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August 2, 2010

Spot Removal with Photoshop and Lightroom

The bane of a photographer’s existence is the presence of dust and scratches on the lens or camera sensor that show up as dark spots and scratch marks on your photos. Blue skies are one of the places where they are most-noticeable. The more you swap your lenses, especially in the field, the more likely you are to get dust spots. I’ve got around that issue by mostly taking two cameras with me; one with a long lens, the other with a mid-range lens.

Anyhow, apart from doing your best to avoid the issue happening in the first place, there are a few tools in Photoshop to remove spots.

If you are a Lightroom user, then you can use the spot removal tool in the Develop module. It’s where I first try to remove any spots spoiling an otherwise good photo. It mostly works pretty well, especially say on a blue sky without clouds. However, sometimes around areas where you have contrast edges, for example where blue sky and clouds meet, then it might not always do the trick.

In Photoshop itself, there’s the Spot Removal tool which obviously was designed just for this purpose, and it works very well too…most of the time. Again, what’s surrounding the spot makes all the difference since spot removal works by sampling the surrounding pixels and making a guess at what the spot area should look like based on what’s around it. Generally I find it works more successfully than does Lightroom’s spot removal tool in the more difficult areas.

The “clone stamp” tool can come to the rescue sometimes when other tools fail, but depending on how big or how many spots you have to remove, you have the challenge of it not becoming obvious that something has been removed and cloned.

One new tool we have for spot removal comes with the new release of Photoshop, CS5. I just thought about it the other day when working with some spots. CS5 has something called “content aware fill”, which fills a selection with Photoshop’s best guess from what’s around the selection. All the tutorials I have seen about it so far show how you can use it to remove objects in front of your subject, for example a power pole in front of the building you photographed. I haven’t seen anyone else yet suggest it for spot removal, but you can be sure others have thought of it.
Here’s how content aware fill works for spot removal. Use a selection tool of your choice to select the spot. When I was using it the other night, I used the Lasso Tool. Then navigate to “Fill”. I like keyboard shortcuts, so that in this case is shift+F5. Normally with fill you will select a color to fill with, but with CS5 “content aware fill” is a new option available on the dropdown once the dialog box comes up. Choose Content Aware Fill and click OK. I found in the few times I used it recently that in every case the spot was removed perfectly.

If you’ve upgraded to CS5, give Content Aware Fill a shot next time you’ve got some spots to deal. And who doesn’t?

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Denise Leach said...

With the release of your latest peacock art -- which is so amazingly vivid btw -- I was moved to again browse through the rest of your peacock art. I just have to say that Peacock Art #5 is awesome! I can't remember if I commented on it before, but I love this one. The great work with the colors speaks for itself, but I love the blurring of the tail and the sharpness of the peacock body and head -- kind of mixing the surreal with reality -- really cool effect :)

John C said...

Thanks, Denise. So appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment.

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