Doing preliminary, even complete edits of my photographs in Lightroom has become an integral part of my workflow—despite some misgivings about Lightroom 4. Although digital files are generally free from “dust and scratches” that film used to suffer, the same issue may need attention even now although to a lesser extent. Lightroom has a tool for dealing with the spots, Spot Removal, which works fine if the blemishes are not too large and linear, and if you can see them. Unlike the similar tool in Photoshop, the Healing Brush, the Lightroom tool does not handle long strokes. So it is truly a spotting tool; leave the work to Photoshop if you need to deal with long lines that need attention as may be the case in facial wrinkles and such.
Recently I have been working on my dried orchid blossoms which will be integrated into a live ballet performance they inspired. Due to some severe editing process, I use to give them the surreal look, any small and normally invisible blemish look worse than the skin on the face of a teenager. So, I started using a simple tool, an extreme Tone Curve setting that will starkly highlight all such blemishes allowing quick and easy spot healing. Take a look at the sequence of images below you will notice that the original image appears quite clean with a couple of visible spots. After applying a tone curve like the one on the left the hidden spots become easy to notice and spot. Constructing that evenly spaced curve may take some doing, there will be a link to download the preset if you like at the end of the post.
The process is actually quite simple.
- Create a tone curve that will create extreme contrast in nearby tones, it will look like the one above and save it as a preset so that you can use it again (or download the one below)
- If you have a tone curve applied to your image, click on “Save” on the lower-left corner of the Develop module and select only the Process Version and the Tone Curve so that you can reapply it after spotting
- Apply the Spot Curve preset which will turn your image into a psychedelic version with all the blemishes clearly visible
- Using the Spot Removal tool heal all the ones that are clearly visible. Don’t get carried away and sweat over tiny blemishes that are hardly visible in this extreme visualization
- When you are done with the cleaning, turn off the Spot Removal tool
- If you have saved a tone curve adjustment as described in step 2, click on “Paste” on the lower-left corner of the Develop module which will bring the image back to its normal state minus the blemishes.
NOTE: The downloadable preset below is for Lightroom 4. If you use Lightroom 3, you can construct a similar one yourself. If it becomes too tedious, post a comment and I will describe a workaround.
I created the rough preset and then opened it in a text editor and adjusted the point values for the even distribution of the curve. You can use it following the instructions below:
- Download the ZIP file below, extract its content which is a single file
- Put it in the Lightroom User Presets folder
- The easiest way to find that location is to open Lightroom and right-click any one of your “User Presets” and choose “Show in Explorer” option.
- It will open the folder containing your user presets. If you do not have any User Preset (shame on you!) create one, any setting will do, put it in User Presets, when it appears under that folder, now you can right-click and point to the folder containing your preset collection.
- Once you know what that folder is, you can copy the Spot Curve preset there
- Restart Lightroom
- You will see Spot Curve preset.
May your 2013 be a spotless year, Happy New Year to all.