Dead vs. Stuck vs. Hot pixels on cameras

Pixel problems are often discussed on the Internet because they damage an otherwise pristine image. There is no consensus between photographers when it comes to defining the types of pixel defects. But normally there are 3 types of problem pixel types.

Type Dead pixels Stuck Pixels Hot Pixels
Charcteristics Fixed black/other-colored/darker spot Fixed colored spot, and don’t change from picture to picture Colored pixels that look like very small crosses
Reason Doesn’t receive any power Always receive power sensor gets hot
Position sensor & LCD sensor & LCD only sensor
Duration Permanent Might disappear over time Appear and disappear over time
Severity Rare Common Normal

Dead Pixels

A dead pixel is a permanently damaged pixel on the camera’s sensor that does not receive any power, which often results in a black spot on the camera LCD. Since digital camera sensors have color filter arrays, also known as “Bayer filters” in front of them, dead pixels do not normally show up as a black spot, but will rather show up of different color than adjacent pixels, or will be slightly darker than adjacent pixels. A dead pixel is a malfunction that is more or less permanent and does not go away over time. Dead pixels are rare on digital camera LCDs and sensors – manufacturers typically take care of dead pixels during their extensive Quality Assurance (QA) process. Dead pixels might appear on DSLR LCD screens and sensors over time, which is normal.

How to spot dead pixels.

Dead pixels are easy to spot on the camera LCD. Simply turn on Live View and point your camera at a bright area such as the sky. Dead pixels will always show up in the same spot even if you move the camera. Finding dead pixels on the camera sensor is tougher. Take several pictures with different colors and patterns, then analyze the image at 100% view size. If you see a pixel that shows up in the same spot and changes colors every time, or appears darker than the surrounding pixels, it is most likely a dead pixel.

Stuck Pixels

Compared to dead pixels, stuck pixels always receive power, which results in a colored pixel that shows up in the same spot on the camera LCD or on the sensor/images. The key is that a stuck pixel is stuck on one color all the time, and that color does not match the surrounding pixels that are reporting correct color shades. The colors can be red, green, blue or any combination of these colors. Unlike dead pixels, stuck pixels do not change their color from picture to picture. Stuck pixels are very common, but not permanent like dead pixels – they might disappear over time.

How to spot stuck pixels.

To see if you have stuck pixels, set your camera to Program/Auto or Aperture Priority Mode, then turn on Live View and point the camera around, while carefully looking at the camera LCD. If you notice a pixel that never moves and has the same color no matter where you point your camera to, you might have a stuck pixel on the LCD. To find out if you have a stuck pixel on your camera sensor, take multiple different pictures at a base ISO such as ISO 100 or 200, then analyze the images at 100% on your computer screen. If you have a colored pixel (actually a small cross when viewed closely) that always shows up in the same spot, you have a stuck pixel. It is normal for digital camera sensors and LCDs to have multiple stuck pixels.

Dead vs. stuck pixels

Hot Pixels

Unlike stuck pixels, hot pixels only show up when the camera sensor gets hot during long exposures or when the ISO is cranked up above 400-800. Hot pixels are very normal and they will show up even on brand new cameras, although manufacturers do their best to map hot pixels out during the QA process. Hot pixels will appear and disappear over time and if your brand new camera does not have stuck pixels, you can rest assured that you will have them at some point in the future. Every single DSLR camera I have owned and/or used had hot pixels. Hot pixels do not occur in LCD screens.

How to spot hot pixels

While keeping the lens cap on, set your camera to Manual mode, turn off Auto ISO and set your ISO to 100 (base ISO). Set camera shutter speed to 5-10 seconds and aperture to a large value like f/16 (to decrease the amount of ambient light that could potentially enter the lens through small holes). Take a picture. Next, set your ISO to 800 and increase the shutter speed to something fast like 1/1000 while keeping the aperture the same. Take another picture. Analyze both images and see if you can spot colored pixels that look like very small crosses when zoomed in. You will probably see more hot pixels in the second photo at higher ISO than on the first one.

Hot pixels

How to Fix Dead, Stuck and Hot Pixels

Unfortunately in most cases, you cannot fix dead, stuck or hot pixels yourself. While you might find some online tutorials on how to map out stuck/hot pixels with various software (only works with very old DSLR models), I would not recommend trying those. If you decide to try it out, then do it at your own risk.

So, what do you do with dead/stuck/hot pixels if you have them?

on camera LCD

If you only have one or two dead pixels on your LCD, don’t worry about them – dead pixels are a normal fact of life. Think of it this way – a typical 3 inch LCD from Nikon contains 920,000 pixels. A single dead pixel means 0.0001% failure rate with 99.9999% of good pixels. Unless you have more than 2-3 dead pixels and they are close to each other, I would not worry about them. Plus, those dead pixels on the camera LCD will never show up in your images anyway! The same goes for stuck pixels on the camera LCD – don’t worry about them unless you have too many.

on camera sensor

Now when it comes to the camera sensor, the situation is a little different, because dead/stuck/hot pixels will show up in your images. The probability of having defective pixels on a digital camera sensor is even higher – if you have 920,000 pixels on the camera LCD, you probably have 12+ million pixels on the camera sensor. Dead and stuck pixels are the most annoying ones because they show up in every single picture.


I personally do not care about those, because Lightroom and Photoshop Camera RAW automatically map those out when I import RAW images. If you only shoot JPEG, then it will take a little more time to map those pixels in post-processing, since you have to touch every image. There are some programs out there that will look for pixel patterns and fix JPEG images in batches, so you can more or less automate the process as well.

If you see stuck pixels at low ISOs like ISO 100 and 200 and you exclusively shoot in JPEG, then you can send your camera for service to get those pixels remapped. As for hot pixels that show up only at high ISOs and longer exposures – those are very normal to have. Don’t send your camera to the manufacturer to remap those, since they will come back in different spots later for sure. Again, if you shoot in RAW, Lightroom/Camera RAW will take care of those.

Return your new camera with too many problem pixels

If you have just bought your camera and you have too many dead/stuck/hot pixels (by too many I define more than 3 on the LCD and more than 5 on the sensor at low ISOs), then send your camera back to the seller you bought the camera from. Depending on the seller, they might issue a full refund or exchange it, or they might charge you a restocking fee.

Reduce the probability of hot, stuck, or dead pixels over the long time term

Only energize and expose the sensor to light when necessary. The more light and electrical energy a sensor is exposed to for a longer period of time the greater the number of pixels that develop defects. The number of stuck, hot, or dead pixels increase over the life of any sensor. Leaving the mechanical shutter open and the sensor energized and exposed to light over the course of an entire shooting session will reduce the life expectancy of the sensor by a considerable amount compared to using a mechanical shutter and only energizing and exposing the sensor to light when actually recording an image.