Before everyone started taking and sharing pictures from their smartphones and digital cameras, there used to be film based photography where your pictures were printed out on high quality 4×6 cards that made it impossible to cut out photo bombers or that one cousin no one really likes from the family picture. With digital photography, if you have the right software, the required skills and a few hours of time to kill, removing unwanted objects from a photograph is possible. For photographs with many subjects, you might need a very feature app to do the trick and considerable image editing skills on your part but for ordinary images (like ones you might have snapped on vacation), you can use a simple app like Intelligent Scissors to get the job done. Intelligent Scissors is a Mac app worth $3.99 in the Mac App Store that allows you to identify and remove unwanted items from a picture. The app is easy to use and gives you a live preview of the changes you make. Output is saved in JPG format.
Before you start chopping your pictures up, familiarize yourself with the app’s controls. You will be presented with a brief description of what each button on the top bar does when you launch the app. The open and save buttons are easy to figure out. The ‘Remove’ button activates the brush that tells the app which items you want to remove. If you want to save a particular object in the image, use the ‘Retain’ brush and paint over the area you want to keep. The ‘Erase Marks’ button removes all markings from both the remove and retain brush.
Use the ‘Open’ button and import an image or drag & drop it on to the app’s window. You can start painting over items with the remove and retain brushes right away but for the best output, you will need to try starting with one brush and then redoing it from scratch with the other. If you start by defining what objects to retain and then follow it by defining what items to remove, you will see a different image than if you were to define objects to remove first and objects to retain later. In some cases, it might not be necessary to define which objects should be retained. In all cases, you will end up with a picture whose dimensions are smaller than that of the original.
In the screenshot below, we started out with a 1500×1204 image that was reduced to 1110×1204 after we cut out the subject (Note: We like all four of the hobbits, Merry was only removed for the sake of testing). Note that in the image, all subjects were standing in a line and the background was not complex. The resulting image is very good and you can’t tell if anyone’s been removed from it. You will not see as good output when you try to treat an image with crowds in the background or any complex scenery.
Similar apps for the Mac platform include Snapheal which costs $14.99 and works pretty much the same way as Intelligent Scissors does though it has additional features for fixing an image. If you want to edit out items from complex images, give Inpaint a try; it’s free and very effective.