Lightroom Ultimate Guide – Spot Removal

The selective adjustment tools in Lightroom are a powerful collection of editing capabilities. They set Lightroom apart from many of the other photo processing platforms on the market. This article covers the Lightroom Spot Removal tool.

The Spot Removal tool enables you to remove minor blemishes from your digital images, such as dust spots and small unwanted objects. In theory you can use the tool to remove larger objects from your images. However, Lightroom typically doesn’t achieve the same quality of result doing this as Photoshop.

For minor blemish removal though, the Lightroom Spot Removal tool does an excellent job. Plus, because the edits are all non-destructive, you always have the ability to go back and undo any changes you make.

Lightroom Spot Removal

Lightroom Spot Removal Tool

The Spot Removal tool is accessed through the Development Module, and sits near to the top of the selectable tools, just below the Histogram.

You can select Spot Removal either by left-clicking the Spot Removal icon, or using the short-code Q.

Lightroom Spot Removal

Within the panel you get a number of tailoring options. By default the Spot Removal Brush is set to Heal mode. In this mode, when you click on an area in an image with the Brush, Lightroom:

  • Automatically selects an appropriate area of your image to blend pixels from.
  • Attempts to blend this selection into the area you want to correct

In doing so, the healing process should be invisible to the naked eye. Obviously the algorithm in Lightroom is more effective in areas where there is limited contrast and tonal change. e.g. skies.

Also, as a personal preference, when using this mode, because we are trying to make an invisible heal, I tend to:

  • Set the size of the Spot Removal Brush so that the centre spot is just larger than the area you are trying to heal. You can change the size of the brush either using the bracket keys [ and ]. Alternatively, you can use the Size slider in the panel.
  • Set the Feather slider to 100% (Its default value). This ensures that the edges of the heal blend more sympathetically.
  • Set the Opacity to 100% (Its default value). Anything less than 100% and the area you are trying to eliminate would still show through.

Spot Removal – Heal Worked Example

In this example image (a sunrise through fog), you can see a couple of areas in the sky that would benefit from a correction in Lightroom with the Spot Removal Brush.

  • There is a silhouette of a small bird, which detracts from the composition.
  • There is a tonal change in the sky due to a break in the fog, which detracts the eye to the edge of the image.
Minor Blemishes

When you make a correction (indicated near the arrow below). Lightroom displays a ring around the corrected area, as well as where it brought the new pixels from. If for any reason you don’t like where Lightroom has picked, you can click and drag either of these areas.

Lightroom Spot Removal

For the second area, I had to brush a section of the image. So the resultant areas which Lightroom has displayed is more of a slice than a circle. The principle is the same however, and Lightroom has done a pretty good job at healing the image. Again, you have the option of moving either the source or destination sections should you wish.

Lightroom Spot Removal

Its also worth noting, that, if you don’t like the heal, you can left-click and delete it, and start again. The whole process is non-destructive. You can therefore go back into an image that you have made Spot Removal Brush adjustments on, and make further edits if you need to.

In any case, once you are happy with the result, you click Done, and the process is complete. Here is the completed example image.

Final image

Clone Tool

The second mode of Spot Removal in Lightroom is Clone. The principle of operation is exactly the same, but rather than blending from the source to the destination, Lightroom just pastes the source into the destination.

From personal experience, this tool is only useful if you are trying to clone very small areas of the image. It simply does not give you reliable results for larger areas. For this reason, I always recommend to people to use Photoshop for cloning corrections as opposed to Lightroom.

If you enjoyed this article, then please check out more of our Lightroom Ultimate Guide. Here are some which may interest you:

Lightroom Adjustment Brush
Lightroom Adjustment Brush

The adjustment brush is one of the most versatile tools in Lightroom. This article explains how to use it, with worked examples.

Lightroom Gradient Masks
Lightroom Gradient Masks

This article explains how to apply a Gradient Mask to your Graduated Filter Effects.

Lightroom Graduated Filters
Lightroom Graduated Filters

This article explains the use of Graduated Filters into your digital image workflow.


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