Ideally, the only thing that stands between a photographer and a great image is the camera. Inevitably, though, dust, dirt and rain will become factors too. To keep a camera functioning properly despite these conditions, a photographer needs to both protect the camera and clean it regularly. While there are all kinds of products out there to keep your gear protected, from rain guards to professional camera cleaning services, they can get pricey. Ill-advised DIY camera-care tutorials can actually cause damage to your camera. Fortunately, there are some camera care hacks that are safe and well worth the effort.
Here are five DIY ways to keep your photography gear safe and clean.
1. Quick and Cheap Rain Cover
During my days of shooting high school football, I picked up a pack of what were essentially ponchos for my camera. Not as fancy as an underwater case, the rain guards I purchased were the equivalent of L-shaped plastic bags with a few well-placed holes. While the pack wasn’t expensive, one of my first thoughts was, Well, I could’ve made that.
And in fact, you can make that, and there are about as many ways to make a cheap rain cover as there are different ready-made guards to buy. Digital Camera World, shared what amounts to probably the simplest DIY camera project you will ever encounter, but it’s perfect for those who only find themselves shooting in wet weather a few times a year. Actually, it’s so simple and cheap, these things could easily be called disposable.
What you need is a plastic bag, rubber bands, tape and something to score the holes with, like a razor blade or even a fingernail. The most important step is to inspect the bag first to make sure the only holes in the bag are the ones you put there intentionally, so water won’t find its way in. For the full step-by-step process, check out this tutorial.
2. A Simple Rain Guard For Your Lens
While a plastic bag will keep moisture off your camera, it won’t prevent droplets from settling on the lens and ruining your images. Lens hoods will help, but depending on the conditions, they may not be long enough to keep all the rain at bay.
To extend the effectiveness of a lens hood against rain (or to shield a lens that doesn’t have a hood), you can build a rain guard with a CD case – the kind that a hundred or so blank CDs come stacked in. Connect two of them with a hole cut to fit the lens in, and the cases will give you an overhang that will help keep droplets off the lens. For the full step-by-step guide, head over to Digital Camera World’s full tutorial here.
This lens guard works best alongside a plastic cover for your camera, or a large piece of plastic that will help shield you from the rain as well. It’s also a good idea to keep a towel handy to quickly wipe away any moisture that may hit the lens. Golf towels often include clips, making them easy to hook inside your jacket or camera bag for easy access. As with any DIY rain cover, always check for holes and potential leaks before taking your gear out in the rain.
Bonus tip: For the lowdown on how to manage photography in the rain, check out this post from National Geographic’s Jim Richardson.
3. Tackle your own sensor cleaning
While some sensor cleanings should be left up to the pros, you can do basic maintenance on your sensor to prevent dust from building up. There are a few ways to approach this, from the easy and safe, yet least-effective, to the more risky yet most effective. PhotoJojo gives excellent descriptions of the different methods, as well as how to tell when to leave it to the professionals, and which DIY “ideas” can be rather disastrous.
The safest method is to use the camera’s built-in system if your camera has one. Many more recent camera models have a function that will rapidly vibrate the inner mechanics to prevent dust build up. When this isn’t effective enough, air can be used (bulb air is best), and if that’s not enough, a brush.
For the full details (and how not to clean a sensor) head over to PhotoJojo’s tutorial.
4. Cleaning for the smallest item in your camera bag; the memory card
Although they are often overlooked, when memory cards don’t work, disasters happen. The contacts, or metal pieces, at the top of a memory card can get dirty, preventing images from being recorded or even read. Cleaning them is simple, however, and can be done with just an eraser. Just make sure to make copies of any files on the card, if you can. Here’s how.
Okay, so the Number 2 part has nothing to do with the quality of the eraser, but using an eraser does really work to clean memory cards.
5. Give dust the brush off
Dust can be disastrous for a DSLR; on the lens, on the body and unfortunately, sometimes even inside the camera. Keeping dust off your camera is a must, but regular paint brushes will work just as well as a specific camera brush. Just make sure you pick up a high-quality paintbrush. Cheaper brushes tend to lose their bristles, and you don’t want those on your camera, either.
If you shoot in areas that tend to have a lot of dust, it’s a good idea to keep the brush easily accessible. Digital Camera World has an excellent tutorial on how to attach a clip to a regular paintbrush to keep it easily accessible (this certainly would have come in handy shooting at the very dusty County Fair). Start with a paintbrush with a wooden handle, a split ring, and a few tools, and you’ll end up with a brush that can be easily attached to your camera bag. Head here for the full instructions.
BONUS tip: Did you know that cleaning a lens the wrong way can actually act more like rubbing sandpaper on the lens? If you’re tackling some DIY camera care, make sure you know how not to clean a lens.
Featured Image: Rain, By Sukio