Being a photographer has its less spectacular aspects, and cleaning gear is certainly one of them. While it may not be a very pleasant operation, it is without doubt a very necessary one.
Keeping your lenses clean is essential if you want to use them for a long time and if you care about image quality. No matter how much you try to protect your lens, it's still going to get dirty, especially if you shoot outdoors.
So we thought it'd be a good idea to show less experienced photographers how to clean their lenses. It's good to know that it's all about having the right gear. That starts with having a UV filter mounted on every lens you own. You'd be amazed how much trouble a simple filter like that can save you. It will protect the front element from grease, dust and scratches.
(Success Tip #1: Crazy new way to learn photography when you have little time to spare)
Speaking of the front element, it s the most vulnerable part of the lens, and it's very likely to get dirty. The first thing you need to avoid is wiping it with hard cloths. Don't even think about using your shirt, even if it's a kit lens we're talking about. Make sure you get rid of any dust particles by using a rocket blower. Every photographer should have one because they're efficient for cleaning lenses as well as camera sensors. If it's just a few dust particles, then blowing them away should do it. But if there's something more on the glass, like dry water droplets or fingerprints, you're going to need a more thorough approach.
There is the low cost solution of cleaning tissues. Some of them are dry and go together with lens cleaning fluid, others are already wet. They have a very fine texture that will prevent your lens from getting scratched.
If you're going to use a cleaning fluid or spray, don't go overboard. The best way to wipe a lens with a wet tissue is with horizontal moves instead of circular ones like you would be tempted. It's a far more effective way of cleaning the lens than just following its shape.
(Success Tip #2: The secret to selling more photography)
If things are even more serious, something like a LensPen will definitely make things better. It has a carbon tip that takes care of most stains. It's easy to use and very effective.
No article about cleaning camera gear would be complete without a video demonstration, so check out this cleaning tutorial from Tom Photoix.
As a final thought about cleaning lenses, don't ever attempt anything remotely close to what this guy is doing. I know many of you have already seen this tragic video, but for the sake of those who haven't, we're going to share it anyway.