Project Description

Removing distracting elements from photos can transform okay shots into great ones. This tutorial demonstrates several techniques for removing unwanted distractions from images. Watch the video and learn how to eliminate different types of distractions and which tools to use to remove them believably.

Photos: Kyle S Ford


There are several ways to reduce the impact of unwanted distractions.

Spot Healing Distractions

The Spot Heal tool is most effective for removing small distractions from photos. This tool automatically selects a sampling spot and blends the healed area to match. The sample point is easy to relocate or adjust to work better with the images’ content.

The spot heal tool is the first choice for portrait retouching, where the goal for the look is smooth. We cover spot healing in more detail in our Portrait Touch Up video.

For slightly larger, more difficult distractions to remove, set the tool to Clone mode. This enables straightforward pixel duplication without blending, which works better with textured areas. When using this tool, use several smaller strokes rather than a single large one. 

Learn more tips about using this tool in the Cloning with the Spot Heal tool video on our website.

Cropping To Remove Edge Distractions

If the unwanted element is located in close proximity to the edge of the frame, or if it’s too large to remove using the spot heal and clone tools, cropping the image is a simple solution.

Depending on the severity and size of the distraction, the amount of cropping needed could change the image’s orientation from portrait to landscape, or square. Use the crop ratio presets to quickly experiment with different options.

Filling the frame with a single subject removes a lot of opportunity for distractions that could take viewer’s eyes away from the primary element. However, the less context in the photo, the less of a story the image can tell.

Focusing Attention

If completely removing image distractions isn’t an option, focusing attention elsewhere can be an effective solution.

Attention is naturally drawn to the areas of an image that are in focus. Adding out-of-focus areas is a simple way to encourage the viewer to look past distractions. The controls in the Bokeh panel add realistic blurring effects that simulate shooting with a reduced focal length. The effects are applied with controllable focus regions that manipulate the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus. Learn more details about using these tools in our Creative Focus Effects video.

In the right situation, vignettes can reduce the appearance of distractions at the edges of a photo. This can darken or lighten areas at the edges of the frame. Vignettes are typically used to create mood in photos, but they can also be used to focus the viewer’s attention on the subject.