An introduction to AI editing in Adobe Lightroom - Content Aware heal

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This is an ongoing series of Lightroom image editing tips. You can see more here. 

The before image. Image: Shreyas Yadav
The before image. Image: Shreyas Yadav

Healing with Content-Aware remove

Content aware has become very good when it comes to removing distractions.

For my style of photography, distractions like trees, sticks, rocks, or blades of grass around my main wildlife subject can be enough to make or break an image, and up until recently removing them was very time-consuming in Photoshop. Well, those days are over!

However, it is worth mentioning that using the content aware remove feature in moderation generally gives the best results. It works best if the distraction is small and located around the object.

For major distractions in an image, the Clone and Heal tools are more useful.

Let’s look at an example image first. I spotted this beautiful juvenile leopard while I was driving in a safari jeep in the evening. Since the leopard was in the bushes and I only had seconds to grab the shot, I could not avoid the small out-of-focus stick on the right of the leopard.

Let’s see if we can remove this distraction.

Image: Shreyas Yadav

We’ll use the Content-Aware remove tool. First, we’ll open the image in Adobe Lightroom and select the Develop module, and then select Healing (Shortcut: Q).

With that chosen, we’ll select the Mode as Content Aware Remove (identified by an eraser symbol), and adjust the size of the brush (for this I choose 76) and the opacity.

By default, the slider’s opacity will be set to 100. This means that 100% of the tools’ effect is applied to the image. For editing this image, I’ve kept it at 100%.

Image: Shreyas Yadav

Next, we’ll paint over the distracting element to remove it. Content Aware works by analysing the areas around the area to be removed and choosing similar tones and textures to replace the distraction, or you can select cmd + drag on the photo to select a custom source.

When you’re done, hit the band aid symbol in the right panel to complete the process.

...and after. Image: Shreyas Yadav
...and after. Image: Shreyas Yadav
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