, pub-3242621414822145, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Photography Ethics – Is It Ok To Remove Stuff from Architecture Photos? – Rick McEvoy Photography

Photography Ethics – Is It Ok To Remove Stuff from Architecture Photos?

Photography Ethics - Is It Ok To Remove Stuff from Architecture Photos?

OK – the recent posts about the photo of Bordeaux Cathedral made me think. It was those lights that were bothering me. So I removed them.

It is OK to remove certain things in Photoshop from architecture photos as long as you are open and honest about what you have done, and do not make false claims. Removing things that are not part of the original structure such as lights, signs etc is just fine, as these are not original features. Removing things that are original is questionable and should be declared and explained.

Ok – this is a question of ethics and honesty. Removing stuff in Photoshop from architecture photos is a point of discussion.

First here are the photos with and without those pesky lights.

Bordeaux Cathedral by Rick McEvoy - the new edit
The magnificent interior of Bordeaux Cathedral by Rick McEvoy
My final edit of the photo of the interior of Bordeaux Cathedral, France

Any immediate thoughts? I much prefer the image without the lights.

But first – who am I?

I am Rick McEvoy, an architectural and travel photographer. Photos like this one of the interior of Bordeaux Cathedral are completely my thing. And I was writing about how I created this photo in previous blog posts – here they are.

How I Got The Shot Of Bordeaux Cathedral – Architectural Photography In France

How Did I Create This Photo Of The Stunning Interior Of Bordeaux Cathedral In Lightroom?

Want To Know How I Created This (New) Photo Of Bordeaux Cathedral In Lightroom?

I know – I can go on a bit.

And the last thought I had was those pesky lights, I should remove them. And that is where the thought process for this blog post came from.

Why did I want to remove the lights from this photo?

Well they bothered me. Sure they were there but they detract from the mood and feel of the place. I quite simply did not like them in the photo, which is much better without them don’t you think?

A tip for critiquing your own photos

This is something I learned years ago which his really helpful. When you are looking at a photo think about what you like about the photo, and also think about what you do not like. I find that when I think about what I do not like things appear that I can do something with.

You can apply this to your compositions, it is much better to not include things than have to remove them later.

How did I remove those pesky lights?

I used a combination of the spot removal tool and clone stamp tool in Photoshop. These are fantastically powerful tools that I use to get rid of things like this from my architectural photos.

It took me no more than a couple of minutes, and you cannot tell can you? Good job Rick (if I do say so myself).

Is It Ok To Remove Stuff from Architecture Photos?

Should I have done this? Well this is the question isn’t it? Am I right to do this, or should I have left those lights in?

The rest of this post will explore this question – not just about these lights but the principle of removing things from architectural photos using Photoshop.

In my opinion, as a commercial architectural photographer, it is ok to remove things that are not part of the original construction. There are many additions to old buildings that detract from the splendour of places such as Bordeaux Cathedral.

These are essential things that allow us to safely enjoy these places so I am not bemoaning or belittling this. This is the reality of 2021. But really these things have to go!

What kinds of things am I talking about?

It is ok to remove stuff like this from public/ historic buildings

  • Retro fitted lights of course
  • Signage
  • Displays
  • Handrails and barriers
  • People
  • Shops/ kiosks
  • Ramps
  • Lifts
  • Collection boxes
  • Escape/ emergency lighting
  • Alarms
  • CCTV installations

This kind of thing

And it is ok to remove stuff like this from new buildings

This is a list of things that I routinely remove when I am processing my commercial architectural photography work. This is essential editing, my clients would not thank me for leaving stuff like this.

  • Loose gravel
  • Bins
  • Bags of rubbish
  • Skips
  • Hosepipes
  • Debris/ unused materials
  • Vans
  • Marks on glass/ smooth panels
  • Protection on glass/ ironmongery
  • Protective pads on glazing
  • Labels – could be anywhere
  • Ladders – tricky to remove
  • Scaffolding – even trickier to remove
  • Staining on brickwork

And there are other things that I often have to correct while I am on the subject!

  • Unfinished works
  • Marks to decorations
  • Unfinished external works
  • Damage to grounds

And there are other things that I have to attend to on potentially any shoot

  • Chewing gum
  • Loose gravel

I hate chewing gum. School playgrounds and public footpaths are the worst.

What is it not ok to remove from architecture photos?

Original features. By way of an example in my opinion it would be wrong to remove say the colour from the stained glass windows. I mean why would you but you get the point I hope?

