Mix it up, but pay attention. If the texture and tones don’t match, the replacement will be visible for all to see. You want it to be hidden (see the result in this figure). In addition, you don’t want features to repeat. In this case, if you can see the same rocks over and over, start over.
Not everything is as complicated as a shadow on rocks. The left panel of this figure shows an irritating yellow-green light in a line of trees at dusk. Using the Clone Stamp tool, select an area beside the source and then paint over the light (the right panel of the figure). It gets pretty easy with practice.
Not all cloning is cosmetic. The left panel of this figure shows an area on a building that has color bleed from a banner on the building surface. This is a tone mapping oddity. To remove it, select the Clone Stamp tool and move into an unaffected area (one building block down in the image) to select the source area. See the result on the right side of the figure.