This article was written by the New York Institute of Photography, America’s oldest and largest photography school. NYI provides professional-level training via home study for photographers who want to give their images a professional look, and perhaps earn extra income with their camera.
SUMMERTIME TUNE-UP FOR YOUR DIGITAL CAMERA
There’s nothing like an annual tune-up to keep things in tip-top condition. For example, experts advise changing the batteries in your smoke detector every fall when daylight savings time ends, anticipating the winter season of shorter days, heating systems and Christmas tree lights and candles. That makes sense.
Whether you’re planning a trip to some scenic location, or simply planning a backyard party for the Fourth of July, you’ll want to have your camera ready to record your adventures.
Every person who has ever worked a camera store counter will tell you that the majority of “broken” cameras that customers bring in simply need a new battery installed correctly. Unlike the smoke detector, there’s no need to toss the battery from your film camera and replace it with a new one if your camera is working, but it is a very a good idea to pick up a spare battery to have at the ready so you don’t miss a weekend full of photographs at the beach or while you’re on vacation if your current battery conks out. Professionals always carry spare batteries for their gear.
In the digital world, you’re more likely to simply need to recharge your battery. If it’s been a while since you’ve used your camera, this may require finding your charger -- which can be a chore in today’s world of phone and PDA chargers, USB cables, and all the other electronic gizmos that populate the modern home. This may be the time to think about buying a second battery for your camera so you can stay ahead of the game and always have a fresh battery at the ready to replace the one your are using in your camera.
Film and Storage
Particularly if you have plans for a summer vacation, family reunion, or other big event in the coming months, it make sense to stock up on film ahead of time. Don’t wait to buy film at airports or expensive tourist stores – if you do that, you’ll pay much more than you would from a photo specialty store or online vendor. In this peak photo season it’s always good to have film on hand.
If you’re packing a digital camera, now might be the right time to pick up another memory card for your camera. The price of storage continues to drop, so if you’ve been eyeing a bigger card, perhaps it’s time to splurge and get that added capacity – those 512 Mb cards and even the gigabyte goliaths seem to be getting more affordable with every passing day.
Keeping Your Camera Clean
In today’s world of electronic auto-everything cameras, we recommend only minimal cleaning, which we’ll cover shortly. The most important thing is to try to avoid the need to clean in the first place. Try to keep your camera away from the elements that cause the most harm: dirt, dust, sandy grit, and saltwater spray are the mortal enemies of most types of cameras. Keep your camera protected if you’re on a windy beach and the sand is flying. Don’t get too near those big waves to take the picture of your nephew frolicking in the surf. Use your zoom lens instead.
If you want to take pictures in the surf, or poolside, or even underwater, I suggest you consider the inexpensive single use film cameras that come with a waterproof casing. It’s possible to get great results with them.
© NYI Dean Chuck DeLaney
For example, this photograph was taken in about four feet of water in a swimming pool using a single use waterproof camera on a sunny day.
It goes without saying that it’s best to keep your camera off the picnic table or other spot where it might be vulnerable to a spilled soda or a glob of jelly from a passing sandwich. And, if you’re using a digital model, remember to be careful if you change memory cards. We know someone who lost a week’s worth of travel photographs when she accidentally dropped her chip full of images into a glass of red wine while sitting in a scenic café.
Cleaning Your Camera
The one part of your camera’s exterior that you must keep clean is the lens. Dust and fingerprints will compromise the optical efficiency of your lens. That brings us to the most important subject related to cleaning your camera -- before you clean your camera or any other photo equipment you own, remember one thing: Keep it simple. I've heard too many stories about people damaging their cameras by doing too aggressive a cleaning job. For most cleaning chores, I suggest you use just two tools -- a micro fiber cleaning cloth and a rubber squeeze bulb.
Let's review how each of these is used.
Micro Fiber Cleaning Cloth
Micro Fiber weaving is a relatively new invention. The extremely fine fibers and very tight weave of this cloth makes it possible to remove dust, grit, and even the oil left by fingerprints without the use of any solvent. These cloths are not expensive, and they can be washed and reused, so the initial investment of a few dollars is well worth it.
I use the micro fiber cloth to give a general cleaning to the camera body and the front of the outer lens element. If you have a really stubborn fingerprint to remove, you can breath very gently on the lens to let a little moisture from your breath condense on the lens, and then wipe it with the cloth.
For digital cameras, you don’t have to worry about the inside of the camera – there really is no inside area that you need to visit. There’s a slot (or possibly two) for memory storage cards, and a battery chamber. Most of the time these areas don’t require cleaning. You can use your micro fiber cloth to clean the LCD display screen if that is necessary.
©NYI Dean Chuck DeLaney
Clean the dust from the inside of your camera using a blower, but be careful to avoid the shutter blades that you see in the center of this photograph.
Avoid “canned” air for camera cleaning.
Cleaning Lenses and Filters
If you need to clean an SLR lens, I suggest you start by using the blower first to blow all loose dust or grit off both the exposed face of the front lens element and the exposed face of the back lens element if it's easy to reach. There should be no way for dust or dirt to enter the lens barrel and affect the internal elements of the lens. Then use your micro fiber cloth to finish the job. I use the same combination for glass and plastic filters as well. Lots of photographers don't bother to clean their filters, which is a big mistake since they're more likely to get covered with fingerprints than the camera's lens.
©NYI Dean Chuck DeLaney