If you’re old enough to remember back, you’ll recall that there was once a time when people used cameras that contained film as opposed to using digital cameras. I had one (or many) of those film cameras and I can tell you that while I took hundreds and hundreds of photos, I like digital a lot more. This is because of a few reasons. First, I don’t need to pay for film or processing anymore and second, I can actually see how the various camera settings will affect a photo before I capture it. Looking back, I have no idea how I ever took film photos. It’s beyond me how I ever got a decent shot either. Let’s just say that I’m glad digital rolled around because if it didn’t, I wouldn’t be involved with photography at all today.
The thing is, there are many people out there who have lifetimes worth of photographs and these people want to preserve them for as long as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to scan the image into a digital format and then store it on a hard drive. This way, the photos will take up less room than before, won’t degrade over time and can be easily accessed for online purposes. The only problem is that sometimes these scanned images aren’t in the best shape. Oftentimes, they’ve got dust and scratches all over them. If there were only a way to clean these scanned images up a bit.
Here, take a look at this photograph I’ll be working with today. If you look closely, you’ll see some scratches in the lower left and right corners.
In today’s post, I’d like to walk you through the process of removing some of the scratches in this image. While I won’t restore the photo completely, I will lead you down the path of doing so. I’ll be using the Dust & Scratches filter inside of Adobe Photoshop to do most of the heavy lifting and then I’ll take advantage of the mask that’s created by the Smart Filter to remove some of the filter affect from areas I don’t want to see it. This is a relatively simple process, so this shouldn’t take too long.
Converting to a Smart Object & Accessing the Filter
I have the photo opened up in adobe Photoshop already, so the first step I’ll take from here is to right-click on the image layer and then click on the Convert to Smart Object option from the menu that appears. After that, I’ll head up to the Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches menu item and click.
When I do this, the Dust & Scratches dialog box will appear.
Adjusting the Dust & Scratches Filter Settings
Okay, this is where you’ll need to experiment with your own images, but I can give you some guidance as to how to best go about doing that. There are two settings in this dialog box. They are Radius and Threshold. Both of these settings are rather sensitive and you can go too far by clicking on the sliders with your mouse and pushing them around. I suggest you go about it like this:
For the Radius setting, instead of clicking and dragging the slider to the right to reduce the appearance of scratches or dust, click once on it to make it active and then use the up arrow on your keyboard to increase the value incrementally. When you begin to see the scratches disappear, stop pressing the up arrow. Again, this is a very sensitive setting and you can easily make the entire image look blurry. You only want to go as far as you have to. For the image I’m working on, I stopped at a Radius value of 5.
For the Threshold setting, follow the same steps as the Radius setting. This time though, use the up arrow until you see the image begin to become sharper again and the scratches or dust reveal themselves. Then, when that happens, go down by one click. For the photo I’m working on, I chose a Threshold value of 10.
So basically, you want to use this tool just until the dust and scratches begin to disappear. Again, if you go too far, the image will become blurry and unusable. This tool is perfect for images that have lots of dust and minor scratches though, so it should be taken advantage of.
When finished with the sliders, click the OK button to accept your changes.
Here are some before and after shots of the lower left corner. Mind you, there were some fairly serious scratches on this photo. The process I followed removed many of them. Any that are left I can easily remove with the Spot Healing Brush Tool.
Masking Away the Filter Effects
The image that I’m working with doesn’t have much dust on it and only has a few scratches in the area of the lower corners. So really, I don’t want to have this filter applied across the entire thing. What I’ll do to remove the filter from any areas I don’t want it is to use the Brush Tool and paint the mask black over those areas. First though, I’ll click on the mask thumbnail in the Layers panel.
Then, I’ll access the Brush Tool and make sure the color that’s set is black. And finally, I’ll paint over any area I don’t want this filter to affect. In this particular image, that will be most areas except for the lower corners and any area that doesn’t have scratches or dust.
After painting for a bit, I have the final mask. Take a look at it in the Layers panel.
Using this filter is sort of like using the Spot Healing Brush Tool, except it’s much more efficient when attempting to cover larger areas with lots of specks from dust and scratches. Also, it’s got some fine tuning controls to it as well, so that’s a definite plus.
I hope I clearly explained how to use the Dust & Scratches filter in Adobe Photoshop. Give it a try on your own images and if you experiment for a while, you’ll quickly learn that your mileage will vary, depending on the severity of the issues you’re facing. If you have any questions regarding this post, please ask in the comment section below or in the Photoshop forum. Thanks for reading!