While I was out in New York for PhotoPlus last fall, I was able to visit some friends before the conference.

As a part of that day, we checked out the area around the World Trade Center memorial, including the Oculus. Equipped with the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III and 14-150mm f/4-5.6 lens, I photographed some angles I thought were interesting.

When I got home a week later, I finally checked out my images from the trip. I loved the composition I captured, but the photo had anything but that “wow” factor I was hoping to achieve.

Straight out of camera, the Oculus had major color and exposure issues … and that was just the start.

I knew fixing things like the white balance and exposure would be fairly straightforward. But I was more concerned about the different markings I had in the photograph. How in the world was I going to get rid of those, let alone notice all of them?

A bit discouraged, I started playing around with a few different sliders in Lightroom Classic, ultimately settling on a high-key look that made the Oculus look a bit dreamy. I did this through elevating the whites and taking down the shadows in the image. I also took down the clarity a bit.

This treatment helped get rid of a lot of the marks, but they were still definitely there. I decided to message my friend Angie McMonigal, an amazing abstract architectural photographer out of Chicago. She had shot the Oculus more than a few times, and was nice enough to send me a guide on what to clean up.

My jaw literally hit the floor. While this was helpful, how was I going to know exactly where to put my pointer to clean these up?

Then I had an idea.

Lightroom’s Spot Healing brush

The Spot Healing brush in Lightroom and Lightroom Classic is meant to clean up spots, typically from dust that gets on your sensor. But it can be used for way more than that.

I went back into Lightroom Classic and clicked on the tool, and then clicked Visualize Spots at the bottom of the window. It wasn’t just showing me the dirt and grime on the architecture — it was showing me literally everything I had to clean up!

From there, it was easy to just go through and use the brush to clean up those areas. It was still a tedious process — I often had to adjust the points it was pulling from — but it was way easier than having to guess manually. Here’s what the Visualize Spots option showed once I was done cleaning up the photo.

You’ll notice it’s not perfect, but the main problem spots are gone. The other scratches, etc. would’ve been near impossible to get rid of. And with the high key treatment I gave the photograph, they aren’t noticeable.

Whether you have Lightroom or Lightroom Classic, you can take advantage of this technique to help you remove imperfections from your photographs. I think the proof is in the end result.