Using the Spot Removal Tool in Adobe Lightroom

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May 7, 2021
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If you’re an Adobe Lightroom user, the Spot Removal tool is one of your primary “go-to” tools. It may even be more than that. Perhaps it’s your number one “go-to” tool. Whatever the case, you surely need to know how to use it. Remove a speck here or a blemish there – it’s definitely a helpful feature that can turn an average photo into a spectacular one. There are, however, a few things you need to be aware of.

As I’ve said a zillion times, Adobe Camera Raw is Lightroom’s twin. So, if you know how to use this tool over there, you can quickly pick it up over here. There are a few minor interface differences that stand in your way. By the way, if you want to check out the similar post I wrote about Camera Raw, please click through to them via the links below.

How to Remove Face Blemishes in Adobe Camera Raw

Heal & Clone with Spot Removal in Adobe Camera Raw

In today’s post, I’ll walk through the process of removing a spot in a photograph using Adobe Lightroom. Depending on the photo I choose to use as a demo, this “spot” can be a freckle, blemish or some other artifact that someone like you would want to disappear. Let’s see how things go.

The Original Photo​

After a bit of searching, I think I’ve located a really good photo to work on for today’s tutorial. The picture is of a young girl who happens to have some wonderful freckles. Now, I want to be clear about this right now – there’s nothing I want to remove in this photo. I think her freckles are awesome. The thing is, working with freckles like this is going to be perfect for what we want to look at in regards to the Spot Removal tool. There are some aspects that I’d like to explain and the photo will lend itself to these aspects very well. It’s going to be great.


Accessing the Spot Removal Tool​

Finding and accessing the Spot Removal tool is easy. After launching Lightroom and locating your photos, simply choose which photo you’d like to work on and then click into the Develop module. That’s exactly what I did here:


Once in that module, you can either press the Q key on your keyboard as a shortcut or you can simply click on the Spot Removal tool icon in the toolbar in the right column.


After that, we’re good to go.

Defining the Tool’s Features​

There are many ways to go about learning how to use this tool. I think the best one of them is to first find out what we’re dealing with. To do this, I’ll work my way through each of the most important features this tool offers.

Starting off in the right column (the area in the red box above), I’ll give some definitions.

Spot Edit: With this feature, we’ve got two choices – Clone and Heal. They’re actually quite intuitive to understand.

Let’s say you would like to create an exact duplicate of a specific area in a photo in another area. In this case, you’d choose the Clone option. When I click somewhere in the photo, another similar area will appear and I’ll have the ability to drag this new area around until I find something I’d like to replace the first area with. Let me give you an example.


In the above screenshot, I selected the area on the left with the Spot Removal tool. I’m using the Clone feature and I moved the circle on the right so it sits in a fairly distinct spot on the face. I did this because it’s a very clear example of how the Clone feature works. Basically, the area I selected is now replaced by the circle on the right. It’s that simple.

While these two circles are active, I can change which option I’d like to use. I’ll go ahead and now click on the Heal option so you can see what happens.


As you can see, the area on the left (the target area) now matches the surrounding area much more. This is because Lightroom attempted to blend the area on the right (the source area) with what was already existing. You can still see the sunlight from the source area, but it’s much more subtle. When removing blemishes on someone’s face, I almost always use Heal. It’s so much more forgiving and easy to work with.

Size: This one is really easy. The Size slider controls the size of the tool. In this next screenshot, I increased the size from the last. I also changed it back to Clone, just because I’m giving examples here.


FYI – To increase or decrease the size of the tool, you can either push the slider back and forth or you can press the [ and ] keys on your keyboard. I encourage you to use the keyboard. It’s much faster.

Feather: As things are right now, there is virtually no feathering when using this tool. Feathering is merely how soft the transition is between the edge of the tool and the center of it. I’ll go ahead and move the Feather slider all the way to the right to give you an indication of how soft things can become. Be sure to keep your eye on the left circle.


With all this feathering going on, Lightroom is pulling over a soft-edged copy of the right circle.

Opacity: The Opacity slider controls how visible the source circle will be. If it’s at 100%, all of it will be visible and if it’s 0%, none of it will be visible. I’ll move the slider to 50% so you can see what I’m referring to.


Now, the left circle shows a fairly light copy of the right circle.

Removing Some Freckles​

Again, I’m just doing this as an example. I really don’t see anything wrong with tons of freckles.

To remove some of the freckles, I’ll reduce the size of the brush so it’s just a tad bit larger than the freckle itself. Then, I’ll choose Heal and set the Feather to about 50%. Finally, I’ll keep the Opacity setting at 100%, because I would like the freckle completely gone.


