How To Remove Unwanted Objects In Your iPhone Photos

Do you sometimes wish you could remove an unwanted object or imperfection from your iPhone photos? It might be a distracting object that’s making the composition uneven, a bird in the sky that wasn’t supposed to be there, a blemish on a person’s face, or a small dust spot on your lens. In this tutorial you’ll learn how to easily remove unwanted elements and clean up your iPhone photos using the TouchRetouch app.

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What Is TouchRetouch?

TouchRetouch is a clever app that lets you remove unwanted content from your iPhone photos using just the tip of your finger. You simply brush over the objects you want to remove so that they’re selected in red, then tap “Start” and watch while they magically disappear!

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There are basically two things you can do with this app. You can use Selection tools to select and then automatically remove unwanted details from the photo. Or you can use the Clone tool to manually copy detail from one part of the frame to another.

TouchRetouch costs $1.99 from the App Store, which is a great price for an app that lets you quickly clean up your photos with a few short and easy steps.

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Now let’s take a look at a variety of situations where TouchRetouch will help you clean up your iPhone photos with the minimum of effort.

1. Remove An Object From A Photo

In this section I’ll take you through the step-by-step process of removing an unwanted object from a photo using TouchRetouch.

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Here’s the original image that I’m going to be working on. I want to remove the black garbage can from the right of the image, and replace that area with bricks and concrete.

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Open the TouchRetouch app, then tap “Open Photo From Gallery” to browse through your camera roll and select the photo you want to edit.

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You now have to select an output image resolution. Photos with higher resolution require more processing time, but it’s highly recommended that you select “Original” to maintain the highest image quality.

When the photo appears on the screen, double-tap on the image to zoom in and view it at its original size (100%). This makes it easier to identify and select the elements you want to remove.

You now need to select the object you want to get rid of. You can do this using either the Lasso tool or the Brush tool at the bottom of the screen. The Lasso is the left-most tool, and the Brush is second from left. Both tools give you the same result, i.e. a selected area of the image.

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If you use the Brush tool as I did above, you first select the brush size using the slider that appears at the bottom of the screen, then just use your fingertip to draw over the object you want to remove. Wherever you brush with your finger will appear red, indicating that the area is selected.

Because your finger is covering the area that you’re brushing over, you won’t be able to see the object under your finger. So whenever you touch the screen to select an area, you’ll see a box which shows a preview of the area you’re selecting.

If you make a mistake at any point, just tap the Undo button (curly left-pointing arrow) at the top of the screen. You can keep undoing each step you made, in the order that you made them.

If you choose to use the Lasso tool instead of the Brush, you have to draw a continuous line with your finger around the object you want to remove. When you lift your finger, the area inside this line will be selected and appear red.

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If you need to move the image to see another part of the photo, tap the Hand tool at the bottom of the screen, then drag the image with your finger. No selection will be made if you tap the scree because you have the Hand tool, rather than a selection tool, switched on.

If you accidentally select too much of the image (remember you should only be selecting the object you want to remove), you can erase part of a selection using the Selection Eraser (third icon from left). Simply tap on this tool, then choose a brush size and use your finger to draw over the red areas that you want to deselect.

When you’ve finished selecting the object you want to remove, you can zoom out to see the entire image by double-tapping the screen.

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Now comes the clever bit! Tap the Start button at the bottom of the screen and watch while your selected object disappears. The object will be replaced with pixels from the surrounding area.

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Here’s the image after it’s been processed. The garbage can has completely disappeared and been replaced by brick wall and concrete in the appropriate areas.

I find that the process works best on individual elements, so if you have several objects you want to get rid of, select and remove elements one at a time.

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To save the edited image to your camera roll, tap the Save button (floppy disk icon) at the bottom right of the screen, then tap Save to Library. If you then want to open another image to work on, tap the Open button (folder icon) at the top left of the screen.

Now let’s take a look at some other situations where you might want to use TouchRetouch to remove unwanted elements from an image.

2. Remove Unwanted Marks & Blemishes

Ugly marks, such as dirt or scratches on a wall, might sometimes be distracting elements that take attention away from the perfect composition. In these cases, the Brush or Lasso tool in TouchRetouch makes it easy to remove unwanted spots and marks.

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In this photo, the white spots in the top left corner of the red wall were distractions in the composition, catching the eye’s attention almost automatically. By editing them out using the Brush or Lasso tool in TouchRetouch, the photo has become cleaner and more balanced.

