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The top Still Life Photography Cleaning Techniques in Photoshop

The top Still Life Photography Cleaning Techniques in Photoshop featured image

Photoshop is a powerful program with a great variety of tools to help you get the most out of your images. From simple cleaning techniques to complex composites, the software offers everything photographers need for photo manipulation at all levels.

There are a variety of tools to help you, depending on your subject and goals for your image. With the exception of product photography, there are only a few key tools that you’ll need 90% of the time in retouching still life photography. Cleaning techniques in Photoshop are the foundation of beautiful imagery in this exciting but challenging genre.

Let’s take a look at what they are.

cleaning techniques in Photoshop
Canon 5D Mark III, EF 100mm 1:2.8, 1/160 f/9 ISO 100 Manual Mode, Evaluative Metering

The cleaning tools in Photoshop

There are just a few key tools that you need for cleaning techniques in Photoshop. These are: the Spot Healing tool, the Healing tool, the Clone Stamp tool, and the Patch tool. These tools are all you really need to take your still life images from good to great.

Each tool has its strengths and weakness. Some will achieve desired results more easily than others. When you combine the tools together, the result is a clean and refined image.

The top Still Life Photography Cleaning Techniques in Photoshop
Canon 5D Mark III, EF 100mm 1:2.8, 1/250 f/5.6 ISO 100 Manual Mode, Evaluative Metering

The Spot Healing Tool

The Spot Healing tool is the quickest way to fix little blemishes in Photoshop because it doesn’t require you to select an area to sample pixels from. Photoshop’s algorithm looks at nearby pixels and replaces them with pixels that it determines to be a good match.

When using this tool, you have some choices that will help Photoshop make the best guess as to what pixels would be the best replacement.

cleaning techniques in Photoshop

You can find the Spot Healing tool by the icon that looks like a bandaid. The shortcut for this tool is “J“.

When using this tool, you have some choices that will help Photoshop make the best guess as to what pixels would be the best replacement.

First, you want to choose a very soft brush. Start with a hardness of “0” and increase it slightly if needed. When retouching in Photoshop, every image is unique, so you have to assess your approach on a case-by-case basis.

Proximity Match will only look at the pixels around the sample area.

The top Still Life Photography Cleaning Techniques in Photoshop

When you use this tool, it’s best to choose Content-Aware Fill. This will ensure that the tool chooses pixels that will give you a seamless result.

In still life photography, it’s a good starting tool to quickly clean up any dust or small bits and blemishes before moving on to bigger blemishes or imperfections. It’s better than using the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom because if you use this tool repeatedly, it will slow down Lightroom’s performance very quickly.

Although the Spot Healing tool is one of the best cleaning techniques in Photoshop, one drawback to note is that using it excessively in a given area can lead to a plastic-like look. You may have to layer your use of this tool with others.

The Healing Brush Tool

The top Still Life Photography Cleaning Techniques in Photoshop
Still life should look clean and refined. Canon 5D Mark III, EF 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/160 f/9 ISO 100 Manual Mode, Evaluative Metering

The Healing Brush tool is similar to the Spot Healing Brush tool. However, when using this tool, you choose the area that you want to sample from. This gives you much more control, but of course, it’s not as quick as simply using the Spot Healing tool.

Imperfections blend into the surrounding areas. the brush works by matching texture, lighting, transparency, and shading of sample pixels to the pixels in the area we want to heal.

To use this tool, pick a source point to sample from. Think about what is going to work in terms of color and texture.

Start with a hardness of zero. You need a soft brush, but can add a bit of hardness if needed, depending on what you want to heal

Choose Aligned and Current & Below.

Choose where you want to select from and head over to where you want to “paste” the pixels

When utilizing cleaning techniques in Photoshop, the Healing Brush is a powerful tool because of the control it gives you.

cleaning techniques in Photoshop
Using the Healing Brush to clean up small flaws. Canon 5D Mark III EF 100mm 1:2.8 1/160 f/5.6 ISO 100 Manual Mode, Evaluative Metering

The Patch Tool

Using the Patch tool in Photoshop is another important tool for cleaning techniques in Photoshop. It’s like a large, customizable Healing Brush tool. The Patch tool repairs a selected area with pixels from another area. It seeks to match, lighting, shade, and texture from sample pixels to the source.

The top Still Life Photography Cleaning Techniques in Photoshop

It basically works like a “cut and paste” tool. However, it doesn’t work very well on larger areas because there usually are differences in tonality.

If you need to work on a larger area, you should attack the area by working in sections. Also, note that it also doesn’t work well on edges. In this case, you may have to use another tool or combine it with another tool for more precision.

The top Still Life Photography Cleaning Techniques in Photoshop

To use the Patch tool, select it from the sidebar or use the “J” key. Also, decide on your blending parameters.

The Patch tool’s Content-Aware mode works on empty layers by sampling below. It shuffles the content around a bit as it acts like a patch. If you’re using normal mode, don’t worry about lightness or color, as there will be a healing calculation when you release the mouse.

Use your mouse or pen to draw a slightly loose selection around the problem area (as pictured above) and then drag it to an area that might work to replace the pixels. You can drag it several times until you find a proper match.

The top Still Life Photography Cleaning Techniques in Photoshop

The Clone Stamp Tool

Perhaps one of the most popular and often used tools in Photoshop, the Clone stamp tool may possibly be your best ally when employing cleaning techniques in Photoshop.

The Clone Stamp copies pixels to a new location. With this tool, you’re literally painting over one part of an image with another. You can do this in both very small and large amounts, depending on the brush size you use.

Unlike the Patch Tool, it works very well in areas where you have texture, pattern, or an edge. It doesn’t work as well in areas where you have conflicting exposures on colors.

Although it’s a fantastically useful tool, when it comes to cleaning techniques in Photoshop, it might not work perfectly in every situation; you’ll need to combine it with other tools and techniques.

To activate the Clone Stamp, use the shortcut > Cmd/Ctrl + S.

cleaning techniques in Photoshop
Use the clone stamp to clean up areas with texture.

You can also use “T” to Transform to adjust further. This means that you can alter the size and rotation of your cloned area to make it blend better.

One last tip

The top Still Life Photography Cleaning Techniques in Photoshop
Canon 5D Mark III, EF 100mm 1:2.8, 1/160 f/5.6 ISO 100 Manual Mode, Evaluative Metering

When working with cleaning techniques in Photoshop, it’s a good idea to work using a lot of layers. This will allow you to go back a few steps if you make mistakes.

Using these tools together in Photoshop will give you the best results and will cover most of your bases when retouching your still life photography.

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share with us on cleaning techniques in Photoshop for still life images? If so, please do so in the comments section.

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Darina Kopcok
Darina Kopcok

is a writer and professional food photographer who shares her recipes and photography on her blog Gastrostoria. Her latest work can be found on OFFset, as well as her online portfolio at darinakopcok.com.