3 ways to remove a lead from your pet photographs

If you photograph canines, you’ll be aware of the challenges
we face trying to get them into the perfect position. Some dogs visiting the
studio are under perfect control. They will move their body to the slightest
degree with a flick of the owner’s hand leaving the photographer with the
perfect posing model. Unfortunately, dogs trained to this degree are not the
norm. Most of my client’s pets will have a handle on the basics of sit and
stay, however when you place them under lights and make a fuss over them it can
result in an overly excited pooch. This is when we resort to having them on
lead for additional control. But leads make for terrible images I hear you
say?!? Well, let’s look at 3 ways to remove the lead in post processing.


  • Ensure you are working on a new layer by copying
    your current image into the new layer symbol. 

The Clone Stamp Tool

The Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop is a good method to get us
started. This tool works by allowing us to duplicate part of an image into
another. This method is good for tricky situations where there may be some
challenges in the background such as foliage or clouds. Start by Selecting the
Clone Stamp tool. There are a few settings you can alter, which I won’t go into
in this post. For our basic introduction set the Mode to be Normal and set the
Opacity and Flow to be 100% for both. Personally, I find having a brush with a
hardness of around 15% gives me the best results, however this will depend on
your image. You may need to adjust this setting with a bit of trial and error.

Hold down the alt key and click an area of the image close
to the lead, either just above or just below. This selects the source for our
replacement. Once selected, re-position your cursor over the area of the lead
you are replacing. Paint over the lead with the clone stamp tool and you should
see the lead disappear.

  • Pros: Great for replacing a lead with difficult
    backgrounds such as trees and bushes. Great for fixing up the areas where the
    lead meets the dog’s coat.
  • Cons: Can be tricky to use when handling
    something with a gradient background, such as a sunrise or sunset. It can be
    done with the correct settings and proficiency but there are better methods.
    Need to be aware of repeating patterns as these will appear obvious.

The Healing Brush Tool

Like the clone stamp tool, the Healing Brush Tool can be
used to replace part of an image with another. Select the Healing Brush Tool and
as before select the blend mode to be Normal. Set your brush size to suit your
image. Hold down the alt key and click on an area close to the lead you are
replacing. This selects the source for our replacement. As before, re-position
your cursor over the area of the lead you are replacing. Paint over the lead
and you should see the lead disappear.

  • Pros: Quick hitter and with adjusting the blending mode it
    will work in most situations.
  • Cons: Takes some knowledge and skill to get it working with
    difficult backgrounds. Need to be aware of repeating patterns as these will
    appear obvious.

The Spot Healing Brush Tool

The Quickest and easiest method is the Spot Healing Brush
Tool. This method leaves everything up to Photoshop. For the most part it works
incredibly well but it can be difficult in areas such as the edges of the dog’s
coat. With this method I would recommend using one of the alternative methods
above to do tricky parts such as the fur and challenging backgrounds and then
utilising the Spot Healing Brush for the easier parts. Select the Spot Healing
Brush Tool and set your blending mode to Replace and Type to Content-Aware. Set
your brush settings accordingly and brush over areas of your lead and you will
see it disappear.

  • Pros: By far the quickest method. Content-Aware fill gets it
    right for the majority.
  • Cons: Can be difficult to use in challenging areas such as

These are 3 of the easiest methods to replace a lead as part
of your post processing workflow. What you will find when you start utilising
these methods is that a combination of all 3 will give you the best results.
Some situations can be a challenge to remove a lead, so I find the best method is to
try and ensure that your clients (and in turn the pets) are calm before the
photo shoot. If you need to resort to the lead, try having the owner position
it in such a way that will make your post processing workflow easier. Avoid the
lead running through those difficult backgrounds.

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