Techniques for Removing a Date From a Photo

Crop or retouch the image to remove distracting dates

Some photo print suppliers put dates directly on photos, but the practice detracts from the picture. One nice thing about digital cameras is that they automatically embed the date in the metadata that is stored in the file, so you don't need to have the date printed directly on the image. 

Getting Rid of Dates

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

If you are scanning an image with a printed date on it, you have a few options for removing it.

  • Crop it out
  • Block it out
  • Clone it out
  • Use a healing brush
  • Use a smart fill plug-in

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.

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.

Make a rectangular selection around the date and fill it with a solid color that is similar to the background. Blur the edges of the selection so they blend into the surroundings. Blocking out is another easy fix, but it's not seamless. However, the result is a lot less jarring than the bright yellow date in the original image.

Remove the Date With a 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 solid textured area of the photo. In the case of this photo, the variety of background textures make cloning a time-consuming task. Although the cloning is not obvious when the image is viewed at 100 percent, it is detectable at a higher magnification.

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 that 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.

Select the yellow date numerals using the magic wand and then expand the selection by one pixel. Use Photoshop's Patch tool on the area. The results shown in the top half of the image 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 cleaning up the edge. This was done with one careful swipe using the clone tool. The overall results might not be perfect, but they are pretty good.

Remove the Date With Alien Skin Image Doctor 2 Smart Fill Plug-In

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 a third-party plug-in filter for Photoshop in the Alien Skin Image Doctor 2 collection. For this particular image, it gives the best results of all. For this example, start with a magic wand selection of the date and then use 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 any of the other methods, yet it was done in a fraction of the time it took to use the clone tool.