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You can use this technique on any photo that has objects with dirt or marks that you want to get rid of.

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3. Remove Dust Spots & Distractions

Small imperfections in your photos, such as dust spots on your lens, a fly passing in front of the camera, or even a bird in the sky, can sometimes creates blurry spots in the scene.

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Can you see the blurry spots in the picture above? There’s a noticeable one slightly to the left of center, and a smaller one next to the cloud at the top right.

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And here’s the image after using TouchRetouch. It’s so simple to just brush over a spot with the Brush tool and press Start to quickly eliminate these flaws, and it makes all the difference to your photo.

4. Remove Blemishes & Imperfections On Faces

When taking portrait photos of people, you might sometimes want to remove a blemish, skin spot or small imperfection for a better final result.

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On the left is the original photo, and on the right is the image after removing some of this person’s skin blemishes on the cheek and chin. Of course, you may not always want to remove this kind of object from a portrait photo, but if your subject would rather you did, then it’s very easy to do in TouchRetouch.

In cases like these, double tap the screen to zoom in closely on the blemish you want to remove, then tap the Brush tool and adjust the brush radius to a small size for a more precise selection.

5. Remove Telephone Wires From The Sky

When shooting street photography, urban scenes, and even rural landscape photos, telephone wires and posts can sometimes be distracting elements that you wish to edit out and remove from the final image. In these cases, the TouchRetouch app can help you to achieve a cleaner image.

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Use the Brush tool to select the telephone wires, together with some of the blue sky from the background and press Start. Now watch how the wires magically disappear from the sky! You can also use the same technique to get rid of any telegraph posts in the scene.

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Note that this technique works best when you have a plain background behind the wire or post you want to remove. Plain blue sky is perfect and will give you a seamless replacement.

6. Clone Detail From One Area To Another

There’s one tool that we haven’t looked at yet, and that’s the Clone tool. This tool allows you to manually copy pixels from one area to another within an image. This is different to the Brush and Lasso tools which automatically use nearby pixels from the area surrounding to replace your selected object.

The Clone tool is great for perfecting the effect of retouching your images when the Brush or Lasso tool doesn’t quite give you the result you want. It can help to fill in gaps created in the background after removing an unwanted object.

You can also use the Clone tool to duplicate an object from one area of the image to another. To balance out the composition of the image on the left, I decided to duplicate the boat mooring on the right of the image by cloning it onto the left side.

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After tapping the Clone tool at the bottom of the screen, use the slider to adjust the brush size, then move the white “target” to the area you want to clone, i.e. the area you want to copy pixels from (which in this case would be the boat mooring on the right). The white target indicates the source pixels that will be copied.

Now simply brush your finger over the area that you want to replace with the source pixels. In the above example I brushed over the area on the left where I wanted the duplicate boat mooring to be. There’s even a flip tool next to the slider which allows you to flip your cloned object horizontally or vertically.

Points To Consider When Removing Objects

When editing using the Touch Retouch app, there are a few points to consider that will help you to remove and replace elements with more precision and without background interference.

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Results are usually better when the photo has a plain colored background, such as a blue sky, a green field of grass, a wide wall, a pavement on a street, etc. Removing the animal from this field was easy since it was surrounded by green grass.

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If your image has a patterned background, a high repetition of elements, or many variations and shades of colors, it will be much more difficult to remove an object successfully in TouchRetouch.

The smaller the elements are, the easier it will be to remove the imperfections. Large areas of plain background around the object works well because the app has more matching pixels that it can use to replace the object during the removal process.

When removing an object from a photo that was taken in the sun, or other strong light, make sure you consider any shadows in the image. When selecting an object to remove, make sure you include the shadow when removing that element, otherwise you’ll end up with a shadow for an object that isn’t there! Always make sure that your final edit makes sense to the composition.

  • Alexandre

    Danny, first congratulations for your work! I follow you and Carolina on Instagram for a few years and you guys have been an inspiration for me to start taking pictures with my iPhone. I discovered through your photos that iDevices are awesome devices for photo!

    This tutorial is awesome!!! I always try to remove in my pics “things” that I didn’t want to be in. I always try to do a lot of things to get a better result… Many times I discard the picture! =(

    Without changing the essence of the photo, of course, I believe in this and other apps give a special touch to the images… you can transmit all you want. Keep shooting!

    It would be a pleasure if you can take a look on my Instagram.