Photo by Liam Briese on Unsplash
If you notice some pixels on the LCD screen of your camera aren’t changing color properly, you could have a stuck pixel. A stuck pixel will usually reveal itself by being either red, green, blue, or a combination of all three.
Stuck pixels will not change regardless of how many pictures you take. The pixel is literally stuck, which can be hugely frustrating when trying to take photographs. After all, what’s the point in having an LCD screen if the pixels don’t work properly?
Today you will learn how to fix stuck pixels in photography. But there’s a lot more you need to learn than just how to fix stuck pixels. For example, your pixel might not even be stuck, it could be hot or dead. There are different types of pixel malfunctions, and we’re going to talk about all of them so that you understand how to fix whatever problem you’re having.
What is a Stuck Pixel?
A stuck pixel is a single, colored pixel that shows up at the exact same place on the LCD screen of your camera. You can tell the pixel is stuck because it’s glowing the wrong color, usually red or green or blue. A stuck pixel is still receiving enough power to generate color, it’s just malfunctioning.
The problem with a stuck pixel is that it won’t change color. It’s just stuck glowing the same annoying color. It’s a common problem that sometimes even resolves itself without any intervention.
To tell if you have any stuck pixels on your camera LCD, follow these simple steps.
First, you want to set your camera to automatic or aperture priority mode. Then turn on the live view and look around with your camera. Carefully observe the LCD. If you notice a pixel that’s not moving and that has the same color regardless of where you point the camera, you definitely have a stuck pixel. Specifically, you have a stuck pixel on the LCD screen itself.
But just wait, because things are even more confusing. You can also have a stuck pixel on the camera sensor. The only way to tell if this is the case is to take photographs and then analyze them on a computer screen. If there’s a colored pixel that shows up in the exact same spot in all the photographs, you definitely have a stuck pixel on your camera sensor.
Unfortunately, when there’s one stuck pixel, there are usually several. You can get multiple stuck pixels on your camera sensor or your LCD screen – or in the worst-case scenario, both.
What is a Hot Pixel?
A hot pixel is quite a bit different from a stuck pixel. Hot pixels only appear when the sensor of your camera gets hot. This normally happens during long exposures, if you crank your ISO up above 400, or if you’ve been using your camera for a long time.
What really sucks about hot pixels is that they’ve been known to show up even when using a new camera. Manufacturers obviously try to avoid this issue, but it can happen. If you’re experiencing hot pixels with a new camera, chances are they’ll come and go. And unfortunately, if your new camera has hot pixels during heavy use, chances are stuck pixels will come later.
The only good news is that hot pixels don’t plague LCD screens, they only affect camera sensors.
The best way to see if you have hot pixels is to turn your camera to manual mode, turn the ISO to 100, keep your shutter speed at between 5 and 10 seconds, then make the aperture extremely large, around F/16. With the lens cap still on, take a picture. Then take another picture with your ISO cranked to 800 and the shutter speed super fast, around 1/1000.
Next, you need to analyze the two photographs. Chances are you’ll find hot pixels in the second photo since you cranked the ISO way up. These hot pixels will appear as small crosses when you zoom into the image.
If you do find hot pixels in the second image, don’t panic. It’s extremely common and shouldn’t be a huge issue since you’re not generally taking photos with such a high ISO. Still, it is something to keep an eye on in case it gets worse.
What is a Dead Pixel?
A dead pixel is the absolute worst situation you could be in. Unlike a stuck pixel, a dead pixel is completely useless. It’s not receiving any power and is permanently destroyed. The major difference between a dead pixel and a stuck pixel is that you’ll see a black dot on the LCD screen of your camera.
If the pixel is dead in your camera sensor, it will look a little bit different. Since most digital camera sensors have special filters over them, a dead pixel won’t be a black dot. Instead, it will show up as a slightly discolored pixel compared to the ones next to it. It’ll be just a little bit darker than the adjacent pixels.
Unfortunately, a dead pixel will never come back to life. It’s the result of a permanent malfunction and could ruin your camera – or at least how satisfied you are taking pictures with your camera. The only good news is that dead pixels are very rare with both LCD screens and digital sensors. Manufacturers do quality assurance testing on all their products, so they typically catch dead pixels before they ship the camera to you.
Most LCD screens won’t have dead pixels for years and years. By the time your camera is so old that some of the pixels might be dead, it will probably be time to get a new camera anyway.
To spot a dead pixel on your LCD, simply turn on the live mode and point your camera at a very bright area. If any of the pixels are dead, you’ll notice immediately. A dead pixel will be in the exact same spot as you move the camera around.
It’s a bit tougher to find a dead pixel on a camera sensor. You need to take a few different pictures of various colors and patterns, then inspect the images zoomed in. If there’s a dark pixel that shows up in the same spot in all the photos, only changing slightly, it’s definitely a dead pixel. It won’t be completely black, but it will be kind of like a dark smudge in the same place.
How to Fix Stuck Pixels
Unfortunately, you can’t really fix stuck pixels yourself. You might have seen some online tutorials telling you how to fix stuck pixels with certain software, but this usually isn’t a great idea. You could end up breaking your entire camera.
If you have stuck pixels, only one or two of them on your LCD screen, it’s really not a huge deal. Keep in mind that most 3” screens on modern cameras have around 900,000 pixels. If one or two of them are stuck, you still have quite a few that are working. You won’t even notice it unless you’re scrutinizing the LCD.
And when it comes to the camera sensor, you have millions and millions of pixels. A single stuck pixel isn’t too bad. Then again, it can get annoying since it will appear in every single photograph.
The best way to fix stuck pixels is to simply shoot your photographs in RAW mode. When you upload your photos to a quality editor like Lightroom or Photoshop, RAW images will automatically be mapped and the stuck pixel won’t ruin the photograph. Stuck pixels are mostly just annoying, like having an extremely small pebble stuck in your shoe.
What you definitely don’t want to do is shoot in JPEG, as it will take a lot more time to map out stuck pixels during the editing process. You have to touch the image yourself, which is less like having a pebble stuck in your shoe and more like having a boulder in your shoe. It’s not an ideal situation.
Finally, you can send your camera to get the pixels remapped. If it’s driving you that crazy, simply spend a few bucks to get your camera looked at by a professional. Depending on who sold you the camera, you might even get a refund or an exchange.
A stuck pixel can be extremely annoying. It happens when a malfunction causes one of the pixels either in your LCD screen or in your sensor to show up as a solid color. A stuck pixel will usually be red, blue, or green – and it won’t change color no matter how many pictures you take. It can be a huge pain in the behind.
The best way to fix a stuck pixel is to send your camera to a professional who can hopefully remap the pixels to make them perfect again. Stuck pixels are fixable because they’re still getting enough energy to function, they just aren’t working properly.
The only real problem is if you have dead pixels, which show up on your LCD screen as black dots, or in your photos as slightly discolored dots. Dead pixels are unfixable and untreatable. If all you have is one or two stuck pixels, count yourself lucky.
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