Cleaning your camera sensor and lens is a routine maintenance task all cameras need. You could send your camera back to the manufacturer, find a local camera repair shop or clean it yourself. Obviously cleaning your camera yourself is cheaper and faster, but it does come with a few risks if not performed properly. This cleaning procedure isn’t as complicated as it sounds—if you follow these simple directions.

Check to see if your sensor or lens needs cleaning

If you start to notice consistent spots on your images, you may have dust on your sensor or your lens. Take a photo of a blank wall or sky and look for spots in the photo. If you notice the spots don’t move from image to image, your lens or camera sensor is dirty.

Start with the front of the lens

Using an air blower to remove loose particles on the front of the lens before using a lens cloth. If you have dirt or sand on the lens, rubbing it with the cloth could scratch it. Hoodman wipes are also great for cleaning the lens.

Don’t forget the rear element

Most people clean the front of the lens, but they forget to clean the rear element. Before you remove your lens, blow and wipe off around the back part of the lens. This will prevent loose dirt or dust from entering the camera. Inspect the rear element and clean it the same way you cleaned the front of the lens. Put the lens back on and take a test shot of a wall or the sky. If the dust spots are gone, you don’t need to clean the sensor.

Cleaning the camera sensor

Extra care should be taken when cleaning your camera sensor. It’s best to have a fully charged battery. Start by locking up the mirror—check your camera manual for instructions. Using a sensor loop or a flashlight, check for dust spots. Use an air blower tool to blow out dust. Check the sensor again. If there are stubborn dots or a spec from moisture, an extensive cleaning is needs. Don’t worry, it’s not that difficult. Using a sensor cleaning swab—Full frame | Crop sensor—gently wipe from one side of the sensor to the other. Repeat going in the opposite direction using the clean side of the swab. Turn the camera off to lower the mirror.

That’s it! You’re ready to go out get more great photos—photos without spots

*Feature image courtesy of Drumroll Studios