When I think back to how naive I was when I first started in photography, I can't help but chuckle.
I spent way too much on a camera body and not enough on lenses.
I also spent more time than I'd like to admit chimping instead of checking the histogram.
There were plenty of compositional and technical errors too.
But I also have to cringe at how I neglected my gear.
I mean, I didn't even have a real camera bag to carry my stuff - I just dropped it in a regular backpack and off I went.
It's a wonder my first camera and lens made it through all that unscathed...
I'm lucky in that regard because all that gear isn't just expensive, but it's got some delicate pieces and parts, too.
That's why you need to not follow my example and take steps to ensure your equipment is safe, sound, and protected.
Get a UV Filter
Perhaps one of the easiest things you can do to keep your lens glass safe from scratches and environmental contaminants is to get a UV filter.
Some photographers thumb their nose at this idea because they don't want to degrade the sharpness their expensive lens can achieve by slapping a crappy UV filter on the front of it.
There's a point to that, to be sure. But the lesson is to use a good UV filter, not a poor quality one.
Kenko makes a great UV filter that offers exceptional build quality that's been honed over decades of manufacturing experience in Japan.
Their UV filter has polished optical glass that not only protects your lens but maintains the sharpness and quality of the image that you demand.
Kenko has mastered the art of building quality filters, and their UV filter is no exception. See how Kenko manufactures their filters in the video below:
This particular UV filter has a SLIM ring mount, so you don't have to worry about vignetting when shooting with a wide-angle lens. They're also available in a variety of common sizes, from 37mm up to 82mm.
Better still, the Kenko UV filter won't set you back a ton of money, so you can afford to add more pieces to your kit, like Kenko's circular polarizing filter.
In fact, these UV filters start at just over $11.
That means you get a high-quality UV filter that won't impact the quality of your images and that will protect your precious lens glass from scratches, dust, dirt, rain, and other elements, all for the price of a couple of coffees.
Talk about a deal!
Invest in a Few Waterproof Bags
I know not every photographer works in the rain, snow, and sleet, so some of you might balk at the need for a set of waterproof bags for your gear.
But hear me out on this...
First, you never know when you might find yourself out shooting a beautiful landscape when the weather turns and it starts to rain.
In that situation, having a place to keep your gear where you're guaranteed it won't get wet is good peace of mind to have.
What's more, if you shoot at the beach as I often do, you know that occasionally a big wave will present itself and soak your bag, even though you've positioned it at what you assumed was a safe distance from the spray.
Again, wouldn't it be nice to know your gear is protected just in case?
Heck, even when you visit a waterfall, you might just find that there's enough spray to make you nervous about your gear being out in the open without some waterproofing to protect it.
And I know what you're thinking - If my camera and lens are weather-sealed, what's the big deal?
That's easy - they are weather-sealed not weatherproof.
For me, it's a simple choice...
Whenever I'm remotely close to water, I put my gear in waterproof bags.
Better safe than sorry, right?
Always Carry Cleaning Supplies
It seems like a no-brainer to have things like a dust blower and microfiber cloth in your camera bag so you can do some housekeeping when you're out shooting.
Yet, you'd be surprised (or...maybe not) at how often I forget one or both of these items, or one of my shooting buddies forgets one or both of these items.
It's a real "DUH" moment when you see a smudge on your lens, only to find you don't have any way of removing it at the moment.
But beyond things like fingerprints being annoying, if you don't have cleaning tools with you when you shoot, things like dust and dirt can quickly build-up on your lens. And I don't have to tell you that the longer those contaminants are on the filter or lens glass, the more likely they are to cause damage.
What's more, if you tend to swap lenses when you're out shooting, the delicate insides of your camera like the sensor and the mirror can get gunked up pretty quick.
Though I don't recommend plopping down on the beach to clean your sensor, at least having a blower can help you mitigate some of the easy-to-remove stuff that finds its way into your camera body. If you aren't sure how to clean your camera's sensor, check out the video above by PhotoRec TV.
When you're at home, having a full cleaning kit is absolutely essential.
Depending on how often you shoot and where, you might need to clean your lenses, sensor, and mirror once every few weeks. Most of us likely don't need to clean our gear that often, but when the time comes, be prepared with a comprehensive camera cleaning kit.
These kits come with everything you need, and will cost you much less than getting your stuff professionally serviced, that's for sure!
Keep an Eye on the Temperature
Shooting in extreme temperatures can wreak havoc on your camera.
That's because as you move your camera from a cold environment to a warm environment (and vice versa) it can fog up.
Then, moving back to the original environment can cause that fog to condense.
I don't have to tell you that condensation inside your camera or lens is not a good situation...
Fortunately, the solution to this problem is simple.
All you need are some Ziploc bags and some silica gel packs like the ones you often find in shoeboxes.
The combination of the air-tight bag and the silica packs will help suck any moisture out of your camera and the air inside the bag.
Just get into the habit of putting your camera in the Ziploc when you're done shooting, add the silica pack, close it up, and let the magic happen!
And that magic isn't just contained to drying out your camera. Check out all the weird uses for silica packs in the video below by Business Insider:
Wrapping It Up
Protecting your gear is obviously a crucial undertaking.
Some aspects of ensuring your expensive equipment is safe can get expensive - like investing in a good, solid camera bag, for example.
But, there are plenty of other simple, quick, and inexpensive tricks you can use to keep your camera and lens well-protected, clean, and working in peak form.
In fact, you can outfit yourself with all the tools I've described above for about $50.
That's a small investment to make for all the benefits they provide.
Don't be like the old me and by willy-nilly with your gear. Keep it protected and clean, and it'll last you a lot longer - with better pictures to boot!