Today’s Question: When using the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom Classic to clean up blemishes in a photo, I always use the Heal option. Is there any reason I should ever consider the Clone option?
Tim’s Quick Answer: In most cases the Heal option for the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom Classic is the best option. I would only use the Clone setting when you find that the blending from the Heal option is causing unwanted artifacts. However, in those situations I would also strongly consider sending the image to Photoshop for further image cleanup work rather than dealing with the limitations related to image cleanup in Lightroom Classic.
More Detail: The key difference between the Clone and Heal options for the Spot Removal tool is that with the Clone option pixels are copied from source to destination without being altered, while with the Heal option the pixels are blended to better match the destination area.
In most cases the Heal option for the Spot Removal tool provides a good result, blending the source pixels into the destination area so they match more accurately. You can always move the source and/or destination area for a given cleanup area to help ensure a better match.
However, in some cases the helpful behavior of the Heal setting can lead to problematic artifacts caused by the nature of the blending. In those cases you may want to use the Clone option to perform a basic replacement of the blemish by directly copying pixels from a different area of the image. You can then use the Heal option to apply additional separate cleanup work to help the original cleanup area blend more smoothly into the surrounding area.
In most cases where the Heal option isn’t providing an adequate solution, I would recommend instead sending the image to Photoshop so you can take advantage of the Content-Aware technology that is more widely available within Photoshop. Hopefully at some point Lightroom Classic will include the same (or similar) technology to improve the power of the Spot Removal tool, but until then I consider Photoshop an important tool for image cleanup for Lightroom Classic users.