Camera equipment is not cheap, nor is it easily replaceable. And while some models are more durable than others, they’re all frustratingly easy to break. In other words, if you don’t take care of your equipment, you could find yourself in a tough situation – one that could cost you thousands of dollars or (potentially worse!) a ruined trip.
Bottom line: Keeping your camera equipment safe and in working order is an essential part of photography. Below, I share five tips to ensure that your camera stays as good as new, even if you travel through wet, sandy, or dangerous areas.
Let’s dive right in!
1. Regularly clean, repair, and service your equipment
There’s an age-old saying: “Prevention is better than the cure.” So your first step in ensuring that your camera is in good working condition is to keep it that way. Get into the habit of regularly cleaning your camera. There are plenty of good camera cleaning products out there, and the process only takes a few minutes. Simply wipe your camera clean of dust and any other dirt or debris. You should also clean your lenses, but be warned: Lens elements are easily scratched, so make sure that you work carefully and always use lens-compatible materials.
Some photographers like to clean their camera sensors, but I’d really recommend avoiding touching or cleaning this unless you know what you’re doing. Instead, if you notice dust spots on your sensor, take it to your local camera shop for a quick clean.
Another piece of advice: If you notice a problem with your camera – even if it’s minor – get it fixed right away. Don’t leave it for later; small irritations can turn into major problems, especially if they cause an issue during a paid shoot.
It’s also worth getting your camera serviced professionally every now and again. Yes, it might be an annoying expense, but it is a small price to pay to ensure your camera remains in perfect working condition.
2. Be aware of the elements
Water and sand are two of the biggest dangers your camera will ever face. Anyone whose lens or sensor has been scratched by sand knows how problematic even a few grains can be, and water (especially sea spray) can also cause serious issues. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your camera safe from sand and water, even when you’re working in beach or desert environments (or, at least, to minimize the risk).
First, you need to know how sealed your camera is. Some high-end cameras are heavily weather sealed, whereas other cameras offer no protection whatsoever. You should use this as a baseline when determining how to handle your camera in tricky conditions, though even if your camera boasts pro-level weather sealing, you should still be careful. Here are some tips to follow (and while you can be slightly more relaxed when dealing with rugged camera bodies, it’s better to be safe than sorry):
- Always carry a plastic bag with you. They’re great for protecting your camera from rain and water, and they’re dirt cheap! However, if you plan to frequently shoot in rain, sand, or sea spray, you might consider investing in a rain cover.
- Carry a small towel at all times to wipe your camera clean. This is especially vital near the coast where the salt in seawater can be corrosive.
- Avoid changing lenses, especially when it’s windy; a lens change is a perfect time for dust, sand, and water to head straight for your sensor. If you must change lenses, do it quickly and make sure you protect your camera from the wind.
- After you finish your shoot, remember to wipe and clean your camera. Sand has a way of making its way inside cameras and lenses, so even if you think your camera is clean, give it a wipe anyway.
3. Know your surroundings
Like sand and water, theft can be a major camera danger. Fortunately, with a little bit of common sense and caution, you can avoid being a victim. The key is to know your surroundings and take action accordingly.
For example, if you’re walking on a busy sidewalk, keep away from the curb and keep your camera away from the roadside where snatches and grabs on motorbikes do happen. If you’re sitting at an outdoor table at a restaurant, put your camera in your bag or wrap the strap around your arm. And if you need to grab a piece of equipment from your bag, don’t leave your camera on a tripod and turn away.
It’s important to take precautions even in quiet countryside parking lots. Don’t leave cameras or valuables on display; hide them away, or – better yet – take them with you. As long as you use common sense and know what is happening around you, you shouldn’t run into any problems.
Pro tip: If you plan to take your equipment into populous areas, it can be a good idea to purchase an insurance policy. That way, even if your gear is stolen or damaged, you won’t have to shell out for a whole new camera system.
4. Use your tripod wisely
I’ve only ever had one accident with my camera, and it was when I was using a tripod. Basically, I rushed to mount my camera, and in my haste, I didn’t clip it in properly. The camera fell straight into a muddy puddle! Lucky for me, the mud stopped my camera from bouncing off into the river that I was photographing, and my camera also avoided the rock I was standing on. With a bit of cleaning up, I was able to use the camera straight away. In other words, I was very fortunate.
That said, you may not be so lucky. Make sure you use your tripod carefully. I am always astonished when I see people setting up tripods without evenly distributing the weight; this can cause the entire setup to topple over. I’ve also seen people setting expensive cameras on cheap tripods that are not secure enough to take the weight of the rig.
Whenever you’re using a tripod, the key is to take your time. Work deliberately, ensure the head is secure, and be certain the legs are balanced. When you set your camera on the tripod and let go, hold onto the strap for a few seconds to ensure it’s not going to fall. Only once you’re completely confident the tripod is stable should you let go. Also, be especially careful when there are high winds – it seems ridiculous, but a sudden gust can easily knock over your setup.
5. Store your equipment safely
Here’s my final tip for keeping your camera in good working order: Be very careful about how you store it when not in use.
After all, no matter how frequently you take photos, you’ll run into stretches of time when your camera isn’t in your hands (even if it’s just for the night). And if you’re not careful, humidity and sunlight can cause problems.
So what should you do? First, avoid storing your equipment in places of high humidity, like laundry rooms and damp basements. Moisture can cause fungus, which will make its way onto your lens elements and wreak havoc.
You should also avoid leaving your camera in direct sunlight. Try to store it in a cupboard rather than just leaving it out to gather dust. A great tip is to keep your equipment in your camera bag and place your bag in a cupboard. Not only will this protect against dust, but it’ll also ensure everything is in one place and out of sight.
If you have the money and you’re concerned about your gear, you may wish to invest in a dry cabinet. These units will regulate the humidity and keep your equipment at safe levels, and while they do cost a few hundred dollars, the cost can be worth it (especially if you live in a high-humidity environment).
How to keep your camera safe: final words
There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing an amazing photo opportunity in front of you and not managing to capture the shot – either because your camera is broken or because you haven’t prepared for the environment.
Fortunately, with a little bit of care, forward planning, and common sense, you can avoid any issues by keeping your camera safe and in working order. So remember the tips I’ve shared above, and add them to your workflow!
Now over to you:
Do you have any additional tips that we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!