My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!


I love nature photography but when using a Digital SLR camera you quickly learn about Dust Bunnies. No they are not those cute little fuzzy creatures that I am normally blogging about or even those things you find in your belly button. They are very tiny particles of dust that somehow make it inside your camera and always find their way against your sensor. How apparent these dust spots are on your photo depends on the aperture setting that you are using with your camera. You can’t always photoshop these dust spots from the picture . . . . so their comes a time when you need to clean your camera sensor.

dust spot

Dust Spots in the Photo. Click |HERE| to see the picture larger!

Here are a few rules before cleaning your camera:

1) Always check your warranty and instruction manual before attempting to clean your sensor. Having the camera professionally cleaned is always your safest option.

2) Avoid unnecessary changing of lenses to reduce the chances of the dust bunnies getting into your camera.

3) Never use canned air to clean the sensor. It is liquid forced air that will damage your sensor.

4) If you scratch your sensor, then just start planning on your next camera purchase.

5) Never use any chemicals on the sensor to clean it.

mirror lock up

Nikon’s mirror lock-up feature

To locate your dust bunnies, I always point my camera towards the blue sky (just never point the camera towards the sun). You can get a good estimate from the photo on where you dust spots are located. Use your mirror lock-up feature and gently blow the air (with a hand blower tool) onto the sensor. Always keeps your cameras sensor facing down so that all of the dust particles fall out of the camera. Place the lens back onto the camera and take another photo facing the sky to see if your dust spots are gone.

dust spot remover

Spot remover tool (with the mirror set normal).

With humid conditions, your dust bunnies could fuse to the sensor and a professional cleaning is your only option. If they are not fused, you can use a spot remover tool to easily grab the dust particle and pull it away from the sensor. If you do use the spot remover tool, only dab at the dust particle and never wipe or smear the tip along the sensor. That will cause a scratch and then you could do serious damage to your camera. I always clean the tip of the spot remover with an alcohol pad (then air dry it) to avoid any oils from my skin or old dust particles from being placed onto the sensor. HAPPY CLEANING EVERYONE!


22 responses

  1. Marg

    Oh hey thanks for all the good tips Tom

    I like your new photo on the right over there >

    16 August 2007 at 5:47 pm

  2. Marg

    I should have said and up waaaaaaaaaaay up ;D

    16 August 2007 at 5:47 pm

  3. thanks for the tips
    My husband got me a Nikon D40 a few months back and I’m loving it.
    I also like your new avatar.

    16 August 2007 at 6:04 pm

  4. Thanks for the cleaning tips, for when I *do* get a DSLR!
    So what’s an Allegany State Park buck? I saw your wordless Wed. post in Google but not here!

    16 August 2007 at 6:08 pm

  5. I cleaned my camera sensors before going on vacation with commercially available sensor cleaning swabs and cleaner. It very successfully cleaned some long-standing dirt spots.

    It is not harmful if done properly, because all sensors are covered with glass. This is because all sensors (Canon, Nikon) include a glass-covered anti-moire filter on the sensor.

    I won’t add the link. However, I did not know about this previously, and wish I had – so this is just a heads-up.

    (I have more than one digital camera to cut down on lens-changing for just this problem.)

    16 August 2007 at 6:53 pm

  6. PS. The swabs are different from the spot-removal tool. The swabs are used to wipe the surface of the sensor glass, and do not scratch or harm the glass.

    16 August 2007 at 7:04 pm

  7. @ Marg – thanks and I have been planning on placing it up in the corner for a while! Just got around to it!
    @ Toni – thanks and the D40 is a great camera! Avatar is the same, just profile picture is new!
    @ PAM – thanks and was a fun thing I had up for a while! You missed it?
    @ N Shutterbug – I have tried getting those pads and have not been successful in having any of the stores selling them to me! I would love an email giving me the details on where you get these? This is what I love about this blog is that everyone is teaching everyone about things!

    KEEP IT COMING: If anyone else has any other comments on what they do with their sensors, please step forward!! We nature photographers would like to hear what you do!

    16 August 2007 at 7:13 pm

  8. Thanks for the info Mon@rch

    16 August 2007 at 8:01 pm

  9. I had no idea this was an issue with SLR’s . Is a professional cleaning expensive? I don’t know if I could trust myself with those tools.

