The Best Way to Quickly Remove Dirt Spots Using Median in Photoshop

Photographers Kit

Once you have finished your shooting session, the tough part begins. You are not only commissioned to take some good shots; clients expect high-quality photographs. But once you carefully analyze them, you realize they are far from being flawless. There are all sort of details that mess your photos up. You need to get them cleaned up and do it fast. One of the best ways to remove the dirt spots from your photos is to use the Median function in Photoshop. If you are not familiar with this feature, let’s look and see how it can ease your work.


What Is the Median Filter?

The median filter is one of the four filters in Photoshop that were designed to mitigate noise. This is probably the most popular option most professional photographers use. The median filter analyzes the pixels in a photography according to a particular radius. Then it aims to balance the pixels ’luminance. It basically works following a mathematical principle: finding the medium value. The filter calculates the average value of the pixels. Then it distributes it within the respective area: high and low pixel values are adjusted to the average result.

This is the technical principle that helps remove imperfections, but now let’s talk in terms of image. What the median function provides is adjusted contrast. This filter has the capacity to blur areas in your photos: the darker spots are mitigated while, the lighter areas become more pronounced.

Median focuses on the specific area that you have selected while the rest of the photo remains unchanged. You will just need to pay good attention to the dirt spots you want to remove, then choose the right radius. This will designate the precise dimension of the area you want to repair.

If you are already familiar with most popular Photoshop actions used by pros, bear with us a little more and find out how to operate with the Median function in Photoshop.

How Does It Work?

One of the key skills of professional photographers is being up to date. The median filter might be a thing of a novelty, but it’s a trick worth learning. Don’t rush to manually clone those shots. That’s not the only solution.


For a better understanding of this filter, let’s think about a simple example. Let’s picture a shot that has a white or light color background. If you had to do fashion photography, there are probably all sort of remains on the floor. Footprints and dust are the most annoying, but you will surely find other intruders as well. All these are literally cataloged as dirt that needs to disappear from your final product.

Now let’s quickly see how to proceed with the Median filter.

  • The first stage is to have a duplicate background. You can build another layer simply by accessing the new layer option. It’s located in the layer panel. Working on the duplicate layer allows you to control the process better while the background rests the same.

  • The next step is to access the median function which can be found in Filters. Select the Noise option and then go to Median. This activates the filter, and the correspondent dialogue box pops up. The only variable in this dialogue box is the radius. Each adjustment process will require a specific radius according to your photo.

  • Now it is time to use a layer mask to understand what you got on your layer. These masks use white, black and different shades of gray to render a layer’s transparency. The white mask reveals visibility while the black mask shows transparency. To choose the designated mask, which is a dark one in our example, go to the Layer Panel and select the option New Layer Mask. Once the mask shows on the screen, you will no longer see the filter. To optimize the mask’s effects, you should reduce the noise in your picture and highlight the details. Be careful with the edges because in those areas reducing the noise also minimizes the details.

  • After you performed this move, it’s time for the actual cleaning. You need to select the brushing tool. Start fixing the affected areas carefully without going to close to the photos’ subject. Once you get used to it, the process is simple. You can easily turn back and forth without having to undo any move. You can constantly switch from background to front until you are satisfied with your work.

If this is the first time you use the median filter, our recommendation is to take it slow. It’s better to perform the steps patiently until you get used to the tool. Afterward, you can start raising dexterity.

The Median filter will add a lot of value to your black and white photography, but it’s not limited to this type of photos. After you’re done, your shots might look a little bit blurrier, but this can be a catchy effect.

If you want to master the art of photography, Photoshop proficiency is mandatory especially with so much competition on the market. The Median filter is one of those super tricks that will ease your work and help you deliver better products on time.

Image source: 1, 2

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