Visualizing Spots in LR5

In Lightroom & Workflow, The Craft by David15 Comments


If there’s one feature I love in the newest version of Adobe’s Lightroom, it’s the Visualize Spots tool. There wasn’t much fanfare about it, it kind of snuck under the radar a little, but for me this is huge. Lord knows I try to keep my sensor clean but it’s a losing battle. My usual workflow involves a pretty paranoid search for these little spots but I often don’t get them all until I’ve burned through a couple $20 prints, or worse, put them out into the world only to have someone else point it out. Now we’ve got a little help from Adobe.

In the Develop module choose the Spot Removal tool or hit Q to save some time (Q stands for Quit printing spotty photographs!). Towards the bottom and the left you’ll see a new option in Lightroom 5 – Visualize Spots. Click that. It’ll apply a high-contrast mask and gives you a slider to control how much contrast it applies. With the help of that contrast you’ll see spots you never knew you had. How many spots? Take a look at the last image. Time to break out the cleaning kit and spend a painful 30 minutes making it worse before you give up and just buy a new camera. Man I hate cleaning my sensor! But I’m getting better at it, and most of that is just losing the fear that I’m going to completely screw it up and permanently wreck the camera. The truth is, I haven’t wrecked a sensor yet and for all my bitching it takes way less time to clean the sensor than it did for me to remove the spots on this series of images. If you haven’t played with this new feature yet, go dig around. It’ll save you much time and frustration. It’ll make you want to keep your sensor cleaner too.

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 11.55.01 AM


Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 11.55.16 AM


  1. Great new Feature! For all who afraid on Sensor cleaning, try Sensor Film! Its easy!

  2. You can spot the spots even better when you zoom in to your picture.

    Before you turn on the Visualize Spots tool, first click your image to zoom in. Then drag the top left of your image so that it lines up with the top left of your screen. Turn on the Visualize Spots tool and step through (down to the bottom right) your image just by pressing the Page Down key.

  3. Great tool, have been using since day one of LR5. Syncing to similar images in a shoot works pretty well also. I have my sensor professionally cleaned periodically and prior to big-deal shoots – amazing the number of spots still on sensor (though very tiny).

  4. This is a great tip. I have spent countless hours zooming into my images trying to remove every spot. This makes it so much easier. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great timing David I’ve just been out at dawn taking photos and when I downloaded them I gasped at the dirt my sensor contributed to the scenes. This is the tool for me plus your encouragement to learn to clean my camera!

  6. haha it’s better (sometimes) not to look so close 😉
    but i believe this would be pain in the *** finding that spots on your prints.. or like you said if someone will point that out 🙂

  7. TNX David for this great tip. your making me want to up grade to LR5. I think we all get paranoid about sensor cleaning, but after working at The Camera Store and found how easy it was, I got over that quickly.

  8. And I thought my D800’s sensor was dirty with it’s 3 spots of dirt! lol
    One of the first new features I tried when I installed LR5!
    Thanks David.

  9. Awesome, thanks for the tip. I am still on LR 4 due to a bunch of open bugs but once 5.1 is out, I will upgrade to 5.1.
    A tool that helps tracking down the dust spots on the sensor is more than welcome.


  10. Arctic Butterfly sensor cleaning kit, never leave home without it.

    Nikon South Africa has a great service, pop in with your bodies and lenses and they give everything a pro clean for free while you have coffee, gets rid of all the travel schmutz – I’m sure they do it globally?

  11. Great tip! It seems every day that passes more and more LR5 tips are coming out making me eager to upgrade. It feels like I just upgraded to LR4 as if it was just yesterday and now LR5 is here and even better.

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