Quickly and easily remove unwanted objects from your photos - plus a whole lot more!
I’ve been using Lightroom for a while now and while it is a very capable product that I love to use, I have to admit that the accuracy of object removal is only decent. I use it all the time to remove little distracting elements in my shots, such as dust spots or perhaps a tiny little distant bird in an otherwise clear sky. It works great for that.
But what about the bigger, more involved things? In my experience, Lightroom doesn’t work that well for those items - and that’s when I turn to Snapheal from Macphun.
While I try to set up my shots to minimize the need to remove things, there are times when it is unavoidable. Maybe someone walks into your shot. Perhaps there is a distracting street sign in the way. Maybe there are power lines. Or maybe it’s something that just gets under your skin, and it’s distracting you.
The list goes on.
We’ve all had these issues, and if you can’t work around them in the field, you work to remove them later in the digital darkroom. That’s part of the beauty of digital photography. While I don’t advocate doing everything with just software (you need to get some things right in the field), it sure is handy just in case.
Now that I am exclusively using Macphun’s Creative Kit to process my photos (+ Aurora HDR Pro), I have also been spending more and more time with Snapheal. Sadly, you just need products like this, because you need to remove stuff. It happens, but at least there is a solution for it.
But here’s the thing - Snapheal is a JOY to work with. It’s very easy to use yet very capable. The clean interface hides a powerful engine underneath. It works wonders on my photos, even the ones that I thought were going to be a real pain in the neck.
I have tried removing objects in Lightroom to no avail, and then when I turn to Snapheal, they are just gone. It’s a beautiful thing. To be clear, it takes a little work, and no product of this type is “perfect”. What I mean is that Snapheal is the best I have seen, but it’s not always a 1-2 second fix, like removing a dust spot. Sometimes it’s a little more involved than that, but it does work. You just have to understand the product and how to use it, and you may have to experiment a little.
Once you have a handle on how to use the product, you will find that it really does take care of object removal in a very capable way. There are times that I just mask over something, click erase, and it’s gone. There are other times that I do that and it’s gone, but the area still needs a little touch-up to make it look like nothing was done there. That’s the kind of image I will show you today, because I doubt you need to see how good it is at removing something simple, right? It’s much more interesting when the object you want to remove is a little more challenging. We’ll get to that image in a moment. First, a little bit about Snapheal…
This is a full-featured product!
You are probably here because you are interested in Snapheal’s ability to remove unwanted objects from your shots, right? Well, it does that quite well. But guess what? There’s a LOT more to Snapheal than just removing unwanted objects (though that is the heart of it, and that’s the main reason someone would buy it). You can also make a TON of other adjustments to your image, right in Snapheal! Here’s a quick list of Snapheal features:
- Multiple erasing modes - Global, Local and Dynamic
- Varying precision levels - Norm, High, Highest
- Powerful Clone and Stamp capability
- Selective retouching with a smart brush - mask in adjustments to specific parts of the image, and change the image accordingly
- Make photo adjustments across the entire image (Temperature, Saturation, Exposure, Contrast, Sharpen, Denoise and more!)
- Crop, Rotate, Flip and Straighten your image
- Works as a standalone product, or as a plug-in to major host programs
- Easily transfer finished images to another Creative Kit product for further enhancement, or share socially straight from the app
So, let’s take a closer look at the product. Sound good? Ok, great!
We will divide this review into three sections, since there are technically 3 sections of Snapheal that you can edit your photo in: Erase, Retouch, and Adjust.
These are listed in the upper right section of the main page. You can’t miss them!
Being able to remove objects from your photos is the basic idea behind Snapheal, and it works great. I’ve used it on a lot of photos, and I find it always works well (and better than Lightroom).
Using this tool is very straightforward. You select the brush, paint it over whatever it is you are planning to remove, and then choose an Erasing Mode and hit Erase! But there are some things to consider here before you just paint and erase. It’s not a haphazard sort of thing, at least for me.
In my experience, each image is different and thus may require a different approach. I get the best results when I try it out a couple of different ways, because each tool for erasing may work a little different on each image. Some modes work better than others on one image, and a different mode may work better on the next image. In other words, take your time and experiment, and you will get it right.
Using the paintbrush for object removal
First is the paintbrush that I mentioned already. You can adjust the diameter, paint over your object, and you are ready to go. If you happen to paint over something you want to keep, just select the eraser tool (next to the paintbrush icon) and remove the mask from that area. Simple.
