Back in the days when I was a production assistant for an architectural photographer, I spent a lot of time removing bits of trash from unfinished building sites and fixing cosmetic blemishes in the grass, on the sidewalk or building. Then, I had to make these corrections with the clone stamp, carefully selecting adjacent pixels to clone to and anticipating the best means of matching texture, color and tone. At the time, older retouchers, the ones who used to retouch film, kept telling me how unfair it is that I could use digital technology to retouch a photo. They had to do it the real way.
Now I get to complain about how easy the retouchers of today have it. This new Content Aware Fill is so good it takes all the mystery out of fixing most imperfections in a photo. I hate it, it makes me sound like a grouchy old curmudgeon pining for the bad-old days. In my day…
Actually, I’m really excited about the Content-Aware Fill, and I know I’m not alone. Of all the features in Photoshop CS5, Content Aware Fill has received the most buzz with a number of video demonstrations going viral before Photoshop CS5 even began shipping.
So what is it?
Content-Aware Fill is a new blending algorithm used by Photoshop to automatically match cloned texture, tone and color with surrounding pixels, so your retouching efforts are easier and better-looking without the need to painstakingly match shading and color manually.
So how do I use it?
You can take advantage of the content aware healing in a couple different ways. First is to select the Content Aware option when using the Spot Healing tool. When performing the Spot Healing, Photoshop will automatically use the Content Aware algorithm for seamless retouching.
To use the Content Aware Fill on a larger image area, use any of the selection tools to select a portion of the image. In this example, I wanted to remove the clouds in the sky to add type for a headline so I used the rectangular marquee to select the cloud in the sky.
In the Fill dialog (Edit>Fill), select Content Aware from the Use menu. Here, you have the option to select a blending mode if you need to heal only one attribute (tone, color, etc.) without affecting other components of your image. After pressing OK, Photoshop automatically performs the blending, filling your selection with detail from the surrounding area.
This can be particularly useful if you need to alter the dimensions of a photo to better suit a given output size. For example, many properly composed images don’t look right when cropped to 8×10-inches for printing. One often needs to crop unnecessarily tight, or add additional background to fit the content of the photo within the aspect ratio of the print.
In this example, I used the Content Aware fill to add to the width of the picture to better fit the 16×9 ratio of a multimedia project. Can you tell which side is optical and which was added by the content aware fill?