Spot Your Images More Effectively by Creating Your Own Tool in Lightroom

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Lightroom 5 has a new feature that lets you reveal dust by adjusting a black mask. However, I have found that this doesn't actually show dust that well. It shows the big pieces just fine, but those I can usually see without any help. It's the little specks, the ones that are semi-transparent, don't show up. So, even though I think Adobe is on the right track with this new feature, I still use this simple trick.

Note: This trick will work with most photo editing software.

     What does this tool do?

I choose a macro image, because they often have a lot of dust that is hard to see. The first thing we are going to try, is Lightroom's native dust tool. When you are in the spot removal tool, tap 'A' on your keyboard, or click the box at the bottom of the screen:

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This will turn on the visualize spot tool, so that we can see the effect:

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As you can see, it is doing a fine job of showing us the big stuff, but how about if we zoom in?

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By zooming into 100%, we can see that it looks like it is doing a fine job of showing us the spots, but lets compare this to the tool that we are going to make.


Here is the tool that we are going to make:

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They both show the big spots just fine, but our tool is showing us fainter specks that we would have missed otherwise. These smaller spots are lost in the grain shown by Lightroom's tool, but not in this very colorful one.


Great! So how do you make this? To create our dust tool, we need to go to the tone curve panel in Lightroom:

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By default, the tone curve has all of these sliders shown. This is great for normal editing, but limiting for what we want to do. Instead, click on the button in the lower right that looks like this: 

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This takes us into the point-curve mode.


Your panel should look like this now:

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Start by making a point and dragging it to the very top and then to ten (don't worry, it will show you numbers so you can tell when you are at ten):

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Then make another point. Drag this one to the bottom and put it at 20:

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Take the next point up to the top again and place it at 30:

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Keep alternating between top and bottom every ten, until you have to drag the last point in the top corner to the bottom:


Then go ahead and make a preset to save your work: click where it says "Custom" and then choose 'Save' from the drop-down menu.

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There you go, you now have an amazing tool to help you catch elusive dust.

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- Graceson Aufderheide

     If you want more Lightroom and editing tips consider this post on editing B&W images, or check out my One-on-One Lightroom TrainingIf you don't have Lightroom yet I suggest that you give it a try because it is my favorite program for photography. You can download a trial version here if you would like (FYI this is an affiliate link).


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This blog discusses Graceson's interests and ideas, including: Lightroom and Photoshop tips, photography discussions, jewelry crafting, new projects, gear reviews, and more.

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About Me

Image of GracesonMy name is Graceson Aufderheide, but you have probably figured that out already. I am currently a senior in high school who photographs, teaches, and makes jewelry. I have always been creating, that is what I do.
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