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Thread: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

  1. #1
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    When I try and clone out large distracting light spots, ie say lens flare, circles on an patterned bokeh, or stray duck feet in a photo I've noticed that it is not as easy to do as cloning out a dust spot on a blue sky.

    Cloning seems to create a very noticeable pattern, even when if I select what I think is a good source area. Sometimes using the healing brush after cloning helps and sometimes not.

    Are there any tricks to doing it well?

    Thank you.

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    It is more art than science and there are no "rules" that apply to all situations. Even so, try the following:

    1) Do the cloning when viewing the image at at least 60%. Viewing at 100% can be even better.

    2) Brush Size: Select a brush size that is about the width of the area being altered. Don't use a brush size that is unnecessarily large.

    3) Edges of the Brush: Use a brush that has soft edges when working with out-of-focus backgrounds or small areas that are in focus that have a lot of small detail. Use a brush that has hard edges when you are adjusting an out-of-focus area that is immediately adjacent to an area that is in focus. Otherwise, you will blur the area that is intended to remain sharp.

    4) Refining: Once you have used a brush that has hard edges, you may need to soften some of them by cloning over them using a soft edge or by applying Gaussian Blur to the edges that are too well defined.

    Most important: If you are having to regularly do a lot of cloning, you might not be using the ideal aperture or composition. Cloning in my mind should be used to refine a few photographs, not to correct a lot of photographs.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 28th April 2013 at 04:52 PM.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Thank you, Mike

    #3 is new to me and very helpful to know.

    Yes, and a lens hood to prevent flare spots!

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Hi Christina,

    Here's some helpful advice from Dave.
    Although he was referring to my blurring brush technique, I believe it can also apply to cloning.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Hi Victor,

    Was the blurring a bit of a rush job?

    When I do work like this, I start with the image full screen and do the large areas with a large brush size, then I zoom into the image and reduce the brush size, so that I can accurately do the fiddly bits - and I may do this 2 or more times, getting closer in.

    That avoids 'missed bits' and 'sharp halos' around the edges of the subject.

    I felt your earlier melon drinking shots should have been cropped before posting - don't you?

    Cheers,

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Hi Christina,

    I would add to Mike's suggestions;

    5) Where edges are involved, particularly cloning in foliage, you may need to re-sample often and approach from different angles

    6) Always clone before you crop, it may mean there's more to clone from that's a suitable tone and colour

    7) What Victor said I said

    8) Yes, what Geoff said below too - I usually clone with an opacity of about 35% so it takes about three wipes to completely do it, but if you change the sample point while building up to 100% opacity over the blemish, this helps in the refining process Mike mentions


    This may not help, not so much a tip as a poor reason to spend more money

    0) There's a kind of "look ahead preview" in CS5/6 which isn't in my Elements 8 (may be it is in later releases), but this considerably aids aligning edges and tones because you sample, then go to where you want to clone and just placing the mouse there shows what you'll get, whereas with Elements I have to start cloning before I see whether the sample point was correct, then undo if it wasn't, re-sample and repeat. Makes it quicker, not better.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 28th April 2013 at 08:57 PM. Reason: updated #8

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Problem spots in the blurred background of flower or insect photos caused by stray light or reflection from water drops etc can be difficult to remove because of the difference in colour/brightness levels around the spots. Which is usually less pronounced in skies etc.

    What often works for me is to start by working around the edges then move towards the centre where everything tends to merge together.

    Slightly reducing the opacity of the Clone Tool and gradually increasing the coverage by going over the same area a couple of times can help.

    Varying the brush hardness and mixing clone tool with healing brush certainly helps.

    Sometimes, I find that working on too small an area with too small a brush gives disappointing results where covering a larger area helps to produce a better blend.

    Also, 'importing a starting point' from somewhere else in the image (but similar colour/brightness) can work better if the surrounding areas are causing me problems. Then smooth the blend with a healing brush.

    With flowers/insects I occasionally paint over a problem area with a suitably chosen colour then use the clone/healing tool to fine tune and add suitable texture.

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Thank you Dave and Geoff for the abundance of very helpful tips!

    Geoff, thank you for the specifics on blurred backgrounds. I've certainly noticed that fixing those stray spots/reflections is challenging and it seems like they should be easy to fix because they are just spots, but somehow it is not the case. I am also working on changing my positioning with respect to the light to see if that helps, and using a lens hood whenever possible.

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    One other thought for you; if you use the technique of using 3 or 4 passes to clone, you may find that the texture of the cloned area(s) start to look a bit strange. A side effect of this process is that it smooths everything out too much and kills any noise in the image. When this happens. I select the cloned part of the image and add some noise back in. <Filter> <Noise> <Add Noise>. I use Gaussian. Monochromatic settings and depending on the shot, the amount is usually less than 1%, that varies a bit with the original image noise levels.

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    No worries,

    I have updated 8) above since you read it.

    Also ...

    Some things just won't end up perfect in my experience
    On bad days; I'll be blurring and smudging trying to hide the clone
    just take a look at this example from my P52 last year, I had a heckuva job make the shaded sky not look blotchy on the second image (lone tree) and even now there are some blotches.

    In hindsight, that was over-ambitious

    Cheers,

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Thank you Manfred. Yes, I have noticed that the texture of the cloned area can look strange. I will add, adding noise to my kit of tools

    Dave, thank you for the update and details. I think you did a great job of that tree, but yes I can see your blotches in the sky and I can relate to them very well! I actually like the tree with the branches in the sky.

