The Lightroom Spot Removal tool was originally conceived as a way to quickly and easily remove various kinds of “spots” that appeared in digital photographs. These spots were most often caused by dust or other debris that had come to rest on the camera sensor, water spots (dried or otherwise) on front lens element, or “hot pixels.” The real beauty of the Spot Removal tool is that it can be used in tandem with Lightroom 5 synchronization features to quickly remove multiple spots from an entire series of shots that were taken at roughly the same time and in the same orientation.
Spot correction could also be used to remove unwanted debris or objects from the picture scene, assuming you could make a brush wide enough to cover one or more of them, without removing other nearby details that you wanted to keep. More often, you’d have to reduce the diameter of the brush and create multiple “spots” in close proximity to remove such objects. No longer! Let’s look at how the Enhanced Spot Removal works.
Spot Removal Controls
The Spot Removal tool can be accessed from the Toolbar, located directly beneath the Histogram panel in the Develop module. Either click the circular icon with the arrow attached (second from left) or press the letter Q. The Spot Removal controls will be revealed, as well as some new visualization options, located just beneath the main image preview (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 The new Spot Removal options can be seen beneath the main preview in Lightroom 5.
Note that there are two spot removal “methods” (Clone and Heal, as seen on the top right), and two brush controls (Size and Opacity). These are not new. Typically, you’ll want to use the Heal option, as it both removes unwanted pixels and replaces them in a way that is smoothly blended with the surrounding tones and colors.
Clone works like a “copy and paste” operation, picking up the pixels from one area and literally duplicating them over top of the spot/region you’re trying to replace. The transition (particularly with respect to brightness) is rarely subtle if you’re trying to remove spots from a blue sky or other uniform-looking region of pixels in the photo.
Clone is generally the best choice when there is an obvious, random texture or pattern that you’re trying to replicate (e.g., blades of grass). This is partly because cloned spots usually have a more pronounced, hard edge to them, whereas healed spots can have a softer boundary (akin to a feather boundary with a selection in Photoshop). When replicating patterns, a hard-edged boundary can be useful.
The Size control refers to the diameter of the brush being used to remove the spots, while Opacity controls the degree to which the underlying (original) pixels show through your correction. This can be useful if you’re healing the wrinkles on a person’s face (for example), but don’t want the correction to look unnatural or completely airbrushed.