How To Get Rid of Unsightly Exes With Photoshop Elements

The scenario: You have a great picture–everybody is smiling, you had your camera settings just-so, there’s no blur, ample lighting. The photo would be amazing, if it weren’t for the blight on your nearly perfect shot—the errant little wiggle worm who ended up at least two feet away from everyone else, leaving a gap.

Or worse—some little goober photo bombed you at the last second.

Or worse yet—there’s that special someone in the photo that you don’t want to remember.

The good news is that all of these things can be easily eliminated. The even better news is that eliminating people in your photos is not illegal—especially compared with other methods of eliminating people.

So how is it done? Getting rid of large unwanted things in your photo, be it a gap or a person, without spoiling the whole thing? It’s called the Recompose tool. Let’s learn all about it.

Photoshoph elements recompose tool

As always, we have the photo to be edited pulled up in Adobe Photoshop Elements 12, and we’re in the Guided mode (I couldn’t find a naturally occurring example of a photo bomber…so I had to super impose one. But the principles are the same for removing unwanted people).

1 Guided mode recompose tool

Click on the Recompose icon on the right hand panel. (You can also use the recompose tool in Expert mode, but just for learning purposes we’re doing it step by step in Guided mode today.)

2 Recompose Simple Photoshop Elements 12

You’ll notice at the top of the right panel is the automatic, quick and easy way of recomposing. Basically you just pull one edge of your photo inward and PSE calculates which parts of the photo are probably extra vs which parts should be preserved, and it crunches the unnecessary background stuff into a smaller space.

Problems with doing it this way would include deformed looking people and objects. Notice my son is looking like we don’t feed him (believe me we do). I always avoid post processing deformities where possible, which is why I suggest always doing it the second way.

The more precise, and much, much more effective way of doing it is to choose the second option that allows for finer details.

3 Protect Brush Photoshop Elements 12

Step 1: Select Protect brush, and adjust to desired brush size (using either the slider below the button, or the [ ] keys).

Step 2: Color green the areas that you would like to protect from being resized or messed with by PSE. Usually this will be your subjects and items of import or interest.

4 Protect Eraser Photoshop Elements 12

*If you accidentally color in parts you don’t want protected, just select the erase tool, to the right of the protect brush and erase the parts you didn’t want protected.*

5 Remove Brush Photoshop Elements 12

Step 3: Select Remove brush and adjust to desired brush size.

Step 4: Color in the areas red that you would like to eliminate, like photo bombers, or unsightly gaps in group photos.

6 Remove Eraser Photoshop Elements 12

*same deal as the protect brush, there’s an eraser for the Remove brush too. Use it to erase red marks from parts you don’t want eliminated.

7 Resize Photo Photoshop Elements 12

Step 5: Drag the edge of the photo inward and stop when you are satisfied. Adobe will do some awesome calculations for you to keep the photo as seamless as possible.

Step 6: Click “Done” when you are satisfied with how the photo looks. Until then, you can start over with the reset button on the top right of the panel, or Ctrl + Z to undo.

Step 7: Blend. Your background might have some seams running through it, or things could look a little bit choppy. This is when you go to Expert mode or Quick mode and use the clone stamp to tidy things up.

recompose tool photoshop Elements 12

All done! Good-bye photo bombers, exes you would rather not remember, and loners (or the appearance of loneliness anyway) in group photos.



I’m a technological enthusiast with a completely unrelated degree in English Literature. I’ve also been known to dabble in photography and DIY furniture refinishing, with occasional stints of fitness sprinkled among all of the above.

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