6 Tips for Protecting Your Gear from Any Hazard and Being Prepared


There is no such thing as a magic camera, lens, filter, flash, or tripod that does it all – hence the variety of brands, focal lengths, composite materials, etc., that are available is endless. Actually, part of the fun is not just having what you need, but sometimes what you want. Like something different, even though it doesn’t have the best reviews and specs by others, or something to experiment with, to broaden your creative horizons.

But, there is one thing we all must consider when going out for a shoot, and that is what to bring, or even more importantly, what NOT to bring. Oh that agonizing decision of going through the pros and cons of each widget you could bring. There countless variables depending on personal tastes, what you will be shooting, and how long you will be on your photo shoot, just to mention a few.

There is one constant though, stuff goes wrong, things break, bags get lost, and it is not always easy to get a replacement in time, or even at all. Most of us don’t have sponsors who pay for our gear, and that last lens you just picked up was a financial hardship (that you were happy to endure). So, there are some simple pieces of advice that I have picked up from my own stupid mistakes, and from others, professionals and avid amateurs alike, which might save you and your gear in a pinch.

There are many articles on, what’s in my bag, and while it is fun to see what others are doing, the real question is what should you be doing? How much of everything do you want, and what specifics are you really going for? Do you want to bring your best gear, or will something more average do just fine with much less worry? Here are some tips for protecting your gear and being prepared for anything.

001 UV filter

In the far NE of China this longing village was cutting down full trees, and making them into dowels to be shipped to the US to make hammers. With all the flying wood chips and dust, a UV filter was added protection.

1 – UV Filters

Better than me telling you the answer here, you can google, “Should I Use a UV Filter on my lens?”. You will find results galore, and many varying opinions. But, let me show you a picture and it may just persuade you to use one.

My lens hood was on, but I had just turned it backwards to save space while I was going to eat. My lens cap was also on. Sitting down on a street market bench to indulge, I brushed the lens cap pinching the hinges just enough that the cap popped off. Then, as momentum carried me down, a steel bench post smashed into my camera and I heard glass break. My heart sank, as horrible thoughts of my lens dying raced through my head.

It could have been my front lens element, but it wasn’t! It was my $35 UV filter, not my $900 dollar lens. For casual use, keep a UV filter on! If it breaks like mine did, a circular polarized filter can be a great backup too. Just don’t forget to turn it, to make sure you are getting the best out of your filter.

002 UV filters

This is the glass that broke and saved my front lens element. I was in a small mountain town in central Guatemala with no possibility of replacing the lens.

2 – Lens Hoods

When I generally think of my lens hoods, image quality is what first comes to mind. Less glare, less flair, better saturation and contrast, etc. Sometimes the tulip hoods look nice on a lens, so cosmetically it can be pleasing as well. But they do add significant length, and even when screwed on backwards, not protruding outwards, they increase the diameter, especially on larger lenses, making it tough to cram into your travel bag.

Recently, in Cuba I ran across another amateur photographer, and one of his first comments after exchanging pleasantries was, where is the hood for your lens? The 70-200mm f2.8 IS is a big lens, and making it 25% longer while trying to not impose on subjects, was my deciding factor for leaving the hood at the hotel. I replied, “I have my UV filter on.” He quietly said to me that he was a glass engineer, and he politely suggested, with total altruistic intention, to keep my lens hood on. It has been on ever since.

Protection value is even better than a UV filter and image quality improvements are worth it!

003 lens hood

In a seafood market in a coastal city in NE China, squirming fish, spitting clams and twitching shrimp will definitely get salt water on your lens. Only a UV filter would leave you with water spots, but a lens hood helps keep the salt water off of the front element.

004 lens hood and UV

In New York State during the 2015 super snow year, following this plow, that lays gravel and salt, with my camera out the window is dangerous for a front lens element. Having all the protection of a lens hood and a UV filter is important to protect your gear.

3 – Lens Cap (front and rear)

The little lens cap: This one goes out to amateurs more than the enthusiast. If you are not shooting, keep your lens cap on. This is a very good line of defence for your front lens element. A doctor doesn’t examine a patient without protective gloves, nor should a photographer leave his lens exposed, while enjoying carnival rides or waterfalls. Keeping your lens protected is most important, but clean is essential as well.

