Lessons from the Shop: Spotting Dust, Part 2

by Gary Fong

Dust on Sensor
Dust has been and will continue to be a nuisance in photography. With film, it shows up on negatives, transfers to enlargers, and ends up on the print. Digital camera didn’t escape the issue…as it shows up on the image chip, transfers to each file.   Dust is most prominent in the skies. It’s also in other parts of the frame, but is usually disguised by the subject matter.
The solution in the camera is to remove the dust from the image sensor. The manufacture recommends sending the camera to a service facility for cleaning. WeArePhotographers recommend that too.
The foolhardy will try to dust it themselves. If you’re going to “do it yourself”, have good camera insurance or don’t care if the image chip is damaged in the attempt. A scratched image chip is usually beyond economical repair.
If one needs to exploit one’s foolhardy tendencies, keep these tips in mind.
1) Find a clean, dustless environment; take a deep breath and hold. 
2) Select the Sensor Clean feature in the camera’s menu. 
3) Make sure the image sensor is not “on”, because it will attract more dust if the shutter is open. (The image sensor chip is usually off when in Sensor Clean mode.)
4) Raise the mirror (many cameras will do that automatically in Sensor Cleaning mode.
5) Use an image sensor-cleaning swipe only once. 
6) Use a small clean bush to “pick up” the dust particles. (Using the brush to swirl the dust around is counter productive.)
7) Examine the image chip for any remaining dust particles with a magnifying glass.
8) If all dust particles are gone and more haven’t arrived in the process of swishing the brush around, close the shutter by turning the camera off.
9) Exhale.
If the dust remains in the photos, take it to a service facility to have it done professionally, like it should have been done the first time. Some camera manufactures have free “Clean and Check” clinics during photo conference or camera store equipment shows. Many times, Canon and Nikon have “Clean and Check” clinics at major sporting events, i.e. Olympics, Super Bowl, etc.
Or do it the old fashion way. Spend the money to have it cleaned. It may save you thousands later.