Dust spots are an unfortunate fact of life when shooting with a DSLR. Thankfully, Lightroom has tools that help to remove ‘dust bunnies’ from your images. However, dust is not the only enemy, especially for underwater photographers. We also have to contend with backscatter.
In the (rather ordinary) image of a nudibranch above, we can clearly see lots of spots and speckles. These spots are not dust spots, they are backscatter – the light from my strobes hitting some of the tiny particles suspended in the water, reflecting the light back into the camera
Hopefully, if you use Lightroom (and you really should be as it is a great all-in-one image editing and management package) then you already know about the spot healing brush (Shortcut Q)? As the name suggests, this is the tool to use if you are trying to clone out or heal parts of an image, maybe due to dust spots, backscatter, or even a piece of rubbish spoiling a pristine beach (although it would be better to actually remove the offending item before taking the photo)
Whilst working on this spotty image I remembered an additional option that is often overlooked when using the healing brush. Visualise spots (Shortcut A, when the clone brush is activated – or use the tickbox that is highlighted in red in the above image) presents a very basic black and white image, where dust spots show up as white specks on a black background, making them glaringly obvious.
As can be seen in the image above, finding the blemishes is much easier when the image is in such a contrasty black and white format.
The strength of this negative style image can be adjusted simply by moving the slider, highlighted in red in the above image. This helps to find the smaller specks that were not so obvious with a lower setting. It is down to you as to how far you go with spot removal.
I hope this post helps you with the thankless task that is dust removal.
You can buy (for instant download) Lightroom 6 from Amazon here.
My first hard drive failure occurred this week and was, as is to be expected, quite unexpected.
It wasn’t even a total failure – I was skimming through my Lightroom catalogue to find an image, and noticed some coloured banding showing on images.
Naturally, I was a little concerned, so I clicked through to explorer and opened the NEF (raw) file directly using Photoshop, and the banding was still there.
This ruled out a corrupt Lightroom catalogue, and as it only affected images in 1 folder, I can only assume it is a bad sector. Unfortunately I have no idea when this occurred, so have copied the corrupt file to both of my backup drives.
At this point in time, there is seemingly nothing I can do, so I just have to accept the loss of 14 files. Thankfully none of these files were part of my better work.
I have stopped using the drive, and a replacement is already on order from Amazon.
In the meantime, I have reviewed my backup software and from now on will accept the slower backup but greater security given by data validation.
I am thankful that only a few fairly unimportant images were lost, as I have now been forced into a thorough review of my backup procedures.
As ever, I am open to suggestions for ways to improve the backup process – such as what software are you using?
Lightroom is my primary software for image management and editing, it is a superb piece of software. Whilst you can have multiple catalogues, I do not. I have a single catalogue, called LR_MASTER, which contains all of my images. I do not want to bring all of my images with me, so I use Lightrooms ‘import from catalogue’ feature to bring over any new images, along with any metadata, previews and collections I may have created out on the road.
First step when travelling is that I create a new Lightroom catalogue on the laptop, and call this LR_TRAVEL.
Image files are downloaded, often using Downloader Pro (DLPro), which is set to rename the files it downloads, adding the camera model at the front of the filename (in case I am shooting with multiple bodies). These are downloaded into dated folders, which are automatically created by DLPro. I use dated folders when travelling as I often only want to review that days files. I do not use individual dated subfolders on my desktop machine, having instead just a master folder for each outing.
Once images are downloaded, and backed up, I may do some very light work on that days images, where details are fresh in my mind. I try to get titles done, any special locations, and even basic keywords, to help reduce the workload when I return to my desktop. However, I am mindful of the fact that if I am working, I am not out shooting, so try to only use what is truly downtime to do some metadata.
When I get back home, I import LR_TRAVEL into my main Lightroom catalogue (LR_MASTER), point Lightroom to the location of the trip folders on one of the external drives and copy over all of the images from that trip. I backup everything to a second internal drive, and 2 external drives, 1 of which lives off site.
Currently I have 3 of these 1TB drives – Samsung M3 1TB on Amazon
Once I am happy that everything has transferred and been backed up then I will wipe the external travel drives, and delete the LR_TRAVEL catalogue and it’s previews from the laptop, ready for the next trip.
I am always looking for ways to improve my workflow, so please do leave a comment, or a suggestion.