In this case, I clicked and drew over one of the freckles and Lightroom automatically found a similar area to to pull from. When I let go, this is what remained (above). If I continue clicking, drawing and removing freckles, I’m left with many areas that I’ve worked.


If you make a mistake and don’t want to go through with one of these spot removals, you can easily delete that particular area to start over. I’ll explain exactly how to do this below.

Also, one more point, if you would like to move around either the target area or the source area, all you need to do is to click on either area and drag it where ever you’d like.

Tool Overlay​

If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll see that there are many spots I altered with the Spot Removal tool. Many editors find the pins distracting. Because of this, Adobe has included a number of settings that control how the pins appear as you’re working inside of Lightroom. They are accessed in the toolbar that’s located directly under the large center photo.


If I click on the drop-down that’s to the right of the Tool Overlay heading, I’ll see four options. They are Auto, Always, Selected and Never. I’ll explain what each of these means below.

Auto: If I choose this option, the pins will only be visible when I roll my mouse over the photograph. When I roll the mouse off the work area, the pins disappear. This is probably the most desirable setting because if gives you quick access to view your changes without any of the source or target area outlines covering things up.

Always: The pins will always be visible when the Spot Removal tool is active. You may like this or you may not. It’s up to you.

Selected: Only the active source and target areas will be highlighted. You’ll need to select them to activate them. All others will be invisible. The way to find the inactive areas is to roll over them with your mouse. When the pointer turns into a hand, that’s when you’ve hit one of them.

Never: None of the spots you’ve worked on will be visible ever.

Visualize Spots​

If some of the spots you’d like to work on aren’t all too visible, you can view them another way. Lightroom has an option called Visualize Spots, which turns the photo black and white and makes each and every blemish practically impossible to miss. Let me show you what I’m talking about.


With this feature enabled, every freckle and anything else that is distinct from the background will appear white. The background will remain black. You can also adjust the intensity of the tool by pushing the slider to the left and right. Left lightens the intensity and right darkens it. You can even edit in this view – it’s not only for viewing.

Deleting the Spot Removal Tool Areas​

It’s super simple to delete a Spot Removal area you created. All you need to do is to click on it so it’s selected (with the Spot Removal tool active) and then press the Delete key on your keyboard. When you do this, it’ll disappear.

Reviewing Before & After Versions​

When editing photos in this manner, it’s helpful to look at the before and after versions of the photo itself. Upon viewing these, you may change your mind and make further changes or erase ones you’ve already made. Either way, it’s simple to change these views.

To view the before and after versions of the photo at hand, all you need to do is to set your Tool Overlay setting to Auto or Never and roll the mouse off the work area so the pins disappear. Then, press the backslash (\) key on your keyboard. This will toggle your changes on and off.

Well there you have it – how to work with the Spot Removal tool in Adobe Lightroom. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them for me in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 7, 2021
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Tips for Clearing Complexion in Adobe Lightroom​

I know I already wrote about removing blemishes and spots from photos in Adobe Lightroom, but I just couldn’t help myself when I thought of this image. I had to follow up with a quick post that let’s you in on a new tip or two.


Basically, what I want to dive a bit deeper into are two areas. First, I want to give you an example of what these painted faces look like at different levels of the Visualize Spots feature and second, I want to offer up a nice keyboard shortcut that easily hides all of those annoying circles that appear every time you make a correction. I think these two tips can really help your workflow when using the Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom.

Launching Lightroom & Selecting the Spot Removal Tool​

The first thing I’m going to do is to launch Adobe Lightroom. When that’s done, I’ll navigate to the photo I’d like to work on and select it. Then, I’ll activate the Spot Removal tool by clicking on it in the right panel.


Using Visualize Spots​

Now that I’ve activated the Spot Removal tool, I can visually look for any blemishes I’d like to remove. Already, I can see two on the chin of the girl in the middle.


I can remove them easily, but what I’d like to do first is create sort of a baseline for any further blemishes like this. To do so, I’ll click on the Visualize Spots feature that’s located down under the center image.


Part of the reason I’m writing this post is to show you how you can adjust the Spot Visualization feature so you can see spots more clearly when you’ve got a busy photo, such as the one I’m using here. As you can see in the above screenshot, this feature is of no use as it stands. To either increase or decrease the intensity of this tool, I can use the slider that’s located to the right of the check box and push it to the left or to the right. Pushing it to the left will remove much of the noise and leave the more distinct spots behind and pushing the slider to the right will increase the noise. I’d say that’s useful for photos with very little activity in them. I’ll push the slider all the way to the left now.


Okay, doing this helps a lot with the lower blemish and sort of with the upper one. If there were tons of blemishes, I could definitely see the value of this tool. Also, using the Visualize Spots feature is perfect for photos like this, where blemishes mix in with paint or other facial attributes. It helps clear away distraction and lets you hone in on the problem areas. It really depends on the contrast between the blemish and the surrounding area.

