7 Quick Tips for Keeping Your Camera Safe
It’s National Safety Month, here in the USA. What better time to share 7 quick tips to keep your camera safe! If you’d like to see larger versions of the photos, just click on them.
1. Use a UV or Protector Lens Filter on all of your lenses: Cameras today are really computers, and, just like your laptop, sooner or later, they will become obsolete. Your lenses, on the other hand, should last for many years! A good place to start protecting your lens is with a UV or Protector filter. (Be sure to buy the correct size for your lens’ diameter.) Either type of filter will work. You screw it onto your lens and leave it there. Its purpose is simply to protect the glass from scratches, dirt and nose prints… If it does get scratched, it’s a lot cheaper to replace than the lens would be! The one time you will want to remove it is when you are going to be adding additional filters, like Neutral Density Filters. Leaving on too many filters can lead to vignetting.
2. Use a Lens Pen: On the subject of nose prints, there’s a right way and a wrong way to clean the glass on your lens. Never spray liquid lens cleaner onto your lens! If it leaks into the lens, there’s no way to repair it. Instead, invest in a Lens Pen and carry it with you. To use it, you start with the brush end. After you’ve brushed off as much as you can, you use the cleaning tip on the other end to clean the lens. When you’re done, just replace the cap on that end and twist it to recharge it. If your lens is really dirty (nose print, peanut butter finger prints, mud???), I also use the glasses cleaner I get from my eye doctor. You can also pick it up in pharmacies. Spray it onto a lens cloth and, then, wipe the dirt off.
3. Add a Lens Hood: Did your lens come with a lens hood? Some do and some don’t. If yours didn’t, you can still buy one. You need one that is the correct shape and dimension for your lens. To find the right one, go to B&H.com and search for your lens. Click on it. You’ll find a list of accessories at the bottom of the lens description. Depending on the lens, you may have to click on View All, to see the lens hoods.
There are two reasons to add a hood to your lens. It’s designed to keep stray light from entering the lens when you shoot. This will keep your photos clearer and sharper. But, the second reason is the one the safety one. It helps protect your lens! When you’re out shooting, it’s easy to bang the lens into things as you move or swing around. The lens hood acts as a barrier. Mine has saved my lens and my camera on more than one occasion… When Skip and I were traveling by train in Switzerland, I foolishly put my camera on the table between us. When the train started up, my camera went flying and landed on the floor. The lens hood took the beating, not the lens or the camera. And, because it was made of sturdy plastic, it didn’t even crack!
4. Avoid changing lenses, batteries or memory cards in dusty or sandy places: It’s summer. Photos at the beach are part of the fun, so do take your camera. Just plan ahead. Before you go, decide on one lens to use. Be sure your battery is fully charged. Slip in an empty memory card. You don’t want to risk getting sand or dust into your camera or lens in any way.
If you do, at the least, you’ll get dirt on your sensor, which is annoying.In the worst case, it can destroy your camera or lens! And, don’t forget to bring something safe to place your camera in.
5. Avoid condensation: This can be a hard one to achieve, especially in the summer. Taking a camera out of an airconditioned space into a hot environment can result in condensation on the lens. The only solution, when this happens, is to wait for the lens to warm up. To avoid it, try storing your camera in a warmer place in your house or hotel room. I find that closets are often warmer than the rest of the house. In hotels, I’ll put my camera into a bag of clothes in the closet. If we have a balcony, I’ll put it out there for awhile to warm up before we go out to shoot. Condensation is a problem in two ways. It can ruin your photos, and it can result in moisture getting into your camera or lens, so do try to avoid it.
6. Use a Black Rapid Strap: This relates to hint number three. The straps that come with cameras are torturous devices that make your neck ache. They’re also bad at controlling the movement of your camera when you move around. If you’re wearing it around your neck and lean down, the camera swings forward, away from you. If you’re wearing it on your shoulder and turn around, it can swing away from your body. Of course, it’s likely to fall off of your shoulder at some point. And, what if you are “in the moment” and trip, walking up stairs? All of these movements can result in damage to your camera! Buy a strap that you wear like a sling across your body. I use the Black Rapid strap and love it. It’s available in several different models and for both right and left handed people. There are also other companies that make similar types of straps, if you want to shop around. The best part is that it also saves your neck! I can walk for hours with my camera, since the weight is distributed across my back.
7. Always pack your camera in your carryon bag: Cameras have a way of disappearing from checked luggage. That’s a horrible way to start a vacation! The easiest solution is to carry your camera and lenses with you. I love my ThinkTank Airport Airstream rollaboard. It isn’t a large one, so I can take it on international flights and even on regional carriers in the US. When it’s fully loaded, I can still lift it into the overhead bin on the plane. (OK, it’s not a pretty sight, but I do eventually get it up there…) It also fits under the seat. While it is a camera bag, it doesn’t look like one, so it’s less likely to attract thieves. It has a built-in TSA-approved lock, plus two wire cables with locks to attach it to furniture and to protect a laptop in the outside pocket.
If I need more space, I carry my backpack, too. It’s not a camera backpack. I’ve tried them, and they are just too heavy. Instead, I use an Osprey Tempest 20. It weighs 1.5 pounds, which is so much less than a traditional camera backpack! I fit a camera bag insert into the bottom of it, to hold my camera or lenses. There’s still plenty of room on top for a sweater or jacket and my iPad. It has a waist belt, so the weight is carried on my hips instead of my back. It also has a chest strap, so I don’t have to hunch my shoulders to keep the shoulder straps on.
Bonus tip: Finally, here’s an extra, bonus tip. Take a shower cap: I always carry a shower cap with my camera. You can find them in hotel rooms or buy them in beauty supply stores. They weigh almost nothing, take up almost no room, and are great little rain covers in the event of a sudden shower when you are out shooting. My current one also doubles as a souvenir of the Sopa Lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, in Tanzania.
Hopefully, these hints will help keep your camera safe as you go out and shoot, this summer!
By the way, there are still a few places available in the two workshops I’m teaching in July. If you’d like to declare your independence from the tyranny of the auto setting on your camera, sign up for the Camera Mechanics workshop on July 1st. You can learn more about it here. If you’d like to learn how to use Lightroom, the Adobe software that allows you to manage your photo storage and process your photos to make them pop, sign up for the Lightroom Workshop on July 29th.
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