If your DLSR sensor is dirty, any picture you take may appear spotty or grainy. Cleaning your sensor periodically can keep your pictures clear and help avoid excess dust from building up on the sensor. DLSR sensors can be cleaned in 1 of 2 ways: dry or wet cleaning. With the right tools and plenty of persistence, you can clean your DLSR sensor all on your own.
EditCleaning Your Sensor (Dry)
- Lay your camera down on a flat surface. You will want to keep your camera level while you are cleaning it. This will prevent you from dropping it as you clean the sensor. Remove the camera lens to expose the sensor so you can begin cleaning it.
- Dry cleaning is best for mildly dirty sensors. Try this option first before cleaning solutions.
- Locate the DSLR sensor. Unscrew the camera lens and place it on the table. Look inside the hole left by the camera lens until you spot a mirror. This mirror is the DSLR sensor.
- Use a bulb blower on the sensor. Hold the blower to inches away from the sensor and begin blowing on the sensor. Move the blower back and forth as you use it to evenly clean the sensor.
- Bulb blowers can be bought online or at electronics stores.
- Do not use canned air blowers on your DSLR sensor. The pressure is usually strong enough to damage your sensor.
- Use a sensor scope to spot small dust particles. A sensor scope is a magnifying glass with a light shining at the end of the scope. Use the scope to check for more dust after you’ve finished blowing. Use the bulb blower again on areas where you spot more dust.
- Sensor scopes can be purchased online or at most camera shops.
- Turn the camera upside down to dislodge hard-to-reach dust as you blow the DSLR sensor.
- Take another photo after cleaning and compare it to the first photo. Make your second photo as identical as possible, then run it through the same photo editing program. Look for any residual dust and, if you spot any, dry clean the DSLR sensor again or try using a cleaning solution.
EditUsing a Camera Cleaning Solution
- Purchase a sensor cleaning solution. Do not use general soaps or cleaners on your camera. Use a specialized DSLR sensor cleaner, which can be purchased online or at some electronics stores. DSLR cleaners leave a coating on the sensor that can repel dust and minimize future build-up.
- Dip a sensor swab or cotton swab in the cleaning solution. Keep your swab away from touching any objects before you use it to avoid dirtying it. Hold the cleaning tool on 1 end and dip it in on the other end.
- Read the cleaner directions carefully before you use it on your sensor.
- Avoid using cotton balls, which do not have a separate stick to hold while you clean the sensor.
- Let the swab soak in the solution for about a minute. One minute is approximately enough time for the solution to soak into the cleaning tool. When a minute has passed, keep the cleaning tool lifted over the solution so it can catch any drips.
- Do not squeeze cleaner directly onto the DSLR. Apply it with a cleaning tool.
- Drag the swab over the DSLR sensor carefully. Tilt the swab at an angle, then drag it from one end of the sensor to the other. Then, drag it back once the other way. Lift the swab off of the sensor after you’ve dragged it both ways to keep from smudging it.
- Apply light pressure as you drag the swab across the sensor.
- Don’t worry about getting all of the dust off with your first swab. You can always repeat the process as necessary.
- Throw the sensor swab away after it has been used. Sensor or cotton swabs cannot be used twice, as they will no longer be sterile. If your sensor still looks dirty, dip another swab in the solution and try again until it is clean.
EditChecking if Your Sensor is Dirty
- Set your ISO to its lowest normal range. Do not set your ISO lower than its extended range, which may impede your camera’s ability to spot all dirty areas on your sensor. If your camera has an automatic ISO setting, change it to manual and adjust it based on your camera manual’s lowest ISO instructions.
- The lowest ISO range for most digital cameras is 100.
- Turn on your camera’s manual focus. To catch all the dust and debris on your sensor when you take the picture, you’ll want the photo to be out of focus. If taking the picture indoors, set the focus to infinity. If taking it outdoors, set it to close-focus.
- Choose a medium-sized aperture level. If your aperture is too wide, you may not be able to see any dust. If you set it too small, however, the detail may be so close that you see dust in the air or on other objects rather than your camera sensor.
- f/22 is usually an ideal aperture level.
- Take a picture of a blank background. If your photo is too detailed, you may not be able to distinguish between dust and spots of light or blurry objects. A white wall, cloudy sky, or blank piece of paper works as a perfect background.
- Slowly move the camera as you take the picture to further blur it.
- Process the photo online to check for spots. Running your photo through an editing program will help you catch dust spots. Desaturate the photo and increase the contrast to make spots more visible. Sensor dust will look like small, dark circles randomly dotting your photo.
- If your photo seems more smudged than spotted, your lens may need cleaning instead of your sensor.
- Clean your DSLR sensor in a well-lit area to make sure you clean away all of the dust.
- Wash your hands before cleaning your sensor to keep it and your cleaning tools sterile.
- Some digital cameras have a self-cleaning setting for its DSLR sensor. If yours does, use the self-cleaning sensor first and try manual cleaning options only if it doesn’t work.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Photo editing program
- Bulb blower
- Sensor scope
- DSLR cleaner
- Sensor swab or cotton swab