Whether you’ve invested in a lower end DSLR or went all out for a top model, the need to keep your camera maintained is imperative to quality photos and the lifelong care of your camera. It’s a shame when people invest money in something and then don’t take good care of it. What I’ve found though, is that one of the main reasons for this is that most people simply don’t know how to, so they delay and delay until it’s almost too late. Doing the research and starting good habits from the day you purchase your camera will ensure your investment is long lasting. These 7 tips will clear the air for you.
Just like medical preventative maintenance keeps you healthy, the same tactic with your DSLR will contribute to keeping it healthy. Knowing what actions to take to avoid problems down the road is the biggest gift you can give your camera. It works hard to deliver fabulous photos to you, so return that kindness with the TLC it deserves. The next several tips are both preventative and in the field related.
Tip #1: Humidity
Due to all the vacation photos, beaches are one of the top photographed places. But, they’re also one of the worst places for your camera’s “health” since humidity is your camera’s number one enemy. It greatly influences the imaging sensor of your SLR, and that’s the one piece of a camera that raises concern among photographers. Hence, it is important to keep your camera dry and away from extreme weather conditions when possible. If you are in a cold weather environment, which let’s face it, many of us are, avoid bringing your camera in from the cold to a warm room. The resulting condensation will wreak havoc on your imaging sensor, and that’s something that can be avoided with common sense. To prevent any problems, put your camera in a protective, padded bag or case.
Tip #2: Cleaning
In order to effectively clean your equipment, use a soft cloth, such as a microfiber one, and wipe down the exterior to take off dust and other particles that could also creep inside the camera body.
Use a cleaning brush to clean the all-important imaging sensor. You can look online or in a local photography shop for imaging sensor-cleaning tools. Use them to remove dirt and dust from the lens system of the DSLR in order to avoid lens motor failure (always a scary thought). If you’re afraid to take this task on yourself, and if you still have the benefit of a warranty, take it down to your service center for proper maintenance.
Tip #3: Caps and Hoods
There’s a reason your camera comes with a lens cap…to protect the lens. Some photographers are religious about putting their cap on when the camera is not in use, while other count on their lens filters to protect the lens rather than putting the cap on and off repeatedly throughout the day. If you’re indoors doing a portrait shoot, then you probably don’t need to use the cap every time you put the camera down.
However, if you’re out shooting landscape and are switching cameras, only to put the first one down, you’ll probably want to protect it against the elements by putting the cap back on. I hate to hear stories where the photographer put their camera down on a rock and it slid off, causing damage to the lens that a cap would have taken the brunt of. It takes second and can save hundreds of dollars!
Lens hoods are another safety feature. Though they’re meant to block sun glare, they have the added bonus of protecting the edge of your lens.
Tip #4: Storing Your Camera
Leaving your camera, even if in a bag, in the trunk of your car in the heat is not a good idea. The same goes for leaving it in below freezing temps. These extreme temperatures are not your camera’s friend. Though it can withstand varying conditions out in the field with the proper protection, leaving it sitting in these temps for long periods of times will only damage it in the long run. Be conscious of where you leave your camera when you’re not using it.
Tip #5: Rain, Rain, Go Away!
Whether at the beach or out in the rain, you should always be careful around water. A drizzling rain won’t kill your equipment, but common sense suggests that you don’t take off a lens or open the memory card door when you’re out in the rain. If the weatherman calls for heavy rain, use something to cover the body of the camera (freezer Ziploc bags work well). It’s the electronics that you need to watch out for; your lens, on the other hand, can take a few drops. Keep that dry microfiber cloth on hand.
Tip #6: Spots on your Shots
If you notice dark spots or splotches on your images, it’s a good sign that your camera needs a cleaning. Using a sensor loupe will help to identify the spotty areas on your lens or sensor. An airbrush and brush will blow and wipe away dust, if that’s the culprit. For smudges, use the above mentioned microfiber cloth. Take some new photos and see if that did the trick. If not, consider sending your camera out for a professional cleaning.
Remember the preventative maintenance rules and use a light touch common sense when doing any maintenance. That said, always send your camera out if you’re uncomfortable with any of the cleaning or maintenance. It’s worth the time and money spent to send it out rather than the risk of damaging it.