If you’re using your camera on a regular basis you will probably get dust, dirt, or fingerprints on your lenses, LCD screen, and camera body. Your camera is a tool and while it’s built to take some abuse, knowing how to safely clean it will ensure your image quality is as good as it can be.
Lens Cap – In my opinion, the lens cap is one of the best ways to keep your lens clean and protect it from getting scratched. My lens caps are always on my lenses until I’m ready to shoot. When I am ready to start shooting, the lens cap comes off and immediately goes in my back pocket. If you don’t develop a habit of putting it in the same place every time you remove it, it’s only a matter of time before you lose it.
Lens Filter – Some photographers recommend always having a UV filter on your lens to protect it from dust and scratches. I disagree with this approach. Expensive camera lenses have precision glass elements to render a quality image. I have a hard time placing a piece of cheaper glass in front of such a important part of my camera system.
Camera Bag – A quality camera bag is important to protect your camera gear and keep it secure while transporting it. It’s also a good place to store a basic cleaning kit. It’s inevitable that you’ll need to clean a lens in the field. Check out my recommended camera bags.
Lens Hood – A lens hood has the main purpose of blocking unwanted light from glaring off of the surface of your lens. It can also serve as a bit of protection by keeping your lens’s front element a few inches away from damage if you accidentally bump it against a surface.
Most camera shops or even electronic stores carry cleaning kits with a variety of items useful when cleaning your camera gear. A good kit will contain:
Lens cleaning fluid – An alcohol based fluid that is helpful in cleaning smudges or water spots off lenses or LCD screens without leaving a residue. It’s recommended you spray this on to a lens cloth first and then clean you lens gently with a circular motion.
Q-tips – These can be dipped in your cleaning fluid and used on more persistent dirt spots or hard to reach places.
Microfiber cloth – Use these for direct contact with your lenses. Avoid using facial tissue or paper towel as these can scratch the lens coating.
Air blower – Great for blowing away small specks of dust or dirt.
Lens brush – These soft bristle brushes help sweep away dust
Sensor cleaning seems to be a polarizing topic among photographers. Some photographers claim that there is little risk of damaging your sensor if you learn the proper technique and exercise caution. I fall into the other camp who believes there is just too much risk. If I damage or scratch my sensor, I’m responsible for the repair or replacement costs. On the other hand, my local camera shop will clean my entire camera including the sensor for $50.00 and if they damage it they have to fix or replace it. The sensor needs cleaning so infrequently that to me it’s worth paying the professionals to do it for me with no risk of damage.
If you do want to attempt to clean your own sensor, be sure to get a sensor cleaning kit designed for this purpose and carefully follow the instructions. There is a great tutorial on sensor cleaning by professional photographer Karl Taylor: