Spot removal

Cameras with interchangeable lenses do not have sealed interiors and the sensors can pick up spots of dust. These can be removed in software using spot removal tools – you dab on the dust spot and the software uses nearby pixels to cover it up. It’s like cloning but easier, because you can leave the software to ‘heal’ the spot automatically.

Spot and Patch (Aperture)

Image ‘healing’ tools in Apple’s Aperture. They are not really designed for large-scale cloning and repairs – that’s where you need a program like Photoshop – but they are ideal for smaller objects and blemishes, including sensor spots.

Spot Healing Brush (Photoshop)

This is a tool for simply brushing away blemishes, sensor spots or unwanted objects in your pictures. You can ‘dab’ once with the brush for spots or paint over irregular objects. It uses pixels from surrounding areas to fill in the gap, and it works really well with small objects against larger backgrounds. It’s less effective at larger repairs, but worth and try nonetheless.

Snapheal

Snapheal is a Mac-only software tool for removing unwanted objects from pictures. It does this using one of three removal algorithms which use surrounding detail to produce an ‘invisible’ repair. It also offers manual cloning tools, and it works as a standalone app or a plug in.

Patch tool

A tool in Photoshop for covering up blemishes or removing unwanted objects from pictures. You use the tool to drag out a freehand lasso around the offending area, then drag the marquee to a nearby area containing the tones or textures you want to replace it with. It can be very effective although as with all ‘smart’ object removal tools, it’s a bit hit and miss.

Inpainting brush (Serif)

An automatic object removal tool in Serif Affinity Photo. You brush over the object or blemish that you want to remove and the Inpainting Brush automatically fills in the area with pixels and patterns from surrounding regions. It’s quick and often very effective and comparable to Adobe’s ‘content aware’ retouching tools.

Healing

A process or set of tools for removing an object from a picture or repairing a blemish simply by painting over it. It’s like cloning, except that you don’t have to define a nearby clone ‘source’ to use for the repair – the healing tool chooses and matches pixels automatically.

Content-aware

Image repair tools that can ‘intelligently’ paint over unwanted objects and blemishes using surrounding image data matched to the area being covered up. Photoshop has content-aware repair tools, Affinity Photo offers an Inpainting brush, MacPhun’s Snapheal offers a choice of intelligent object removal tools.

Cloning

Using a special clone stamp tool to copy pixels from an nearby area of an image to cover up an unwanted object or blemish. Cloning is something of an art, and some programs now offer simpler ‘content aware’ object removal.