Camera Safety:

I’m such a stickler for camera safety.  I wouldn’t even let my children touch my camera to take a photo back in the day unless the neck strap was firmly around their neck.  I’ve seen how much glass is inside a SLR lens and how many intricate parts inhabit them, yet I’ve also seen people hanging over ponds to photograph waterlilies with the neck strap dangling just above the water line.  It gives me the willies in no uncertain terms.  A neck strap hanging is also more likely to cause camera shake so secure that strap either around your neck or on your wrist.

I have taught many people over the years, if they can’t handle the neck strap on their neck, to at least put one hand through the neck strap and twist it twice then grip the camera.  If they do accidentally drop it, it will at least be caught on their wrist.

Cameras in use are better off being stored in a bag on the floor between takes or directly on the floor rather than on a table or desk.  I have caught my neck strap on the edge of my desk once and the camera hit the floor breaking it.  I learnt this one the hard way.  If I hadn’t left it there instead of putting it away in its bag, it wouldn’t have had the chance to get so easily damaged.  The fall jammed the battery grip up into itself, and it was never the same again.

Cameras travelling in cars should also be stored in the bag or at worst, on the floor of the car in the foot well.  My friend had his DSLR camera on the front seat of his car and after a sudden stop he wasn’t expecting, it flew up and dented his glove box and damaged the camera.

And don’t forget to zip up your camera bag properly.  My friend dropped her lens onto the carpet breaking it just before we were due to shoot a wedding, due to moving quickly with a half open bag.  She was carrying a longer lens as a backup but it limited her photography options for the day and it had to be replaced.  It was only a short fall onto a soft surface but was enough to break it. I’m also guilty of this one.  Quickly shoving gear into a bag and driving off, only to find a camera and lens hit the ground in my garage when I went to get the bag from the car after driving home.  It broke the glass UV filter on the lens and had to be replaced, which was $120 spend I could have avoided with a little more care.

When travelling, try to avoid looking like you are carrying a lot of camera gear as you could be a target for mugging.  Travel in numbers if possible, stay in well-lit areas, and keep your camera out of sight when not in use.  Some camera backpacks have a zip pocket that presses against your back which makes it harder to get the camera by stealth such as in crowded trains and in pick pocket type of situations.

I knew a guy who used to put band aids on his big digital SLR camera when he travelled in very busy places so it looked like his camera was old and not worth stealing.  When he returned home, he just removed the band aids and cleaned it up with cleaning solution.

I met an elderly guy the other day who told me his camera – a Leica – was his Grandfathers and really old.  Turns out it is just styled that way but in fact cost him $21,000.  $14.000 for the body and another $7,000 for the lens.  He tells people it’s his Grandfathers so hopefully they think it’s too old to sell if he should happen to get mugged on his weekly trips to the city to do street photography.

Same goes for your mobile phone camera.  Keep it out of sight and don’t flash it around especially if it’s the latest most expensive model on the market.  A big phone sticking out of your back pocket is a target for someone to bump into you while it is easily stolen and you probably won’t notice.  Use a cross body bag, a fanny pack around your waist or a money belt that goes under your clothes. Don’t leave it on tables in pubs, clubs or anywhere else.  Keep it on you at all times especially in crowded areas.

Even though quality DSLR cameras are getting more and more robust and weather sealed, it is still a good idea to protect them from dust, dirt, water, especially sea water, moisture, dents and falls.  Use your bag, clean it regularly and generally just look after it.  A lens pen brush can be bought off the internet pretty cheap and used to clean your camera and lens.  The slightest bit of sand can cause your lens to be scratched if you don’t have a UV filter attached and also it can get into your lens mechanism so it grinds when moving between focal lengths.  I’ve seen this after my friend took his camera to the Outback and it was grindingly awful to hear.

Be careful using a tripod with your camera on top unattended.  It can be stolen, knocked over, hit by the wind or if you are too close to the ocean, a rogue wave can take you and it out.  I often wear my neck strap when my camera is attached to a tripod and if it’s windy or on unstable ground.  Plenty of times it has gone to fall over but I was able to save it.  It’s not the most comfortable but definitely works in risky situations.

When photographing be aware of your surroundings especially in public.  Avoid taking pictures of people without their consent, especially children, and be mindful of where you are pointing your camera. Additionally, be aware of any signs that indicate photography is prohibited. Plenty of people I know have gotten into arguments with security guards, airport staff and parents at children’s sports games or on beaches.

Look after yourself when out photographing too.  Don’t put yourself in harms way for a shot.  It’s not worth it and plenty of people have come to grief trying to nail a tricky image or just being distracted and not noticing their surroundings such as buses coming at them while they are standing on a road being distracted by a shot.

With the popularity of mirrorless digital cameras, it’s also important to note that with a mirrorless camera there is no mirror between the sensor and the end of the lens.  This means if you point your camera at the sun you can damage your sensor just like if your eye looked at the sun.  This goes for leaving your camera say on a picnic table pointing at the sun.  If you are doing this, at least put your lens cap on to protect your sensor.  Laser lights such as at a night club or wedding reception are also not good for a mirrorless camera as it can affect the sensor.

So to summarize, keep your gear out of sight, protect it from the elements especially then sun and water, zip up your camera bag, use your neckstrap and be mindful when out photographing, and your camera should have a nice long life.