If You Print Your Photos Then Read This

Today is my public service announcement day. It’s a lesson I learned many years ago, but every once in a while it comes back to remind me that I’ve gotten a little too relaxed. It mostly rears it’s head when printing your photos, and it’s something that we can easily overlook before sending that image off to print.

See, a couple of weeks ago I got a print from iAcrylic (there’s a photo of me holding it below).


The print looks absolutely phenomenal in person. It takes the beauty of printing on metallic and combines it with acrylic. The acrylic not only gives a 3-dimensional feel to the photo and looks really cool, but it also helps avoid the glare that we usually get from highly reflective metallic prints. Stunning is the one word that comes to mind when you see these things. Anyway, when I got the print I held it up and, just like every photographer does (but shouldn’t do), I looked at it from about 6 inches away. Guess what I saw? Three spots from sensor dust or debris that I hadn’t cloned out of the sky. I really thought I was diligent about clearing away all the spots, but I must have missed these. Luckily, if you’re a normal person (not a photographer), you’d never stand as close as I did and you’d never see these spots. Plus, there were only 3 small ones.

But it did remind me of a lesson I learned years ago when I started printing. You need to be meticulous about removing spots. I mean absolutely meticulous. When you look at your photo full screen on your computer monitor, sometimes you just can’t see these spots. Take a look at the image below. This is the same image I sent to them and you can’t see the spots at this small a size right?


But when you zoom in, you can see the spots in the sky (see below). Again, I was really lucky in that most people would never notice them. In fact, about 15 people saw this print in the office and nobody even noticed. I had to point them out, and even then, they had a hard time seeing them. But I haven’t always been so lucky. Spots have ruined some of my prints before, so I figured I’d share a couple of quick tips to help remove them.


Tip 1: I typically use Lightroom’s Spot Removal Tool if I’m only editing in Lightroom, or Photoshop’s Spot Healing Brush (with the Content Aware option turned on).


Tip 2: Zoom WAY in to your photo so that you everything up close. I mean, zoom in to at least 100% of not more.


Tip 3: Here’s a great tip to help you see spots because sometimes they’re hard to find (especially with skies). Duplicate your layer in Photoshop and go to Image > Adjustments > Invert (or just press Cmd-I on the Mac or Ctrl-I on the PC). This inverts your photo’s colors and, for some reason, makes it easier to see spots.


I hope this little service announcement helps save you from those annoying little spots. Even though they’re usually not overwhelmingly obvious in your prints, they tend to bug us because we just know they’re there. And if you’re like me, because we’re taking the time and energy (and money) to print our photos, we want them to be as good as possible.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!

  • Peter Nord

    Did you say a lot of bad words? I had an exhibit of a number of prints. No one noticed a couple of low contrast spots in the sky of one. No one noticed when I had it printed. No one noticed it when I sold it. Only when I printed some more did I notice. I muttered a few choice words, before replacing the bad prints. Don’t feel bad. At least you hadn’t sold it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MaWibbley Sandra Thompson

    Thanks for sharing Matt. So easy when you know how!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lynncrowphoto Lynn Wilson Crow

    U r my hero!

  • Dennis Zito

    Hi Matt … Man that is really a Beautiful Photo and print! Nicely done! Thanks for the tip! Like you I’ve gotten a bit lax in viewing my photos. I’m not so much concerned about spots as I am halos. I know I should be looking for them especially with light sky and dark mountains and trees. Do you have a simple correction for a halo? Or are we just out of luck went you get them? What generally causes them? I don’t see them until I’ve processed the image.



    • http://www.mattk.com/ Matt Kloskowski

      Thanks Dennis!

  • Scott King

    Tip 3 is a reallyyyy nice tip that I’ve not heard of doing before. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Steve Wetzel

    Matt, the timing of this is perfect for me. I am getting ready to print a bunch of images for an exhibit. I have been looking for dust spots and was just thinking, Photoshop or Lightroom should add a feature to help see dust spots. I figured something was in there but did not know what it was that would help me do this. Now I know!


