If you have a mirrorless camera, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get dust or dirt on the sensor. This is because the second you take off your lens, the sensor is exposed. The luxury of a DSLR camera is that there is a mirror to protect the sensor, but what do you do if you have dust or spots on your sensor? Let’s discuss!

Spot removal tool in Lightroom

Spot removal tool in Lightroom

If it’s dirty, clean it

The sensor is the most important part of your mirrorless camera. It’s important to take care of your sensor so that you can continue to take great photos. If you notice some spots on it, give these things a try:

Try this for cleaning your camera sensor

  • Most cameras have self-cleaning modes. Search your camera menu and give it a go.
  • Use a rocket blower and gently force air into the area. Hold your camera upside down so that dust and other stuff falls out.
  • Use sensor swabs and gently pass a swab over your sensor. Make sure you are in a clean room. Bathrooms are usually a great place for sensor cleaning! If you have image stabilization turned on, turn it off so the sensor is locked.
  • Yell at your camera (just kidding, but you can if you want).

Do NOT do this when cleaning your camera sensor

  • Do not touch your sensor.
  • Do not use compressed air near your sensor or camera.
  • Do not shake your camera.
  • Do not keep your sensor exposed for too long.
  • Do not splash water on your sensor.

I always travel with a rocket blower and sensor swabs (and a solution). They’ve helped so much when I notice sensor spots on my photos.

Tools to help clean your camera sensor!


Rocket Blower Sensor Swabs Sensor Solution

Wait, what are sensor spots? How do you even see them?

Sensor spots are dust, dirt and other random stuff that sticks to the sensor in your camera. Luckily, with mirrorless cameras, you get a live preview directly from the sensor. Whatever your camera sees is what you also see with help from the EVF (electric viewfinder). Because of this, you also get a live preview of your sensor spots if you have any. Typically, when you close down your aperture (for example, from f/1.8 to f/22), the sensor spots become more visible. Also, when looking at solid colors, you can see sensor spots.

1:1 close-up of sensor spots

1:1 close-up of sensor spots

How can I prevent sensor spots?

The best advice for preventing sensor spots is to be really careful when you change your lens. Try to change your lens in a room where the air is “still” or where there isn’t much wind. Like I mentioned above, bathrooms are an excellent place to do this, as they typically are low on dust. Another good preventative measure is to make sure that your lens is totally clean before putting it on your camera.

What should I do if I have sensor spots, but I have nothing to clean my sensor with?

So, now you should know what sensor spots are, how to get rid of them and how to prevent them, but what if everything fails? What if you have sensor spots, but you don’t have anything to clean them with? What if they are really bad? Don’t worry! I have a couple of tricks that can help you get out of a bind.

  • If you have a really big piece of dust, look at your sensor and carefully inspect where that dust is. Gently give a quick blow with your mouth or a wave of a piece of paper. I’ll do this from time to time if there’s a big spot and if I left the house without my rocket blower. Be really careful and do this at your own risk!

  • Shoot at lower apertures to limit the visibility of dust. This will limit the sensor spots, but will not eliminate them. It’ll help you get cleaner photos if you’re shooting sky or something with simple backgrounds.

Morning fog in San Francisco

Image shot at f/2

Morning fog in San Francisco

Image shot at f/18

  • Fix them in Lightroom! I generally don’t like doing this because it becomes very time consuming. This approach also wouldn’t work too well if you’re shooting video. You’ll spend ages inspecting your photos and cleaning every last spot up, but if you really like a photo that has a big sensor spot on it, this should be your last resort!