OK, you followed all of the prevention measures outlined in the first survey of BetterPhoto's online instructors. But your skies are now starting to show those nasty little specks ... i.e., from dust on your digital sensor! Unfortunately, this sort of thing eventually occurs to just about any digital SLR camera. A good prevention strategy simply makes this happen later, rather than sooner, and perhaps reduces the severity. Below, BP's instructors - all pro shooters - share their thoughts and insight.
Editor's Note: Also check out the Pro Tips 1: How to Keep Your Digital Sensor Clean article.
The Cloning tool in Adobe programs
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I've never had a problem because I have my cameras cleaned and check regularly, and am careful to change lenses quickly and in a protected area to reduce the chance of dust and debris getting inside or behind the mirror. For me, the real problem is cleaning dog nose prints off my lenses! LOL Editor's Note: Jenni teaches Dog Photography here at BP! :-)
While my camera manufacturer does not recommend that owners clean their sensors, I have done so often, using several Visible Dust products (www.visibledust.com), including the Sensor Brush, specifically designed for this purpose. For stubborn specks, I'll switch to the new Orange Series DHAP swab plus VDust Formula liquid.
Caution from Peter Burian: In order to avoid scratching the filter over the sensor, it's essential to use such products with utmost care, following the accessory manufacturer's recommendations to the letter.
Editor's note: Also see Peter's excellent BP article: Cleaning a DSLR Camera’s Sensor
The Giottos Rocket Blower is always my first choice. If that doesn't work, my second choice has been to drop off my camera at a local camera repair shop (which has a 1-day turnaround - maximum - for sensor cleaning). I'm fairly new to digital, and I haven't had the "pleasure" yet of needing my third choice: doing it myself with Visible Dust. (To date, when necessary, I've had the time to do the repair shop drop-off.)
I do have the Visible Dust brush and will use that, though I actually prefer dropping off my cameras at the Canon facility in Irvine, CA,
which is about 10 miles from us. They can clean the sensor usually while I'm waiting, or in about an hour.
If the blower doesn't do it and the debris has accumulated so that it's a real problem, I'll send the camera to the service center for cleaning. I won't touch it myself.
I don’t have a dirty sensor all that often (by doing the things he recommends in Pro Tips 1. Of course, I do on occasion, like everyone. Then I use a strong blower like the Giottos Rocket Blower or I go down to the drugstore and get a baby enema syringe (they work great). I make sure I hold the camera with the lens opening facing down as I blow it out.
Cleaning is a progressive process for me - only going as far as I need to. I start with a simple rubber bulb blower, then move on to a VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly brush, followed by Visible Dust cleaning swabs. If all else fails, I take the camera to be cleaned professionally at an authorised workshop. I am testing the Green Clean kit at the moment for the UK distributor - it is a non-contact vacuum cleaning method, and it is proving to be very effective for all but the most stubborn sensor dirt!
When I do get dust specks, my first step is to use a high powered air bulb, like the Giottos. Never use canned air! It may spray some chemicals that will permanently damage the sensor! Hold the camera face down, activate mirror lock-up, point the bulb into the camera sensor, and squeeze the bulb forcefully several times. This works most of the time. If the dust persists - and sometimes a speck of dust will be immovable by traditional means - I'll use Sensor Swabs... I've never had dust specks that could withstand a Sensor Swab treatment. But, if that occurs, you'll need to have the sensor professionally cleaned at a camera store.
I start with the blower bulb on the sensor - to blow dust off. Then, I use Visible Dust's Sensor Brush SD for brushing off the sensor. If I need to, I will use their Sensor Clean fluid and swabs to wipe the sensor clean. All very gently, of course! For people who are concerned about touching their sensors, it's a good idea to find a reputable shop that can do that part for you, but safely and quickly - you can't live without the camera for too long!
I first use a large blower. And then, if it's still dirty, I use the Arctic Butterfly.
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About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager
The content manager and course advisor for BetterPhoto.com, Kerry Drager is also the co-author (with Jim Miotke) of two books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography (2011) and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light (2012). In addition, he teaches this online photography course at BetterPhoto: Creative Light & Composition.
Be sure to check out Kerry's Pro BetterPholio website - www.kerrydrager.com - and his instructor bio page.
Also, he is the author of Scenic Photography 101, the photographer of the photo-essay books The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood and California Desert , a contributor to the books BetterPhoto Basics and Daybreak 2000, and a co-photographer of Portrait of California. In addition, Kerry was profiled in the April 1994 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and in Vik Orenstein's 2010 book The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business, and his website was showcased in the January 2003 issue of Shutterbug magazine. Plus, his work has appeared in magazines, Hallmark cards and Sierra Club calendars, and in advertising campaigns for American Express and Sinar Bron Imaging.
Also see his Visual Creativity photography blog, and follow Kerry on Facebook.
Kerry lives with his wife, Mary, in the country near Sacramento, California, with their six Newfoundland dogs, four cats, two horses, and a mixed terrier.