Counting Subjects in Photos with Photoshop


Today’s Question: In my wildlife photography I sometimes have a need to count the number of birds or animals in the frame. This can sometimes be a challenging task. Can you recommend a way to mark up the photo in Photoshop to help keep track of which animals have been counted?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes! The Count tool in Photoshop is designed exactly for this type of purpose, enabling you to count objects by clicking on them within the image.

More Detail: The Count tool has been included in Photoshop for quite a while, but I feel it is one of the least-known tools on the toolbar. Admittedly, probably a relatively small percentage of Photoshop users ever try the Count tool, but it can be remarkably helpful when you need to count objects in a photo.

The Count tool is associated with the button for the Eyedropper tool on the toolbar in Photoshop. So, the first step is to select the Count tool by right-clicking on the button for the Eyedropper tool (or the related tool that may be on the top if you had recently used something else) and choosing “Count Tool” from the popup menu.

To count objects in the image you simply click on them. As you click a marker will appear with a dot and a number indicating the count number for that object. You can continue clicking on each object you want to count, with the number incrementing for each marker as you go. To make it easy to know what the actual count is you can simply look at the “Count” value toward the left end of the Options bar.

If the markers aren’t easy to see on the image you can adjust the size and color to help. On the Options bar you’ll find a color swatch you can click to bring up the Color Picker dialog, so you can choose a better color. The same color is used for all markers, so you’ll want to try to select a color that will stand out across the entirely of the image. I generally use a highly saturated color, like a really bright magenta.

You can also adjust the size of the marker dots using the Marker Size field on the Options bar, or adjust the size for the number associated with each marker using the Label Size field. You can hide the count markers by clicking the eye icon on the Options bar, which will toggle the visibility.

When you’re done counting, or you need to reset the count to start over, you can click the Clear button on the Options bar. There’s even an option for creating multiple groups so you can count the number of different categories of objects within the same photo.

If you save the image as a Photoshop PSD or TIFF with the count still present for the image, the markers will be saved along with the image. In other words, when you open the image again the count markers will still be there for you to review.

Today’s question has inspired me to include a comprehensive article on the Count tool in the January 2023 issue of my Pixology magazine for photographers. If you’re not already a subscriber and would like access to back issues and upcoming issues, you can learn more and sign up on the GreyLearning website here: