The Practicing Photographer
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The Practicing Photographer

with Ben Long

Video: Dry sensor cleaning

- In a previous Practicing Photographer, you saw me encounter this Canon EOS 5D that has a sensor dust problem. We talked about how to identify sensor dust, where it comes from, and then we went to the first step of sensor cleaning, which is to use a blower bulb to get the sensor cleaned. I used this Visible Dust Zeeion anti-static blower, which has some very, very interesting properties compared to a regular blower. It got some dust off, but it didn't get it all, so I have to move to the next regular stage of sensor cleaning.
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  1. 6m 23s
    1. Dry sensor cleaning NEW
      6m 23s
  2. 1m 35s
    1. Introducing The Practicing Photographer
      1m 35s
  3. 10h 29m
    1. Choosing a camera
      5m 27s
    2. Looking at light as a subject
      2m 22s
    3. Using a small reflector to add fill light
      5m 45s
    4. Editing photo metadata with PhotosInfo Pro for iPad
      6m 30s
    5. Let your lens reshape you
      7m 26s
    6. Compositing street photography images with Photoshop
      7m 44s
    7. Expand your filter options with step-up and step-down rings
      3m 56s
    8. Shooting without a memory card
      3m 6s
    9. Give yourself a year-long assignment
      5m 28s
    10. Working with reflections
      1m 26s
    11. Exploring mirrorless cameras
      7m 25s
    12. Batch processing photos with the Adobe Image Processor
      7m 30s
    13. Limiting yourself to a fixed-focal-length lens
      2m 13s
    14. Creating tiny worlds: Shooting technique
      4m 15s
    15. Creating tiny worlds: Post-processing techniques
      11m 41s
    16. Shooting macro shots on an iPhone
      3m 18s
    17. Using a tripod
      3m 33s
    18. Wildlife and staying present
      5m 58s
    19. Batch exposure adjustments on raw files
      6m 52s
    20. Why Shoot Polaroid
      11m 12s
    21. Seizing an opportunity
      4m 4s
    22. Four photographers do a light-as-subject exercise
      12m 24s
    23. Shooting macro bug photos with a reversed lens
      4m 54s
    24. Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect
      13m 36s
    25. Shooting wildlife
      7m 24s
    26. Discussion on how to shoot architecture
      12m 27s
    27. Using a lens hood
      4m 48s
    28. Working with themes
      2m 48s
    29. Setting up an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    30. Processing an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    31. Two perspectives on travel photography
      12m 28s
    32. Scanning Photos
      5m 37s
    33. Photo assignment: shooting an egg
      3m 13s
    34. Reviewing the egg shot images
      6m 47s
    35. Shooting in your own backyard
      4m 38s
    36. Jpeg iPad import process
      3m 17s
    37. Shooting a product shot in open shade
      9m 34s
    38. Reviewing the product shot images
      4m 5s
    39. Warming up
      3m 26s
    40. Taking a panning action shot
      10m 17s
    41. Scanning polaroid negatives and processing in Photoshop
      8m 17s
    42. Shooting a silhouette
      3m 9s
    43. Going with an ultra-light gear configuration
      5m 29s
    44. Working with masks and calculations in Photoshop
      12m 38s
    45. Working with flash for macro photography
      4m 56s
    46. Colorizing a black and white photo in Photoshop
      5m 10s
    47. Using duct tape and zip ties in the field