    Just a few days ago I learned the blur tool so I will be trying this out too. (Geoff, sorry it took me so long to do so)

    Here is a good example of what I mean by spots of light on a leaf and a bug that I find impossible to clone out nicely. I dropped the scorpion in the pool by mistake and it got wet before I placed it on the leaf. (water droplet reflections?) I like this photo quite a bit but it has some funky things going on, and those little rings of light on the scorpion and the leaf are challenging to clone out. So I'm saving it until my skills are stronger but I hope to be able to do it one day with finesse.

    Original Jpeg

    Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Older edit on which my cloning of the spots is obvious. I could do a better job if it today, but not to the standard I'd like to be able to do.

    Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Christina,

    You know where you cloned the leaf, so you see where you made those alterations. I doubt that anyone else would know about them if you didn't display the original. That's because Mother Nature doesn't make everything in patterns; deviations from the patterns are common in nature and don't indicate to your viewers that they are caused by clones.

    That's not to say that we shouldn't be as expert as is reasonably possible when using the Clone tool.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    I dropped the scorpion in the pool by mistake
    You wouldn't catch me touching one of them

    I think you may be being too hard on yourself, what you need to ask yourself is; "does the end result look natural?" and even in this last one I think it does, without having seen the bright drops, I doubt anyone would guess they were there.

    Here's the test;
    View the picture full screen, but don't memorise it.
    Shut your eyes for 10 seconds, keep your head still, but roll your eyes about.
    'Look' at the monitor again.
    Open your eyes.
    What do you see first?
    It should be the subject - if it isn't, you still have work to do - and that may or may not be what you were cloning.


    Are scorpions not like spiders - i.e. with an exo-skeleton?
    This one seems to have bones in the arms - fascinating.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 28th April 2013 at 10:39 PM.

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Thank you Mike and Dave... Good to know but I know I can do a better job especially with all the information I've learned from this thread (at full size the cloning is more evident), and I just noted an errant dust spot.

    Dave, yes they have exo-skeletons. I did not pick it up with my bare hands. I used a plastic cup to move it to the pretty leaf, dropped it into a swimming pool (likely why it is so translucent) and fetched it out of the pool with the cup.

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    No worries,

    I have updated 8) above since you read it.

    Also ...

    Some things just won't end up perfect in my experience
    On bad days; I'll be blurring and smudging trying to hide the clone
    just take a look at this example from my P52 last year, I had a heckuva job make the shaded sky not look blotchy on the second image (lone tree) and even now there are some blotches.

    In hindsight, that was over-ambitious

    Cheers,
    When the area to be cloned is so large I tend to ignore the clone tool and copy the elements needed for cloning onto another layer and use masks etc.

    For your lone tree I must confess I would have probably made a gradient using sampled sky colours on a separate layer (mode darken) and then used a very large soft brush with transparency under 10% on the mask to blend in the visibility of bits of the underling original sky until I was satisfied. (Well satisfied that with a bit of luck most viewers will not notice any flaws)

    In my job (Real estate) I often have to patch up grass. Either there is an untidy hose or toy spoiling it or a builder or drainlayer has damaged the grass temporarily. If the individual stems/leaves can be seen then cloning with anything other than transparency set close to 100% does not work. The approach that works for me is to select the area that needs repair with an irregular shape, clone with a brush to obtain as large source of equivalent grass will allow and after the main clone is done zoom in and patch up edges etc with a very small brush. The content aware patching available in CS6 has sped up my repairs enormously.
    Last edited by pnodrog; 28th April 2013 at 10:56 PM.

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    Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    - ALWAYS clone onto a new layer

    - Overpaint the target

    - Erase the overpaint from the layer, using a soft brush.

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    I like to do all my cloning and healing on a separate layer so that it is totally non-destructive, and then only when I am completely happy with the result I merge the cloned layer with the base layer.

    To do this, create an empty layer immediately above the layer to be cloned, choose the clone tool and set its parameter to "current and below" (CS4) or "all layers" (PSE10). Now do your cloning and you can keep reworking until you are happy without changing any pixels on the original image. When all is perfect, merge the two layers and carry on with levels, curves, sharpening etc.

    Martin

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Any major change or edit I do to an images is carried out on separate layers but it is simply a waste of time for very minor changes. It will depend on experience but for the rare occasion I mess up I only need to go a few steps back in the history.

    Removing minor skin blemishes in several hundred wedding shots does not warrant me mucking around with layers. - Actually I avoid weddings like the plague but I do get tricked into them now and then. (Just in case my wife is watching I should add that in no way does this refer to my own wedding)
    Last edited by pnodrog; 29th April 2013 at 08:13 PM.

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Thank you, Colin, Martin and L. Paul.

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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Quote Originally Posted by pnodrog View Post

    Removing minor skin blemishes in several hundred wedding shots does not warrant me mucking around with layers. - Actually I avoid weddings like the plague but I do get tricked into them now and then. (Just in case my wife is watching I should add that in no way does this refer to my own wedding)
    A REALLY fast way to retouch blemishes is to ...

    - Apply an aggressive Gaussian blur to the entire image (so the blemish disappears)

    - roll it back with the history state

    - set history brush to lighten and attach it to the blurred state

    - paint over any acne/blemishes with a soft brush.

    Can be done with a duplicated layer that subsequently has its opacity reduced to add a little more texture back in.

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    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: Secrets for Achieving Cloning Perfection

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    A REALLY fast way to retouch blemishes is to ...

    - Apply an aggressive Gaussian blur to the entire image (so the blemish disappears)

    - roll it back with the history state

    - set history brush to lighten and attach it to the blurred state

    - paint over any acne/blemishes with a soft brush.

    Can be done with a duplicated layer that subsequently has its opacity reduced to add a little more texture back in.
    So many ways of doing things. I don't use the history brush a lot but I will give it ago next time out of curiosity. To powder a nose I assume I can set the brush to darken.

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