Cleaning Your Camera Sensor

copper hill basic kit
Copper Hill basic sensor cleaning kit

It will happen to you some day.  You’ll be shooting pictures or video and notice a smudge, spot or smear on your pictures, particularly after running color correction.  Don’t panic, it happens to everyone at some point in their photography career.

There are two basic ways of dealing with a dirty sensor: Shipping it off to a service center to have it done professionally, or doing it yourself.

If your camera is still under warranty, then sending it off would be the default option.  If not, then you might consider doing it yourself.  I’ve had cameras come back from the service center just as dirty as when I sent them in.  Once the spec on the sensor was still there, I don’t think they even looked at it.  If you’re careful and patient, you can do it safely on your own.

The Copper Hill Method  Carries cleaning kits sized specifically for different camera models.  There are a couple things you will want to get besides the basic kit.

Your best bet is to get the Mega-Kit which wasn’t offered when I ordered mine.  For sure get the Sensor View magnifier or pick up a lighted magnifier somewhere else.  That makes working in the dark insides of your SLR a lot easier.

The other component you’ll definitely need is the SensorSweep brush or similar static brush.  I’ve never seen fibers cling for desperate life like they do inside the sensor chamber.  It’s like they’re glued on sometimes.

Don’t use any kind of metal tools inside your sensor chamber unless you really know what you’re doing.

Copper Hill has detailed, step-by-step instructions for sensor cleaning.  I would advise going through the tutorials carefully and lay your cleaning supplies out in advance.

A dirty sensor isn’t the end of the world, but if you scratch the sensor, it’ll be the end of your camera.  Be patient, careful, and gentle and you’ll be fine.

Myths About The Photography Buisness

Photography studio
The most profitable areas of photography are not always the most obvious - photo by Thor

The question I get more than any other is about what it takes to make it in the photography business.  The answer sounds flip, but it’s not meant to be.  To make it in photography, all you have to do get paid for taking pictures.

To make money in the business, the skill that will be most useful is finding new customers.  That brings us to our first myth about the business.

Taking Good Pictures Will Get You Business

Taking bad pictures will cost you business, but it takes more than being a good photographer to stay solvent.  The most underrated skills in photography are marketing and business savvy.  Knowing how to find new customers, price your product, and understanding contracts.

Almost anyone can learn to take good pictures, not everyone can learn how to market that skill.

The Best Money Is In Traditional Markets

Not always true.  Sometimes specialty markets pay the best and provide the most regular business.  High speed photography, industrial photography, infrared, and other areas of specialty imaging can provide a better long-term income.

It’s not the sexy side of the business.  Industrial photography jobs are frequently in places that are dirty and occasionally dangerous.  You won’t get any prizes, and your work won’t show up on anyone’s mantel, but you’ll make a living.

You Can Shoot A Wedding Without A Spare Body

Doing so borders on the irresponsible.  Twice I’ve lost pictures once-in-a-lifetime pictures: Once was a card failure when I grabbed my camera heading out the door, but not my bag with a spare cards.  Now I keep them taped to my camera strap.  The other was the day I noticed a smudge on my sensor when out in the field on a space shuttle launch.  It was a long hike from the parking lot and I didn’t want to haul a bunch of extra gear, like a spare body.

You Can Teach Yourself The Business

A few people have managed, through years of practice and a relentless dedication to learning.  Most of the time you’re going to need to take at least a few training classes.  I recommend classes on lighting and portraiture first.

What is involved in putting together a $7,000 lens

There is a lot of work that goes into putting together a Canon EF 500mm F/4L IS USM lens, after all the lens does have 17 optical elements. These videos shows the steps involved from manufacturing the lens, from molten glass to finished product.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Last month we shared a “How it’s Made” segment about how lenses are made.

Behind the Lens: Pete Souza the White House Photographer

Pete Souza has a job that a lot of people would die for, Pete is the current chief White House photographer for President Barack Obama. A White House photographer gets complete access to the President to document history as it happens, and there is a lot of documentation, Souza and his staff take up to 20,000 photos a week.

President Barack Obama jokes with Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication, aboard Air Force One
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The President playing some basketball on the White House basketball court.
The situation room during the mission to kill Osama bin Laden
Obama deep in thought

If you have a little more time, than watch “The President’s Photographer” a great National Geographic special about, Pete Souza and other White House photographers over the last 50 years.

Watch the full episode. See more The Presidents Photographer.

How camera lenses are made

Have you ever wondered how camera lenses are made? Discovery Channel’s “How it’s Made” produced a segment a few years ago on the process of assembling a lens.

According to the video it takes 6 weeks to make an lens and optical glass can costs up to $1000 per kilogram, no wonder lenses are so expensive.

Image credit: Photographs by Duncan Meeder