Dust spots are the bane of photographers. It seems that no matter how much you clean the sensor in the camera and make sure the lens is clean or how careful you change lenses, or even if you don’t change lenses those pesky dust spots quickly come back.
If you shoot nice clear blue skies those dust spots will show like crazy. You clean them up with the spot removal tool in LightRoom and satisfied you publish the image, views/likes/favourites starts to come in and you look at the published image again yourself and to your horror you discover another couple of dust spots that you didn’t catch the first time around. A new feature in Lightroom 5 called “Visual Spots” that is almost hidden under the “spot removal” tool is absolutely amazing and can save you a lot of time. If we take a look at this image of a Helicopter against a fairly clear blue sky that I took during the Austin F1 Grand Prix last year. In this version I pushed the post processing a bit to make some of the dust spots strong and obvious. A quick look and we easily find at least 6 glaring dust spots, I have circled the ones I caught right of the bat and probably be the ones I would have fixed first. Then I would probably looked a little closer and found a few more before deciding it had to be it. However when you export your image and sharpen for screen and the social media websites and image compression has done its part you will probably discover a few more spots…. In LR v5 they improved the spot removal tool and added the option to not only clone but also heal. Best of all you can now drag the tool brush and create no circular patches to repair. But you also have a option called “Visual Spots”, this feature is designed to help you find those pesky dust spots. 1) First click the “Spot removal” or hit the Q key. 2) Activate the checkbox in “Visualize Spots” 3) You can now play with the slider to increase the contrast detection for the spots. I pushed the slider up a bit and spots start to pop up all over the place. A small round white circle with a black center is a good indication that you have a dust spot. Don’t just push the slider all the way over to the right and removed the spots you see, start fairly neutral and remove the strongest “circles” and most if not all of the medium strong ones, then push the slider over a bit and remove a few more. In this image I slid the slider ALL the way over and if you look between the landing gear there is a strong white blip that here looks like it’s probably a part of the helicopter. But it’s actually a very strong spot, when the slider was further left it was a nice circle but at the slider maximum to the right it’s glaring white like it might be a part of the helicopter. And yikes there were a lot of spots, way more than the 6 that I had initially spotted. Time to get busy and click away with the spot removal tool, in this photo I probably removed a good 60+ spots. A dusty race track is a really bad place to swap lenses at and the fact I hadn’t cleaned the sensor for a couple of months before this race didn’t help me any at all. Once all finished up we have got a cleaned up image that is ready to be published, cleared from pesky dust spots. Final image: Red Helicopter against blue sky – To bad it wasn’t sharper.