Camera Care on The Road


If you have ever had camera problems when traveling, you know the headache this can cause. You want them to work reliably and on demand but this does not always happen.  What can you do to minimize the chance of problems and what can you do when problems occur?  The following camera care tips may help:


1.            Pre-trip Checkout


Before you leave on your trip, check your camera equipment and make sure everything is clean, charged and working properly.  Have a professional check and clean your camera and sensor if you are not comfortable doing it yourself.  Charge the batteries in your camera and flash and charge your spare batteries too.  Format the data card to make sure you are starting with an empty card.  Take a few pictures using your flash to make sure the camera is working like you expect it to.


2.            Packaging


Equipment is often damaged when it is allowed to bang against other items in your bag.  This can be avoided by using a proper camera bag that cushions every item separately.   The more equipment you carry, the bigger the bag(s) need to be.  Resist the temptation to use a smaller camera bag that takes up less space but forces you to put multiple cameras or lenses in the same compartment.


3.            Keep Your Equipment Dry


Moisture can ruin electronics so keep your equipment dry – especially your cameras.  If your camera gets wet, dry it off as soon as possible.  If the weather is damp or rainy, use a camera cover.  Make sure your camera is dry when you put it away and keep moisture absorbing packets in your camera bag.  If you are moving back and forth from cold to hot air where moisture condenses on your equipment, put your camera in a ziplock bag and allow it to adjust to the environment before you open the bag.


4.            Keep Dust Out of Your Camera


Your digital camera uses a sensor to process images and if dust sticks to the sensor dark spots will appear in your photos.  Dust can enter the camera when you change lenses but you can minimize it with a few practical steps.  First, keep the outside of your camera clean.  Use a small soft brush (like an artist’s paintbrush) to clean off any particles that have settled on the camera body, especially near the lens connection.  Second, turn off your camera before changing lenses.  When your camera is on, an electrostatic charge draws dust to the sensor like a magnet.  Third, find calm air before opening the camera.  Turn off fans that could blow dust into the camera.  Shield the opening with your body to block moving air.  Finally, minimize the amount of time your camera is open.  Put the lens cover over the camera opening as soon as you remove a lens.


5.            Clean Your Lenses


Dirty lenses cause spots in the picture too and may create focusing problems.  You should clean your lenses at least daily when you travel.  First use an air blower to blow off any dust.  If this cleans the lens, stop at this point.  If there are smudges, you need to wipe them off with a micro-fiber cleaning cloth.  If the blower and the lens cloth do not clean the lens, then you need to apply an optical cleaner liquid and rub again with a micro-fiber cloth.  Use a separate micro-fiber cloth to dry the lens since the first one will be wet from the cleaner liquid.


6.            Clean Your Sensor


As I mentioned above, if the sensor of your camera gets dust particles on it, dark spots will appear in your photos.  If your camera is equipped with an electronic sensor cleaning process you should try that first but if noticeable spots are still there you will need to clean your sensor.  I recommend sensor-cleaning swabs that use a liquid solution but you need to be very careful not to damage the sensor.  Follow the instructions provided by the cleaning swab manufacturer or get a camera repair shop to do it for you.


7.            Charge Your Batteries Every Chance You Get


Keep the batteries in your camera fully charged.  Charge batteries daily when you have power because you never know when a lack of power will prevent you from charging them.  If you wait until the battery is low and you have no power to charge it, you could find yourself waiting for power restoration before you can shoot again.


8.            Download Your Images Daily


Your photos are recorded on a data card in the camera.  If something happens to the camera or if the data card becomes unreadable, you could lose your photos.  Download your photos to another device daily to minimize the risk of losing them.  Better yet, download them to two devices.  You can use your laptop computer, an ipad, a remote hard drive or a photo wallet but make sure your photos are recorded in more than one place.


9.            Take Your Camera Manual With You


Cameras have knobs and dials and buttons that get moved accidentally and cause the camera to ‘act strange’.  Your camera manual can help you figure out how to get the original setting back.  Sometimes, error codes or cryptic messages are displayed too.  The manual will probably tell you what the error code means.   When your camera doesn’t work properly, your manual can be the difference between unusable equipment and a working camera.


10.            Take A Second Camera


Stuff happens.  Sometimes cameras break or quit working properly.  If you have a second camera with you, you can still take pictures.  Even if your second camera is a point and shoot, you’re still in business. 


You can’t eliminate all the risks but, if you follow these suggestions, you have a better chance of coming home with pictures you will like.


May your travel and your photography both be rewarding!


      Roger Nelson