Viewing Before & After​

A feature I always use when editing images in both Camera Raw and Lightroom is the Before / After tool. Basically, by hitting just one key on the keyboard, I’m able to make any changes I previously made disappear and then by hitting the key again, I can make them reappear. This is perfect for taking an objective look at edits and reducing the “blindness” that occurs after a while of making changes.

The Before / After shortcut key is the backslash (\). You can either use the shortcut or you can head up to the toolbar at the top of Lightroom and find the View > Before / After > Before Only menu item. Click that and it will have the same effect. The keyboard shortcut is a heck of a lot easier though, so you really should consider using that.


Hiding the Overlay Graphics​

In this final section, I’m going to show you how to hide those annoying overlay graphics that appear every time you remove a spot. To exemplify this, I’ve gone ahead and make a boat load of edits. These weren’t really necessary – I merely wanted to have something there to show.


If you look at the above screenshot, you’ll see that I clicked on the Tool Overlay drop-down box that’s located to the left of the Visualize Spots slider. This is what controls those graphics you see scattered all over the center girl’s face. To hide those graphics, I can click on the Never choice. Doing this will keep the corrections, but will hide the graphics that indicate where the changes have been made.

An easier way to accomplish the same thing is to press the H key on your keyboard. What this does is cycles the drop-down between the Always and the Never options. The best part is, you can click H as many times as you’d like and it will continuously turn that feature on and off.

There you go. I know this was a short post, but I wanted to talk about these two areas a bit more. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!


May 7, 2021
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Removing Straight Lines with the Spot Removal Tool in Adobe Lightroom​

When I use any sort of spot removal or healing brush tool, I generally do so three ways. First, I “dot” the tool over any offending areas of the photo I’m working on. This method is probably the most common. If a camera had dust on the lens, dotting a spot removal tool to get rid of that dust is necessary.

Second, I “draw.” If there is a larger object that I’d like to remove or if the object has irregularly shaped edges, I can use a smaller sized brush to paint away the object. Of course, this takes practice and sometimes more than one try, but I do oftentimes correct photos like this.

Finally, there’s the “straight line” method. If I have a straight object in a photo that I’d like to remove, I can easily do this by using the very quick tip I’ll share down below. While the dot and draw methods would work as well in cases like this, the straight line approach is taken advantage of much more by power users. These are the types of folks who work so fast and on so many photos that your head would spin in any attempt at watching them. Sure, I can draw away a straight line if I’m working on only one photo, but if I’m working on 500, I would need a more efficient way to get things done.

In today’s post, I’m going to show you the straight line method for removing objects that are, well, straight. It’s super simple and really straightforward, so read on below.

The Final Photo​

I figured I’d work backwards today. Instead of showing you the original image, I thought I’d show you the one with the object removed. I did this because I wanted to demonstrate that when you don’t know what has disappeared, you really can’t guess where anything was. If you had seen the offending object at the get-go, you’d always notice that it wasn’t there.

Go ahead. Take a look at the photo below and try to guess what I got rid of.


Finding the Photo in Lightroom​

To work on this photo, I’ll need to import it into Adobe Lightroom. I already did this, but if you’re not sure how to, you can read my very helpful posts on the topic:

How To Import Photographs Into Adobe Lightroom

Importing Photos Directly From Your Camera Into Adobe Lightroom

Renaming Files While Importing to Adobe Lightroom

After the photo is imported, find it in the Library module, click on the thumbnail and then click into the Develop module. Things should look something like this:


Using the Spot Removal Tool​

At this point, I can make any adjustments I want in the Basic panel. In general, this is the first thing to do. Since this is just a demo, I’ll quickly push a few sliders around in an effort to add some contrast to the photo. The original version was somewhat bland and washed out looking.

Next, I’ll click the Spot Removal tool icon. This will open up the Spot Removal panel directly below.


Really, there isn’t much to this process. What I primarily need to concern myself with is the tool settings. So, since I’d like to remove the odd looking cloud in the upper right corner of the photo and the sky is already quite soft, I’ll size this brush so it’s about twice the width of the cloud. The Size setting will be 80. Next, I’ll soften the brush by half, so the Feather setting will be 50. Finally, since I want to completely remove the cloud, I’ll set the Opacity to 100. If this was any lower, some of the cloud would be left behind. You can see these slider settings in the screenshot above.

Here’s the trick. Instead of dabbing the Spot Removal tool multiple times over all the parts of the cloud, I’ll only dab twice. Instead of clicking and holding down to draw over the cloud, again, I’ll click twice.

I’ll click once at the top of the cloud to create a start point.


