3 Ways to Get (Other) Travelers out of Your Travel Photos

Getting a picture of a landmark without people around it can seem like a superhuman task. Fortunately where photographers fail, work in a graphics editor can succeed. And this work is quicker than you might expect: it only takes a couple of minutes.

You’ve probably seen lots of photos depicting e.g. the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or Stonehenge in the very best light, and tourist-free as well. But reality is often completely different: there are tourists almost everywhere, and they get in the way of almost every picture that you try to take.

>> You’re not easily going to see the world’s biggest tourist traps people-free. 13 Awesome Holiday Destinations: Expectations vs. Reality Reality.

But not every picture from these spots needs to end up in the trash—you can remove tourists from many pictures easily using Zoner Photo Studio or other graphics editors. In this article we’ll be exploring two ways to remove tourists from a picture—via retouching and multi-exposures.

The First Solution: Retouching

You can do all sorts of magic with photos in a graphics editor, but if you have a picture with a whole crowd of people in it, there’s no point in trying to retouch them away. Pictures with an uninteresting perspective or a long focal length are also bad candidates for this kind of edit. However, if the tourists in a picture are standing against an unbroken and repeating background like in our sample photo, then feel free to start retouching them away.

It’s easy to retouch away the tourists in this picture, since there’s an unbroken background behind them.
It’s easy to retouch away the tourists in this picture, since there’s an unbroken background behind them.

 To remove tourists from a photograph, use the Clone Stamp. To activate this tool, click its icon in the Editor’s right panel, or press the S key. This tool in Zoner Photo Studio is like a rubber stamp that stamps material from one part of a picture onto whatever other parts you choose. To set the center of the part of the picture that the Stamp copies, hold down the Ctrl key and click the picture. Use the Stamp to cover up a target area (for example, the area covered by a tourist in a picture) with material from a source area (for example, an area with the same solid background that’s behind the tourist).

  • Use the Diameter slider to set the Stamp’s diameter. Choose your diameter based on what you’re retouching—make it too small, and you’re making extra work for yourself; make it too large, and you might end up retouching away more than you wanted.
  • The Opacity slider determines how “strongly” the stamp stamps (in percent)—how strongly it covers over the original picture. Sometimes you’ll want to tone down your retouching a little and work slowly, and at those times you’ll want to use less than one hundred percent Opacity.
  • The Density slider works very similarly to Opacity.
  • Blurring makes the Stamp’s effect fade out gradually at the edges.
  • Spacing determines the amount of space between stampings of the Clone Stamp. When it’s set to the minimum, your “strokes” with the Stamp are smooth; as you raise it, spaces start to appear within them.

When you’re retouching, zoom in to several times actual size—that will ensure that you’re working precisely.

>> You can also work more precisely by using a drawing tablet.

You’ll find that your work goes a lot more easily if you zoom in first.

Try to do your retouching gently. And above all—in a way that ensures that it won’t be noticeable. When you’re retouching solid surfaces, set Blur to 100 percent. But when you’re retouching contours, set it to 0 percent.

Clone Stamp settings for retouching: Diameter 75; 100% for Opacity, Density, and Blur. Spacing is set to 1.
Clone Stamp settings for retouching: Diameter 75; 100% for Opacity, Density, and Blur. Spacing is set to 1.

 In the end I decided to leave one person in the picture, in order to emphasize the sheer size of this cliff (Preikestolen Cliff in Norway).

Compare the differences between the pictures using the slider.

Second Solution: Exposure Blending

One creative solution is to take multiple source shots and combine them into one picture—a “multi-exposure.” That’s how, for example, this picture here was created:multi-exposures

>> For a guide to using multi-exposures to “turn one portrait into four,” see our article on turning four pictures into one with multiple exposures.

And the same kind of edit that produced the picture above can also be used in reverse: turning four exposures with tourists into one without them. The only thing you need is to photograph one scene multiple times—ideally from a tripod.

Then just download the source photos to your computer and open them in Zoner Photo Studio. Assembling these multiple pictures into one will only take a few minutes. To reach the multi-exposures function, use: Menu > Create > Multi-exposures > Remove Moving Objects.

This opens a window that shows, one by one, a series of steps that combines multiple source photos into one picture. Use the first step to choose which photos you wish to combine.

Join the seven source shots into a single picture that contains only things that are in multiple source shots (in other words—only the part that’s not people).

The next step lists the photos you’ve selected.

The selected photos.
Setting up the multi-exposure. In the picture in the middle you can see how the moving people are being faded out.
The final picture created using multi-exposures, now ready for saving.
The final picture composed from the seven source shots.
The final picture composed from the seven source shots.

Third Solution: Use an ND Filter and a Long Exposure

Retouching is for the times when you can’t get things right during the shot. So—how can you solve “the tourist problem” when you’re shooting a tourist attraction? Sometimes it’s enough to just wait a bit until the people have left the scene. But some places are so busy that you’d be waiting for that for hours.

In those places, it’s better to use a neutral gray filter and set a long exposure to blur away the tourists while leaving everything else sharp. That approach would be very useful for e.g. this photo here:

A long exposure with a neutral gray filter would blur away the tourists while leaving the landscape nice and sharp. Photo: Petr Soukup
A long exposure with a neutral gray filter would blur away the tourists while leaving the landscape nice and sharp. Photo: Petr Soukup

Do you need to remove people from your photos too? Download Zoner Photo Studio, try it free for 30 days, and have fun making edits like these to your own photos.

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AuthorMajo Elias

I’ve been taking pictures since 2004. When I was starting out, I photographed almost everything. Later my style solidified and I began photographing people almost exclusively. At the moment my main genres are fashion and advertising.

Comments (4)

  1. Good article! :)
    I had no idea that Zoner had a built in tool for removing objects from multiple exposures! So i learned something new and very useful! :) :)

    1. Thank you! If you need any details, don’t hesitate to write us to support@zoner.com.

  2. As usual, this is a well written article, providing excellent information on solving typical issues.

    1. Thank you for your nice comment, John!

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