Automatically Remove People


Today’s Question: I have seen a way to take moving objects out of a group of photos. For example, take 10 anchored (tripod) photos over a 5-minute period (every 30 seconds), then open them up in Photoshop and you can ‘merge’ so only the static objects in the photos appear. Any cars or people that move around are removed. How do we do that?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can automatically remove people and other moving objects in a scene captured with multiple photographs by loading the source images into a stack in Adobe Photoshop and then using a special blending mode that blends a final image by retaining only pixels that match among multiple images.

More Detail: To create this seemingly magical effect, you obviously first need to capture multiple images of a scene from a stable platform such as a tripod. You want to capture enough images that for any given area of the photo, there is at least one image that shows that area clear of moving subjects such as people or cars.

You can then open all of the captures into Photoshop so they are available for processing. Then go to the menu and choose File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack. In the “Load Layers” dialog that appears click the “Add Open Files” button, and the images you opened will appear on the list under the “Use” heading.

Within the Load Layers dialog turn on the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” checkbox as well as the “Create Smart Object after Loading Layers” checkbox, both of which are found at the bottom-left of the dialog. Then click OK to have the images combined into a single image consisting of a Smart Object that contains the source images.

To complete the effect go back to the menu and choose Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median. This is the real magic of the effect, and will cause the multiple images to be blended in such a way that anything that had been moving within the scene from one capture to the next will be removed, leaving an empty scene in your final image.