      4m 14s
    48. When the on camera flash is casting a shadow
      3m 4s
    49. Using Lightroom on the road
      6m 28s
    50. Listening to your camera to get good exposure
      2m 20s
    51. Shooting a successful self portrait with a phone
      7m 18s
    52. Switching to Lightroom from another application
      9m 48s
    53. Photographing animals in wildlife refuges
      6m 41s
    54. Shooting level
      2m 42s
    55. Photoshop and Automator
      8m 54s
    56. Shooting when the light is flat
      3m 23s
    57. Discussing the business of stock photography
      9m 48s
    58. Shooting tethered to a monitor
      3m 21s
    59. Making a 360 degree panorama on the iPhone
      4m 45s
    60. Understanding the three flash setup
      3m 34s
    61. Shooting a three flash portrait
      4m 6s
    62. Understanding the differences with third party lenses
      4m 43s
    63. Understanding why files look different on depending on device
      5m 25s
    64. Working with a geotagging app on the iPhone
      4m 43s
    65. Using high speed flash sync to dim ambient light
      7m 29s
    66. Using your iPad as a second monitor
      5m 46s
    67. Understanding exposure with a leaf shutter camera
      3m 28s
    68. Photography practice through mimicry
      8m 8s
    69. Canon wireless flash with built in radio control
      5m 59s
    70. Posing and shooting pairs of people
      5m 35s
    71. Shooting with a shape in mind
      3m 15s
    72. Shooting tethered to a laptop
      4m 40s
    73. Softboxes vs. umbrellas
      2m 55s
    74. Getting your project out into the world
      6m 25s
    75. Exploring how to think about shooting a new environment
      3m 56s
    76. Discussing the book "The Passionate Photographer" with Steve Simon
      6m 4s
    77. Highlighting iOS 8 updates on the iPhone5S
      10m 46s
    78. Exploring manual controls with iOS 8 and ProCamera
      5m 30s
    79. Understanding how to compose with an empty sky
      4m 54s
    80. Using an iPhone to make a print in the darkroom
      7m 16s
    81. How to use glycerin as a photography tool
      2m 16s
    82. Understanding micro focus adjustment and Lens Align
      11m 19s
    83. Working with hair in post
      3m 28s
    84. Taking a quick portrait and directing a subject
      5m 50s
    85. Getting inspired through the work of others
      11m 22s
    86. Taking a flattering portrait with flash
      4m 21s
    87. Creating an unaligned HDR image
      3m 3s
    88. Exploring how to use Bokeh
      5m 38s
    89. Shooting stills from a drone
      6m 57s
    90. Using a monitor to get a first person view of the aerial camera
      8m 0s
    91. Understanding lens profile correction
      5m 33s
    92. Working with models
      2m 40s
    93. Understanding the labels on SD cards
      10m 32s
    94. Setting up a macro time lapse of a flower
      6m 18s
    95. Taking a portrait that's tightly cropped or slightly obscured
      3m 24s
    96. Tips for shooting panoramas
      7m 16s
    97. Carrying a point-and-shoot camera
      4m 44s
    98. Adjusting the color of shadows in an image
      5m 35s
    99. Evaluating camera-strap options
      4m 42s
    100. The 100th Practicing Photographer
      3m 31s
    101. Using light-pollution maps for planning night shoots
      3m 26s
    102. Shooting a series of star shots for a stack
      8m 32s
    103. Stitching together stacks of stars
      8m 59s
    104. Understanding how to clean sensor dust
      10m 27s