Let’s take a look at this image, which was shot on Leake Street in London. It’s a graffiti tunnel (I guess that’s obvious), and it’s a very interesting spot for photography. It’s a short walk from Big Ben actually, so it’s a nice off-the-beaten-path option for when you are tired of all the “big ticket” sightseeing in London. Call it a grunge option after seeing all the pretty stuff!
Anyways, I like this image. It’s a 5 exposure HDR that I created in Aurora HDR Pro. I actually like the guy sitting there, but I find his big backpack a little distracting. I guess he had all his cans of spray paint in it, but I want it outta there. I prefer to just have the dude hanging out, like he is contemplating his art. So let’s take care of that!
The first thing I do is take the paintbrush and just paint over the bag itself. You can adjust the size of the brush via the slider or with your left and right bracket keys. You can see the mask in this screenshot:
Because I want a high level of precision in this removal, I have chosen the Dynamic erasing mode and the Highest setting under precision. You see, the bag is up against the guy and I know this first pass won’t be entirely clean. It will need a little further touch-up, but that’s ok and we will get to that in a moment.
Once I am ready to go, I simply hit the Erase! button and I get some little trivia facts presented to me while I wait (you learn some interesting stuff!):
It only takes a few seconds, and here is my result:
As you can plainly see, the bag is gone, but it’s not entirely clean yet. It’s a little choppy where his pants touch the sidewalk he is sitting on. But, that makes sense, because that was hidden behind the bag and thus Snapheal had to sort of guess what it looked like. That’s ok though, because we can easily fix that and make it look normal, and we will do that with the clone and stamp tool.
Using the clone and stamp tool
The next thing I do is grab the Clone & Stamp tool. This is a handy tool to have at your fingertips, and it works well. I use it quite often. We are going to just clone some of his pants leg and paint it onto where the rest of his pants leg should be. So, I click on the Clone tool, then I have to option-click what I want to clone in the photo (I chose a portion of his pants leg), and then I just paint where I want to stamp that cloned section. After a few seconds of that, here is the result:
To my eyes, that looks WAY better, and much more natural. There is a normal look to his pants and where he is sitting - much better than the first pass removal looked. This is exactly why I mentioned above to take your time. You may need to experiment a little when you have oddly-shaped items to remove, or when things overlap each other such as in this photo. The software is really good at figuring things out, and then with a little clone and stamp work I find that I can fine-tune it if needed.
Here is the final photo after a bit more touch-up with the clone and stamp tool:
Altogether, this was just a couple of minutes worth of work, so it’s not time-consuming at all. The product works quickly, and the longest part of it is just experimenting to get the proper erasing mode and precision level (the higher the precision, the longer it takes).
Using the lasso tool for object removal
Next to the paintbrush and eraser icons is the lasso tool. This offers you a different way to remove objects. As soon as you click on it, you will get a little menu below it with either a polygonal lasso or a freehand lasso. I’ll show you in the next couple of screenshots.
These two options allow you to choose the shape of what you plan to put the lasso around - the lasso is used to surround the object you want to remove. The polygonal lasso draws straight lines around your targeted object, whereas the free lasso allows you to draw it in yourself, freehand (in any shape you want, and no need to use straight lines like with the polygonal lasso). It’s just a different way to “paint” over your object, instead of using the paintbrush.
Once you have drawn the lasso around your object, it creates a mask over it, and that is what will be removed. You then just choose your erasing mode and precision, and hit Erase!
Here’s the polygonal lasso being applied to that large rock in the photo. You can see that it creates a straight line, which technically isn’t what you would probably do if you were actually trying to remove that rock, because of its odd shape:
And here is the resulting mask:
The other lasso method is the freehand version, where you can more accurately trace the shape of the object you are removing. As with the polygonal lasso, once you finish drawing the lasso around your object, it creates the mask. Here’s that lasso in action, prior to being completed:
Since I like this scene the way it is, I didn’t actually remove that rock. This was just a few example screenshots to show you how to use it. There are just some situations that would be better off with the lasso tool, instead of the paintbrush, so this is a great option to have in case you need it.
Call this feature an unexpected treasure, especially considering that this product is sold as an object removal product. It does a great job removing objects, but who knew it could also allow you to selectively mask in adjustments to specific parts of a photo? Who would think to include that here?
Well Macphun thought of it, you can do that right here in Snapheal, and it works really well!
For this section and the next section, I will use a photo that I took in London and processed in Aurora HDR Pro. It’s a completed photo in my book - it’s just being used here for demo purposes to illustrate these two additional capabilities in Snapheal.
