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Dust removal software

Jamie Robertson , Oct 03, 2010; 04:20 a.m.

I have a large amount of dusty old B&W negatives to scan using my Canon FS4000 film scanner. Unfortunately Canon's built in dust removal function does not work for B&W film. I know I can manually remove the dust in PS but this is currently taking around 20-30 minutes per frame due to the quantity of imperfections. I have just tried a really old program called "Polaroid Dust & Scratch Removal" which is actually reasonably good once you have fiddled with the settings but it's not really designed for today's 4000dpi scans and can end up removing a lot of the film grain along with the dust.
I was just wondering if there is any automatic dust removal software available that would do a half decent job. I know it will never be as good as manual dust spotting but if it can save me hours and hours of time then I would be really interested. Polaroid's software is doing in 90 seconds what I can do myself in 20 minutes but it could be better.
Any suggestions?


peter carter , Oct 03, 2010; 09:29 a.m.

There is no substitute for a clean negative and a clean scanner. This will get rid of most dust spots and ultimately save you the most time. I use the Edwal Anti-Static Cleaner, but there are lots of cleaners out there. The anti-static part of the Edwal stuff gives it an upper edge.

For what is left, I use the AKVIS retoucher. http://akvis.com/en/retoucher/index.php . Although it was made for restoring photos, I can use the multi-select tool in PS to identify all the spots at once. There is also a stand-alone version of this product and it also works in PSE. There is a download trial available.

But seriously with silver based film, there is no real auto widget that will do an acceptable job. I would have one otherwise. ;)

JDM von Weinberg , Oct 03, 2010; 11:56 a.m.

ditto for peter's comments. Cleaning the negatives/slides is far better than any automatic dust removal. Like hand spotting, the programs work best when there is not too much for them to do.

I also use Edwal for the embedded/stuck-on dirt, but often a soft, clean brush and a squeeze blower will be enough for loose dust.

Mendel Leisk , Oct 03, 2010; 01:04 p.m.

In my experience blowing/brushing the negative was never very effective. I've had a few frames that look pristine, but when scanned revealed a goldmine of dust.

My usual approach was manual cleaning in Photoshop, using Healing Brush and Clone Stamp. I also used History Brush extensively, as the sole tactic with small isolated specks, or for final cleanup with HB or CS. My drill for using HB:

1. Upon open of file, apply PS's Dust&Scratch filter with radius 6 and threshold zero. (this applies a heavy softening to the image, wiping out virtually all dust and scratches, and grain, and fine image detail)
2. Take a History Pallet Snapshot. (note: it is good to set History Pallet to use "non linear history")
3. Revert current state to the Initial Snapshot, automatically taken by PS upon opening the file (this restores your image to initial, crisp sharpness, albeit with all the dust and scratches back)
4. Click the square box at at left end of the D&S Snapshot (this sets History Brush to source from this snapshot.
5. Set History Brush as the current tool. If you're dealing with dark dust against lighter image, set HB mode to "lighten", or vice versa if you're dealing with light dust against darker image.

Use with small diameter dabs (not strokes), History Brush will give near invisible results when dealing with isolated dust specks: applying the heavily treated snapshot only where needed, and only in darkening or lightening mode.

It's indespensable when dealing with specks overlaying complex patterns in the image, where both the Healing Brush or Clone stamp would be prone to break up the pattern (though with CS5 the healing brush might be improved, with it's "content aware" functionality)

Now, if you've got a really hooped image, have thrown up your hands on manual cleaning, or just want quick results for whatever reason, for automatic cleaning you might try Photoshop's Dust&Scratch Filter again, applied directly to the overall image, but this time raise the threshold slider. You might try 5 radius and 15 threshold (roughly 3 times). Zoom into 100% so you can see what's happening to fine detail when you adjust the sliders. There will be some loss/corruption of fine detail, but it's subtle, and maybe accepable. Personally I would only do this on a copy.

Mendel Leisk , Oct 03, 2010; 11:28 p.m.

Just realized: both History Brush and Healing Brush become the same acronym. Hope the above is decipherable. I'd edit it but can't on this site. Second paragraph should read:

My usual approach was manual cleaning in Photoshop, using Healing Brush and Clone Stamp. I also used History Brush extensively, as the sole tactic with small isolated specks, or for final cleanup after using Healing Brush or Clone Stamp. My drill for using History Brush:

Ray House , Oct 04, 2010; 01:12 a.m.

You can download free software from Poloroid. The dust and scratch removal filter, works pretty well.

Tom Mann , Oct 04, 2010; 04:57 a.m.

Ray, the OP mentioned in the 1st post in this thread that he uses a dust and scratches program from Polaroid. I'm quite sure there is only one such program.

Tom M

Jamie Robertson , Oct 05, 2010; 04:18 a.m.

Thanks to all of you for your helpful answers.

Naturally I clean my negs as much as possible before scanning. The FS4000 scanner I use is kept clean and doesn't harbour much dust. The problem is that the B&W negs were left to dry in a dusty atmosphere so they are a bit of a state. The Polaroid software is doing a reasonable job and is definitely quick but I might try messing around in PS thanks to Mendel's advice and see if I can create a useful action that can do the job.

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