Even if you take immense care with the camera, it’s still possible to find specks, especially after you’ve used it a lot. Also, if scanning old stills, it’s common to encounter not only specks, but scratches too. There are, however, powerful software tools that can be used to repair digitised images reasonably quickly and without introducing too many unwelcome artefacts.
Adobe’s Photoshop Elements is one such photo-retouching suite and is very effective for sorting out minor defects, thanks in part to its Dust & Scratches filter, but mainly thanks to the Healing Brushes. They’re capable of masking major flaws, if used with care. Let’s see how to spot the level of contamination in a photo and how both the Spot Healing Brush and the Healing Brush can be employed to clean things up.
Find that dust !
1. Access Levels
Here’s a shot from a compact camera (below) genuinely afflicted by an internal dust mote. The speck is hard to see, but it’s there, as a major Levels tweak in Photoshop Elements 4.0 will reveal.
Go to your image editor’s Levels dialogue to make the adjustment.
We’re going to boost the contrast of the image by a hefty amount in order to make the speck show up. Pull the right-hand handle beneath the Levels histogram to the left to increase the brightness of the image, then grab the left handle and drag it to the right.
This is quite an extreme example of contamination, which now shows up very clearly thanks to our contrast adjustment. You can see the black blob against the marquee’s scaffolding. To test for dust in your camera, take a shot of some white card and try the same contrast-boosting ruse.
Remove Dust from your photos using Photoshop Elements: A Quick Fix
A Quick Fix
1. Healing the damage
We’re using the same camera, but it’s at a different orientation, hence the contaminant appears at top right. It’s set against a neutral backdrop, so we can use Elements’s Spot Healing Brush to fix it quickly. You’ll find the brush in the tools on the left-hand side of the screen.
2. Targeting the speck
The Spot Healing Brush works by overwriting the area it covers with the values of surrounding pixels, which is ideal for sorting specks against areas of relatively flat colour. Use the square bracket keys to adjust the brush’s size, then click on the offending item.
3. Cleaned up
We’ve moved the brush slightly to one side so you can see the result. Even though it was a big blob, Elements has managed to near-seamlessly obliterate it. Naturally, smaller specks are far less of a problem, especially those against a flat colour.
A Trickier Background
1. A different brush
Here, our dodgy digicam was at such an orientation that the speck has appeared over the edge of a flag. This is a trickier proposition to rectify because there’s a reasonably complex edge to deal with. Time to break out the Healing Brush Tool.
2. Choose a source
The trick is to choose a source point containing a similar pattern to that of the target area. Adjust the brush size with the square arrow keys, then position the brush – in this case, we can use a clean part of the flag a little further down.
3. Move and click
Having held down the Alt key to define a source point, move the brush over the speck and click. A segment of the image will be copied from the source point and seamlessly pasted over the target area. It can take a few goes to get it right, so be patient.