{How To} Edit Out The Snot and Dirt


how to edit out snot and dirt

We have all been there. You get the money shot.  Your subject is in focus, the light is just right, their expression is priceless. You download the photo and there, glaring out at you is the runny nose/chocolate stained mouth/yoghurt splodged T-shirt.

There is no doubt that messy faces are par for the course when living with children, but sometimes, it would be nice to be able to edit *some* of the mess out of those special photos. Here we show you how to edit out the snot using Lightroom or Pic Monkey.

Using Lightroom

Kat and I are big fans of Lightroom.  It gives you a lot of control and its non destructive editing means that if you want to start again (or preserve the dirt for posterity) you can.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 16.14.52

1. Open your photo in the develop module. Use your drop down at the top of your navigator panel (on the left), zoom in on the area you want to work on. I prefer 1:2, so I can still get a sense of the full photo, but enough detail to see what I am doing.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 16.15.19

2. Select the “Spot Removal” Tool (on the right, under the histogram) and use the “Heal” option.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 16.15.35

3. Using your mouse, paint over the area you want to fix.  Small brush strokes or dots work best. You can adjust the brush size, its feather (whether it fades outwards) and the opacity, using your sliders. Generally, you will want a small feather and full opacity.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 16.16.25

4. Once you have clicked on the areas you want fixed, Lightroom 5 will automatically analyse the spot and choose where it would like to take a sample to heal from.  Sometimes this isn’t right, so use your mouse to move the sample.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 16.23.28

5. Continue tidying up the photo. It may help to zoom in and out when you are working to get a sense of how the photo looks.  You can show and hide the spot toggles by clicking “h”. When you are finished, click “Done”.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 16.20.00

6. While the spot removal tool is excellent in Lightroom, sometimes it needs an extra bit of help to blend everything together.  Use the Local Adjustment brush (the Brush in the Tools panel) and select a Soften Skin or Smooth Skin brush.  You aren’t looking to do any heavy air brushing, so adjust your brush accordingly.  Usually this means increasing the clarity slider more towards the middle.


Using PicMonkey

If you don’t have Lightroom, PicMonkey is a web-based tool that allows you to do many of the same things, but without the same level of control.  You will need a Royale membership ($33/year) to use the shine reduce and air brush tools.

1. Upload your photo to PicMonkey. Using the blemish fix tool, centre your mouse over the spots you want to remove and click (It may take a couple of clicks to thoroughly remove the spots).

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 17.11.02

2. For runny noses, the blemish tool can be used, but you may still need to use the “Shine Reduce” tool.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 17.11.36

3. To finish everything off and blend the fixes in, use the “Airbrush” in the areas you have fixed.  Make sure to set the “Fade” slider up to 70%+ to keep it more natural looking.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 17.15.41


Of course, other times, well, its really better to embrace the mess.


For more editing tips and tricks, check out our self-paced course The Editing Room.

Post a Reply