Content Aware Move Tool in Photoshop CS6

Some of the new features that Adobe announced with Photoshop CS6 looked almost unreal when they announced them and showed off some previews about a month ago. The brand new content aware move tool looked crazy. You simply draw a loose edge around something and drag it to move the selection to a new part of the image. Then Photoshop magically moves the object and blends it into the surroundings and then fills the hole that it left to blend in the image. In theory it sounds really cool but in my real world work for weddings and portraits would this ever get used and what would be the outcome?

I’ll take a look at that question today and also share some other thoughts about this feature. First of all a quick note on shooting. Although I absolutely love technology and like to get creative with some of my fine art work for the majority of what I shoot (weddings and portraits) I really don’t Photoshop a lot of my images. I use it extensively for album design and simple retouches but normally use Lightroom for my main editing and really believe that for that type of work we should focus as much as we can in getting the composition, lighting, etc… all nailed right in camera. Then in the post production we are just fine turning the image. Although the content aware move tool looks cool in thinking about daily application I highly doubt it will come into play into my workflow much.

First lets start with what types of images it really works with. If you have an image that contains something you need to move and that object is set against a background that is all the same say for example a ball on a large grass field and are moving the ball to another part of the grass field in a similar shade it will work pretty good. As long as the area surrounding your selection and the target area are similar it works good and is extremely fast. You don’t need a detailed selection but can very loosely draw around the image so it only takes a second to do.

Here is a fairly straight forward image of a jellyfish that is set against a pretty consistent background. If I wanted to move the jellyfish so it isn’t centered I first select the Content Aware Move Tool and draw a loose selection around the image.

Then move the selection to another part of the image and your done. In a minute Photoshop will do it work and try to blend everything. You can see here it did a pretty good job but because some of the fine lines there still would be a little clean up to do. This could be done really quick with the healing brush and overall is a very fast way to move an object.

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Now when you have images like a person that you need to move and they are set against something that isn’t a color or repeatable texture (like grass, sand, the ocean etc…) the tool doesn’t have a way to really perform magic and work. Even if the background is similar it still can have issues. Here is a good example of something with a very similar background but when moving the people you still get very noticeable rings around them.

There is one setting you can use with the tool that will control how much flexibility you give Photoshop to blend the image. At the very top of the screen there is an Adaptation drop down. Here you can choose 5 levels from very strict to very loose. Selecting very loose will give Photoshop more control over blending in the image while selecting very strict will give more of a hard line around the selection.

If you try to move something from an image that has detail included in the selection like this image here there is no way that it will be able to really blend things right.

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Overall I think it can save time for things that are against a uniform background and works pretty awesome in that type of case. Like I said at the start though in my type of work I really don’t see this being used much at all so even though it was one of the big cool announcements when it gets into the day to day work doesn’t provide much value. I would love to know what you think of the new tool. Leave a comment below and lets chat.

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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