As a photographer, the Taj Mahal in India is a must to photograph.  It's also a must for tourists, so it is invariably crawling with people.  In creating the following image, I had to deal with all the people (and pigeons!) in the scene, as well as look for a unique(ish) look for this most photographed of monuments.

 

Taj Mahal, India.  Composite of two images, hand-held.


Taj Mahal, India.  Composite of two images, hand-held.

My original intention for this image was to capture someone silhouetted while walking through the scene.  I took quite a few shots from this location, from various angles, and got a couple of images that I thought could potentially work well.  However, once I took a more detailed look at the images, it became apparent that the silhouetted people took up too much of the image (or more importantly, too much of the background Taj), and were too close to the camera.  Two of the images are shown below.

Two hand-held images from approximately the same spot, that can be later used to produce one image with the lady removed from the scene.

Two hand-held images from approximately the same spot, that can be later used to produce one image with the lady removed from the scene.

My next thought was to have a clean image of just the Taj framed by the arched doorway.  As it happened, the two images above, out of all the images I captured, can work perfectly for this effect.  To get the final image, I employed a trick (both at the time of capture, and after in the post-processing) that allows you to remove people from a crowded scene.

So, what's the trick?  Well, thanks to the abilities of Photoshop and other image editing programs, it is possible to align separate images more or less perfectly in post-processing.  With this knowledge at hand, you can capture a scene in such a way to take advantage of this later.  As long as collectively between however many images you capture there is more or less the full scene without a person in it, then you can reconstruct the image later to patch together all the people-free parts of the various images. 

In the example above, in one image the woman is just left of centre, and in the other she is right of centre.  As she is in two totally separate places collectively in the two images, we can use bits from each image to remove her seamlessly from the scene.  Same thing for some of the people in the background, and the pigeons.  Unfortunately, subsequent shots from this position introduced even more people into both the far background on the wall of the Taj, and also in the middle background between the door and the Taj.  But given the relatively people-free nature of these two shots compared to the others, and the perfect movement of the main person in the scene, this was my best prospect to get the final image.

To get the images ready for alignment in Photoshop, I processed them from raw in Photoshop Lightroom.  This involved very little editing, other than a small contrast boost, and a manual perspective adjustment to take some of the vertical distortion out of the archway.  I didn't fully correct the perspective, as a little bit of distortion allows the image to retain some reality of perspective.  The following image shows the before and after of the left image above:

Left: original image.  Right: perspective corrected image.

Left: original image.  Right: perspective corrected image.

Once the two images were identically adjusted, I exported them to Nik Silver Efex Pro2, where I converted them to black and white. 

Next stop was Photoshop to align the images and start the process of removing the people and birds from the photo.  The following video shows the procedure (I skipped the Nik conversion for the sake of the video) for aligning the two images and removing the main lady from the scene.  One image was first pasted as a layer above the other image.

Anywhere else in the image where the people or birds have moved, the same technique can be used.  As most of the people in the background hadn't moved, I imported the combined image back into Lightroom and used the spot healing tool to remove the people and a couple of birds.  This isn't ideal, but given the non-complex background behind the people, and their relative size in the overall image, it was a good solution.  You can see from the following two images, one before and one after, that the healing tool worked well.

Before and after spot healing in Lightroom.

Before and after spot healing in Lightroom.

And that was basically the main job done.  I did a little more toning of the image in Lightroom and added a small amount of vignette and then resized and sharpened for display.

So next time you are at a tourist spot and the scene is crawling with people, you just need to take as many images as necessary to capture enough un-peopled parts across the whole collection of images, and you can simply paint them out of the image in post processing.  Remember, though, to maintain settings between the images, either shoot in full manual or shoot raw in aperture priority and standardise your settings later in your raw converter.

Happy shooting!