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Reduce negative dust spots with careful scan preparation

Added on Tuesday 2nd of August 2011 06:04 am EST

Operating Systems:


I recently inherited a large collection of family photos and have started to make scans of both the negatives and prints. I discovered, however, that the negatives contain a large amount of dust. What can I do to reduce the many hours retouching in Photoshop it will take to clean up each one?


Dust on negatives, and prints as well, are often an irritating aspect of traditional photography. Negative film is coated with a gelatin emulsion, which becomes wet during processing. Wet gelatin swells and becomes the perfect catch-all for free floating dust. When it dries, the dust can actually become embedded in the emulsion. As a result, even with careful dusting prior to printing and scanning, dust can be seen in a print. Dry negatives aren’t all that much better. Because of the materials film is made of, it literally acts like a dust magnet. So with all that going against you, what can you do to reduce the effects of dust spots in your prints? The answer is plenty. Because there are a variety of issues to consider, let’s look at each issue individually.



  • Because dust is a part of the environment, you should scan your items in a place that is as dust-free as possible.
  • After you enter your scanning area, wait about 10 minutes to allow the dust to settle.
  • Before each session, run a dry sponge over the areas adjacent to your scanner.
  • Use an anti-static cloth on those surfaces if one is available.
  • Check for dust often as you scan.



  • Clean your scanner copy bed and cover with a glass cleaner using a lint-free cloth.
  • Use an anti-static cloth on your scanner surfaces as well.
  • Use a humidifier when the air in your area is dry to decrease static electricity build up. Turn the humidifier off before you begin to scan to avoid ...