  • Tom Piorkowski


    Great article and I appreciate the advice.

    I would like to see an additional step on how to prepare an
    image for either an 8×10, or, 11×14 sizes, and how to work around the aspect
    ratio issue. Since I tend to shoot tight
    around my subject, I also struggle with this.

    When searching the web, there are many suggestions on how to
    do this by adding canvas in PS. I would
    be interest to see your approach either in Elements, or, Lightroom.

    Thanks in advance,


    • http://www.mattk.com/ Matt Kloskowski

      Hey Tom. There are some tricks in Photoshop to add canvas space but they only work on certain types of photos. Personally, cropping is one of those things I don’t insist on getting right in camera. I shoot “loose” enough so that I do have options when it comes to printing.
      Hope that helps.

  • M L

    How timely! Spots showed up in one person’s work in fine art printing class this week. He realized that he needed to clean sensor and sync of correction in multiple photos was suggested. I will mention tip #3 next week which will be the last of 4 classes.

  • http://twitter.com/SteveBisig Steve G. Bisig Photo

    I just had a 20×30 printed for our house (luckily) and just like you, missed three blatant (at least to me) dust spots on the image. My wife didn’t see the big deal, so maybe they aren’t as visible to the untrained eye.

    • http://www.mattk.com/ Matt Kloskowski

      I agree. But I still feel your pain :)

  • http://twitter.com/iacrylic iacrylic

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for letting us put this one on Acrylic for you… it really is a stunning image. Excellent tip as well, really makes any spots pop before they go to print! Hope to meet you in person at WPPI next week, we are in booth 1655 2 down from the Kelby Media booth. Thanks Brian

    • http://www.mattk.com/ Matt Kloskowski

      My pleasure Brian. It’s beautiful!!! See you at WPPI!

  • Tomas McKinnon

    Thanks for the tip!

  • JayM

    I love that photo. Great mood.

    Going to have to try the Inverted Dustspotting Trick. Great idea. In Lightroom I have a really whacky curves preset that I’ll turn on temporarily to make those little buggers more visible.

    • http://www.mattk.com/ Matt Kloskowski

      Hey Jay. Yeah, I use that tip in LR too. Actually just did a video on it for my LR blog for tomorrow. Hmmmm… I think a preset is in order :-)

  • John Swarce

    Matt, just tell anyone that notices them that they’re UFO’s.

    Seriously, great tips today. I noticed a spot on an 11×17 I had Mpix print, but no one has noticed. Wish I knew these tips a year ago!


    • http://www.mattk.com/ Matt Kloskowski

      Thanks John :-)

  • gestark

    One technique that I’ve found useful in Lightroom to touch up before printing is to zoom into photo at 3:1 and position navigation marker in upper left corner of the print. On my macbook pro I hold the FN key (Function) and use the down arrow to move through the entire print one 3:1 square at a time retouching as I go. I know on some Macs you use the page down keys to accomplish this task. Anyway a great way to inspect the entire print without missing anything…

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  • 1107photography

    Great timing, Matt! I just purchased my own printer so I can print for shows, exhibits, and this was a really good basic reminder. On top of the pride of quality issue–reprinting is darned expensive, so this is a great tip on getting it right the first time!

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  • Kevin T.

    Matt: – I’d call those spots “the intentional identification markings of an original work of art.” If you tell people they are scientifically measured and plotted for accuracy and aid in identifying counterfeit likenesses…. they’ll buy it! And, for that – they just might buy an original print! See how genius you are?

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  • Ron Addison

    Try the blend mode of “difference” on the two layers. In my trials, this made the stops pop out more than just using the inverse of the image.

  • Easy Signs Inc

    The info in this blog was superb !
    Love this post! Very insightful, I look forward to more on these topics.Most people will ever know that,Thanks for sharing all Matt.

    Photo Printing on Acrylic