Lightroom 4 is a great tool for post-processing your work, especially if you tend to shoot RAW most of the time. It’s quick, easy to manage and offers an extremely wide range of color adjustment, as well as other kinds of processing. But what if you need to retouch your photographs? Does that mean Photoshop is the only way to go? While I certainly use Photoshop CS5 for more complicated retouching, I’m glad that Lightroom 4 offers options that are sufficient at least 90% of the time. In this short and simple tutorial I will teach you how to use the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom. This simple yet powerful tool will then let you remove small objects out of your photographs or fix flaws, such as skin blemishes or sensor dust spots. You will be able to perform these actions very easily and quickly and, more importantly, all within Lightroom 4 environment.
1) Where to Find It?
Lightroom is a very photography-centered piece of software. Unlike Photoshop, which, from the very start, had a very broad range of applications, Lightroom doesn’t need many tools. Luckily, this makes finding them that much more simple – all the tools, including Spot Removal, are located under the Histogram tab. You can, alternatively, press “Q” to pick it up for use.
2) What’s Wrong with the Photograph?
I will be working on a photograph a friend of mine snapped while enjoying a walk in a park, and you can see it shown above. Nothing is really wrong with it per se – I think it’s a great, fun street shot. However, since Spot Removal is so simple to use, I would like to get rid of a small white spot right between the dog’s front legs. Take a look:
3) Let’s Get Rid of It!
Most of the time, Spot Removal works with just a single click. In order to remove the white spot (which may have been a chewing gum once, but let’s not think about that), first select the tool by pressing “Q” on the keyboard. You will notice your mouse pointer has been replaced by a circle, which defines how big is the area to be affected. My settings are currently at 75 (Size) and 100 (Opacity). Lets go ahead and just click on the white spot we dislike so much. Here’s what happened:
Now, if we remember that it was the white spot that bothered me most, Lightroom did a great job of removing it. Ok, so there’s part of a dog’s leg floating in the air, so what? Alright, fine. Maybe some of my setting were a little wrong to begin with… Thankfully, fixing it is very simple. Here are the options:
- Change the Size of the Spot Removal tool: to do that I can either adjust the slider with that particular Spot selected, or remove it completely by pressing “Delete” on my keyboard. Then, I can place a new one that’s smaller. Before I place my Spot I can also change the diameter of it by scrolling my mouse wheel up (to increase) or down (to decrease), which is very handy and saves me time. Regardless of which way I do it, Size of 45-50 seems to do the trick much more accurately, but it’s still not perfect.
There is no trace of a dog’s leg floating out of nowhere, true, but there is a hard shadow right on the edge of my Spot. If I make it any smaller, it won’t cover the whole white-chewing-gum-thing I’m trying to remove, so the only way I can fix this, after selecting the right Size of 45, is by cloning from a slightly different place.
- Tell Spot Removal Tool where to Clone from: there are, again, two ways to do it. If you want to specify a different cloning place with an already placed Spot, click and drag the second circle to a more suitable place in the image. Alternatively, when placing a new Spot, you can click and drag it initially to bypass Lightroom’s attempt and show where you want it to clone from yourself.
4) Other Settings
Not a complex tool, Spot Removal offers two modes – Clone and Heal. If you want Lightroom to strictly clone from a specified place, set Spot Edit to Clone. I find it to work best on most occasions, especially with random textures. In Clone, the Spot will also have a less defined, dissolving edge.
If you choose Heal, Lightroom will attempt to make subtle changes to the way Spot is filled. It lets you avoid direct cloning and, thus, is sometimes less evident, because new detail are not identical to the source (that is why we had a hard shadow on the edge of our Spot before we moved it). It may also have rougher, more defined edges. You will notice that Spot Edit was set to Heal in our case and worked very well in the end. I may have as well set it to Clone, however, and the result would likely be just as good. Play around to see which one works better with each retouching you do.
If you want more of an overlay effect, you should also adjust Opacity slider. In my case, I wanted the white spot completely gone, and that is why I used 100% Opacity. Had I used 60 or 70 percent, the chewing gum would be slightly visible with other detail, possibly, blending in better. Opacity slider is useful if you want to turn down certain detail of your image and make them less noticeable rather than hide them completely.
5) The Result
That’s about all there is to Spot Removal tool. Once I worked out my settings, I removed some more white spots that were too visible in the image. The environment may not have been that clean in reality, but for me, photography has always been about the way I see things, not how someone else does.
Don’t forget – you can use this great tool to retouch skin or remove bigger objects from your image. It may not be as powerful as Photoshop’s Clone Stamp or Spot Healing Brush tools, but then again, Lightroom is not about excessive retouching in the first place.