How to edit underwater images using Adobe Lightroom – part 3 removing spots

This is the third blog in the series to explain how I edit my underwater photos in Adobe Lightroom. In this section I will explain how I remove spots and unwanted marks.

If you have not done so please read the first and second posts in this series. 


How do you get spots on an image?

There are many factors which can cause unwanted spots or marks on a photograph. These can include marks, scratches, or dust on the lens or sensor of the camera. Another possibility is light reflected off objects within the scene which you would rather not be seen. A good example of this is backscatter; 

Backscatter is a common term in the world of underwater photography. It refers to particles in the water column which are usually lit up by an external light source. This creates a series of dots across the frame, which does not look very good. These particles can be caused by plankton blooms, bad visibility or divers kicking up the sandy bottom. If you would like to learn how to avoid backscatter in your images please contact me for details of my courses. 


How do you remove the spots?

Lightroom actually has a tool called the spot removal tool.

Spot Removal Tool

There are two options clone and heal. Clone will copy exact pixels from one area of the picture to another. Heal is a little smarter and will compare pixels from selected areas to provide the best fit. For some pictures clone works better and for others heal works better, you need to experiment.


Size – make the brush big enough to cover your spot.

Feather – hard or soft edge to the brush.

Opacity – how much of the original image can be seen through the corrected area.


To place a spot simply click on the image. Two spots will appear with an arrow between them. You can move the spot at the start of the arrow to the area you would like to copy from by clicking and dragging.


As well as placing spots you can draw over an area by clicking and dragging.


Finally you can toggle whether you see the spots you have placed using the drop down menu in the bottom left corner.

There is also a visualise option which turns the image black and white. With some images this makes it easier to see the spots, with others it can make it more difficult. 


Example 1

Before and after barracuda

This is the before and after shot of a barracuda taken in shallow water where there was a gentle swell. The swell caused the sand from the bottom to move and picked up some of the particles, therefore resulting in a small amount of backscatter. 

I edited the exposure and colours of the image before removing the spots. 

exposure and colour

I then selected the spot healing tool and turned the visualise spots option on. 


The top half of the image is all blue water and therefore it is easier to see the spots in this view.

I then went through removing the spots using the heal selection. I regularly turned the visualisation mode on and off to check the image was healing was working and that I was not removing anything I wanted in the image.

spot removal
spot removal visualise 

Final image visualisation
Final image visualisation



Example 2

Before and after diver

This is the before and after of a diver shot. The main thing I wanted to remove in this image was the other divers fin on the right hand side. 

Again I started the editing with exposure and colour corrections. 

exposure and colour


I checked the visualise spots mode but decided not to use it for this image. 




Next I removed the fin by increasing the brush size to cover it with one click. 

fin removal


I finished the Image by removing a few more spots

spot removal

OK Diver


What’s Next

If you would like to learn more about Adobe Lightroom please download my PDF Lightroom course.

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