Trails for everyone, forever

Home Go Outside Trail Smarts How To How to Keep a Clean Camera on Trail

How to Keep a Clean Camera on Trail

How to protect your camera from dust and moisture for sharper photos.

By Korey Peterson

How to protect your camera from dust and moisture for sharper photos.

Camera care

There’s nothing more disappointing than trekking out into the backcountry and capturing an amazing landscape or
great wildlife shot with your camera — only to upload it to your computer and realize the image is covered in spots or smudges from debris on your lens or camera’s sensor. If you’ve spent any time doing outdoor photography, however, you’ll know getting a little dirty is part of the process. That’s why it’s important to keep your camera and lenses clean and well maintained to keep your photography looking sharp and spot-free.

camera clean_korey peterson.jpg
It can be tough in wet, dusty or sandy areas, but the effort to keep your camera clean will pay off with better photos. Photo by Korey Peterson.


The most common enemies of your camera are dust and moisture, and a Washington spring can bring both in spades. These two elements can cause not only spots on your photos but major problems with your camera if they get into the wrong area. Many cameras are weather sealed to prevent damage, but it’s not foolproof, and not every camera has it, which is why maintenance and upkeep is an essential skill for photography.


Your photography setup is only as good as the gear that keeps it clean. Microfiber cloths and a soft brush are a must for cleaning dirty lenses. You’ll want to avoid using paper towels, as the wood fibers they’re made out of can scratch coatings and softer elements like filters. Also make sure to only use cleaning solutions that are specifically designed or rated as safe for use on photography equipment. Another tool you’ll want to carry is an air puffer. Some areas of a camera are too sensitive to be touched at all, like the sensor (which we’ll cover next) so you’ll want to have a puffer to get rid of annoying dust particles without risking damage to your camera.

Sensitive sensor

It’s tempting to wipe off the sensor in your camera when it gets dust or moisture spots on it, but resist this notion at all costs. The sensor is the eye of your camera, and it is easily scratched or damaged, which will create noticeable lines in future photos. Use your air puffer to blow dust out of sensitive areas of your camera, and if there are spots this can’t take care of, use a cleaning kit specifically made for cleaning camera sensors.

Want even more tips? See our full suite of photography how to's.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.