Clearly, our cameras and lenses are delicate pieces of machinery that require a lot of love, care, and attention if they are to remain in tip-top shape. But sometimes we accidentally expose our precious gear to elements that can have a significant detrimental effect on their functionality. Some things, like dust, are virtually impossible to avoid. Other things, like accidental drops, will happen from time to time as well.
There are other dangers out there for your camera and lenses as well. Let’s see what you need to keep an eye out for next time you grab your gear and go out for a shoot.
Moisture can attack your camera in a variety of forms. A drop into the ocean here or a giant splash from your kid’s bath there can easily render your camera and lenses totally useless.
But a more subtle moisture problem is condensation. Condensation might occur when there are wild swings in temperature, say, from shooting outdoors in the dead of winter to bringing your gear inside your nice warm house. Even going from your air conditioned home to a humid, summertime environment can cause condensation.
Although there isn’t much you can do to avoid dropping your camera (apart from using a neck strap or hand strap) or splashes from your kids, there is quite a lot you can do to avoid condensation. When working in humid environments, take periodic breaks to wipe down your lenses. Some photographers transport their cameras inside sealed plastic bags or invest in silica gel packs to remove any moisture from the camera bag. Any of these techniques will help, but the most effective way to combat condensation is to slowly warm your camera up, letting it adjust to the temperature and humidity slowly. This might not always be possible or practical, but giving your gear some time to acclimate will help avoid the problems associated with condensation.
Sunscreen, Insect Repellants, & Lotion
How often do you go out to take photos after having put lotion on your hands, sunscreen on your face, or insect repellant on your arms and legs? Chances are, it happens a lot, yet the chances are also that you might not wash your hands after applying these products.
Sure, you need to protect yourself from the elements, but the products you use can cause great harm to your camera. Sunscreen, lotions, and insect repellants are oily and contain chemicals that can easily cause smudges on your lenses, cause your camera body to become slippery and discolored, and worse, cause damage to the more delicate parts of your camera, like the mirror or sensor, if for some reason you touch one of those elements.
Naturally, the way to avoid the pitfalls of these products is to thoroughly wash your hands after you apply them. Also think about giving your eye, eyebrow, and nose a quick wipe down as well to protect the viewfinder and other back parts of your camera. And never, ever put lotion, sunscreen, or any other product of that type in your camera bag! There’s always the chance of a leak, and the last thing you want is for an entire tube of sunscreen to explode all over your gear.
Salt & Sand
A trip to the beach will give you many opportunities to take incredible photos, but the elements you’ll run into there can also cause your camera to malfunction.
Apart from the abundance of water, you’ll need to keep an eye out for salt and sand. Shooting at the beach exposes your camera and lenses to the salt in the air, which can build up and cause corrosion. A simple fix is to use a UV filter on your lens to protect the glass, and once your beach day is done, thoroughly clean your camera and lenses to ensure there’s no residual salt.
To avoid getting sand in your gear, never, ever change lenses or expose the inside of your camera when you’re at the beach. Sand will ruin your camera faster than just about anything, so ensure it is as difficult as possible for those pesky grains to cause damage. Keep your hands clean, and shake out your clothing before you take your camera out. When not in use, seal your gear in a plastic bag so the wind can’t deposit grains into your camera or lenses. And, as mentioned above, do a thorough cleaning once your day is done.
While there are things that pose dangers to your gear out in the world, that shouldn’t be an excuse not to go out and shoot. On the contrary, following the tips we’ve outlined here will help you keep your gear in tip-top shape and give you the ability to stave off damage that can render your gear unusable. Just practice common sense and perform maintenance as needed and you and your gear will be ready to go when the time to shoot arrives!