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How To Remove Dust Spots From Multiple Photos in 4 Steps

dustDust. The eternal enemy of a digital camera. When you shoot pictures with a digital SLR camera long enough, you will come to know the pain that dust can cause. For some it’s a minor annoyance. For others, it costs time and money attempting to salvage vital images.

In this post Peter Carey shares some tips on how to remove dust spots from multiple photos.

With advancements in DLSRs has also come advancements in Photoshop tools to remove dust. My favorite for dust removal, partially because of its price, is Photoshop Lightroom. While it is a scaled down version of the full blown Photoshop, it is perfectly suited to remove 90% of the dust I encounter.

Why is dust such a problem? Take a look at the picture on the left. Do you notice the small black spots in the sky and one big spot on the left side in the mountain? Those are not UFOs and that is not a mining tunnel. It was dust adhered to the sensor, casting a black shadow on the sensor when the shutter was activated. You can’t get back the data that is covered over by the shadow, but you can get creative and repair the damage depending on the dust location. When those dust spots are in the same location on each image, you’re in luck as there is a fairly easy method for multiple photo dust spot removal. (Note: the instructions are given using a PC version of Lightroom 1.4. Mac instructions vary only slightly if using a single button mouse)

Step 1 – Pick your worst image

Your worst image will have the most obvious spots. Often these images have a lot of sky showing as in this example.

spot01

Step 2 – Start Healing

Chose the Develop Module. Then pick the Remove Spots tool below the photograph and select “Heal”. With this tool selected, center your pointer over an offending dust spot and left click.

spot02

Presto! Through the magic that is Photoshop Lightroom, a location to use as the heal spot is automatically chosen for you. If you don’t like the selection, just drag the circle around until the best candidate is lined up. I have found more times than not, the automatic location works quite well. Repeat on any other spots visible.

Step 3 – Reproduce

Once all the spots have been selected and healed, you’re ready to apply these changes to any other photos you like. With the edited image selected, highlight the other images you wish to correct in the slider bar at the bottom. Holding Ctrl will help select individual images. With all images selected, click Develop and then Sync Settings from the menu bar.

spot03

Step 4 – Click and Sit Back

Check the box for “Dust Removal” only on the Synchronize Settings screen and click Synchronize. Depending on the number of images, spots and speed of your computer, Lightroom will take from a few minutes to a lot longer to removal all the dust spots.

Depending on which location you initially selected to heal from, there may be some small edits you need to make. Luckily, Lightroom is very forgiving in this regard. As you click through images and once again select the Remove Spots tool, you are given the option of moving the heal location at will. No need to create a new heal, just adjust its location. Quite handy!

Peter is an avid photographer who enjoys travel, portraiture and wildlife photography. A travel related blog of his past and current shenanigans can be found at The Carey Adventures. All photographs in this post were taken by his wife, Kim, during a trip to Nepal. More photos, without spots, can be found at Hidden Creek Photography.

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Peter West Carey

Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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