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Digital Image Editing Tip: use the Spot Healing Brush Tool

AustinMy sister thinks that I really know what I'm doing. All I really know is the right the right button to press. Read this email from her today:

"Any chance you would help me fix this picture of Austin? He has a little scrape on his nose that I want taken out of the picture and you are way better at photo shop than I am."

She was right away the scrape on his nose, although it looks more like someone threw a strawberry at it. And I guess she was right about the Photoshop part, except for the fact that I did not have to know a whole lot about Photoshop to easily fix the image. I just had to know about the availability of the Spot Healing Brush Tool and how to use it.

With her permission, here is a close-up of my nephew's nose:


Here's how I fixed it.

  1. As I taught in the recent "Digital Images: Scanning, Digitizing, Editing, and Preserving" webinar, before making any edits to an original (especially if the original is in the JPG format), first make a copy of the original. I did this in Photoshop Elements by going to File > Duplicate. Now any changes I make will not harm the original.
  2. After zooming in on the nose, I clicked on the Spot Healing Brush Tool and enlarge its brush size to about 35px.
  3. Then I clicked and held the left mouse button down and highlighted the scraped area. When I let go of the button, the picture had pretty much fixed itself.
  4. Save the new image at File > Save As.


It took less than a minute from beginning to the end, but I guess sometimes you do need to know a little about what tools are available and how to use them. To see the Spot Healing Brush Tool in action, and for lots of other digital imaging tips, watch the "Digital Images: Scanning, Digitizing, Editing, and Preserving" webinar (107 minutes plus 11 pages of handouts) or click here for the 15-minute preview. Also available in a bundle with "Organizing and Sharing Digital Images" here.


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Ah know GIMP will do it too & it's free.

I am a little surprised that an article featured on a site dedicated to family history is advocating the editing of a photograph. Just because Photo Shop is able to help alter a photograph doesn't mean that you should. What would be wrong with leaving the scrape? It forms part of the boys history after all. By editing the image you are altering memories. Wouldn't it be better that this boy see the photo of his shore nose in years to come and his mother/ family tell him how it happened rather that doctoring the image to remove the memory all together?

As a photographer, I have been asked to alter many photographs, add in missing family members from reunion photos etc. and the clients think it is innocent enough, and perhapse they are right? Your example above is fairly harmless, but I think it is worth mentioning that no matter how embarrassing or painful a photo might be, it represents a true moment in time and will tell the story to future viewers.

I will leave you with this story. I once was asked to PhotoShop a new born baby into the arms of his Grandmother - who had died several months prior to the birth! How do you explain that to the child in the future?

So please consider the historical implications before making any serious change to a photograph, restoration is necessary, but doctoring should be kept to a minimum!

My sentiments exactly. Those little scrapes and scars are important parts of the stories of our past.

I agree with the above. As a former professional photographer, changing photos from the past can alter the facts. Example: I took individual photos of two grandchildren at an aquarium with their head as the head of a crab ( a photo setup by the museum)It was so cute, that I took faces from other photos of other grandchildren to make cute pictures of them also. My wife reminded me that after we are gone, no one would know that the other grandchildren never went to the aquarium, but there is this photo that says they did.

I use this tool to fix old damaged photos.. creases, water damage, and removing dust particles. Great for restoring!

By clicking save as, the original image is retained so the scraped nose picture still exits. I used this feature to edit a womans dress because I really didn't think people needed to see the top of her nylons. So I modified her dress. Before using photoshop, I alterred a couple of pictures that I included in a published history taking out people who did not belong in family photos. One in particular was a family photo taken at the cemetery the day of my dads funeral. A person who did not belong to Dad's descendants showed up in the photo. I edited her out, extending a tree to cover her up. Yes this altered the moment, but the photo as is, is much better.

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