Several Techniques for Removing a Date from a Photo

01
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Dates on Pictures are Ugly!

Dates on Pictures are Ugly!
Dates on pictures are ugly! Let's learn how to remove them. © S. Chastain, Photo © Jean Brandau, used with permission

I don't understand why some people like to put dates directly on photos like this one, but I wish they would stop. It really detracts from the picture. One nice thing about digital cameras is that they automatically embed the date in the EXIF metadata that is stored in the file, so you don't need to have the date directly on the image. If you do need to put the date directly on a digital photo, add some extra pixels to the bottom of the document and put the date there, or at least put it on an inconspicuous part of the image.

OK, off my soapbox… the point of this is to show you several ways to get rid of dates that are printed directly on a photo, like this one. This isn't a detailed tutorial of a single technique; it's an overview of several techniques that should be useful in many situations. If you'd like to try some of these techniques as you read about them, you can save the example image above and practice removing the date as you follow along.

Special thanks to Jean Brandau, Huntsville Guide, for use of the photo and for inspiring this article. If you'd like to download the photo used in this tutorial to try these techniques at home, click here.

02
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Remove the Date by Cropping the Picture

Remove the Date by Cropping the Picture
Cropping to remove the date is an easy fix, but not always suitable.
Cropping is an easy fix, but it isn't always ideal, as in the case of this photo where it causes the subject's hind legs and part of the tail to be cut out of the picture.
03
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Remove the Date by Blocking it Out

Remove the Date by Blocking it Out
Removing the date by blocking it out is also easy, but it's not seamless.
Here I made a rectangular selection around the date and filled it with a solid color that is similar to the background, then I blurred the edges so they would blend into the surroundings. This is another easy fix, but it's clearly not seamless. However, the result is a lot less jarring than the bright yellow date we had in the original photo.
04
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Remove the Date with the Rubber Stamp or Clone Tool

Remove the Date with the Clone Tool
Using the clone tool to remove a date is a common solution, but it can be time-consuming.
Most photo-editing software has a rubber stamp or clone tool that can work well for removing a date from a photo, especially if the date is over a solidly textured area of the photo. In the case of this photo, the variety of background textures made cloning a time-consuming task. And although the cloning is not that obvious when the image is viewed at 100% magnification, it can be detected at a higher magnification.
05
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Remove the Date with the Healing or Patch Tool (Photoshop)

Remove the Date Healing or Patch tool
Photoshop's healing and patch tools can work well for removing a date without too much evidence.
Photoshop offers a patch tool and a healing brush which quickly remove flaws while preserving the background texture in the surrounding area. Photoshop Elements has similar tools — the spot healing tool and the healing brush.

In the example above, I first selected the yellow date numerals using the magic wand, then I expanded the selection by one pixel, and used Photoshop's Patch tool. The results shown in the top half of the example are pretty good after just the patch tool, but the line between the refrigerator and the flooring is a little ragged. In the lower half of the example image, you can see the results of my attempt to clean the edge up. This was done with one careful swipe using the clone tool. The overall results might not be perfect, but they are pretty darn good.

06
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Remove the Date with Alien Skin Image Doctor Spot Lifter (Plugin)

Alien Skin Image Doctor Spot Lifter
The spot lifter from Alien Skin Image Doctor can be effective in removing a date from a picture.

Editor's Note:

It appears that Alien Skin Image Doctor, is no longer available as an Alien Skin product. If you do have a copy of the plug ins, be sure to to check if they are compatible with Photoshop CC 2017.

Alien Skin Image Doctor is a collection of four photo enhancement filters. In this example, I made a selection of the date, then I used the "Spot Lifter" filter from Image Doctor with the settings:
Expand selection: 1 pixel
Removal Strength: 100
Feather Radius: 1.00

This resulted in a slightly smudged appearance, but it was very quick and looks a lot better than the blocking technique.

07
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Remove the Date with Alien Skin Image Doctor Smart Fill (Plugin)

Alien Skin Image Doctor Smart Fill
The smart fill tool in Alien Skin Image Doctor works exceptionally well for removing the date quickly.

Smart Fill is another filter in the Image Doctor collection, and for this particular image, I think it gives the best results of all. For this example, I started again with a magic wand selection of the date. Then I used the "Smart Fill" filter with these settings:
Expand Selection: 1
Texture Feature Size: 8.15
Texture Regularity: High
Stitch Into Background: enabled.

With this filter, the results are far less noticeable than anything we have done so far, yet it was done in a fraction of the time it took to use the clone tool.

Special thanks to Jean Brandau, Huntsville Guide, for use of the photo and for inspiring this article.