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Automatically Remove Dust Spots using Lightroom: Exploring Photograph with Mark Wallace

January 24, 2020

Hi everybody, welcome to another episode of Exploring Photography – right here on Adorama TV. I’m Mark Wallace I’m a working photographer. Today I am in the very busy city of Santiago, Chile, and I am out and about trying to get some photographs of the city. Well one of the things that you’ll discover no matter if you’re a traveling photographer or studio photographer, you’re gonna find that eventually you’re gonna get dust in your camera. Now how do we deal with that nastiness, well the nice thing is we can always clean our cameras. There are some modes that allow us to open up the sensor, and use a little thing like this. We can blow that dust out, we can send our cameras in to have them professionally cleaned, but no matter what you do, eventually you’re gonna have some dust spots in your camera, on the images, you’re gonna have to deal with those in some way. Well the nice thing is that Lightroom has some really effective ways, to deal with dust, and once you’ve done that, you can apply those settings, you can apply those cleanup settings to multiple photos, which will really help you to speed up your post processing workflow. So what we’re gonna do now is, I’m going to open up Lightroom and walk you through this really amazing tool, it’s super simple, and it’ll save you hours, I’m in the library module of Adobe Lightroom classic, now what we’re going to do here is, we’re going to look at an image and look at all the different dust spots that are in the image, and then once we have those we’re going to remove them, and then tell Lightroom to do the same exact thing automatically to all the other images in our session, that way we only have to do the work once and Lightroom does the rest for us. Now it’s important to note that this only works for images that we shoot around the same time, so it could be a studio session that maybe lasts a few hours, or a full day, it could be a scenic session that’s a day, it could be a street photo session, whatever, but you can’t do this for images that were shot weeks or months apart, it’s important to note. The other thing that’s important to note is, we can automatically remove things like the dust spots from our sensor like these two spots here, but if we look up here we see this smudge right, here this is not on our sensor this is on the wall of the studio, we can notice that we just going to the next image, you can see there’s the smudge there, so it’s not in the same place of the sensor, so we can’t have Adobe Lightroom classic automatically do the work for us. We’re going to have to remove that ourselves, now what we’re going to do here is, just to show you, don’t to start with the very first image. I’m going to start with this third image in and to help us visualize that, this is our master image, the one that we’re starting with, and then we’re going to tell everything else to copy it. I’m going to set this, a red label just so we can see that it’s different from the rest, you don’t have to do that, that’s just for us to help understand what we’re doing here okay? Now the other thing to note here is, when we zip into this image, it’s difficult to see where the spots are, that’s okay because Lightroom has tools for that as well, so we’re going to go to the develop module, now we have a special tool it’s right over here, it’s called the spot removal tool, you can either click on it or hit Q, that’s the shortcut key, once we do that we have this little circle and we can click on the spots to remove them, but before we do that let’s figure out where these spots are, we can do that the old-fashioned way by just zooming in and looking around, we can see there’s a spot right there, and what I can do here is, I can change the size of this tool, I can click on that spot, Adobe Lightroom the classic is going to look and say this looks like an area that’s clean. I can pull from that, and then put that here, you can move this around, if it gets it wrong so maybe it’s pulling from the dress, we don’t want that, we can move this around, we can shrink this, we can do all kinds of stuff to these to fine tune them. Okay so let’s keep looking for our little spots, they’re sort of hard to find, so what we’re going to do is use a special little thing in the toolbar, so the toolbar is down here, if yours is not showing up you need to hit T, you hit T it’ll disappear, you hit T again it’ll show up, there’s a little thing here that says visualize spots, we want to click this little square here to turn that on, there’s also a slider here so depending on if your image is dark or bright you might have to slide this to the right or to the left to see the effect, these are dark images, so I’m going to slide this to the right, and when I do a woah man look at that… these spots just show up like stars in the night, we can see exactly where that problem areas are in our image, so then we can go in here we can zoom in, we can zip around, we can see yeah, that needs to be fixed, so I’m going to click on that. This is a little image here, I’m going to have to fix that, then we can just go through here, and start figuring out exactly where we need to fix things, we can either do it that way, or we can turn visualize spots off, and do it the old-fashioned way, just eyeballing it, and zipping around with our tool. Okay so now once we have a few of those selected, what we want to do is we want to apply these settings to all of our images. I didn’t spend very much time here, obviously I would normally spend a lot more time to get everything out, but we just want to zip right along, so once I’m done here, I can close this tool now, just a note, any time in the future if you want to see where you’ve removed spots, you can just click on this, and hover over the image, and everything will sort of show up. If you turn that back off, then that will go away, okay we’re going to go into the library because we want to tell a Lightroom to apply what we just did from the master image to everything else. So I’m going to go back to the grid view by hitting G, here’s the image that we started with, this one right here, now notice we have horizontal and vertical images, it doesn’t matter because the dots on our sensor are on the same place on the sensor. It doesn’t matter which way the camera is oriented, these dots are going to be in the same place, so Lightroom is smart enough to know that. So what I’m going to do here is hit click this first image, then I’m going to click this last image, so this is the first, second, third, so shift click, so what I’m going to tell Lightroom to do is, to take the settings from this photo, and apply it to these two others so I can do that by going down here, and clicking sync settings, now normally everything would be checked, I’m going to say check none, I only want to apply the spot removal because if I’ve cropped or I’ve done some tonality adjustments or white balance things I don’t want to overwrite those from this image, I just want to apply this spot removal, so then I’ll click synchronize, so now watch what happens, they go to one of these two images, I go to the develop module, the spot removal tool, if I hover over, notice it’s already applied that spot removal to those images. We can easily do this to the rest of our images, again I’m going to click the master photo, that’s the one with the red here, go to the very last image in this session, hit shift and click, and go sync settings spot removal, is already selected. I will synchronize, and now all the spots on all of these images are removed, even the vertical images, so we can go into the develop module, and click on this, hover over and notice that all the vertical images, the spots removed just like the horizontal images, and that is all there is to it. You can save yourselves hours and hours of time just using these simple techniques. Well, thanks for joining me for this episode of Exploring Photography, don’t forget to subscribe to Adorama TV, it’s absolutely free, make sure you click on the bell, so you get notifications. We’re uploading new content almost every single day, also follow me on Instagram, that way you can see my travels around the world, you can see some of the cool behind-the-scenes things that happen in cities like Santiago, which is where I am right now. Thanks again for watching, and I’ll see you again next time.