To get to the Retouch tool, just click on Retouch in the menu in the upper right. Here is what it looks like when you land there:
Like with any masking tool, you have a brush (and an eraser of course, in case you need to alter your mask) and once you adjust the diameter, softness and opacity, it’s time to start laying the mask onto whichever section of your photo needs an update.
In the example photo below, I painted the mask over the pavement. Truth is, I don’t have a desire to make adjustments to the photo - it’s just an example of what you can do with Snapheal. In other words, I am going to really make it look different. :-)
And please note that I just painted this mask in pretty quickly, as part of the demonstration, and did not make a huge effort to get it *exactly* clean along the edges. Obviously in a real situation I would do so. Just wanted to clarify that bit!
Here’s the photo displaying the mask that I brushed in:
Once the mask is painted into the part of the image you want to adjust, all that’s left to do is just move some sliders. Because of the mask being in place, the masked area is the only portion of the photo that will be affected by any slider movements you make.
I have a few example photos below. In this first one, I just slid the Blur slider to the right, and you can see the impact it had on the photo:
This next example is just moving the green slider to the right a bit:
Next, some bumps to both Clarity and Shadows:
And finally, here I have moved the Tint and Temperature sliders to the right:
While we both probably agree that the above changes don’t look good on this photo, this was just an example of this fabulously powerful tool that is built in to Snapheal. It gives you a lot of freedom and creativity to go out and craft your masterpieces right here in Snapheal, without having to move back and forth to numerous other apps.
You could adjust a sky in a photo to give it more of a color pop. You could bring up some details in an architectural shot. The options are limitless, thanks to the selective masking you can do here.
Personally, I find this feature VERY impressive - and interesting - and convenient!
This is another thing that I did NOT expect to find in a product that is used for object removal. This is just a little bonus from the folks at Macphun. But it’s a great little add to the product, that’s for sure.
It works very easily - you literally just move sliders until the image is to your liking. Unlike the Retouch section which we covered previously, the adjustments here are global in nature - they affect the entire photo. There is no masking here. If you need to make targeted adjustments with masks, that’s reserved for the Retouch section which we previously covered.
But that’s ok. There are many instances where I make global adjustments to a photo. It could be dragging the Clarity slider, or Temperature and Tint, or an Exposure adjustment. It just depends on the image. But regardless of when and how you use them just know that they are right there in Snapheal, ready and waiting for you!
Here’s that same photo, shown in it’s original state, but this time on the Adjust screen. To get to this screen, you just click on Adjust in the upper right section of the screen.
Since sliders like this are fairly commonplace, I won’t bore you by going through all of them and sharing screenshots from them all. I think, based on what each slider is named, you can easily figure out what it does to your photo.
In the example below, I moved Temperature, Saturation, Exposure, Brightness, Contrast, Shadows and Clarity, and ended up with the below version:
As you can see, that is a SIGNIFICANT change from the base photo. In other words, these sliders aren’t just window dressing - they actually work, and work well.
But wait, there is more! Here’s a parting bonus for you!
If you recall up above, I also mentioned that you can crop, rotate, flip and straighten your images right here in Snapheal too. Let’s take a quick look at that stuff. Note that this capability is only available when using the product as a standalone piece of software. If you use it as a plug-in to a host program (Photos, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc) then this functionality will not be available.
To get to this feature, all you do is click on the tiny scissors at the top center of the page. As soon as you do, you are presented with this view:
All your choices of actions are along the bottom: Rotate, Flip, Ratio and Angle. Below are a few screenshots indicating some of these actions in use. It’s all pretty self explanatory.
Once you have it looking the way you want it, just click the Crop button with the green check, and you’re all done!
It’s all pretty straightforward, but once again it’s a set of actions that you wouldn’t expect to find in a product that is billed for its object-removal skills. Hey thanks Macphun, that’s another bonus in Snapheal! I’ll take it!
Ok folks, that pretty much covers Snapheal. It’s a robust product, it’s easy to use and has a simple interface, and the engine underneath it all is very powerful. You will love using it!
If you are interested in purchasing Snapheal or downloading a free trial copy, you can do that here, or click on the banner below to be taken to Macphun’s website to get more details.
Special discount for my readers: if you buy Snapheal (or any Macphun product) use the discount code JIMNIX to get 10% off your order! Thanks and enjoy!
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or use the contact form to send me an email.
Thanks for stopping by!