At this point, Lightroom thinks I just want to remove this one area. That’s why it’s showing the two circles – one to get rid of and one to replace it with. What Lightroom doesn’t yet know is that I want to remove the entire cloud with one fell swoop. So, to accomplish this, I’ll hold down the Shift key on my keyboard and click my mouse pointer again at the other side of the cloud.


By holding down the Shift key, I told Lightroom that I wanted it to connect my first click with the next click I made. And I want it to connect them in a perfectly straight line. As you can see, it did that and it chose to replace the cloud with an area to the left of it.

In this case, I chose to use the Clone version of this tool because it worked perfectly. I could have used the Heal version if I wanted to. I ran a test and both choices worked equally well. When you use this tool, you’ll need to decide which is best in your case. To learn more about spot removal in general in Adobe Lightroom, please take a look at this post:

Using the Spot Removal Tool in Adobe Lightroom

Today’s tip was to simply use the Shift key when removing straight objects from a photo in Lightroom. As I mentioned above, you can certainly use the other two methods for things like this, but when it comes to monotonously correcting large numbers of photos, you want all the help you can get.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 7, 2021
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How to Visualize Spots in Adobe Lightroom​

Oftentimes, when working in Adobe applications, such as Photoshop, Camera Raw and Lightroom, it’s tough to see everything a photograph contains. For instance, if you’ve got a photo that’s really light or faded and intend to print it out for some use, you may be concerned that imperfections may exist that aren’t readily visible to the human eye. Noticing a blemish after spending money on a print job certainly isn’t the way to go. If you can catch dirt, dust and objects you don’t want to show in the final product, before you export and print, that’s all the better.

In today’s post, I’m going to quickly discuss something I’ve touched on in previous posts. Since this isn’t an in-depth topic or something overly instructional, I’ll try to keep things brief. What I’d like to talk about is how to best visualize those “invisible” areas of a photo. And then, how to best get rid of the objects we don’t want around any longer.

The Demo Photo​

Since I don’t have tons of photos with dust or dirt showing in them that jump right out at me, I had to do some digging. The photo I settled on is of a lighthouse at dusk. It’s a creative shot that shows some stars in the background. I’ll use the lower portion of stars and consider them undesirable. Now, if you look at the photo below, you’ll notice that many of the very dim stars aren’t very visible at all. If I can’t see them, how can I get rid of them? I’ll go over that below.


Previous Resources​

In this post, I’m going to rely on a few posts I’ve previously written. If you’d like to review some writing on the Spot Removal Tool in Adobe Lightroom, please click through the links below.

Using the Spot Removal Tool in Adobe Lightroom

Tips for Clearing Complexion in Adobe Lightroom

Removing Straight Lines with the Spot Removal Tool in Adobe Lightroom

Visualize Spots​

In order for me to get the most clear picture of what’s going on in the way of spots, or stars, in this photo, I’ll first need to active the Spot Removal Tool in Adobe Lightroom. To do this, I’ll click the Spot Removal tool icon in the Develop module.


Once I do that, the Spot Removal sliders will appear in the right column. Again, if you’d like to learn all about them, please feel free to click into the links I provided above.

For now, what I’d like to look at more closely is the Visualize Spots feature that’s available down below the center image. I’m not even going to bother trying to remove any spots the traditional way because I already know I can’t see all of them. And since the sky is generally smooth and solid, I can rely on the Visualize Spots feature with confidence.


Next, I’ll click the small check box in this section and watch as the image turns black and white. I can adjust the strength of this feature by pushing the slider back and forth. If I push the slider to the left, I’ll reduce the number of visible imperfections I’m able to see and if I push the slider to the right, I’ll increase that number of visible imperfections. I found a spot somewhere in the middle. If I go too far to the right, everything will turn into an imperfection and it’ll be just too sensitive.


At this point, I could go ahead and begin removing spots with this tool.


There really isn’t a whole lot more than this. I think this tool and feature are perfect for these types of scenarios because of how solid the sky is. Any imperfection will show and they are relatively easy to remove with this few.

I do want to warn you about something quickly. If I go ahead and use the Ctrl++ keyboard shortcut to enlarge the view of the image, all of a sudden, a heck of a lot more spots become visible. It’s sort of like looking through an ever more powerful telescope. Since stars are visible as far as a telescope can see, we need to recognize the depth of editing that’s possible.


If I were working on a high resolution photo that was going to be printed large as well, I’d want to make sure I zoomed in a good amount so I could remove any spots and blemishes that weren’t visible with the smaller view. Keeping the editing view small is doing a disservice to the amount of time it takes to properly edit a photo.

That’s it. I wanted to share this tidbit of information with you because I feel it’s important to know for different types of photo editing. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!