When photographing some subjects, such as wildlife, it can be a challenge to position the elements in the most aesthetically pleasing parts of the frame. In our example image shown here, the house and cow are to the left of the frame, with lots of empty space at the right. This produces an unbalanced composition. On the actual shoot, we could have waited for the cow to wander into the right of the frame, or we could have tried repositioning the camera to put more space between the cow and the house, which would have been the ideal situation.
With Photoshop Elements, there are effective post-production solutions to creating a more balanced composition and countering this sort of problem — including Photoshop Elements 12’s new, intelligent Content-Aware Move tool (which is also available to users of Adobe Photoshop CC).
To start with, we’ll use tools that are available on older versions of Elements: we’ll use the Clone Stamp tool to quickly sample the pixels of your subject and paint it in a new position. To hide the original subject, we’ll use the Clone Stamp tool again, sampling adjacent areas of image to hide it.
Getting this type of copying and cloning right can be quite time-consuming, so for quicker recomposing, you can use the Content-Aware Move tool. It lets you select a subject (such as our cow), move it to a new position and remove it from its original location. We’ll also use this tool to extend elements in our image, so let’s get to it.
1. Clone the Subject
Before we use the Content-Aware Move tool, let’s look at the other way to reposition a subject; in some cases, this may be enough to get the job done. Use the Clone Stamp tool and set size to 400 in the options. Hold Option and click your subject to sample it. Move the cursor to the right and paint in the clone.
2. Hide the Original
This cloning technique leaves you with two subjects. To hide the original, hold Option and click a clear patch of the image you want to replace it with (in our case, grass). You may need to resample a few times for large subjects. When done, choose Edit > Revert.
3. Set up the Tool
Now we'll move the subject using the typically more useful Content-Aware Move tool. Zoom in for a close look. Select the Content-Aware Move tool, and in the Tool Options, click the New icon. Set Mode to Move. The Healing slider creates a tight or loose blend between the moved subject and its new surroundings — try it in the middle at first.
4. Create a New Layer
Go to Layer > New > Layer, and click OK. A transparent layer is created; editing on this layer lets us tidy up our move more easily and effectively. Check the Sample All Layers box in the Tool Options, so the tool transfers pixels from the Background layer too.
5. Move the Subject
Click and drag to draw around your subject, including some of the area around it. Drag the selection marquee to move the subject to the right — don’t worry if it overlaps the original. When you let go, the tool moves the subject, blends it and removes the original.
6. Tidy Up
The copied subject appears on the transparent layer in the Layers panel. Press Command + D to deselect the marquee. If any copied areas don’t quite work, remove them with the Eraser tool. If any traces remain in the original location, use the Spot Healing Brush.
7. Extend a Selection
While we're at it, let's use Content-Aware Move for another neat trick: extending a selection. Click the tool’s icon and check the Extend button in the Tool Options. Here, we’ve selected the boundary between the sea and the sky. Click inside the marquee and drag the horizon upwards.
8. Heal the Join
Deselect the marquee — you can see the join between your original line and the extension. To make them seamless, use the Spot Healing Brush. Check the Proximity Match button in the Tool Options. Click a few times over any obvious joins to blend them together.