Are You Seeing Spots?

That’s my typical answer when a customer asks how often they should have their sensor cleaned on their digital camera. Sensor cleaning is not something needed on a regular basis. When you start seeing dark spots showing up in the same place on each image (typically in the sky or solid color area of an image), then it is time!

Dirty Sensors

Dirty Sensors

Spots occur when dust or dirt find its way into the camera body, and eventually onto the surface of the protective glass screen in front of the sensor. These specks block the light hitting the sensor during exposure, and end up leaving a spot on the recorded image.



How can you tell if it’s time for a cleaning? Set your camera to Aperture Priority (A), set your lens to Manual Focus (MF), stop down your aperture to f/22, and take a picture of a solid blue section of the sky. When you preview the image, you should notice dark spots if dust is present.

Sensors can be cleaned, however it is best left to the professionals, because it is very easy to damage or scratch the sensor, resulting in expensive repairs. That is where Harold’s Photo Experts comes to the rescue. For $80, we will clean your sensor, mirror box, mirror and focusing screen, and also spruce up the camera’s exterior. We will provide before and after images of your sensor, so you can see the results first-hand. We will also clean the exterior of your lens and attached filters. Think of it as a “spa-day” for your camera!


If you bring your camera in for a sensor cleaning, please provide a lens, freshly charged battery and an empty formatted memory card.

Afterward, there are a couple things you can do to minimize dust spots. Try not to change your lenses outside in the wind and elements. Take it inside or into a car. Always turn your camera OFF and face it down to change the lens. Invest in a rubber bulb-type blower to use to blow out the mirror compartment and camera exterior. Keep your camera stored in a protective bag or case when not in use.

Better yet, invest in a great Tamron “all-in-one” lens so you won’t need to change lenses! See our Photo Experts for a demonstration of what’s available!

Please note that our sensor cleaning service is only for DSLR (digital single lens reflex) or mirrorless cameras. Smaller pocket size “point-and-shoot” cameras (those without removable lenses) must be sent in for service, because the cleaning requires disassembly of the camera.

By Guest Blogger Marty DeWitt

The Must Have Filter


One of the most important ways to protect your DSLR lens is by using a high quality protection filter. A digital HGX filter is the perfect partner to keep your lens shielded from dust, dirt, grime and fingerprints. Its colorless design won’t impact your images in any way other than to protect it from the elements. The ProMaster HGX filter features an exclusive REPELLAMAX™ element resistant coating to protect your lens while making sure your images remain tack sharp. Available in multiple sizes for your lens, find your fit at any of our four Harold’s Photo Experts locations.

Travel Like a Pro

ExpertNewsletter_2015-4_traveling_coupleTraveling with photography gear can be a challenge. You want to be well-prepared but not bogged down with unnecessary items. And if you’re traveling with kids or other family members, you have additional luggage and items to consider. Here are some of our favorite tips from traveling photographers who know how to travel light while remaining prepared for any shooting situation:

Consider Your Schedule: How much time will you have to explore and photograph your favorite subjects? Consider your schedule to determine how much gear you will really need and use. For example, a family trip might give you more flexibility in your schedule than a business trip (unless photography IS your business), and this one issue will impact what you need to pack.

Consider Your Subject(s): For many photographers, a few key accessories will cover a multitude of photo opportunities. Consider bringing just one lens, such as an all-in-one lens with a 24-200mm range (or something similar), allowing you to transition from wide angle to solid telephoto. Unless you are embarking on something very specific, such as macro photography, a single lens will cover most situations while keeping your luggage light.

Multi-Purpose Packing: Choose a bag that can keep you hands-free while also carrying more than simply your camera gear. Like your photography equipment, you’ll benefit from a bag that does double duty carting your most important items. Our ProMaster Adventure backpack series offers excellent organization and room for items such as laptop, cables and other items. Made of waterproof canvas and available in black or khaki, this backpack will keep you hands free and mobile while on the road.

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Keep Condensation at Bay



Condensation can be an issue any time you bring your DSLR from a cold outdoor environment back into a warmer environment such as a car or your home.  Condensation is the moisture that is created when cold and warm climates come together at the same time, and moisture invading any aspect of your digital camera can result in substantial damage.

