Stop the dirty lenses from ruining your photos

Star Wars Lego Camera Cleaning Camera Figurine
Unless you're a Kylo Ren, you probably don't have an army of Stormtroopers to clean your lenses for you. So you might just learn how to do it yourself.James Pond via Unsplash

My grandmother always told me to wear clean lingerie everyday if I was hit by a car – and to keep my camera lens clean if I had to take a good photo.

Granted, I did this last piece, but the fact that I invented it doesn't make it any less true. Using a dirty camera lens is like looking at the world through a dirty window and even some tiny spots of dirt or rain will affect the photo you take.

Just look at the picture below – it's a great shot except for the cloudy little waist caused by a drop of water on my lens. There are also some other less obvious blurry and smudges throughout the picture.

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

While this is primarily a matter of DSLRs and cameras without mirrors, a drop of water or a fingerprint enamel on your smartphone's lens will also affect the photos you take. Just remember that you are eating fat potatoes and when you took your smartphone to take a picture you realized that all the lights on the street looked oblong on your screen. So even if you only shoot with your phone, you should try to keep the lens clean.

Clean your lenses regularly

The simplest way to make sure you are turning with clean lenses is to clean them regularly. If you plan on turning around and observing a dusty spot or two in your pictures, you can do so later, but it's best to proactively clean your lenses in the privacy and security of your home. You will have more time, better tools and less risk of making it more dirty by simply scattering smudges around.

Cleaning the camera lens is not difficult, but you have to be a little careful – if you do any real damage, it will be expensive to repair or replace. But you don't need to be afraid that the outside of a lens is designed to withstand some abuse, so unless you go with a wire brush or break out industrial bleach, you are unlikely to scratch it or remove its protective surfaces. .

It's a good idea to make a habit of cleaning your lenses every time you shoot – it will only take a minute or two. You can either do this before you start or, preferably, import images into your computer after download. Your lenses are unlikely to get dirty when not in use and have a lid on, so if you follow this advice, they will always be ready to go, even if you start in a hurry.

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

Remove dust and dirt with a brush or blower

camera lens
Oh, what a nice photo of a le … yes, this is the dust. Matthias Oberholzer via Unsplash

A lens brush has soft bristles specially designed to avoid damaging the camera lens, so don't use a toothbrush or makeup brush. It's quite simple to use: just brush the lens surface gently until you remove dust or dirt particles. Be sure to brush around the edges of the lens, as dust may accumulate there. If something still sticks, don't push it – we'll tackle it in the next step.

An air blower is useful for cleaning dust in areas that are difficult to brush. You can use one to clean the front of your lens, but it is very useful for cleaning the back of the lens – the one that comes into the camera. If you change the lenses carefully, you should not clean the rear element too often, but if you occasionally need it, it may be difficult to get the lens element properly with a brush. Blowers are a better option in these cases and they are also very simple to use: place the nozzle on the item you are cleaning and pressing hard. The air will remove any dust particles.

One thing: always use a manual blower instead of a compressed air container. It is unlikely, but there is an outside possibility that chemicals and liquids in the compressed air could damage electronics in your camera. Also, the power you get is much more than is necessary to detonate dust from a lens and could eventually damage your camera. It is definitely a risk that is not worth taking.

While cleaning the dust from your lenses, it is also worth pulling your brush or blower inside the lens cover. Dust and dirt can also accumulate in it, and if you put a dirty lens cover on a clean lens, you may end up with a dirty lens again.

Wipe scrubs and stubborn

Camera lens cleaning hands
Clean the lens in circular motion, starting from the center and moving outwards.Ikaia Pal via Unsplash

Brushes and blowers are ideal for cleaning anything that is easy to remove, but for scratches and stubborn dirt, you should take a more immediate approach.

Dry microfiber lenses panels are convenient to give your lens quick polish when turning out, but when it comes to removing smudges, they can make things worse and apply fingerprint fat. Instead, take the first with a few drops of lens cleaning liquid first, which will dissolve the fat and facilitate removal of the contaminants. You can also get disposable wipes that are pre-moistened with cleanser. It's worth keeping a few in your bag, but as with all disposable items, it's a bit of a waste.

To clean your lens with a cloth or wipe, start in the center and gently turn outwards towards the edge of the lens, scraping off any dirt or stains. Don't rub too hard, especially if there are dust or sand particles – if you are very aggressive, you could scratch your lens.

Keeping your lenses clean when shooting

Having nice, virgin lenses sitting at home is not very good – you have to go out and use them in the real world. Where keeping them clean becomes a little more difficult.

If you are not planning on shooting right away and do not need to be ready to respond to something happening quickly, hold 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 photo, shoot the camera out or remove the lens cover until you are sure to take it. Specify the image in your mind, position it and select the exposure settings. When ready, pull out the camera, shoot and resubmit.

If necessary, find a cover and wipe your lens with a lens cloth. Although not as effective as a clean cleaning at home, a lens cloth can take out the worst of the dust or drops in a matter of seconds.

While it may be tempting, you should definitely not try to get rid of anything in your lens by touching it. Oil on your fingers is really sticky, and without a cleaning liquid, the lens cloth will not be able to do much for it.

Do not change the lenses unless you really need it. If you are not careful, it is an easy way to get dust or smudges on your lenses. Even worse, you can leave dust or dirt on your camera or on the back of your lens – in both places that are not easy to clean. If you decide to change the lenses, make it somewhere protected, quickly attach the lens caps and hold the camera facing the ground, which will prevent debris from penetrating.

Go shoot

In an ideal world, every lens will remain clean forever, but if you use it, it will get dirty. Do not think again and stress too much. It's better to spoil a photo because your lens was a little dirty than not taking it at all.