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If there’s one question related to music photography that I get asked the most, it’d probably be: how do you edit concert photos? The short and easy answer is… well, there isn’t one. Every photo is different and I apply different editing techniques to each of them.
The first of what I hope to be a series of tutorials is going to focus on basic microphone removal. One caveat before getting started: this can often be a controversial subject in the rules of photojournalism. If this type of editing goes against either your ethics or the ethics of your publication, then I simply don’t recommend doing it.
As you’re going to quickly see below, my program of choice is Adobe Photoshop. A lot of people think it looks daunting, but it may be easier to think of it as Lightroom on steroids with a different interface. We can argue which one is better for what another day. 😉 Anyway, let’s get on with it, shall we?
1. The first step is fairly simple – open up your photo in Photoshop.
I’m going to be working with a fun shot of Papa Roach here. For those of you familiar with Photoshop, you might notice I’ve scratched out a number of layers from where I already applied edits to this shot. Saving my tricks for more tutorials down the road!
A note about in camera composition: there are many times when concert photographers get put into a position where perfect composition really just isn’t possible. A moment like this one typically doesn’t last more than a couple seconds – hardly long enough to move far enough away to get the mic entirely out of the shot (and that’s assuming no one else is standing on either side of you!). When I’m stuck in those situations, I do my best to just get the microphone positioned off the face and away from the body, putting it in a place I can easily edit out later.
2. Duplicate the background layer.
In the layers panel, you’ll see your photo has automatically been given them name Background. Right click on it and select Duplicate Layer.
The below window is going to pop up and ask you what to name your new layer As. I simply gave mine the title of “Mic Removal” to keep it clear which layer to work on.
Technically, the duplication step isn’t necessary – but I highly recommend making a habit out of it. Instead of making changes directly on your concert photos, this will put the edit on a separate layer that you can simply delete or turn off if something gets messed up beyond repair.
3. Select the Spot Healing Brush tool (shortcut: J).
If you hover over the icon for this tool in the Toolbar, you’ll see a little preview for how this magic works.
I’ve provided a screenshot below for my brush settings. The most important parts here are setting Hardness: 100%, Spacing: 25%, making sure Type is set to Content-Aware and ensuring that Sample All Layers is NOT checked.
The size of your healing brush is going to be variable. I would recommend hovering over the mic stand you’re wanting to remove and setting the size to something just barely wider than the mic. For ease of use, try the brush shortcuts: Bracket Left [ to decrease size and Bracket Right ] to increase size.
4. Start healing!
The healing brush is straightforward and simple – just click and drag, then let Photoshop do the work. You can see I started from the bottom of the mic stand and I marked where I dragged up to with an X.
I don’t recommend trying to get the entire mic stand out in one fell swoop, although you’re welcome to try. The way the tool works is based off its surroundings, so the more clean area around it, the better chance it has of success.
You can see in the above screenshot that the bottom portion of the mic has now been filled with black background. Now I start again, dragging from the left side of the remaining stand up to the top of the microphone.
One more careful click here should do it – make sure to avoid touching any parts of the subject with the heal stamp or it might accidentally heal over something necessary.
5. Zoom in and give it a close inspection.
Use the Zoom Tool (Shortcut: Z) and hold click then drag to zoom in on the area where the mic stand was. Do a quick look around to make sure there are no remnant particles.
If all looks good, then congratulations – you’ve successfully completed a basic microphone removal!
Check out some of my other music photography tutorials!
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