I admit I’ve run into unnecessary camera gear trouble. Let’s not talk about the time I flooded Canon DLSR because of a poor seal on my underwater housing.
Equipment failures—or clumsiness—can lead to panic. Here’s what you can do to prevent such issues from ruining your photography excursion.
First, come prepared
Before you even leave your house (or studio) ask yourself:
- Do I have enough memory? Store images on multiple memory cards.
- Do you have enough batteries? Carry an extra one or more.
- Can your camera withstand the elements? It is obvious that if you are going to take underwater photos you need a housing for your DSLR like a Canon 5D Mark IV. But even if you are going out on a rainy day make sure that your camera and lenses are weather sealed or not.
- Is your camera protected well enough? Everything from sand to water poses a threat. Bring a weather-resistant bag, some are rated as weatherproof. A lens hood is actually quite protective in snow or rain.
- Is your equipment insured? It will prevent financial loss if there’s a worst-case scenario.
- Backup: If you can afford it have a second camera body. I found that the camera bodies especially the recent ones that are loaded with electronics are more trouble prone than lenses.
Troubleshooting common issues
Weather, humidity levels, general hinky-ness can all affect your ability to get that great shot. So, a few suggestions about those common issues.
Here’s how you handle some cold weather problems:
- Battery drainage: Batteries discharge faster in cold weather. When I took photos in the Arctic, I kept fresh backup batteries wrapped against my body.
- Hazy pictures: A UV filter can prevent haze, which is more common in winter and cold weather.
- Camera turns off: It could be wet. Dry it off overnight with the compartment doors open.
Other problems that may occur include:
- Stuck shutter: This can cause over or underexposed images. Put the camera in manual mode. Turn off any features that could drain battery, like image stabilization. Then, set the shutter to the slowest speed. Take a picture and open the battery door during exposure. By momentarily interrupting power, you can possibly unjam the shutter. Repeat if needed.
- Foggy lens: When moving from a warm to cold environment (or vice-versa), John Shafer, a big-mountain sports photographer, recommends gradually introducing your camera to the weather, using your camera bag and airtight plastic bag as an insulator.
- Sticky aperture ring: This can cause overexposed images and unwanted depth of field. It’s caused by gear being left in high-temperature conditions for too long. You’ll have to disassemble, clean, degrease, and re-oil the lens. This is difficult, so maybe find a repair specialist in the area.
As Thomas Heaton, a landscape photographer, attests, we must accept we’ll “have to clean, service, and fix our gear”. Don’t let that fear keep you from going out.
Fixing on the fly is common for photographers. With the right preparation and troubleshooting methods, you can overcome equipment issues—and get the shots you’ve dreamed of taking.