How to protect your equipment from accident, wear and tear, and mess
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Whether you’re an amateur photographer with one camera or a seasoned veteran with a multi-camera setup, it is undeniable that photography can be an expensive hobby or career. So, in order to protect my valuable equipment in the studio, I have developed some techniques over the years to ensure safety in the studio. These are all suggestions and techniques that I use, so it’s important to know that these tips are things that I personally believe, though every photographer prefers different things to keep their equipment safe. These tips also only apply to those in a studio environment- these may not apply to those photographing outside or not in a controlled studio.
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Tip 1: Camera Straps
Contrary to proper belief, I have found that using camera straps is far more dangerous than using them. The camera strap proves to be more of a safety hazard when in the studio, in that the strap can get caught on things around it. Or, when moving around the studio, one could accidentally get caught in the strap and bring down the camera with the tripod or c-stand as the camera loses balance. This is the greatest hazard when using a camera strap in the studio, but there are other issues with it. The strap has some significant weight to it, especially when shooting, so if any air movement moves the strap, the camera moves with it and will ruin the shot. To remedy the issues caused by traditional camera straps, if I absolutely need to use a camera strap, I use a lighter strap with a quick-release on it to prevent things from getting caught onto it. However, I always try to limit the number of things I attach to my camera to reduce the risk of accidents.
Tip 2: Filters
Many photographers use filters on their cameras to enhance their images and protect their lenses, however, it is a debatable subject as some photographers prefer to not use filters. I prefer not to use filters in the studio. The only time I will use a filter is a polarized lens filter for shiny objects that would otherwise ruin a shot. Filters, in my opinion, reduce the quality of images in videos in that a filter is usually lower-grade glass than that of the lens. Filters also pose a hazard as the space between the lens and the filter creates a small area to trap dirt and dust and ruin images, whereas not having a filter would just allow dirt and dust to be cleared from the lens. Filters are sometimes a choice in protecting lenses, but I have found that the opposite happens. I have dropped a camera a handful of times, and the times that I was using a filter, it did not sufficiently protect my lens. Indeed, the drop damaged both the lens and filter, creating unnecessary costs. I have also experienced a time in which the filter was damaged so badly that it was the cause of the lens is damaged, which would have otherwise been fine. It’s still important to understand that this is mostly for a studio environment, with controlled lighting environments, which can sometimes fill in the purpose of filters.
Tip 3: Using Sandbags
The studio can sometimes be a minefield of stands, tripods, and wires that are prone to be tripped over if one isn’t careful. To help create some extra stability around the multiple light stands, tripods, and c-stands that I use, I put sandbags over the stands’ legs. These help the equipment on top be more balanced if one were to accidentally bump into or get caught on the equipment, which would usually make for a very messy and expensive accident. This is especially useful for tripods, as cameras can be quite heavy with a lens, and sandbags will ensure that it won’t fall over. I fill the sandbags up with medium-sized rocks for added weight, though this makes them quite hard to move around. Another drawback to using sandbags is that repositioning equipment becomes a bit harder during shoots, but since it is somewhat rare that I reposition my equipment, I find it worth the trouble just for a bit more safety.
Tip 4- Using an External Remote and Not Touching the Camera
Especially as a food photographer whose hands are prone to mess, an external remote is a key to keeping your camera safe and clean. As both the chef and photographer, I try to keep my hands far from my camera and other delicate equipment to prevent a bigger mess and keep them safe. Using an external remote is extremely easy and helps in this endeavor, as I wrap the remote in a couple of layers of cellophane to keep it clean, regularly changing the cellophane. The remote is also useful in that it is not attached to the camera, which reduces the risk of damaging the camera. I have found that staying as far from possible from the camera is key to totally reducing risk, in that, if one reduces time touching the camera’s controls or shooting, the lower the risk of bumping into it and ruining the shot or accidentally toppling over the tripod is.
Tip 5: External Monitors
In the same vein as using a wireless remote, using external monitors allows one to stay in one position, far from a camera, and being able to see and shoot from there. If one is moving about the studio, especially with a multiple-camera setup, the risk of tripping over something or bumping into something delicate is quite high. An external monitor allows a camera to stay where it is, while one is able to see what they’re shooting. This is not only convenient but makes the studio safer for all of your equipment. However, using external monitors for a multiple-camera setup will quickly clutter up an already packed studio, with many moving parts such as wires being involved, even still will make one’s studio run much smoother.
Tip 6: Cable Tethering and Wire Management
With all of the equipment in my studio, wires have quickly become an issue when it comes to efficiency. My old Canon 5D Mark III has sustained significant damage to its a port from being connected to an external monitor when I had to replace the port, and I had a missing camera for a week while it was being fixed. To fix this, I use a tethering system when attaching wires to my cameras to prevent damage to its ports. Preventing port damage is extremely important as it can put a camera out of commission for a while, and can be costly for an easily avoidable accident. When dealing with wires that connect all the moving parts of a studio, I try to group all the cables for my lights, power, monitors, etc. Cable management can also be as easy as taping wires to the floor, or along with the ceiling.
Tip 7: Using a Fan
When cooking for a shoot in the style of a video recipe, I have run into an issue that comes from steam that may be the result of cooking. As I use an overhead camera, the steam will rise into the lens, fogging the shot and might damage my lens. To remedy this, I use a small fan to push steam away from my camera. It is important, however, to ensure the fan is on a lower setting, as high amounts of wind will slightly push the camera, ruining the shot.