LR Tips Cleaning up the image


Senior Member
Sep 27, 2006
A lot of times when you take an image, there are little things in the frame that can be a distraction. Our goal most of the time is to try to simplify or cut down on the distractions in the image. Using the spot removal tool is a big help and can be more powerful than you may think. I tend to automatically jump over into Photoshop to do any heavy lifting and cleaning because I find some of the tools more robust and intuitive… but Lightroom is making it easier to stay in this program without having to jump over… and the big key is using your arrow keys. Let me show you what I mean.
Here is a shot I took at the Old Car City Museum outside of Atlanta, and it is not a bad picture as it stands, but our eyes will be drawn to other little things in the frame that aren’t part of the main story I am trying to tell… all about the car. (side note, for more about the 8 factors that can attract or distract the eye, check out my class on about composition.)
Original shot… notice how the vines and the white spots attract the eye

The vines create some neat looks, but lines cause the eye to follow them, so you need to think about how the lines are working in your image. Also, the brightest points in the frame vie for your attention, so all those little bright highlights can be a distraction as well.
Grab your spot healing tool and make sure to zoom in. If you know how to work this tool it will do more than you think. Click and draw over the object/vine etc… and then the program will pick what it thinks is a good sample to use… a lot of times it is, but sometimes it is way off. However, more often than not, it is almost right but needs a little tweaking. Grabbing the little circle/adjustment meatball can be a little tricky, but if you use your arrow keys you can move the sampled selection very precisely.
For instance, I want to remove the junk on the grille, and so I need to really tweak the positioning of the sample to have the grille lines match up… tough to do freehand, but a snap with the arrow keys. If you have a good enough area to sample from you can do some pretty complex cloning. (See below.)
use the arrow keys to line up grill parts

stick in grill before

Most of the time I would think about jumping into Photoshop to fix this, but by being more precise with the arrow keys I can do some pretty neat cloning. But don’t try to do too much in one shot… that can bite you in the butt, and the short cut can actually make you spend more time going back and fixing it.
Stick in grill in process… Instead of trying to clean up whole parts, work in sections. notice the grill on left lines up perfectly, but the grill on the right is off just a bit when trying to do too much in one shot.

With all the overlay markers turned on. When working it may be better to switch to Selected to just show the one area you are working on without getting mixed up with other sampled spots.

compare before (top) to after (bottom) subtle changes, but can make a big difference in how clean and harmonious the image is. Even now looking at the bottom image, I need to hit a few more bright spots that distract, especially in the corners.

So just remember that you have the ability to be more precise with the arrow keys and can do an amazing amount of work cloning and healing in Lightroom, and a great opportunity to work on cleaning up your composition.
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