Lessons from the Shop: How to Spot and Remove Dust, Part 1

by Gary Fong
Click photo to enlarge

Cropped IcelandIceland
 Figure 1                                                  Figure 2                   


What are those little black “freckle” looking, pepper flaking, and/or UFO flying in the sky??? It’s called DUST (Figure 1 and 2). Yes…it can be fixed or “spotted” in old film terms…”healed” in digital terms. 
Three common solutions are PhotoShop, LightRoom, and camera manufacturers.  The first two are easier.  It simply takes time and software,  but doesn’t address all the files from the camera.   Camera manufactures can clean the dust at its origin, on the image chip. If dust is absent on the image chip, it won’t show up on the file.

The Healing Brush Tool

The Healing Brush Tool in Adobe PhotoShop is designed specifically to make technical correction on dust spots.
1) View the image at 100%
2) Click on the Healing Brush Tool. (It’s the band-aid looking icon on the tool bar.)
3) Make a small brush with a hard round diameter.
4) Place the brush on a dust spot and click it gone.
The Healing Brush identifies the areas around the spot and “heals” by averaging the colors around the area. Be careful not to “touch” any other colors that may border the dust spot. It may blend the border in with the sky.

The Spot Removal Tool


With the Adobe Lightroom solution, use the Spot Removal Tool. 
1) View the image at 100%. 
2) Adjust the Spot Removal Tool to circle each spot. Work on one dust spot at a time. 3) Click the dust stop gone.
4) Export the file in a desirable format.
The Spot Removal Tool has a variable diameter brush and sample area. The sample area automatically chooses what may be the correct area. But it’s moveable to any area that makes sense to blend the spot away.
Most photographers use either PhotoShop or Lightroom to make technical correction to the dust spot defects. It’s good to learn both solutions. Watch for next week, the camera solution.