Troubleshooting Sand in a Camera Lens

Protecting your camera from the elements—especially sand—when you're shooting photos at the beach is crucial. Tiny grains of sand can scratch the lens, penetrate the case, ruin the internal electronics, and clog buttons and dials. Here are a few tips and tricks for cleaning sand from a camera.

A lens being held up in a forest.

Use a Soft Brush

A small, soft brush is the best tool for removing sand from your camera lens. Hold the camera so the lens is facing the ground. Brush the lens from the middle toward the edges. Then brush gently in a circular motion around the edges of the lens to dislodge any particles of sand. Using a gentle brushing motion is the key to prevent scratches on the lens.

Cleaning the Digital Camera Lens at Home
Use a soft brush to clean the digital camera lens, removing loose particles.

A small, soft brush also works well to remove particles of sand from the seams of the camera body, around buttons, and around the LCD.

Other Options

If you don't have a brush available, a microfiber cloth works well, too. A third option is gently blowing on the areas where you see the sand.

Do not use canned air to blow sand away from any part of your camera. The force is too strong and could blow the sand particles into the camera body if the seals are not as tight as they should be. The canned air also could blow the particles across the lens and scratch it.

The Best Approach: Prevention

If you're reading this, it's probably too late to prevent sand from getting into your camera—but these strategies can help so you don't ever have the problem again.

Bring a Bag

If you're going to the beach, always take a camera bag or backpack with you so you can give your camera maximum protection until you're ready to use it. Consider investing in a waterproof bag, which will protect the camera from spray and inadvertent splashes. Remove the camera from the bag only when you're going to shoot a photo.

Plastic Is Your Friend

In lieu of a waterproof bag, use a plastic bag that can be sealed, such as a Ziploc, to store your camera. Sealing the bag whenever you aren't using the camera can go a long way toward protecting your equipment from both sand and dampness. Better still: Place the plastic bag inside a camera bag for double the protection. 

Zip top bag
A plastic bag has so many uses when you are traveling: you can use it to hold your travel kit, or to carry wet or soiled items until you can wash them. Don't leave them off your list!. mstay / Digital Vision Vectors / Getty Images

Such physical means of protection are even more important for old or cheaply made cameras with body seams and button seals that are not as tight as they should be.

Keep Liquid Away

Avoid keeping other sources of liquid—for example, sunscreen, water bottles, cleaning solutions—in the same bag as the camera. If you must carry everything in one bag, seal each item in its own plastic bag.

Use a Tripod

One of the best ways to make sure that your camera doesn't end up with sand on or in it is to use a tripod throughout your beach photography session. Just make sure the tripod is securely balanced so your camera doesn't fall into the sand.

DSLR video is best taken using a tripod.
DSLR video is best taken using a tripod. Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

If you're in the market for new equipment, consider a waterproof camera for shooting at the beach or in dusty, dirty locations. Generally, the same features that protect the camera against water will prevent incursion from sand, too.

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