Dust on your digital sensor can at the very least cause minor distraction in an image and in the worst case can ruin an image entirely. One of the most important reasons that people tend to move up to digital SLR cameras is the ability to change lenses. However, unlike film SLR cameras, digital SLR cameras are prone to getting dust on the sensor. Camera manufacturers go to great lengths to build preventative measures into their camera systems, but invariably, if you change your lenses frequently (especially outdoors) you will get dust on your sensor.
How do I know if I have dust on my sensor?
Thankfully there is a quick and easy way to determine if you have dust on your sensor. Dust tends to be more apparent in your images if you shoot with smaller apertures so a quick way to see if you have dust on your sensor is as follows:
- Set you camera to the minimum aperture your lens will allow (in most cases this is f22).
- Set your focus point to infinity.
- Point the camera at white piece of paper off a frame.
An inspection of the photo will quickly reveal if you have noticeable dust on your sensor.
What do I do now?
Ideally we want to get the dust off the sensor. There are some excellent products on the market to help remove the dust from your sensor. Most of them involve actual contact with the sensor and for those of you are faint of heart that may be too much to handle. If that’s the case, your local camera store will likely offer a dust removal service and typically the cost is very reasonable.
If you want to have a go at it yourself, Visible Dust makes a full line of sensor cleaning products. The product that I have had the best luck with is the Visible Dust Green Vswab. It contains anti-static, anti-fog and anti-scratch capabilities with grease, oil and pollen removers and is non-alcoholic.
Depending on what camera you own (full frame or crop sensor) you will need a different sized swab:
Click here to link to a chart on the visible dust website.
That’s all fine and good but I am planning on taking some photos and I won’t have time to clean my sensor first, now what?
If you are unable to get around to cleaning your cameras sensor before you plan on shooting next, don’t despair! There are a few things that you can do to help minimize the appearance of dust in your images.
1. Shoot as wide open as possible, if possible. Using a wider aperture will help to minimize and in many cases eliminate the appearance of dust in your images. This method is not a replacement for cleaning your sensor but will help.
2. Edit the images in post. Most popular image editing applications such as Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture have excellent tools for cloning out things like dust spots. So if you have to stop down while you are shooting, these tools will help.
Whew! Ok so now that I know how to get rid of the dust, how do I stop it from happening again?
As I said earlier in this post, it is inevitable that you will get dust on your sensor. However there are some good practices to follow to help try and keep dust off your sensor.
Scott Bourne over at Photofocus blogged recently with some great tips, you can read his post here.
In addition to what Scott has mentioned, I use a Giottos Mini Rocket-Air Blaster whenever I can when changing lenses. This greatly reduces the chance that I will get dust on my sensor.
As always feel free to email with questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter using the hashtag #sjrqa
Thanks for reading!
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