    16 August 2007 at 8:35 pm

  10. I have seen those spots in my pictures and had no idea what they were. Thanks for the tips, but I may go to the camera store for service instead.

    16 August 2007 at 9:06 pm

  11. dreamscapepictures

    This is great advice Tom!
    One additional caution, Never, and I mean Never
    change lenses outdoors! Always go inside, or inside your car, and turn off all vents, ac, heat….whatever….

    16 August 2007 at 10:30 pm

  12. Rick

    dust bunnies in your belly button. you make me laugh

    16 August 2007 at 11:52 pm

  13. Okay. Why are you pointing out dust spots that we never would have ever seen anyway? Huh? Why????

    17 August 2007 at 12:03 am

  14. aww crud! See.. and I thought those little spots were on my computer and my lcd screen (um…. all in the same location.) Thanks for the tips!

    17 August 2007 at 12:46 am

  15. One more thing: always make sure that your camera’s battery is FULLY charged – or better, get a power cord for it. In Nikons, at least, if your battery power dies while you are cleaning, the mirror lock-up will end and the mirror will come crashing down on whatever you are cleaning with. Unfortunately, more often than not, that will result in a cracked sensor – aka ‘bye-bye camera’ or a very expensive repair at the very least.

    17 August 2007 at 9:38 am

  16. New Canons have self-cleaning sensors… I’ve only had mine for a few months but so far it works really well at keeping things clean…

    17 August 2007 at 9:51 am

  17. Sherri

    Thanks for the great info Tom! I’m about to take the leap to a DSLR – I’ve been using a fairly good point & shoot digital for a few years now and my old Minolta x700 for almost 25 years but they just don’t cut it anymore!

    17 August 2007 at 10:24 am

  18. @ Barb – Thanks and no worries!
    @ Cathy – You need to be careful with DSLR’s!! I have never had it done but I am very close to having it done professionally! I am going to order some of those wipes that Nature Shutterbug suggested I get!
    @ Ruth – Ooo, I see them in my shots all the time! Good majority of the time you can’t see them or I photoshop them out!
    @ Dream – Thanks and at all cost try not too take it off at all! Main reason that I use my point and shoot for many shots and the DSLR for my bird pictures (telephoto lens)!
    @ Rick – LOL, I had to add that! It’s what I have always called them!
    @ Susan – You can’t see those? Sounds like you need a new computer screen! Hey, when are you going to email me back about those T-shirts?
    @ aullori – glad to have helped but be very careful with them!
    @ Marty – great tip and one that I have never heard before! Lucky I almost always have a full charge in the camera and a spare battery on hand!
    @ Birdfreak – I have heard about that! But, have also heard that the D70’s get dust spots much easier than some of the other cameras! One of my downfalls!
    @ Sherri – thanks and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on your DSLR camera you are purchasing! I think they might have a DSLR’s for your Minolta lenses! Anyone know for sure?

    THANKS EVERYONE- Keep the extra tips coming! I am loving this!

    17 August 2007 at 10:40 am

  19. Great tips, Tom. I would probably have it done professionally since I tend to break things.

    And, I did not see the spots!

    17 August 2007 at 12:18 pm

  20. “Egads!” she exclaimed, “how could he publish images with so many dust spots?? They’re so large, they look three-dimensional! Has he no pride?”
    As she pointed out the largest of the culprits, it suddenly disappeared.
    Thanks for the reminder to clean my laptop screen!

    17 August 2007 at 5:33 pm

  21. Hmmm, I change lenses quite frequently, nearly always outdoors, and I don’t really have big dust issues. Every couple of days or so I’ll lock up the mirror and give the sensor a few puffs with an air blower (most blowers are pretty useless, however, the Giottos rocket blowers (you can find them on B&H Photo) actually put out a lot of air and work very well).

    Perhaps I’m just charmed, but dust is close to a non-issue for me, but clearly folks have problems with it since most of the new batches of SLRs coming out of Canon & Nikon have some form of “dust reduction.” Or is that a solution in search of a problem, hmmm…..

    18 August 2007 at 2:34 pm

  22. @ Mary – always safe that way!
    @ Zen – LOL – I love that for sure!
    @ Adam – many of the new cameras have some new features on them! They say (what I have) the D70s is very bad for dust bunnies! I can’t wait to try the swabs that N. Shutterbug suggested!

    19 August 2007 at 11:08 am

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