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Most photographers would agree that whenever possible getting the shot right in camera should be the goal. However, there are going to be times when this is impossible or when mistakes are made.
Perhaps there is a distracting element in a scene that just can't be avoided, or the horizon is a bit crooked in an otherwise gorgeous landscape shot. Also, this tool is very useful for removing elements from a photo for the purpose of placing a new object in the forefront.
While not a perfect tool, the Content Aware Fill feature can save lots of time and effort. These edits which could take hours of painstaking work with the Clone Stamp and Healing tools previously, can now be accomplished in mere minutes.
How to Use Content Aware in Photoshop CS5 and CS6
I'm going to walk you through three different examples of how to use content aware fill, to give you a good sense of what can be done with this tool.
First, we are going to remove an unwanted element from a photo. I chose this particular photo since there is a very obvious subject that can be extracted from the background. Not all subjects are going to work well with this tool, but it is very good at replicating fairly predictable patterns.
You can download this photo from Flickr, or use a photo of your own to practice on. After practicing with a variety of photos, you will likely be able to predict which photos will work well with this tool. Sometimes you will likely have to use the more time-consuming Clone Stamp or Healing Brush tools.
First. you will need to use a selection tool, such as the lasso tool, to isolate the area that you would like to remove. In this case, I am removing the bird from the sky. This will end up making the viewer wonder what these people are trying to feed, but it is a good example of what the Content Aware Fill feature can do.
If there are any shadows around the object that you would like to remove, be sure to include them within your selection so that all visible evidence of the unwanted element will be removed. That isn't an issue in this photo though.
Next, go to Edit>Fill and make sure to choose Content Aware in the drop-down menu.
Now there is no evidence that the bird was ever present in this photo.
In this photo, we are going to straighten the horizon line. Instead of cropping the white edges that are left after we straighten the photo, which might remove wanted elements, we will instead fill those areas in with Content Aware Fill.
You can download this photo from Flickr, or if you have a photo of your own with a crooked horizon you can use that one to follow along as well.
The first thing we are going to do is straighten the horizon. Select the ruler tool as shown here.
Draw a line across a small section of something that should be straight. In this case we will use the water line. Here is a small portion of the water line selected with the ruler tool.
Go to Image>Image Rotation>Arbitrary
The angle and direction of the rotation will be automatically entered. Click OK.
Here is where the photo is at. The horizon is straightened, but there are now empty white areas around the image.
Use the Magic Wand tool to select the white area around your photo. In this case a single click was able to select the entire border. Sometimes, you may have to click each side depending on the placement of the corners. If so, be sure to select the multiple selections option as shown here.
Go to Select>Modify>Expand Selection. Choose a value between 5 and 15 depending on how large your photo is. This will prevent any edges from showing in your result.
Now go to Edit>Fill and choose Content Aware from the drop-down menu.
As you can see, Content Aware Fill did a wonderful job of filling in the missing details.
In this photo we are going to remove the wrought iron bird from the fence, and then use the clone stamp and/or healing tools to perfect the removal. This might be helpful to someone who would like to replace an object or element with something different.
Select the areas to be removed with the lasso tool, making sure that the selection is a bit larger than the subject to be removed. Like the magic wand tool, you can select multiple areas by clicking the icon as shown here.
Here is our example showing the selected area.
As in the previous 2 examples, go to Edit>Fill and choose Content Aware in the drop-down menu. In this example, the tool did a pretty good job with filling in some of the content, but not so good with a few areas. At this point a bit of work with the Clone Stamp and/or Healing Brush tools will finish the job.
Here is the final result of example 3: