Photoshop technology makes leash removal easy in dog portraits

maremma sheepdog with graffiti

Thank goodness for Photoshop technology.

Your dog portraits are going to look better without a leash in them.


Well, most of the time. There are exceptions to every rule.

Generally, a leash is a distraction, cluttering up the image and stealing focus from your pup’s beautiful face.

Trouble is, most of the places I take clients for dog photography in Spokane and North Idaho, the parks have rules. Dogs must be on leash. It’s for the safety of others, you and your dog. (We’ve talked about this before.)

So I have a little thingy in my client contract about keeping your dog on leash during your portrait session. (You can choose to keep your dog off-leash, if she’s controllable and good with recall, but I have to release myself from liability if anything happens. It’s your call.)

Luckily, Photoshop technology makes it easy to show your dog in a natural way—without leash.

The magic of artificial intelligence

I’m a lucky girl. I’m married to a smart guy who works in high-tech and develops artificial intelligence (AI) something or other. (I listen sometimes but, in my defence, I see him tuning out when I’m talking about dog portrait sessions.)

Plus I’ve always been an early adopter of all things new and shiny, so when a tool I use builds a function that makes my life easier, I’m on it like a bee on a flower’s stamen.

Enter the Photoshop technology called Content Aware Fill, recently updated with more power on the Creative Cloud platform.

To remove leashes and collars and other distractions (stop signs, park benches, people, you name it, I’ve deleted it), I use a combination of such Photoshop tools as Patch, Content Aware Move, Healing Brush and Spot Healing Brush.

They’ve been adequate but when you have a super hairy beast like Bella, the tools have their drawbacks. Patch and Content Aware can often leave hard lines that need further fixing or blur spots.

There’s also the issue known as “clone tracking,” which is the presence of noticeable spots copied from another area.

Content Aware Fill simply gives a more accurate result.

Can you see the difference?

This image of Bella in the Spokane River is my original edit last summer.

Maremma sheepdog in river

Next is a do-over I worked on earlier this week to submit into a print competition.

leash removal with photoshop technology

Oh … pssst … here’s the original with leash and harness intact.

maremma sheepdog in river

How I use Content Aware Fill

I don’t profess to be an expert.

I’m self-taught, having gone to YouTube University and played around with the tool myself.

This is how I use Content Aware Fill. It may not be the exact right way. In fact, I can look at the image I entered into competition and see some glaring issues with it. (Give me a minute, I need to go throw up now.)

The image I used to demonstrate the tool is the one from up above with Bella and the graffiti, My Little Misfit.

Here’s the original:

maremma sheepdog with graffiti

If you look closely enough, I also killed off those buildings in the background and added a bit of Field Blur to mask off some lazy cloning issues. (That’s on me. I feel the shame.)

To start using Content Aware Fill, I made a small selection on Bella’s harness. I find it’s best to work in small sections for the sake of precision.

Now follow these steps:

  1. Click Edit in the main navigation.
  2. Scroll down to Content Aware Fill… and click.

A new window will open, showing your image, the selection and a green box around it.

photoshop technology at work

The green box indicates the area from which the Photoshop technology will sample your replacement content.

A split screen shows the area around your selection enlarged.

In a lot of cases, the area may already be perfect. However, when it comes to Bella’s fur, I still get some weird spots. So, I decrease the sampling area by switching to the erase brush (in the top left corner of your window).

You can also change your selection by selecting the lasso tool.

Here’s you can see how I altered the sampling area:

photoshop technology content aware fill

It still wasn’t perfect, so I did a little bit of work with Healing Brush and Spot Healing to get it to where I wanted it to be.

But that’s it. Ç’est tout comme ça. Easy peasy lemon squeezy?

Let me know in the comments if this works for you, or if you’ve found a better way. Every day with Photoshop is a learning experience!

All around the circle

Leash removal is the topic for this week’s worldwide blog circle.

Now let’s see how other dog photographers around the world are doing it.

Start with Elaine Tweedy of I Got the Shot Photography, serving pets and their people in Northeastern PA and surrounding areas. Read her leash removal post then click the link at the bottom to get to the next one.

Travel through the circle and when you land back here, you’re home.

Right where you belong.

And if you’re ready to book a session, click this button and let’s get started!

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8 thoughts on “Photoshop technology makes leash removal easy in dog portraits”

  1. Thank you! I love the details that you are providing as I am sure we all do it differently and it’s great to see how others do it. I don’t have CC at this time, so I am planning to hang on to your link should I be able to upgrade later this year (assuming that it will work on my older computer with windows 7 – I believe it does).

  2. I am unable to update to the newest version 0f photoshop CC as I am still using Windows 7. My plan is to get a new computer this spring. I can hardly wait as I love playing with new features. It looks to me like Content Aware Rocks!

    1. Probably right, Kim. I’m a dork about new shiny things. I have to have them. So I get all the updates as soon as they come in, no matter how buggy they may be.

    2. There are ways to turn off and turn on those features. To show a layer mask, Mac Option-click, Windows Alt-Click the mask layers panel. Use the / to turn it on or off.

      For the content aware fill green area, that is a new feature in 2019 CC.

      1. To which features are you referring? And yes, the green box is new with the update, and its color can be changed to whichever color you prefer.

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