  • Reply Modali Theja January 23, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    How to remove that dust spots in camera ??

  • Reply Gene Waddle January 23, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    I hadn't thought of that. Thanks. 🙂

  • Reply Gary Dumbauld January 23, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    Wow! Don't know how I missed this one – thanks, Mark!

  • Reply fmrff70 January 23, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    Wow! Thanks Mark! I've been using Lightroom for more years than I'd like to admit and have spent countless hours on spot removal! So much so, that I make sure EVERYTHING is clean prior to shooting! Thanks again!

  • Reply buffalobob2002 January 23, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    That is assuming that the replacement areas are still relevant.

  • Reply DC Allan January 23, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks Mark this will prove useful.

  • Reply Robbie Keene January 23, 2020 at 5:18 pm

    Santiago looks a mess. It looks as though it wouldn't be safe at night. Beautiful old architecture and graffiti everywhere. I'm sure you walked through that area intentionally. What are you trying to tell us?

  • Reply Mr Dev January 23, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    The street graffiti is so ugly there

  • Reply Frank Sepulveda January 23, 2020 at 5:56 pm

    Thanks Mark ! It seems they really like their spray paints in Santiago…

  • Reply Lyfan Deth January 23, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    So much easier than using a single hair Windsor & Newton sable brush and actually spotting on negs or prints!

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