Troubleshooting Sand in a Camera Lens

A lens being held up in a forest.

Garrett Morrow / Pexels / CC0

Shooting photos at the beach can be an enjoyable activity for digital camera owners, whether they're beginning photographers or more advanced photographers. You can shoot some really cool photos at the beach, with vibrant colors and interesting textures as long as you can avoid having problems with sand in the camera lens and other parts of the camera.

After all, the beach can be a dangerous environment for your digital camera, too. Blowing sand, damp conditions, and deep water all can cause irreversible damage to your camera. It's important to protect your camera from the elements when you're at the beach, particularly avoiding sand. When your camera is inundated with tiny grains of sand, they can scratch the lens, penetrate the case, ruin the internal electronics, and clog buttons and dials. These camera tips and tricks should help you with cleaning sand from a camera.

Bring a Bag

If you're going to the beach, always take a camera bag or backpack with you, something that you can keep the camera in until you're ready to use it. The bag will provide some protection from blowing sand, for example. You may want to invest in a waterproof bag, which will protect the camera from spray from the body of water or inadvertent splashes from children. Only remove the camera from the bag to shoot a photo.

Consider using a waterproof camera around the beach, which will have both protection from water and the elements.

Plastic Is Your Friend

If you don't have a waterproof bag available, consider using a plastic bag that can be sealed, such as a "Zip-Lock" bag, to store your camera. By sealing the bag whenever you aren't using the camera, it will be protected from both sand and damp conditions. Placing the plastic bag inside a camera bag will provide double the protection. 

With an older camera or one that is cheaply made, the tightness of the seams of the camera body and around buttons might not be as strong as they should be, potentially allowing tiny sand particles to penetrate the camera body. The plastic bag can help with this problem.

Keep Liquid Away

Avoid keeping other sources of liquid inside the same bag as the camera. For example, don't keep sunscreen or a bottle of water inside the bag with the camera, because the bottles could leak. If you must carry everything in one bag, seal each item in its own plastic bag for additional protection.

Find a Soft Brush

When attempting to clean small particles of sand from the camera lens, a small, soft brush is the best method of removing the sand. Hold the camera so the lens is facing the ground. Brush the lens from the middle toward the edges. Then use the brush in a circular motion around the edges of the lens, gently, to dislodge any particles of sand. Using a gentle brushing motion is the key to avoiding scratches on the lens.

The small, soft brush also will work well to remove particles of sand from the seams of the camera body, from around buttons, and from around the LCD. A microfiber cloth works well, too. If you don't have a brush available, you can gently blow on the areas where you see the sand.

As a general rule, do not use canned air to blow sand away from any part of your camera. The force behind canned air is very strong, and it actually could blow the sand particles inside 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, scratching it. Avoid canned air when you have sand on your camera.

Use a Tripod

Finally, one of the best ways to make sure that your camera doesn't end up with any sand on it is to make use of a tripod throughout your beach photography session. Just make sure the tripod is placed on a sturdy area so it won't inadvertently collapse.