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Removing Distracting Junk

In some of my landscape photo workshops, we do a class critique of shots from the participants in the workshop (the person who took the image always remains anonymous during the critique, unless we all really love the shot, then they usually stand up and shout, “Hey, I took that!”). Anyway, one thing that always stands out as a spoiler of some otherwise great images is that the image has a distracting element (also known as “some distracting junk”) in the photo. It can be a road sign, a sign on the beach (as you see above), an empty beer can, some telephone wires, or even a tree branch extending into the photo, and I’ve always felt if it doesn’t add to the photo, it takes away from it. There are three different ways you can deal with this “junk” that creeps into your photos: (1) Compose around it. When you’re shooting, be very aware of what’s in your shot, especially in the background. Check all four sides of the frame (top, left side, right side, and bottom) for anything that you’ll wish later wasn’t there, and if you see something, change your composition to eliminate it. (2) Physically remove the distracting element (as long as you’re not a photojournalist). If there’s a beer can, a twig, some trash, etc., pick it up and move it out of the frame (be careful not to damage anything in nature—period!). Or, (3) remove it later in Adobe Photoshop using either the Healing Brush tool, Patch tool, or the Clone Stamp tool. I’ve done a quick video clip for readers of this book to show you how to use these three tools, and you can watch it at

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