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Note to self, clean your sensor or stop shooting photos with so much negative space…

It happens to everyone, eventually you will get dust in your images. Most of the time you won’t notice its there, until you get some neutral featureless tones behind it. FYI I am talking about sensor dust. Its surprising what you can have on your lens without ever seeing it. Check out this post on experimenting with a dirty/broken lens. Whether you see the dust on your chip or not depends on aperture as well as the backdrop in which you are shooting. The easiest way to check to see if you have sensor dust go and photograph either a pure blue sky, a super overcast featureless sky, or a grey card. From here either zoom in on the lcd monitor or better yet download it to your computer and zoom in with your favorite image editing software. Here is a discussing example from a recent shoot I did. (Look at the image at the bottom of the post, editing in post you can see all the dust circled as I manually cleaned it all up..)

So what can you do to get rid of this dust?? Option 1) spend a massive amount of time editing it out in post 2) take your camera to a camera store to clean your chip or 3) learn how to clean it yourself. I know exactly what you are thinking.

1) ‘I would rather gouge my eyes out than spend that much time tweaking each image. Batch would be handy, but the source of the dust repair needs to change based on what is behind the dust, which changes per shot…

2) ‘This might be pricey.’ Most camera shops will vary their cleaning rate depending on what type of dust / grime you have on your sensor. For example, if they can blow the dust off with a blower they might charge $10, but if there are chunks stuck they will have to use specialized solution and swab it out. This might run you upwards of $50 per clean. Believe me, stuck gunk happens more than you would think. Especially when the camera gets older. Your shutter is a machine, and over time bits of metal and grease will start to fly around, and eventually make it on your sensor. Its not all about not swapping lenses when you are on the beach, or always holding your camera body with the opening facing down. (I would still do this though!)

3) ‘I’m scared, what if I break something!?’ Yes, I feel the same way every time I clean my sensor. I used option number 2 about 5 times before I was sick of paying for it and had the guts to clean the sensor myself. I simply asked the guy cleaning my chip if I could watch him do it. I would feel comfortable saying all of the supplies will cost you about the same as 2 cleanings, so you will be saving quite a bit of money doing it yourself!

Here are a few tips to think about before you attempt to clean your sensor.

Please feel free to add any tips in the comments if you have anything to add to cleaning a camera sensor yourself!

(Look at all the dust I found & was forced to fix in Bridge.. Not cool.)


Just saw this image over on Blaire Bunting’s Post on How to Light a Lamborghini. Fantastic BTS video, but check out the image before they take it to post..

Dust on the sensor!! See, it happens to the best of us.

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