Cleaning Your Sensor (revisited)


In the world of blogging, content is king, and while I love creating new content for the blog – sometimes the well does run dry.  I have tried to ensure that when I do post, it’s worthy of your time, but today, I am re-visiting a blog post that I wrote a while ago on cleaning your sensors.  It’s as useful today as it was originally, so in the interests of sharing the best bits of knowledge, here’s the original – reposted:

As with most things, your camera needs maintenance too – and I’ve waxed here periodically about establishing a maintenance schedule, cleaning schedules, and the whole schmear – but I’ve never addressed the specifics of cleaning that most important piece of equipment – the sensor in your camera.  As I dive in here, it bears mentioning that I am not advocating any one of these over another – just sort of laying the foundation on the various ways that are available:

1.  Having someone else do it – Most camera stores offer this service for around $50, so if the idea of getting anything near your sensor just gives you the heebie-jeebies, by all means, this option is a good one for the nervous Nelly.

2.  Air Blowers – These are rapidly becoming one of the more popular options as they are relatively cheap, easy, and don’t require messing around with chemicals.  You simply put your camera into the cleaning mode, insert tip of the air blower near the sensor and puff it a few times remove and you are done.  Some claim fantastic results with these while others say stubborn dust won’t come off from this method.  The advantage of this approach is that you never have to touch your sensor (technically the filter in front of the sensor) with anything!  The downside is that results may not get everything off.

Air Blower Method

Giottos Rocket Blower

3.  Sensor swipes – Certain swipes are made just for camera sensors that use hydrostatic charges to remove dust from your sensor.  It’s got an advantage in that it’s a dry cleaning approach so requires no chemicals.  I have heard of some who are reluctant to use this as foreign fibers and materials can get in the swipe which could scratch your sensor.


4.  Chemical cleaning – Pec Pads, Eclipse alcohol and sensor swipes all combine in this method to give the most thorough cleaning, virtually guaranteed to remove even the most stubborn dirt from your sensor.  The risk – doing it wrong can permanently damage your sensor and the cost of buy-in is a lot higher than other methods.  Once you buy-in though, the long term cost drops rapidly!


Since I only mentioned it briefly at the beginning, I should also clarify that the idea behind cleaning your sensor is actually a misnomer – all of these solutions are cleaning the filter in front of the sensor – the sensor technically never gets cleaned unless you use option 1 – sending it in for a cleaning.  All the camera vendors (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc.) offer this service, but the downside there is multi-faceted in that it’s usually more expensive, you have to go without your camera for a period of time, and there’s shipping involved!

What methods do you use?  I know some people that combine multiple approaches, while others simply just shake it out once and a while (heck, I read a story once of a guy that used his t-shirt! – not sure how valid it is, but you get the gist).  Sound off in the comments with your own cleaning products and approaches!

Brush it, Baby!

There is always something coming up that throws me for a loop and last night, it was a “thermal event” on my main Windows computer that I do my image editing from.  The room that the computer lives in is a tad warm, and as you may recall, we’ve been without A/C for a while now.  I am going to have to do something to keep that computer cooler, but for now, it means my 40D shots are not editable in PS3 because I only have a license for it on the one computer.  I have CS2 on the Mac, which won’t recognize the images, so I went about installing DPP there last night.  It did prreclude a “What’s This?” post for today as I had anticipated, so in lieu of that, I’ve got another topic waiting in the wings that should be of some interest, and that’s brushes!

We all know about the brush tool in Photoshop, but all the options that go along with it can sometimes be confusing.  Well, never fear, the “Canon Blogger” is here (me), to help explain it all to you.  Let’s go ahead and get started then.  As far as brushes go, there are four main elements that can adjust the type of brush that is applied to your document.  These are opacity, flow, size, and hardness.   Today I am going to look at the hardness element of a brush.

If you click on the various standard brushes in Photoshop, you will get brushes of various sizes and hardness.  This is all fine and dandy, but if you want a truly custom brush for your work flow, you need to really tweak the size and hardness depending on the image you are working with.  Brush hardness refers to the degree to which a single click of the brush will feather from the center to the edge of your brush size.  Here, it may be best to give you examples of what this means so you can see exactly what it does.

Here I am going to present a brush as applied to a document with a 50% gray background, with all other variables except hardness kept constant.  I then adjust the hardness from 0% to 25% and then 50% and 100%.  As you can tell, as I increased the hardness, the amount of the brush that that is filled increases relative to the hardness level.

Check these out:

Brush 1

Brush 2

Brush 3

Brush 4

Notice how in each instance, the edge of the circle gets slightly sharper and sharper, with less of that “feathered” look.  Pretty neat, eh?  That’s what increasing the hardness does – it decreases the feathering or fading of a brush into the background.

I’ve often found that when learning all the tools of Photoshop, Lightroom, Bridge, Flash and everything else, that it helps to just take things one step at a time, and make comparisons between various settings.  Here, making just one change to one element of the brush options demonstrated to me (and hopefully to you) what impact changing the brush hardness has on the quality and type of brushing that you add to your imagery.

What brushes do you like?  Are there any particular settings that you find useful for certain types of imagery?  What about other tools?  Are there any tools that you just wish you understood better?  Feel free to share your own thoughts on brush features either via email or the comments.

Anyway, that’s it for todays post.  Tomorrow the “What’s This?” should be back up and running as I swing back into gear there.  Hope everyone enjoyed the post on brush features/options.  Clearly, there might be more content down the road that will illustrate various features of Photoshop tools, so make sure to share your own thoughts on what content would be of use so I can include that.  Until tomorrow then, happy shooting and watch those apertures!