Also, if you are switching lenses, keep an extra cap for the back of your lens in your bag. They are all the same size, unlike the front lens cap, so if you lose one it is no big deal as one size fits all. Cleaning dust, dirt, hair or oil from the inside of the lens is a nightmare.

4 – Extra things to think about when travelling

Access to your camera shop or online retailer is not possible when you’re away from home. Maybe your favorite online shop could overnight you something in any developed country, but outside the US, Canada, and some parts of Western Europe, you are out of luck.

UV filters can be found at many small electronic stores at a 20% markup or so, but the sizes available may be limited. Kit lenses these days usually have a 58m or 67mm thread size, and maybe you might get lucky if they have a 72mm filter. Anything in the 77mm or higher range will be near impossible to find. Underdeveloped nations don’t have the ability to hold stock for the occasional guy who smashed his fancy gear, (that which could feed a whole village for a week). Thus, don’t bring more, simplify. Think how you can adapt if something breaks? Like using a polarized filter or an ND filter if your UV filter bites the dust. Using an ND filter and bringing your tripod might just help you broaden your portfolio for the trip; a little blessing in disguise.

5 – CF cards

It used to be no film, no picture. Now it is no memory, no picture. Recently, I was in Central America and one trip got cancelled, and another one came up. It was a photographer’s delight, Cuba! I didn’t have my computer, and didn’t want to plug my gear into a sketchy internet bar computer. The solution in a developed country is to just stock up on a few more CF cards.

The reality is that in developing markets CF cards are not available. Finding a name brand CF card that will have 30mb/second or more, is near impossible. Developing nations are still using basic point and shoot cameras, if they have any at all, and even more popular are mobile phones with mini SD’s in them. SD cards are abundant, along with mini SD cards with adapters, but that does you no good for the higher end DSLRs. CF cards are relatively cheap and tiny compared to lenses, camera bodies and flashes. Stuff a couple extra in your bag.

IMG 9188 bw

In northern Ethiopia this was the one of two stores that carried electronic goods. Most items are mobile phone related.

Getting into other parts of the world, like SE Asia and China, both of which are still in the developing stage, you will find much better luck. CF cards are available, and SD cards are going to be much cheaper. UV filters will also be available for any size. If they don’t have them in that store, ask them to get you one by the end of the day, and they will call up partner stores and send them over on the back of a moped. But you know the catch, it might not be real despite how legit it looks. In a bind, strike a deal, and you will have solved your solution at least temporarily.

006 Electronic store 2bw

This was my second option for electronics. A desktop computer which was used for burning pirated movies and music. No possibility of finding higher end camera supplies.

6 – The Lens Pen

A final item that is a must is the lens pen. These are so compact, and convenient, to keep your front and rear lens elements clean. Make sure you use the brush first, then the moistened concave end for smudges. Ideally you would have air to blow off the lens first, but don’t use your mouth. No matter how careful you are particles of your saliva will appear on the lens giving you double duty. The lens pens are tiny and do wonders. Keep one in your bag, and one in your pocket, so you can get up close and personal to the crashing waves, market activity, or the big sports event. By the way, these lens pens can be found all over the world now. Grab a couple before you go, but if you lose one, or give one away to a local photographer, you may be able to find another.

Bottom line

So, when you are off on your next photo shoot, be prepared. You can’t anticipate everything, but even combined, all of the items on this list could easily fit in your pant’s pocket. Put all of them in a sturdy Ziploc bag, and you just added another element of protection. Wrap your camera or lens in the bag in really treacherous situations.

These tips provide a pretty good insurance policy for keeping your gear safe, and in proper working condition. Keeping your gear protected in harsh environments lets you focus on your creative ability to see and capture your favorite photographic styles, and do it with confidence too. Now, you still need to decide what major pieces of gear you want: super wide angle lens, telephotos, primes, single flash or multiple flashes, tripod, and the list goes on.

But be sure you have your UV filters screwed on, your hoods attached, your front and rear lens caps, and some extra memory, along with the most portable and simple cleaning lens pens.

What essentials do you have in your bag when you leave for a long photo shoot out of your home range?

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Branson Quenzer has chased bygone eras in a vastly changing Chinese landscape for over a decade. He has a Master’s Degree in Economics, whereby he uses a paradigm of seeing the world through a system of interlinking processes and changes, to explore photography and the world. Please visit his website to see more or contact him through Facebook.