Using a plastic bag to protect your camera is another way of battling condensation.  By placing your digital camera inside the bag – and do this while still outside and not after entering the warmer indoors – the condensation will collect on the inside surface of the plastic bag rather than on the camera.

Try to ease into the temperature change if at all possible. Some experts recommend placing the camera on a windowsill or in an unheated area where the equipment will gradually warm up rather than being subject to a harsh temperature shift.

Keeping your gear in a sturdy bag is the perfect way to keep your camera and accessories protected while not in use. Working photographers love ProMaster bags and with good reason – for their thoughtful design and practicality.

View all of our camera bags!



iPhone vs. DSLR

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“Mobile photography is not something less than traditional photography. It is something else.” -Davide Pallone

This quote really got me thinking. While the iPhone cannot deliver the same shots as a DSLR, we shouldn’t expect it to. A DSLR’s capabilities make it the right choice for high-resolution images, large files and multiple lens options, but the advantages of having a good camera on your phone are undeniable.

The Mobile Advantages:

1. Ready to go. If you’re like me, you literally FREAK out if your phone is not on your person. This means you’ve always got a great camera to catch the action.

2. Instant, easy communication – Create amazing visual diaries worth 10,000 words.

3. Surprise! AMAZING prints from mobile phones. Embrace the grain. It adds character. We’ve seen great mobile prints as large as 20×30.

4. Simple editing. You don’t need a server or a degree to crop, add text or apply textures and filters. And the options keep getting better.

Choosing the right camera for the job is always a smart choice, but the ability to shoot, edit and share in an instant are huge – and handy – advantages!




What Every Mom Needs to Capture Life’s Special Moments

Photography has always been an important part of my life. My father, Bob Hanson, owns and operates Harold’s Photo Experts, which has been a family business for more than 100 years. Harold’s is a specialty camera store with a focus on expert photofinishing. We print quality images, and we do it with impeccable service.


After studying business at Augustana College, I began working at Harold’s specializing in marketing and advertising. Although I’ve been around the world of photography for years and I love taking photos, I am not a professional photographer. As a mom of two young boys, I know just how hard it can be to get the right shot.

Like many people, I’m addicted to my iPhone it captures fantastic images that are easy to share and store in the cloud, and chances are good, I have it on me when a perfect photo-op shows up. In addition, dynamic apps and filters are available that help me create fun images for sharing and printing.

But there’s a down side. While the smartphones in our pockets allow us to capture special moments more often and more conveniently than ever before, the quality of the images we take is compromised. These images, while fine for viewing on a screen, are not all you need. You just can’t rely solely on your mobile devices, smartphone or point-and-shoot camera to ensure you get the images you want. For exceptionally vivid images and video, you need a quality digital single-lens reflex camera – a DSLR.

The difference between your iPhone and a DSLR is similar to the difference between walking through the snow in high heels or snow boots. While I love to wear both, boots are definitely superior in the snow. I have tried many cameras and have finally found my favorite – the Canon Rebel SL1. This camera is small, powerful and perfect for still or video. Take a look at these two images. Both are cute and important to my family and me.


Image #1 was taken with my iPhone using Instagram camera, filter and edge. I love this image and I printed it as an 8×8 metal print to display in Henry’s room.

Image #2 was taken with the Canon SL1 with an 18-135mm Canon lens. I know it sounds complicated, but I promise it’s not! The blur in the background allows you to focus on the subject; similar to the way our eyes visualize images. I printed this image in black and white and enlarged it to make a 30×30 canvas print. The high quality of the image allowed me to create a piece of art that I can display prominently in my living room.


My home has an open floor plan that makes decorating the walls somewhat difficult. While we have some vintage posters and original paintings on the walls, the only things that combine these elements nicely are photographs. I enjoy filling my home with things that I love and images that bring back memories of the most special moments in my life.

I love taking pictures, especially of my favorite subjects who are obviously cute and mostly willing to pose. I am proud of my pictures and I love to share them and allow others to enjoy them, too. I realize more each day, photography is not just what I do, it’s my passion.