When Should You Remove Something From a Landscape Photo?

Unlike most other genres, you do not always get the chance to remove distractions from the frame in landscape photography. But when should you use post-processing software to remove an object from a landscape image after the fact? This excellent video discusses how to tell whether something is a help or a distraction in a landscape photo.

Coming to you from Mark Denney, this great video discusses the issue of deciding whether or not to remove something from a landscape shot. It might seem like a simple thing; after all, there are certainly times when something obviously does not belong in a photo and does nothing but distract from the subject. However, you might be surprised by how many times you will come home with a good image and obsess over whether or not to remove something from it using Photoshop or similar software. When this happens, it is often something a bit smaller, like a particularly bright and prominent leaf in the foreground or the like. Check out the video above for lots of helpful tips from Denney on how to resolve this issue.

And if you really want to dive into landscape photography, check out "Photographing The World 1: Landscape Photography and Post-Processing with Elia Locardi." 

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hart gately's picture

I agree the leaf should stay but I would have tried toning the brightness down just a bit.

Rod Kestel's picture

Power lines. Gaarrrg! Drive me nuts.

I guess keeping or removing also depends on what you want the picture to say. If it's about wilderness, the house goes. Else, move it.

Tom Reichner's picture

I run into this a lot with my wildlife photos, when it comes to bits of possibly distracting vegetation.

I do something that makes the decision easy for me; I ask myself, "if this had never been in the scene, would I wish it was?"

By that I mean, if that vegetation that looks different from the other vegetation had never been in the scene to begin with, would I look at that part of the photo and think, "I wish there was a bit of different-looking vegetation right there, that would stand out a bit and grab a little of the viewer's attention."

If I would not think that way, then I remove the object, if possible.

Bill Patterson's picture

I would consider removing the bright leaf 2/3rds up the left border of the image as it could be a distraction. Otherwise would leave the leaf on the rock.

Tom Reichner's picture

This article caused me to remember an old adage about composition that I have been hearing for years:

"Everything in the frame is either helping the image, or hurting the image ...... there is nothing that is 'just there'. "

I often remember that adage while I am editing a photo, and it makes my decision-making a bit easier. If something isn't making the image better, then it shouldn't be included.

Alex Cooke's picture

That's fantastic advice!

Rod Kestel's picture

Well said. One of the greatest flaws in movies is where the director totally nails a scene, lighting, performances etc etc, but it doesn't add to the whole.

Who's watched Psycho and remembers the final scenes? A lengthy dissertation on Norman Bates' psychology that undermines the whole film.

My job today is to cull chunks from one of my chapters. Ouch.

Keith Davis's picture

I think the foreground in the first image adds little to the main subject. I believe you would have been better off to shoot landscape and completely remove your foreground and add more sky.
I would remove the leaf from the second image. Without it the eye moves naturally through the image and presents a pleasant scene. It would be different if the leave were placed more naturally on the rock... Even though it is natural it does not look that way and your eye stops right on the leaf and ruins the image flow.
Not all images need to tell a story and often the story is a distraction to an otherwise pleasing image.


Ter Ess's picture

The Arizona image. I would leave the house where it is, but tone it down a little.