  • Michael Clark

    The only time a UV filter does any legitimate protection is for weather
    sealing on lenses that would otherwise not be weather sealed. This would, of course, also include protection from dust, debris, or moisture created by anything other than the natural elements.

    Sorry, but the UV filter saving the front of your lens is a red herring. The front element of your lens is both much thicker and harder than a typical UV filter. Just because a bump shatters a filter doesn’t mean it would have shattered the front element had the filter not been there! I had a nasty drop a while back that was severe enough to crack the hood correctly attached on my EF 24-105mm f/4 L. The hood then went one way and the camera/lens rolled in another direction. The front element of the lens only has a single chip the size of a small grain of sand. Image quality is not affected at all by the chip. It takes a LOT of scratches to a front element before anything shows up in even a laboratory test (google: Roger Cicala front element scratches). And a UV filter does absolutely nothing to prevent lens elements from being knocked out of alignment since any force applied to the ring of the filter is passed on to the front ring of the lens.

  • Branson Quenzer

    Thanks Michael, You are totally right that a UV filter is not a save all strategy. And definitely there are different qualities of them. Cheers and happy your “nasty” drop didn’t make you need a new lens!

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  • CodeMonkey432

    Sooo…if you had had a UV filter on your lens, you wouldn’t even have the chip….I fail to see how you are proving your point.

    You are basically arguing ‘Nothing is better than something’…..I do promise you that an incoming rock is going to lose ‘power’ going first through a UV lens. Maybe you get a chip instead of something worse? Maybe it knocks it out of alignment. Maybe it doesn’t. Who knows?

    How many chips does it take to affect the image? How many could you avoid if you had a UV lens on? No one knows. Again…something is better than nothing. What’s the down side?

    I’m a programmer at heart and only play at photography, but I do find it amusing that certain ‘character types’ are universal. We’d call this the ‘purist’ – you need _one_ on your team, to keep the crazies in line – but the need to quibble gets annoying.

  • CodeMonkey432

    So just to be clear here, your argument is: Nothing is better than something, even when that something a) has other protective features and b) MIGHT prevent something from happening to your lens and c) doesn’t HURT anything by being on…..because…your lens can take the damage. Seriously?

  • Doug Sundseth

    If the clear “filter” were free and had no (or even minimal) detrimental effect on your image quality, adding an extra layer of glass might be worthwhile. But note the use of subjunctive mood to indicate conditions false to fact.

    Nothing is far better than something when that something costs (for a decent quality clear filter that won’t harm your image quality too much) in the $50-$125 range and breaks much more easily than the front element. (And note that the shards of glass from a broken clear filter can increase the chances of damages to your lens front element, since the filter is so much easier to break.)

    In photography, everything is a tradeoff. If you’re shooting in a high wind in the desert, the normally insignificant advantages of a clear filter might be important enough to pay the extra money and accept the risk of extra internal reflections. (If the lens isn’t especially expensive, it might not be, too.) Otherwise, I don’t see that the cost-benefit analysis for adding a clear filter makes any sense at all.

  • Sandy C Carr

    Protecting your gear = Your camera was stolen ! Now what ? You let a friend borrow a lens while the 2 of you were out. It was dropped, leaving you without your go-to lens. Now what ? This is what one should probably do = Fill out all warranty cards, Keep all receipts and file them in a special folder. Next, find out if your home owners policy will cover your gear AND will replace lost, stolen or broken gear not at the price one paid for it but replace the exact same model of lens or camera, etc. that was stolen or broken.. You don’t not want to replace a camera at the price you paid for it BUT you should get the same model #. One of my friends had to get a separate policy just to cover her gear. Next = mark all of your equipment. I use colored duck take on bags and tripods and nail polish on lens and cameras, filters, etc.. I put it on the metal parts. One morning, while I was out shooting a sunrise with my photography club, I happened to notice that we had a sea of black camera bags. They all looked alike. That’s when I started using colored duck tape. Using a hood, invaluable. Keeping a UV filter or any filter on on your lens, an absolute must. Much cheaper than buying a new lens. My camera was blown over while on a low tripod and landed face first. The lens was OK but the filter was scratched up and could not be used. I hope this my info helps anyone who is somewhat new to photography or has gone through the headache of replacing gear and lost money or had to pay more to get what was lost.

  • Very well said, Doug.

