Taking a photograph of an empty street or road, or indeed anything, is always difficult as there are always people and vehicles in the way. You have limited options if you want a completely empty shot: You can shoot at really early hours of the morning, but the problem here is that the light may not be as you want it. You could just wait for the scene to clear, which can take a very long time, or in the case of a busy street or road, may never happen at all, or if you’ve got enough money and influence, get the road closed. None of the above are practical, so in this situation we have to resort to Photoshop. Here is a photo of a busy area in Blackpool town centre mid-day. It would be impossible to shoot this scene with no people at this time of day. Fortunately, there is a way to do this, and it works with almost any scene so long as all the objects or people are moving. File/Scripts/Statistics.
First some rules.
1. You need a tripod
2. You need a cable release or use the self time/intervalometer to avoid camera movement.
3. Avoid windy days.
4. Be aware that any static objects will not be removed.
The trick is to take as many images as you need to ensure that every part of the road (in this case) has been captures without a car at least once in one of the photographs. For this scene, I took 12 . I left around 10 seconds between shots to ensure that the objects in the distance had moved sufficiently to reveal at least some clear road surface in some of the shots. I saved these images into a folder, and then ran the script with “Image/Scripts/Statistics” Ensure “Median” is selected, and navigate to your files folder with the browse button. Select all your files (see next page) Then click OK.
Ensure “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” is selected. This will keep images aligned if there was any small movement in the tripod/camera between shots. Depending on the file size, and speed of the computer, it can take anywhere from 1 minute and up to 1 hour.
A ghostly, empty plaza in the middle of the day.
You can easily retouch artefacts with the healing tool. Upon completion, the image will be rendered as a Smart Object, which is useful, as “median” has a slight softening effect, especially if there is any noise in the image. These images were shot at ISO400, and there was very slight noise. Median will actually help reduce noise too, but with a small sharpness penalty. As it’s a Smart Object though, we can now go to Filters/Other/High Pass. And …. Click OK. Don’t bother setting the Radius at this stage – As it’s a smart filter, we can adjust in a moment. First, right click or Ctrl Click on the High Pass filter itself and change the filter’s blending mode to overlay. And the image should return to normal. Zoom into the image a little to see detail, then Double Click the High Pass Filter to bring back the radius adjustment. On this image, a radius of 1.7 pixels gave a subtle, but noticeable sharpening. Do any other retouching necessary, flatten the image, and your work is done.