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I’ve stressed time and time again here on How-To Geek: the lens is as important, if not more important, than the camera to which it’s attached. If your photos are blurry because there are smudges on your lens, there’s nothing you can do to fix it in post. Even cleaning up dust spots is a pain. With that in mind, let’s look at how to keep your camera lenses clean.

Keep the Lens Cap On

If you’re not using your camera, keep the lens cap on. If your lens is off your camera, make sure both lens caps are on. It’s really that simple: keeping the lens caps on your lenses means they’re not exposed to all the dust particles in the air and you can handle them without fear of your grubby fingers leaving smudges.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should jealously protect your lenses, only removing the lens cap when you have the perfect shot lined up. Lenses are surprisingly durable—so long as you don’t practice your field goal technique with them—and, as we’ll see, easy to clean. If you’re wandering around a city taking a few photos, your camera should be on and the lens cap off. It’s just that while your camera is sitting at home or in your bag, you should leave the caps on.

Think When You Shoot

Dust and smudges are going to come from two sources: the outside environment and you. If you think a bit about where you’re shooting and how you handle your lenses, it’s much simpler to keep them clean.

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Seaspray is notorious among landscape photographers for its ability to smudge a lens. A small droplet lands on the front element and, even if you wipe it away or the water evaporates, it leaves the salt behind. It’s a matter of a second to wipe it clean, you just need to think to do it.

If you’re working in a dusty, wet, or otherwise particle filled environment, ignore my advice above about lens caps and keep them on. Also, avoid pointing your lens directly into the wind/spray/whatever until you’re ready to start shooting.

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