    There is far too much circumstantial praise out there claiming ‘my UV filter saved my $2,000+ lens’, while in actual fact there’s absolutely no reason to believe the front element would have been broken, scratched or even touched had the UV filter not been there. A UV filter usually sits far forward of the front element in a very vulnerable position, where it’s much more prone to being hit. Also as you say is much more fragile than the front element, so is much more likely to shatter in spectacular fashion. And it’s not like there are no downsides to using one, either > cost, compromises in image quality, risk of shards scratching your lens if the UV filter is broken itself.

    Most people I know that use UV filters for protection don’t bother with a lens hood – a far more robust and purposeful form of protection that serves to deflect objects away from the front element (and any filter you might have one) completely.

    Having said all that, the filter in the image above is easily the thickest piece of circular filter glass I have ever seen! :/

  • Richard

    The multi-coating on the front of the lens is subject to the risk of scratching. ‘Nuff said.

  • Branson Quenzer

    flying rocks vs. potential glass shards from a broken UV filter? Tradeoff is the key… what can you afford to sacrifice and in what situation. Sure there are times it doesn’t make sense and thanks for pointing some of those out.

  • Branson Quenzer

    risk and reward… i take my 50 dollar UV filter and you take your 2000 dollar lens and lets brush it up against a concrete wall… many people just don’t have another 2000 to take the chance… simply helpful advice, not a fix all!

  • Branson Quenzer

    Camera stolen = cry, then really good excuse to get another… haha. That has been a subject in my photo club for a long time. How to keep your gear safe from people not scratches and is a great point. Simply from my personal experience of living in the developing world over the last decade is that disparity between the haves and have nots is a much greater threat to your gear than just poverty. Did you have you camera stolen? What happened?

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  • I wish I had a $2,000 lens… but if I did it would sure as hell be specified on my insurance. Again, with no UV filter.

    Brushing that lens up against a concrate wall though, the lens hood and the lens barrel itself will product the front element. Without the hood the filter would likely still get scratched though, bang goes another $50 to replace the thing :/

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  • Happichique

    Idiot! this is not the forum for this

  • Michael Clark

    No, my argument is that I would rather get the image quality that I paid for out of my lenses than pay $2000 for a lens and then get the same performance as a $200 lens because of the reflections caused by the UV filter on the front. I do a lot of theatrical shooting in dark environments with bright light sources in the frame. Putting a UV filter on the front of my lens practically guarantees ghosting. As I said in the original comment above, there are legitimate reasons for using them, such as shooting in a dusty environment. And a proper hood is not “nothing”. It both enhances image quality by blocking off axis light and provides a much better measure of impact protection than any filter possibly could.

    Putting a flat filter on the front of a premium lens is like putting a muumuu dress on Bar Rafaeli for a fashion shoot.

  • Michael Clark

    I’ve had my 70-200 f/2.8 take a lot more abuse than brushing up against a concrete wall. I’ve never had a UV filter screwed on to the front of that lens. I do keep the hood attached anytime the lens is out of my bag. There’s not a single scratch anywhere on the front element. There are several various colors of paint on the side of the hood, however.

    By the way, it might be a $2,000+ lens, but according to Roger Cicala at lensrentals.com, a front element replacement is only a couple of hundred bucks. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never needed to have one replaced. And I’ve shot around 155,000 frames with my last five bodies since 2009. Probably less than 1,000 of them were shot with a UV filter on the front of the lens.

  • Sean Reese

    Jordan, I can contest to the hood. I knocked my D750 and 70-200mm to the concrete floor in my studio. The corner of the Manfrotto tripod plate his first and then the lens which had the hood out. The hood caused the lens to bounce which in turn avoided damage to the lens. It didn’t even get a scratch. I live in the mountains and use UV filters to help keep the dust and grit out because it is very windy up here ALL the time.

  • Contest? Don’t you mean attest?

    Firm hood advocate here.

  • Branson Quenzer

    Just to keep this post a little up to date, I was recently in Bagan, Myanmar. And a budding new camera shop was open. To my surprise they had CF cards and a variety of filters. They didn’t have many professional gear, but they did have most things you might need in a pinch. But in a two two hours away, there wasn’t a camera to be found. So still hit and miss.

  • Michael Clark

    1) The multi coating on the front of the lens is rendered irrelevant by the flat filter placed in front of it.

    2) What part of ‘hood” don’t you understand?

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