It has probably happened to you: you go out to take photos on a sunny day, you capture a lot of spectacular images, but when you get home and you start reviewing the details you see those annoying little black dots that interrupt your portraits and landscapes. It can happen, and it is more normal than you imagine, especially when you work in the field, on the street, and you have to change the lenses, manipulate them, remove them, put them back … it is inevitable that dirt gets into the sensor. The only solution is to clean it.
Having the sensor cleaned in a specialized place is a good decision, but it is expensive. With the addition that you have to “hand over” the camera and you would be without your work tool for several days or, in the worst case, several weeks.
That’s why I’m going to show you all the options for clean the sensor of your cameras in the comfort of your home safe way .
Table of Contents
- First things first: discover the sensor and choose the right place to clean it
- OPTION 1: use the air pump or dust blower
- OPTION 2: use a sensor cleaner
- #BonusTrack: trick to see how dirty the camera sensor is
First things first: discover the sensor and choose the right place to clean it
Yes, it may seem quite obvious, but first of all we must know what is the best way to manually expose and access the sensor. That varies by model and type of camera. I show you two standard models:
In a mirrorless camera (without mirrors) just remove the lens to expose the sensor, as you see it in the image.
In a mirror camera (DSLR, DSLR) you must go to the menu, locate the option “Sensor cleaning” and select “Clean manually”. By activating this function, the camera discovers the sensor and we can see it to clean it easily. Check it out and turn off the camera.
Always remember this rule for cleaning: camera off and sensor open.
Important: try to clean the sensor in a closed, safe place and, as far as possible, free of dust . Don’t do it on a patio or terrace. Better in the living room or study of your home.
Now, I’m going to go over each cleaning option, from the simplest to the most complex:
OPTION 1: use the air pump or dust blower
Another super important recommendation is to always have with you (or better said, in your camera bag) this little air balloon. With it you will be able to easily remove dust or any dirt from the sensor. But pay attention to this: the correct way to do this is to flip the camera over, directing the sensor all the way down and pump it with air from that position .
This is important to clarify because it is a common mistake to do it by holding the camera in the most “intuitive” way. In these images I show you the wrong and correct way to do it:
You can also clean the inside of the lens or objective with the air pump or dust blower following the same instructions.
OPTION 2: use a sensor cleaner
In case you still see those black dots in your photos and, therefore, the air pump was not enough to completely clean the sensor of your camera, the second option is to use a sensor cleaner .
You usually get it in a kit that comes with a dropper with the liquid and long paddles with special cleaning tabs, similar to mini brushes (look for them like: Microfiber Sensor Cleaning Swab , are available on Amazon at an affordable price). Keep in mind that these can be for Apsc sensors i.e. for small sensors or for Full Frame sensors . Buy the one that suits the sensor / model of your camera.
How to use the kit : carefully open the swab of cleaning and add two drops of the liquid, one for each side of the mini brush. You can add more drops if you consider it necessary, but do it little by little because it should not be too wet.
The important thing is to be able to see that the liquid has completely covered the mini brush . Once this step is completed, proceed to pass it over the sensor, from left to right, as if you were very delicately “painting” the surface of the sensor. Don’t push too hard, just what is necessary. Then flip the mini brush over and run it across the sensor surface again, this time from right to left. Ready! Your sensor will be clean.
Bear in mind: the air pump or dust blower is the most common, fast, simple and safe resource , therefore it is the first instance to which you should resort to clean the sensor. Only in the case of dirt that cannot come out with air pressure is it advisable to use the cleaner with the mini brush. This I hardly ever do, therefore it is for exceptional cases. The less you touch the sensor, the better.
In addition, I insist on the importance of doing these cleaning tasks with great care and in a quiet space, where you can concentrate and do not take any risks.
EYE: Never clean the sensor with water, alcohol or any other liquid other than the one indicated . Much less blowing the sensor! That is a resounding NO.
#BonusTrack: trick to see how dirty the camera sensor is
I tell you step by step:
- Turn on the camera.
- Close the lens aperture as much as you can. In my case the most closed is f22. Speed: 1 second.
- Set manual focus and infinity.
- Take a photo of a lamp or the sun or any very bright object or place so that it is overexposed.
- The photo will be a bright white screen.
- Open the photo in Lightroom (Adobe’s digital photography program). Click on the option “visualize spots” that is shown in the lower left, just below the photo . Roll the adjacent cursor to the right and you will be able to see all the dirt marks that are on your sensor.
If you only see small particles, don’t worry, it is normal. Now,if you see larger white spots, then it is a clear sign that there is excess dirt and you should clean the sensor.
I hope these tips help you. Remember that in my Youtube channel you can find this and other tutorials to help you with the maintenance of your camera to take more and better photos.
Until next time!