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Watch the Online Video Course The Practicing Photographer
10h 37m Appropriate for all May 16, 2013 Updated Apr 30, 2015

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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.

Ben Long

Dry sensor cleaning

- In a previous Practicing Photographer, you saw me encounter this Canon EOS 5D that has a sensor dust problem. We talked about how to identify sensor dust, where it comes from, and then we went to the first step of sensor cleaning, which is to use a blower bulb to get the sensor cleaned. I used this Visible Dust Zeeion anti-static blower, which has some very, very interesting properties compared to a regular blower. It got some dust off, but it didn't get it all, so I have to move to the next regular stage of sensor cleaning.

If you can't get it off with a blower bulb, then you have to move on to a dry-cleaning solution. I have seen people in forums say, "Oh, just go buy a makeup brush and stick that "in there and wipe it on your sensor." I cannot stress enough how you should not use any material to clean your camera sensor that was not designed for cleaning a sensor. Think about the size of your sensor and how it has, in this case, what, 12 million pixels on it. That means any individual pixel is tiny, the faintest scratch on the surface of the filter that's covering the sensor could be visible, so you really need a brush, or cleaning materials, or whatever it is you're gonna use that is not abrasive and designed specifically for this process.

For years, I've been using products in various stages of evolution from a company called Visible Dust, I've cleaned lots and lots of sensors, and always had great results with Visible Dust products, and never had any problems, I cannot recommend them enough. That's what I'm showing you, here. We've already seen the Quasar Plus loupe, which makes it easy to see where the dust is, and we've seen their Zeeion blower. We're moving now to the Arctic Butterfly 724.

Visible Dust has been making variations of this product for a while, and they are currently, at the time of this shooting, selling two variations of this brush. One, with built-in lights, and the other without. The one without is cheaper. What's cool about this brush, is it's not actually doing its cleaning through a brushing action. This is a, Visible Dust got their start designing products for cleaning microscopes and other high-end optical devices, so they really know how to clean glass.

This is a brush with bristles that are, one, not so abrasive that they'll ever do any harm to the filter that's in front of your sensor, and two, they're designed to pick up a static charge very easily. The idea is, if I charge this brush with static electricity, and stick it in here, it's not the brushing motion that's gonna get rid of the dust, it's the static charge that's gonna slurp the dust up onto the bristles, so that I can pull them out of the sensor chamber. To give it a static charge, I put batteries in the brush, and there's little switch over here on the side, when I flip it, the brush spins.

This actually does two things. It cleans the brush, the centrifugal force throws off any dust that was already on there, and if I let it go for about 10 seconds or so, the brush itself is gonna get a good static charge. I've already got my camera in sensor cleaning mode, we looked at that last time. That's, flipped the mirror up and gotten the shutter open. I'm gonna turn the little lights on, and I'm gonna go in here and just brush across the sensor, and hopefully that static charge is picking up dust. I was applying very little, if any pressure, only enough to get the brush to fan out.

I'm sitting here spitting over this open sensor, so I'm gonna just cover the camera up. I just did one swipe across. Now, making sure that I don't set the brush down somewhere where it's gonna pick up more dust, I'm gonna grab my loupe again and see what I can see in the way of dust. Wow, it is dramatically different. There is far, far less, but there are still a few bits in there, and there's one bit in particular that's very large and seems to have moved. I think maybe, I'm just pushing it around. I'm gonna clean the brush off, charge it up again.

That one piece was in the upper left-hand corner. My upper left, upper stage left. I'm gonna really be sure to get the brush in there. One thing I like about Visible Dust products is, they've got a really nice attention to detail. I like the way they're built, they all come in these nice carrying cases, they've given thought to the fact that you would want to travel with these tools, so they made them easy to carry around. That got a lot out, but there's still one bit, and it did not move. It could be that it's actually stuck to the sensor.

I'm gonna give this one more go, here. Already though, I've seen a dramatic improvement. Charging up the brush again, turning the light back on. As for whether you should go with the lighted or unlit brush, I am finding that light helpful. It's not critical, if you want to want to save some money. I don't think you're giving up too much by going without the light. What's nice about the light is it means that, if you find yourself somewhere, really in a panic, needing to clean, and you don't have good light around, you're gonna be able to see with the brush.

Okay, that's looking good, that one piece is still on there. I've done the dry-cleaning solution and it's helped a lot, and it's gotten rid of most of my sensor dust, but there'e still some there. As I mentioned before, dust comes in several different flavors. There's dry, particulate matter that gets stuck on the sensor that you can try blowing off or brushing off. There are stains, liquids that get inside and leave stains on the sensor. I don't think we have any of those, however, there are times when liquid can get it and a piece of particulate matter can stick to that liquid, and end up kind of cemented there.

It might be that that's what we have here. Sensor cleaning, as you've seen, is a multi-step process if you've got a bad sensor problem, and this was a pretty dirty sensor. The main thing I want you to really take away from this, is you have to use gear that is designed for cleaning a sensor, and again, based on my experience, you can't go wrong with Visible Dust, This is their dry-cleaning solution, you got a couple of different options. You may think it's expensive just for cleaning your sensor, but if you're gonna use your camera for a while, you will run into a sensor dust problem, and this is a great solution for taking care of it.

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