Prevent dirty lenses from ruining your photos

Star Wars Lego action figure cleaning camera lens
Unless you're Kylo Ren, you probably don't have an army of Stormtroopers to clean your lenses for you. So you might as well learn to do it yourself.James Pond via Unsplash

My grandmother always told me to wear clean underwear every day in case I am hit by a car and to keep the lens of my camera clean in case I would need to take a good photo.

Sure, I invented this last part, but the fact that I invented it is no less a truth. Using a dirty camera lens is like looking at the world through a dirty window, and even a few tiny spots of dirt or rain will affect the photo you take.

Just look at the image below: it is a great photo, except for the blurry bit in the middle caused by a drop of water on my lens. There are also a few other less obvious blurs and spots in the image.

Natural landscape
If I had kept my lens clean, I would have a wonderful moody photo of a Scottish loch. But as it stands, I only have one example for this article. Harry Guinness

While this is mainly a problem with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, a drop of water or a fingerprint trace on your smartphone lens will also affect the photos you take . Just remember that the time you ate greasy fries and took out your smartphone to take a photo, you realized that all the street lights seemed to be lying on your screen. So even if you're only shooting with your phone, you still need to do your best to keep the lens clean.

Clean your lenses regularly

The easiest way to make sure you shoot with clean lenses is to clean them regularly yourself. If you are photographing and you notice a point or two of dust in your images, you can do it then, but it is best to clean your lenses preventively in the peace and security of your own home. You will have more time, better tools and less chance of getting them dirty by simply spreading stains.

Cleaning a camera lens is not difficult, but you will have to be a little careful – if you do real damage, it will be expensive to repair or replace. You don't need to be afraid, however – the outer element of a lens is designed to withstand a little abuse, so unless you are there go with a wire brush or pop the industrial bleach, it is unlikely to scrape it off or remove its protective coatings.

It is a good idea to get in the habit of cleaning up your lenses with each shot, it will only take a minute or two. You can do this before you go or, as I prefer, while importing your images to your computer after shooting. Your lenses won't get dirty when not in use and have a cap, so if you follow these tips, they will always be ready to go, even if you go out in a hurry.

There are three things you will need to clean your lenses: dust, dirt and fingerprint or evaporated water stains. There are different tools and techniques to get rid of each one.

Get rid of dust and dirt with a brush or blower

Camera lens
Oh, what a beautiful photo of a shit … yeah, it's dust. Matthias Oberholzer via Unsplash

A lens brush has soft bristles specially designed to not damage camera lenses, so don't use a toothbrush or makeup. They are fairly simple to use: just gently brush the surface of the lens until you have removed any dust or dirt. Be sure to brush the edges of the lens, as this is where the dust may collect. If something persists, do not force it – we will deal with it in the next step.

An air blower is useful for cleaning dust in hard to brush places. You can use one to clean the front surface of your lens, but they are very useful for cleaning the rear element of the lens, the one that is inside the camera. Photo. If you change the lenses carefully, you shouldn't have to clean the rear element very often, but if you do need it sometimes, it can be difficult to properly reach the lens element with a brush. Blowers are a better option in these cases and are also fairly simple to use: point the nozzle at the item you are cleaning and tighten tight. The air will wash away all the dust particles.

One thing: always use a manual blower instead of a can of compressed air. It is unlikely, but there is an external risk that the chemicals and fluids in the compressed air will damage the electronic components of your camera. Plus, the force you get is far more than necessary to blow dust from a lens and could potentially damage your camera. It is definitely a risk that is not worth taking.

While you are cleaning the dust from your lenses, it is also worth bringing your brush or blower inside your lens cap. Dust and dirt can also collect there, and if you put a dirty lens cap on a clean lens, you may end up with a dirty lens.

Wipe stubborn stains and things

Hand cleaning the camera lens
Clean the lens in a circular motion, starting from the center and moving outward.Ikaia Pal via Unsplash

Brushes and blowers are great for cleaning up anything that's easy to remove, but for stubborn stains and dirt, you'll need to take a more direct approach.

Dry microfiber cloths are handy for giving your lens a quick polish when you go out, but, when it comes to removing stains, they can make things worse and just spread the grease of fingerprints around . Instead, wet them first with a few drops of lens cleaning fluid, which will dissolve the fat and make it easier to remove dirt. You can also get disposable wipes that are pre-moistened with cleaning fluid. It's worth keeping a few in your bag, but as with all single-use items, they're a bit wasteful.

To clean your lens with a cloth or wipe, start at the center and gently turn outward toward the edge of the lens, removing any dirt or burrs. Do not rub too hard, especially if there is dust or sand particles – if you are too aggressive, you might scratch your goal.

Keep your lenses clean when shooting

Having beautiful pristine lenses at home is not very good – you have to go out and use them in the real world. This is where keeping them clean becomes a little more difficult.

If you don't plan to take pictures right away and you don't need to be ready to react quickly to something that's going on, keep the lens cap or even put your camera in your bag, especially if '' it is dusty, sandy or wet. If your lenses are protected from the elements, they are much more likely to stay clean.

If the weather is bad and you want to take a picture, take out your camera or remove the lens cap until you are sure you are shooting. Frame the picture in your mind, get into position and set the exposure parameters. When you're ready, take out your camera, take the picture, and put it away again.

If you need to, find the cover and wipe your lens with a lens cloth. Although it is not as effective as proper cleaning at home, a lens cloth can remove the worst of dust or raindrops in seconds.

While this may be tempting, you should definitely not try to get rid of everything on your goal by touching it. The grease on your fingers is really sticky and without cleaning fluid, the cloth won't do much.

Do not change the lenses unless you really need them. If you're not careful, it's an easy way to put dust or stains on your lenses. Worse yet, you can let dust or dirt get into your camera or on the back of your lens, two hard to clean places. If you decide to change lenses, do it somewhere under cover, quickly put on the lens caps and keep your camera pointed at the ground, which will prevent debris from reaching ; enter it.

Go shoot

In an ideal world, each lens would stay clean forever, but if you use them, they will get dirty. Don't think too much and don't stress too much. It is better to spoil a photo because your lens was a little dirty than not to take it at all.