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Tips & Tricks

Dust Correction with the Spot Removal Tool

By Pye Jirsa on June 18th 2013

Introduction

In this video from our Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD, we will demonstrate how to make basic dust correction to images using the Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom 4. The Spot Removal Tool consists of both the Healing Brush and the Cloning Brush. In this tutorial, we will use the Healing Brush to remove the dust specks in our image examples. Use the Healing Brush when dealing with areas where the colors shift a little bit and you need the brush to automatically adjust, because the Cloning Brush is a much more cut-and-paste tool that can leave tell-tale signs of whichever area you use to clone into the Target Area. Therefore, to get a better effect on graduating areas of an image, use the Healing Brush so that it smooths the colors and correctly interprets what should go into the Target Area.

Watch the video or continue reading the article below!

Watch the Video

How to Make Basic Dust Correction

To select the Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom 4, press “Q.” To adjust the Brush Size, simply press “[” or “].” You can also scroll up and down on the mouse wheel to change the Brush Size, usually. We recommend that you go through our “How to Use the Cloning Brush and Healing Brush form the Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom 4” tutorial so you understand how the Spot Removal Tool works and how to use it.

Image Example #1
Below is our first image example that needs some basic dust correction.

LR4 Tut Series Exercise Files

After you have selected your image, select the Spot Removal Tool (“Q”). Next, select the Healing Brush.

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To zoom 1:1 into an image, left click with your mouse on an area of the image. When fixing dust specks, the Brush Size needs to be a little bit larger than the area we are trying to fix. Below, the Brush Size is set at 77, which is big enough for this particular dust speck that we are fixing.

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So, just click on the dust speck that you want to heal out. Lightroom will automatically try and guess the correct Sample Area to replace the Target Area. If it does not guess correctly, just click-and-drag it to adjust the Sample Area. For our image, the Healing Brush has correctly guessed the Sample Area.

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Next, still at 1:1 zoom, check your image to see if there are more dust flecks to heal out. To move to another area of the image, hold down the Space Bar while clicking and dragging your mouse. We highly recommend that you have some sort of dust removal “system” that will help you keep track of everything that you are doing. For example, when I am doing dust removal, I typically work from top to bottom, left to right. This system just helps me remember what areas of the image I have checked already. Continue editing out any dust specks, adjusting the size of the Healing Brush as necessary.

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In the bottom right of our image, there is a long strand of sensor dust that needs to be removed. However, as we mentioned in our “How to Use the Cloning Brush and Healing Brush form the Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom 4” tutorial, there are some oddly-shaped dust specks that cannot be fixed in Lightroom 4. Instead, we need to take this image into Adobe Photoshop and heal out this strand as we cannot change the shape of the Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom 4.

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Once you have finished healing out the dust specks in your image, zoom out by holding down the Space Bar while clicking anywhere on the image. Next, deselect the Spot Removal Tool by pressing “Q” again. Look very closely to make sure that there are no visible dust corrections in the image. If there are, simply select the Spot Removal Tool again and adjust the Sample Area until you no longer see the dust correction in your image.

Image Example #2
Our second example has quite a few dust specks that need to be healed out with the Healing Brush in Lightroom 4. In addition, the specks in the bokeh lights will need to be removed in Adobe Photoshop. These are tough to remove in Lightroom 4 as the specks are right along the edge and we need a more advanced tool to be able to remove those specks.

LR4 Tut Series Exercise Files

We can remove the rest of the dust specks in the image just by clicking on them and healing them out with the Healing Brush. Adjust the size of the Healing Brush as you heal dust specks out, making sure to keep the size of the brush just slightly bigger than the actual dust speck you are replacing. When you are zoomed into an image, remember that holding down the Space Bar will bring up the Hand Tool, which you can use to click and drag to navigate through the image. If you want, you can also zoom 3:1 to see a little bit closer detail, which will help us get a little bit more into the finer detail of the image, allowing us to do a better job of correcting the dust specks.

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With that particular strand in our image, we will have to take our image into Adobe Photoshop and edit that out.

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While fixing dust specks, periodically turn off the Spot Removal Tool (“Q”) and zoom out to make sure that none of the dust corrections are noticeable. If they are, try moving the Target Area over a different part of the image so that the Healing Brush can find a more similar looking sample to use. If you cannot get the corrections right, then just take your image into Adobe Photoshop and fix those areas there instead of in Lightroom 4.

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Remember to Clean Camera Sensor and Lenses

Whenever you are shooting wide open or raising the aperture, you will not see that much dust in your images. However, as soon as you stop it down and do longer exposures, you will start to see some dust in your images. Editing out dust specks takes a lot of time in post production and is sometimes not easy to fix, or even impossible.

If you are shooting a lot, we recommend that you clean your sensor every few months. However, with camera lenses, you need to clean them every single time you go out and shoot, regardless of if you cleaned them right before the shoot. Especially the wider angle lenses; at apertures like f/11 or f/16-22 you will see every last speck of dust on an ultra-wide lens if the sun is shining on your lens at all.

Regularly cleaning your sensor and lenses will save you a lot of time in post production since you will not have to spend too much time editing dust specks out.

Conclusion & Learn More!

Once again, the dust in the bokeh and the bigger strands are things that need to be fixed in Adobe Photoshop and cannot be fixed in Lightroom 4. Remember to regularly clean your sensor and always clean your lenses every time you go out and shoot, especially if you stop down the aperture or do a long exposure. In fact, anytime you stop down the aperture, take a glance at your lens and just clean off the front element of the lens to ensure that you do not have anything on there.

We hope you enjoyed this article and video excerpt from the Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD. Stay tuned for our next article and episode!

The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD is a 14 hour video workshop turning any Lightroom novice into a complete master of Lightroom 4 in no time! The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop can be purchased by itself, or within the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection which also contains our award winning and industry standard Lightroom 4 Preset System, as well as the Lightroom 4 Workflow System.

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks.

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