How To Keep Camera Sensor Clean :: Digital Photo Secrets

How To Keep Camera Sensor Clean

by David Peterson 0 comments

Looks like you’ve done it again. For a while there, you thought you had it all taken care of. I mean, you just cleaned your digital camera sensor. How could it possibly have gotten dirty again? Having a clean sensor isn’t just about the periodic cleanings. It’s about making sure more dust doesn’t get in. Try out these tips, and you’ll find yourself worrying a lot less about sensor dust.

(Note, if your camera doesn't allow you to remove your lens, then you don't have to worry about this article)

Photo By Flickr User Andi Licious

Cut out the dust at the source

There’s only one way that dust is getting into your digital SLR, and it’s not through the viewfinder. Every time you change out your lens, you’re allowing more dust to get inside the body of your camera. It’s a rather simple problem to solve, really. Less air exposure equals less sensor dust. If you can avoid changing your lens, you can increase the time between sensor cleanings.

But for most us, it isn’t so simple. It’s kind of silly to expect you to avoid changing your lens on your digital SLR. Besides, isn’t that the reason why you purchased a digital SLR in the first place? The first time I learned about sensor dust, I felt like the camera companies were lying to me. They never mentioned any of this stuff in the camera’s marketing materials. For a while there, I couldn’t change my lens without feeling guilty about it.

That’s not the right approach either. You should enjoy your digital SLR. You should change lenses as much as you need or want to. And you can... as long as you do it like a pro.

Switch out your lens as fast as humanly possible

The quicker you change your lens, the less air you expose the sensor to. Don’t dawdle when you do a lens swap. Make sure you’ve got the other lens on hand and ready to go.

Here’s the exact list of steps I take every time I change out a lens:

  • Loosen the lens on the camera so it will come off faster after you take the plastic cap off the back of the lens about to be attached.
  • Remove the plastic cap.
  • Swap out the lens and immediately place the plastic cap on the lens you just removed.
  • Twist the lens onto the camera until it clicks.

Make the switch in a controlled environment

Wind is your number one enemy. Wind blows dust particles into your camera, and once they’re inside, it’s too late. By swapping out your lens in a controlled environment, you remove the wind factor and keep your sensor clean to shoot another day.

Baghdad during a dust storm.
Arguably the worst place in the world to swap out your lens.
Photo By Ken & Nyetta

Once again, you may not be able to control this. You might be out on a shoot and nowhere near your car or someplace indoors. It’s okay to change the lens outside. The universe won’t implode or anything. But if you can get to a car or change out the lens beforehand, you might as well do it. You’ll succeed in staving off the dust for a bit longer.

Plan every shoot and avoid unnecessary lens changes

You can avoid a lot of extra lens changes by planning out your photo shoots. Whatever requires the lens you currently have attached should come first, and after you make the switch, stick with the new lens. The odd lens switch here and there doesn’t really invite that much dust, but the constant waffling back and forth between lenses definitely causes problems. Pick a lens, stick with it, and once you’ve exhausted all of the possibilities, make the switch.

The other option if you're taking photos for money is to invest in a second camera base. Most pro photographers use a second camera with a different lens rather than having to take the time out to swap lenses.

You won’t be able to avoid the dust bunnies, but you can stave them off for a bit. If any of this advice limits your creativity or makes you feel like you can’t do as much with your digital SLR, just disregard it. Some photographers are a little more spontaneous than I am. Those of you who are will realize pretty quickly that the cost of your spontaneity is a more frequent need to clean your sensor.

It isn’t the end of the world. It’s just dust, after all. You can fix it in Photoshop.

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