Lightroom 5: The New Spot Removal Tool

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Lightroom 5 has been released and a lot of the hype has been about the newly designed Spot Removal Tool.


Up until Lightroom 4 the Spot Removal tool was a pretty basic single click solution for removing dust spots from an image.  You would simply select the tool from the Special Adjustment Menu, set your brush size and then click on the dust spot that you want to remove.  Lightroom would then automatically suggest an area of the image that it can use to cover up the dust spot in question.

Very handy little tool and one that could also, if you have a lot of patience and determination, be used to remove larger objects like power lines or stems of grass in wildlife images by adding a whole bunch of little overlapping circles together.  Painful but possible.

Lightroom 5 sees a couple of exciting new additions to the Spot Removal tool which allows you to not only remove dust spots but larger objects as well in a very similar manner as you would in Photoshop.

Let’s use this image, which I have deliberately underexposed in order for us to see the white outlines of the Spot Removal tool, to look at the newly redesigned features in Lightroom 5.

Lightroom 5 - Clone and Heal Tool on Wild Eye

The first thing we are going to do is to remove the dust spot in the top left hand side of the frame and then try and remove entire tree!

So, in order to remove the dust spot we follow exactly the same steps as in previous versions of Lightroom.

Select the Spot Removal Tool by clicking on it or hitting the shortcut key Q.  I would recommend using Heal as I reckon it gives a better, smoother final result.

You then resize the size of your brush by using the slider on the right of the screen or scrolling your mouse and then you click on the dust spot.  This is important as the first click you make with the Spot Removal tool will tell Lightroom that “this is the area I would like to get rid of”.

Lightroom will then, through some very clever and newly updated algorithms, select an area it believes will best replace the area you want to get rid of.

Once you have done this you will see two circles – the first one will be the original area you want to get rid of and the second, the one with the thicker border, is Lightroom’s suggested area that it wants to use to replace onto your selection.

Lightroom 5 - Wild Eye

If you do not like the area that Lightroom has selected for you, you can grab the ‘suggestion’ circle and move it around the screen until you are happy with the area.  You will see a live preview of your originally selected area so you can see what the final result will be.

Once you are happy with the result simply hit enter or close the Spot Removal tool by using the shortcut key (Q) again.

So far so good but nothing new.

Now it get’s real…

The newly redesigned Spot Removal tool in Lightroom 5 allows you to remove larger objects by painting over them in a single click.  That last bit is important as you cannot touch up a painted area once you let the button on your mouse go.

So, in our example we are going to attempt to remove the tree.

To do this I simply open the Spot Removal tool as I normally would, choose my brush size and then start painting over the area that I want to get rid of – Lightroom will show you this by adding a white mask over this area.

Lightroom 5 - Wild Eye

Simply keep holding your mouse button and continue to paint the entire area you would like to remove.

To get the best results overdo things a bit.  Don’t stay too close to the edges of the area you want to remove and, if you have an area like the tree trunk going into the floor, paint past the line of the ground a little bit in order for Lightroom to gather enough info to give you a good final result.

Lightroom 5 - Wild Eye

Once you are happy with your selection let go of your mouse.

Lightroom will now, as with the dust spot removal, show you two outlines – one showing you the area where you painted and the second the area it plans to use to replace onto your selected area.

Lightroom 5 - Wild Eye

You can again grab the proposed area and move it around should you want to fine tune the results.

This new addition to the Spot Removal tool is quite a big jump for Lightroom and is a very welcome addition to an already fantastic processing program.  Personally, from a wildlife photography point of view, I don’t see myself painting out too many objects as the goal with wildlife photography is to keep it real but it’s great to know it is there and that it is a very powerful tool.

Another very nice new addition to the Spot Removal tool is the Visualize Spots menu at the bottom of the page.

Lightroom 5 - Wild Eye

This new feature makes it a lot easier to see and identify dust spots in your image by creating an overlay mask, very similar to the mask we know and use in sharpening, which we can then adjust to find dust spots.

With your Spot Removal tool open, click the Visualise Spots checkbox in the menu at the bottom of the screen.

Lightroom 5 - Wild Eye

This will then show you a black and white masked version of your image.

By using the slider to the right of the menu you can now increase the intensity of the mask which will make the more subtle areas in your image become more visible.

Lightroom 5 - Wild Eye

In the image above you can see how the dust spot pops up which makes it a whole lot easier for us to spot them and then get rid of them.

Love this!! Removing dusts spots is a must and this new tool will make it a whole lot easier.

Lightroom is about making your post processing life easier so to wrap up this post let’s have a look at some of the keyboard shortcuts you can use along with the new Spot Removal Tool.

  • Q – This will open and close the Spot Removal Tool
  • A – This will activate the Visualize Spots feature
  • / – With a single spot selected you can hit the / key to ask Lightroom to select a new ‘suggested’ area
  • Shift – If you hold shift while painting an area it will constrain the line to either vertical or horizontal
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So there you have it.

A quick look at some of the great new Spot Removal features in Lightroom 5.  In my next post I will have a look at, brand new to Lightroom 5, the Radial Filter so make sure to check out the blog or the Wild Eye Facebook page for details.

If you have any questions on the Spot Removal Tool or you have any other tips to share please feel free to drop me a comment below!

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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