Using the Enhanced Spot Removal Tool
For this example, we’ll use the Spot Removal tool to find small dark spots in the sky (around the moon and clouds). Removing spots against a blue sky is one of the most common uses for this workflow (see Figure 2). And now that we have additional capabilities, we’ll use it to remove some unwanted cloud details.
Figure 2 This image has some lens spots near the moon, but they can be difficult to locate without a visual aid.
The first step is to find where all the spots are. Sometimes it can be difficult to see them unless you’re zoomed in at close to 100% and really scanning the image closely. Luckily, Lightroom 5 provides a great way to speed up this process. Beneath the preview, click the Visualize Spots checkbox.
This generates a black-and-white preview (similar to the one used for the capture sharpening “Masking” control) that will outline the high contrast details in your shot (see Figure 3). You can also press the letter A to activate this visualization; press A a second time to turn it off.
Figure 3 Once you turn on the visualization feature, it becomes easier to “spot the spots.” Note that some details shown will be things you won’t want to remove.
Next, you will often need to move the visualization slider to the right to reveal more contrast points/details (see Figure 4). Think of it as a threshold control. The higher the value, the more spots you’re likely to reveal (and the more it will be obvious what is a spot and what is a detail to be left alone).
Figure 4 Use the visualization slider to reveal the subtle or hard-to-find spots caused by dirty lens elements or sensor dust.
For this shot, most of the spots are directly to the left and right of the moon, and a few above it as well. Most of the cloud details appear as “streaks” or sketch-like lines.
From this point use the Size control or shortcuts (the ] key increases the diameter, while the [ key decreases same) to match up the brush size with the spots. Here I used a large enough brush to correct two or three “clustered” spots with one brush click. For each of the three areas, I placed the cursor so that the spots were covered, and then clicked.
As you move from spot to spot, a “brush overlay” will be placed on the preview so that you can see where all the corrections are (see Figure 5). If you don’t see them or see only one, use the Tool Overlay pop-up menu to the left of the Visualize Spots option; set it to Always to make sure all corrections are visible at all times. Auto will show or hide them based on whether the brush cursor is currently over the preview. You can use the shortcut H to show or hide the overlays with the current setting.
Figure 5 As you use the brush to target and click on the spots, overlays are created, showing you the correction locations.
Notice in Figure 5 that one of the corrections shows an arrow leading from one circle to the next. Each spot that you correct generates a (connected) overlay for the “correction source” (i.e., the pixels that Lightroom uses as the basis for removing your spots). This secondary overlay (with the arrow attached) can be dragged to different locations, allowing you to choose your source. However, this is best done once all the spots have been “covered,” and the “visualize” feature is turned off so that you can see the colors and tones in the photo (see Figure 6).
Figure 6 Once the visualization is turned off, you can move the different source overlays around to create the best look.
Typically, you’ll want to use source-points that are from the same immediate region in the sky, so that the lightness or darkness of the blue pixels is matched up as accurately as possible with the original spot.