Lesson from the Shot: Just a Speck by Stanley Leary


 by Stanley Leary

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Dust specks and photography don’t mix…and never will. 
These specks are technical defects in our photos. Yes, one can use the Photoshop cloning tool or healing brush to fix them. But it takes time, when time is better spent shooting.
While there’s no magic pill to fight off dust, there are practical steps to prevent the dust from slowing down the workflow.
If a speck of dust gets onto the image chip, every photo taken will need to be digitally spotted until the speck of dust is removed from the sensor. Keeping a body cap or a lens on the camera at all times is the best way to manage dust. When changing lenses keep the lenses close by and ready to switch out.
Cleaning Equipment is a Good Habit
Storing cameras in a dust-filled bag will amplify the dust problems. Clean lenses regularly—don’t forget the rear element, which sits next to the senor.
Cameras are not airtight. Simply zooming a lens can create a suction that pulls dust into the camera and onto the sensor. 
How to check for dust
1. Attach a telephoto lens on the camera and shoot a clear sky or white wall.
2. Put your media card into your computer and bring the image on screen.  
3. Increase the contrast to the highest—it will help reveal the dust.
4. View the image at 100% and search the entire image.
If there is no dust—it’s your luck day. If dust shows up, I recommend a few steps.
1. Open the shutter.  Check the camera manual for “Sensor Cleaning” in the menu.  It will lock up the mirror, turn off the images sensor, and keep the shutter open to reveal the image chip.
2. Use a hand blower to blow the dust out, “not” compressed air as it can damage the sensor or camera.
3. Repeat the steps above to check if there is more dust on the sensor. 
If you have hard to remove dust, I recommend having a professional clean it. Most camera stores can help you find someone to do it locally.
But, if you’re comfortable cleaning the camera yourself, here are a few more tips.
1. You will need special brushes. Here is one website  www.visibledust.com. These brushes have electrostatic charge, similar to floor products like Swiffer, which grab the dust.
2. Using a swab of methanol, is another way to get rid of that dust. One group that makes a disposable swab is PhotoSol, www.photosol.com. The methanol will clean the sensor and not leave streaks like water.
If done every few weeks, one can avoid the cloning and healing computer time for each image. A clean sensor will help you focus on the subject eyes, not the speck in your camera’s eye.