The idea of cleaning the DSLR camera sensor terrifies many photographers. It may seem very difficult, but the truth is much simpler than it seems. In this guide, we will teach you how to clean the sensor of an SLR camera to prevent specks of dust and stains from appearing in your photos.
How can dust end up getting inside the sensor? This is a good question and even if you are not aware, every time you change a lens on your camera you are exposing the sensor to dust and dirt. This means that if you do not want to be cleaning the sensor every so often, and above all, to give good quality of life to your camera, you should worry about trying to protect the interior of your camera as much as possible.
Ideally, you should not change the lens in an environment with many particles in the environment (mostly outdoors) such as a beach or the city on a windy day. But obviously, it is not always possible to do so whether we like it or not, dirt and dust end up settling on the camera sensor, claiming their prominence in each of our photographs. And, this dirt will appear in your photographs in the form of blurry, subtle but very present spots, on the composition itself.
How do you know if you have to clean the sensor of your SLR?
Now that we know that dust can settle on the sensor, we should not fall into continually cleaning the sensor or, on the contrary, not doing it because we do not see these “spots” in our photographs. So, we are going to give you some tips so that you are clear about when is the ideal time to clean the sensor of your SLR camera.
- Set your camera to a small aperture like f / 16 or f / 22.
- Set your camera to the lowest ISO.
- Take a photo against something bright white (such as a white wall, a piece of paper, or a cloudy sky) and gently shake the camera as you take the photo. This way you can blur the photo and make the powder look better.
- Next, to check for dust, upload the image to your computer and review it thoroughly
- If you see signs of dust then you know you need to clean the sensor.
What you should know before cleaning the sensor of your SLR
Cleaning the sensor of an SLR camera is something that must be taken seriously and carefully. So, here are some very important tips before we start our cleaning.
- You may see dust in the viewfinder with the naked eye, but this dust does not show up in the images.
- You may not see the dust from the sensor when using at wide apertures, as the depth of field is wide enough to blur these spots.
- You can tell that your sensor is dirty when you see the same spots appear on multiple images in the same places.
- You may see that the camera mirror is dirty and although this dirt will not appear in the image, we must remove it with an air blower (never with compressed air)
- When cleaning your camera, do not touch the mirror or the sensor with anything other than products specially designed for cleaning, as both parts are extremely fragile and are easily damaged, scratched or marked.
Steps to clean a DSLR sensor
First of all, did you know that there are SLR cameras that have an automatic sensor cleaning mode? If you do not know, check the technical characteristics of your camera in search of this function (not all have it) and use it. In fact, some cameras do it automatically when you turn them on or off. IMPORTANT! Make sure your camera’s battery is fully charged, as it can turn off mid-cleaning and damage the sensor.
Knowing that we must be careful with how and when we change our lenses, it is time for us to teach you how to clean the sensor of your SLR camera step by step. Starting by telling you everything you will need during the process.
Estimated time: 15 minutes
What are you going to need?
- Lint-free cleaning swabs (ear tips won’t work)
- Camera sensor cleaning solution.
- Manual or knob air blower.
- Flashlight or headlamp to be able to see inside the camera.
If you don’t have any of the things on the list, the easiest thing is to buy a professional cleaning kit for SLR or DSLR cameras. You can find them on Amazon or in specialized stores and they are quite inexpensive (and essential if photography is your favourite hobby).
- Find an area as free of dust and wind as possible.
- With a full battery and no lens in your camera, look for an option in the menu that allows you to manually clean the camera.
- When you select this mode, you will hear the mirror lock back, exposing the sensor.
- Hold the camera upside down (with the LCD screen facing the ceiling) and blow the air blower over the sensor several times without touching the sensor with the tip of the blower.
- Turn the camera off, reattach the lens, and take another test shot to see if the dirt has been removed or gone.
If with this the sensor of your SLR camera has been clean, you do not need to do anything else. But if, on the other hand, you still see dirt when doing the tests, it is likely that you will have to go on to do a “wet” cleaning of the sensor.
With sensor cleaning fluid
- Remove the lens and place the camera on a flat surface with the LCD screen facing the ground.
- Select the manual cleaning option to lock the mirror.
- Take out a swab and use the air blower a few times to remove any foreign bits of lint that may be stuck to the swab.
- Add two (or three drops maximum) of the sensor cleaning solution to the tip of the swab.
- Very carefully place the swab on one side of the sensor and, without too much force, gently move it across the sensor from one side to the other.
- Turn the camera off, reattach the lens, and take another test shot to see if there is dust.
If after doing all this you see that there is still some dust, you will have to repeat the process, using another new and clean swab. If you don’t see dust, but you see scratches on the sensor, you have used too much sensor cleaning solution. Wait about five minutes and repeat the cleaning process but with less solution this time.
If you have followed our step-by-step guide, you will now have the sensor of your SLR camera completely clean. And, when done correctly and with the right equipment, cleaning the camera sensor is not complicated at all. Although it may seem a bit laborious the first time you do it, in the long run, you will be saving hundreds of stained photographs, the expense and hassle of using a professional cleaning service and above all, you will be extending the life of your camera. We hope this guide has been useful for you, if you have any further questions let us know in the comment box.