Or the stone carvings which break up the raking sides of the magnificent arches.

Or defects in the stonework – these are things that have happened over hundreds of years – this is not a new building after all but a piece of history.

Historical damage – like damage from past battles – these buildings would lose a part of their sole if things like this were removed.

And anything that renders the image incorrect, inaccurate or misleading in any way.

These are the rules that I work to.

And the grey areas

I removed the two high level windows at the front of the image using the burn tool in Lightroom. This is questionable as they were there and are additional features but not part of the main subject matter which is the magnificent structure and stained glass windows.

So I lost them in the shadows.

Thinking about it I probably did not even know they were there when I took the photo.

I don’t think that removing these is a problem really.

What do you think?

So lets be clear

Architectural photographs should accurately record a buildings structure, age, history and character. Buildings contain history and stories that need to be faithfully captured and recorded and not tinkered with.

What has happened has happened, and cannot be undone so this should apply to Photoshop as well!

If they are for personal use only?

Then really this is not a problem – you can do what you want. You can play around to your hearts content. You can remove stuff, copy and paste stuff, flip things, do what you want.

It is only when you do something with the photos that this becomes an issue.

What do I use Photoshop for?

To remove things – that is all. I use the clone stamp tool and the spot healing brush tool. I do not use Photoshop for anything else as I am not that clever.

These are incredibly powerful and effective tools, even for a non-Photoshop user like me.

Can I not remove things in Lightroom?

Well Lightroom does have a spot removal tool, but the Photoshop one is much more powerful. I do everything else in Lightroom apart from removing stuff. If they added those two tools to Lightroom I would not need Photoshop.

No I do not have a downer on Photoshop – I just love and enjoy working with Lightroom. If I don’t need to use Photoshop to edit photos I am happy.

Sorry Adobe this is just the way it is.

Do I remove stuff on commercial shoots?

Yes – all those things that I mentioned above I routinely remove from commercial photos I am creating for clients. I am after all being paid to give them high quality images that show their work, ie the buildings, to their best.

Imagine issuing a photo of a £5m house to a client and there being a skip outside.

Or a bag of rubbish.

I don’t specifically tell clients what I have done, but as I am only removing stuff that should not be there this all good.

What about replacing the sky?

Ah – great question. When I replace the sky I am removing something from the photo ie the rubbish sky. Now I live and work in England so this is something that I do quite often.

And I use Luminar for this, which has a wonderful AI Sky Replacement tool. I can swap the sky in seconds.

And a client has never come back to me and said – “why did not you not leave that dull, grey sky?”. More like “wow you have made those photos so much better than the conditions on the day”.

That kind of thing.


Be careful, Whilst it is fine to do this stuff if you are entering a photo in a competition then you need to check the rules as they might quite simply not allow stuff to be removed from photos.

This is one of those black and white things – you can or you cannot.

Uses of the photos

My understanding of photo journalism is that this is a no no, so check before you issue photos with stuff removed as some people will not be happy with you.


Architectural photos should be realistic. I have said this before and I will make no apologies ofr repeating myself here. Realistic, giving an accurate representation of the building.

OK I am done

Apart from the video on my You Tube Channel

Yes you can watch and listen to me talk about this on my You Tube channel right here.

How to get Lightroom and help me

I will be completely upfront about this. I am an affiliate for Adobe. I am a paying customer as well, but if you get Lightroom using my affiliate link I get a commission, and as well as a great product you will get my gratitude also. You don’t pay any more other.

Check out my Resources page for this and the other products that I recommend.

How to get Luminar and help me

I wanted to give Luminar a separate mention as the sky replacement tool has been a game changer for me. Check out the resources page above for my affiliate link to Luminar which also comes with a money off code!!

What’s next on my blog?

I have an idea – lets see if this works…..

Related reading

Check out a couple of pages of my website which link to lots of related stuff.

Work With Me

Construction Photography

My Podcast

Also please check out the Photography Explained Podcast, my small but perfectly formed audio offering available on all good podcast providers.

Catch you on the next post.

Rick McEvoy

Rick McEvoy

I am Rick McEvoy, an architectural and construction photographer living and working in the South of England. I create high quality architectural photography and construction photography imagery of the built environment for architects and commercial clients. I do not photograph weddings, families, small people or pets - anything that is alive, moves or might not do as I ask!! I am also the creator of the Photography Explained Podcast, available on all major podcast providers. I have a blog on my website where I write about my work and photography stuff. Rick McEvoy ABIPP, MCIOB

Recent Posts