One of the consequences of shooting photos outdoors is that you’ll constantly be getting dust or dirt on your lenses and filters.
It’s easy to forget about this dust and just deal with it by removing any specks in your photos later in Photoshop, but sometimes those specks won’t always appear on a nice blue sky, so it’s important to keep your filters and lenses super clean at all times.
I never realized how important this is until taking this photo at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado:
At this reduced size, it’s pretty hard to tell, but there’s some really annoying dust specks in the photo that become more visible when you zoom in at 100%. Here’s a crop that shows it up close (with two specks circled in red):
The problem with the second speck on the right is that half the speck appears in the blue sky, and the other half is on the red rock. This makes it more difficult to correct in post-processing. Certainly do-able, but also more time consuming.
And, it may not be a huge deal with landscape images, but what if this happens on a critical edge in one of your close-up flower photos? You might end up spending a great deal of time correcting something in post-processing that you could have prevented earlier by just cleaning your lens (and that would’ve only taken a few seconds!).
How to keep your lenses and filters clean
So, ideally, you want to prevent these dust specks by keeping your lenses and filters super clean. As part of your photo setup process, you should remember to check the front of your lens and brush off any dust or clean any smudges.
When you clean your lenses though, it’s important to use a cloth that’s specially designed for cleaning glass. My favorite is the Spudz Micro Fiber Cleaning Cloth (affiliate link). I love how they fold up nicely into a little pouch and have a hook that you can attach pretty much anywhere.
If you don’t use one of these special cleaning cloths, you could risk making your lens even worse! I’ll admit that when I first got into photography, I once tried to use my t-shirt to clean a filter and ended up totally ruining it (it was just one of those cheap Quantaray filters though, so I don’t feel too bad, heheh).
You can also prevent dust from gathering on your lens by always keeping a lens hood on your lens. It may not help too much for the wide angle lenses, but if you have it on your telephoto lens and walk with your lens perpendicular to the ground, you’ll significantly reduce the amount of dust that ends up on the lens (assuming you walk around with your lens cap off).
So, remember: before you snap that shutter, check the front of your lens or filter and clean it up if there’s any dust or smudges on there! This is yet another thing that’ll help slow you down and force you to think more about your composition before setting up your camera 🙂
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.