Content-Aware Tools In Photoshop
Smart Photography|December 2020
Photoshop is one of the most widely used photo-editing software packages in the world.
Ashok Kandimalla

Ashok Kandimalla has been in the photographic field for over three decades and has extensive experience in both film and digital photography. Being an electronics engineer by profession and a photographer, he possesses a unique and deep insight into the technical aspects of digital photography and equipment. He has published more than a 100 articles on photography and some of his writings have also been published in the well-known international magazine Popular Photography.

An avid collector of photographic books and vintage cameras, Ashok has a keen interest in the history of photography and a passion for sharing his knowledge on photography through teaching and writing. He is the only Indian photographer to be featured on the Nikon Centenary website. He is presently working as a Management and Engineering consutant. He can be reached at kashokk@ gmail.com.

Over the years, advances in software and hardware technologies allowed developers to add new features to it. One set of such features, is the ContentAware Tools that provide some smart editing capabilities that would have been considered impossible, just a few years ago. There are many tools under this category, but, due to the shortage of space, let us look at three of these with some examples showing their application. These are

1. Content-Aware Crop

2. Content-Aware Fill

3. Content-Aware Scale

Content-Aware Crop

You can sometimes land up with images where the subject is too close to the border (edge) of the picture. This can happen if you had composed too tight, by mistake, when capturing the image, or you were forced to compose that way to eliminate some unwanted objects immediately next to the subject (Picture 1). Content-Aware Crop can rectify such images within reasonable limits. Here is the operation step by step.

1. Choose the Crop tool from the Toolbar (Picture 2, arrow mark). Note that the exact position of this tool may be different on your computer due to Toolbar customisation. However, it will be present on the Toolbar somewhere.

2. Once you select the crop tool, you will see several options at the top left of the screen (Picture 3). For the left box choose Original Ratio. This will ensure that the content-aware operation is done uniformly with respect to width and height, thus protecting the original aspect ratio.

3. Also, notice that now a bounding box has appeared around the image with handles. Now the important step. Tick the box “Content-Aware” (Picture 3).

4. Click on the top left handle of the box and drag it outwards (left and up). You will now see that the image has increased in size, and the new area that has been created is shown unfilled, with the usual checkered board pattern (Picture 4).

5. To fill that area intelligently, just click on the tick-mark symbol (yellow circle) (Picture 3) to commit the operation. Photoshop will do the rest (Picture 5).

Content-Aware Fill

This is perhaps the most useful tool of the lot and is of immense help to eliminate unwanted objects that appear in the frame. Personally, I have used it many times to eliminate objects like power cables, discarded plastic bags, etc. It removes an object and seamlessly blends the removed area with the surroundings. Content-Aware Fill tool has two versions. The first is a basic version that is simple to use, whereas the second is advanced and sophisticated. Let us look at both, starting with the first version.

Content-Aware Fill (Basic version): This is an easy to use tool. As a safety measure, first duplicate the image layer on which you want to perform this operation. Next, select all the areas you want to eliminate. You can even have multiple unconnected areas selected. Use any of the standard selection tools like Lasso, Rectangle, Ellipse, Magic wand, etc. for this purpose.

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