Don’t you love new stuff? New clothes, new shoes — and since we’re all photographers here — new gear. Even if you bought it second-hand, it’s still kind of new. It’s new to you, isn’t it? And as it goes with lots of people, you probably baby your new gear for the first few months, treating it with just slightly less care than you would treat an infant child.
Then the inevitable happens: laziness sets in and your once prized lens receives progressively worse treatment. It may not be the case that you’ve grown abusive towards it, but you’re certainly more reckless with it than you were the day it arrived at your doorstep.
Perhaps this sort of behavior is just engrained in human nature; that conclusion makes sense to me. They say that in order to overcome something, you have to first be aware of it. And given the costliness of photography gear, it’s probably a good idea to pause and consider whether you’ve fallen into the following bad gear-related habits.
Not Using Your Lens Caps – Lens caps — front and back — come with a lens for a reason. They’re not just cute little freebies the manufacturer decided to throw in for the heck of it; they really do protect your glass. I know, sometimes there’s no time to fiddle around with a lens cap when you need to change lenses while potentially great shots are passing you by. You take off one lens, dump it in your bag, glass exposed, so that you can get another lens on quickly as possible. Or you sit your camera down — again, glass exposed — thinking, “It’ll be just fine right here.” I’ve done it a thousand times; it’s a particularly risky habit for those who don’t use a UV filter on the front of their lenses. Better safe than sorry, I say; Murphy’s Law doesn’t take days off. Plus, using your caps will help keep your glass a little cleaner.
Using Your Clothes to Clean a Lens – Speaking of clean glass, people can argue all they want about whether microfiber or lens tissue is best for cleaning camera lenses. Here’s what isn’t best: your clothes. Yes, it’s quick and convenient — the bottom of your shirt is always right there with you. The problem is, clothes attract all sorts of debris and oils that you really don’t want to grind into your lens. I’m sure we’ve all done it in a pinch and our lens was no worse off than it was the day before. But if you’re in the habit of this, it would be wise to stop. You’ll appreciate the sharpness and clarity of your glass for many years to come.
Changing Lenses with the Camera Pointed Up. This may not be considered by some to be a huge deal since changing a lens can be done extremely fast, but the fact is that when the lens is off, the sensor is exposed and vulnerable. Of course, some cameras are notorious for being extreme dust magnets, but the static from the sensor of any dSLR is going to attract some amount of dust on matter what. Short of changing lenses in NASA cleanroom, you can help minimize the amount of dust that gets into your camera’s innards by getting into the habit of pointing the sensor downward while changing lenses. Just be sure to keep a tight grip.
Not Using a Strap – I totally understand that some people don’t like camera straps, and that certain shooting situations/environments don’t really lend themselves to the comfortable use of a strap. Going strapless is something I’m guilty of myself, depending on what and where I’m shooting. But I’m occasionally stricken with the nightmarish thought of, “What if I dropped it?!” Because people do drop stuff, cameras included. Generally speaking, using a camera strap is something I consider to be a good habit; if you don’t like your current strap for any number of reasons, you can probably find or customize one that suits your needs. My two camera straps can be quickly disconnected from their respective cameras for times when I just refuse to use a strap. I can try to rationalize it all by reminding myself of the superb build quality of higher end cameras, and that if it were to take a tumble to the ground, it would probably come out unscathed. But what if my camera falls into some large body of water? That’s where it’s going to stay because I’m not much of a swimmer. So, use a camera strap more often than not.
Overdoing Everything on This List – Taking care of your gear is important. Severely scratched lenses and semi-functional cameras won’t do you any good. Similarly, being preoccupied with coddling your equipment is just as useless. While you’re in the midst of a shoot, nothing matters more than getting the shot. If your camera somehow comes away with a ding or a scratch, no big deal; it’s built to withstand quite a lot. Lens glass might be a bit more of a concern, but lenses can take a few knocks of their own as well. The point is to develop and maintain good habits from the beginning; they will eventually become second nature and won’t seem silly or burdensome. A little common sense can go a long way in keeping your gear in great shape for years to come.