This weeks video is all about sensor spots, dust spots and sensor cleaning for your camera – a somewhat scary topic and one you may not know how to tackle. Let’s get stuck in.

There is a video how-to for this so if you want to go ahead and watch that, check this one out:

https://youtu.be/7YxpFQrVnDg

Let’s start at the top though:

What is a sensor spot?

A sensor spot, also known as a dust spot, is an artefact on the sensor of your mirrorless camera, DSLR, or any other device with an imaging sensor in it. Sensor spots tend to develop if you change your lenses in dusty environments and you’ll know if you have some because, on every single photograph you take, there are marks on the image file in exactly the same place.

A sensor spot on a studio photograph
A sensor spot on a studio photograph

Sensor spots usually appear as circles and can form anywhere on the sensor. However, lint or other forms of dust from fibres can be linear or wiggly, so don’t just write off a mark that isn’t a circle as something else – if it is in the same place in every photograph, you have something on the sensor.

How to clean your sensor:

Follow the steps below and you cant really go far wrong. Make sure you triple check your camera manufacturers allowance to not void the warranty of your camera before you start and be careful. This is a very sensitive area of your camera, so don’t attempt this if you feel you may break something.

Step 1: Prepare yourself

First of all, get yourself into a clean, dry, enclosed space. No windows open here guys, we’re getting clinical.

Also, prepare your equipment – you’ll need:

  • your camera,
  • a lens,
  • a plain piece of paper,
  • a dust brush and
  • a blower (I just got mine from Amazon, no big deal on make or model.)

I also like to use a torch to check things out myself, but that’s optional.

DIY Sensor cleaning equipment

Step 2: Set up your camera & lens

  1. Aperture priority OR if you’re in manual, set your ISO to auto and your shutter speed to a safe shutter speed
  2. Set your aperture to anywhere between f8 and f22 (I prefer over f11)
  3. Set your exposure compensation to +1 or +2 (add a couple of stops of light in there)
  4. Change your lens to Manual focus
  5. Focus at infinity (the far distance)
  6. Set your white balance to auto

Then…

Step 3: Shoot the paper

Take a photograph of the white piece of paper, covering all of the image from edge to edge all the way around. You can use a white wall for this.

Review the photo and identify where the sensor spots are. Remember those spots, you can check them again in a second.

Step 4: Clean the outer elements

Take your dust brush and clean around the edges of the lens seal whilst the lens is still on the camera. Get all the way around there and be thorough.

Step 5: Let’s start surgery

If you have a DSLR, set the mirror to lock up (check your manual for exact steps!)

  1. Turn your camera off (I mean it – very important)
  2. Remove the lens from the camera
  3. Optional: Grab a torch and have a look at the sensor. Can you see the spots you identified? Can you see the dust there? Keep a mental note of where they are
  4. Grab your blower – remove the brush if your blower has a brush attachment
  5. Angle the camera 45 degrees downwards and then,
  6. Using the blower, blow air 5-10 times all over the sensor area without touching the blower to the sensor surface

Optional: Grab your torch, give it a check by eye to see if you can see any of those spots that were there before.

Step 6: Reconnect the lens to your camera

When the camera and lens are reconnected, you can turn the camera back on.

Take the photograph of the white piece of paper again and review the image in comparison to the one you took in step 3. There should no longer be any dust spots on the sensor. But if there is…

Step 7: When to get help

If using the blower hasn’t handled the dust spots on the sensor, but you’ve tried really hard with it, it’s now time to consult the camera manufacturers service department (or approved service departments), and ask for their advice. They may suggest some extra steps that will not void your camera warranty, but in my case, if the blower doesn’t work then it’s time to send it in.

Sending your camera for a sensor clean, or a general service, is all part of being a great photographer and looking after your equipment, so don’t hold off doing it if you know you have dust in there.

_

With that all said and done, I hope you feel a bit more confident getting all up in that camera body to handle sensor spots!