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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Looking After Your Investment

Investment? What Investment?

Well, for most of us involved in some form of photography our cameras and accessories and processing equipment are an investment. Costs for a digital dslr camera (body only) can be pretty expensive, but the biggest expense can be laid out on lenses. Then there are such accessories as digital storage cards, off-camera flash guns, lens filters, lighting, backdrops/backgrounds, even the cost of proper and safe storage containers for the equipment should be considered. Even a really good camera backpack can run you from $100 to over $350.

And given the photography of today, there's the extended equipment you might want (or need) to process the images: a good computer and monitor ($1,000+ for basics), and software (how much you spend on that, if anything, will depend on your needs) and a printer (semi pro quality from $400 and up), replacement inks, and good quality print paper.
canadian dollar bill from the 1930s
The cost of "doing business", right? But even if you aren't "doing business" you are still likely to invest in some of these things to a lesser degree.

Consider these things an investment and treat them appropriately.

Camera & Lenses
  • treat with care - don't drop, throw or toss
  • unless, it's a waterproof model, or you have purchased waterproof housing don't put it in water and try to keep it relatively dry while shooting in the rain (clear plastic bags can help)
  • clean regularly - from the body to the sensor when necessary (careful with the sensor)
  • keep the lcd monitor clean and protected - it's expensive to replace
  • don't forget to clean the viewfinder
  • don't leave in a hot car in direct sunlight (I almost never leave my camera equipment alone in the car unless I am within sight of the car - not just because of heat and sun, but theft, hence the use of a backpack so it's always with me)
  • avoid exposure to extreme temperature changes. Shooting outdoors in below freezing temperatures and bringing your camera immediately into a warm environment can cause condensation and moisture damage. Transition your cameras from the direct outdoors to it's storage bag, then to a car (not directly near a heat vent - the trunk is better), and then to the indoors. Remove he camera from it's back, remove the lens, open the battery compartment (remove battery) and the storage card compartment (remove card) and place it in the coolest spot in the house (no, don't use the fridge) and allow it to acclimatize for a few hours. This is for very extrement temperature changes.
  • don't walk with your camera hanging from it's neck strap if you've got a long lens on it. Longer lenses (200mm and up) or even heavy smaller lenses put weight on the connecting rings from lens to camera. No matter how secure this seems when locked into place, you run the risk of damaging the connections. Always support the longer lenses when you are carrying your camera. It would be quite a shock someday to have your lens pull away from the camera and land on the ground...particularly if cost upwards of $1,000 for it.
  • use proper cleaning cloths to clean your lenses. Don't wipe it on a towel, sweater sleeve, kleenex or whatever is handy. Buy a lens-cloth in a small bag with a little carabiner on it (they run about $4 or $5 ea.) and clip it to the camera strap. You've always got a handy cleaner with you. (I have one on each of my cameras).
  • when cleaning your lenses don't use liquids not approved for such. Lenses have a coating that can be damaged by improper cleaning.
  • If a spot can't be removed from the lens with a gentle wipe of the lens-cloth, DON'T scrub at it, and don't scratch at it with a fingernail. This can also damage the coating. Buy an appropriate and approved cleaner.
  • Never store your lenses without their lens cap and end caps.
  • store lenses in a secure environment. A hard-sided lens case with interior padding is ideal. Some lenses come with soft lens cases, some come with nothing. When you can afford it, buy the safest lens storage containers you can, because the lenses will be your most expensive investment.
  • insure your camera & equipment for replacement value - be sure your policy covers accident, theft, fire, loss. That may mean adding a rider to your insurance policy and a little extra cost per year...it's worth doing.
  • buy an extended warranty on your camera at the time of purchase.
If you aren't up to cleaning the sensor (dslr models), then take it in to a trusted shop and have it done. Generally, you'll know when it's required. When you've got spot(s) on your images that aren't from something on the lens, and that are always in the same place, you may need to clean the sensor. For some really good information on cleaning the dslr sensor, visit this site Cleaning Digital Cameras. To date, I have been fairly lucky and have been able to clean my sensor only with a small handheld blower.

If you use your camera equipment and accessories, and office equipment to earn part of your income (or all of it), then taking precautions and following the manufacturers directions on use and storage is a no brainer. The majority of people will follow common sense, but with familiarity, sometimes comes neglect. As we become more comfortable with our equipment we often will overlook some of those common sense "do's and don'ts". It's hard to avoid and we all do it, yet all it can take is one small mis-step to cause a disastrous result, and to remind us that caring properly for those investments keeps us shooting.

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