Regular maintenance of your gear is the first step to better pictures. In our studio, we maintain our gear about once a year. Frequency can be determined by your how often you shoot and shooting environment. Here are some things you can do to maintain your gear:
1. Clean Your Sensor
It’s good practice to clean your sensor frequently. Some photographers clean their sensor after every shoot. For studio-based shoots, I like to clean my sensors once a month. However, if you’re shooting outside and changing lenses frequently, then I would recommend cleaning your sensor weekly. Of course if you see dirt on your sensor, then it’s best to clean it off right away.
To avoid exposing your sensor to dirt and dust on location, try to use one camera body per lens. If you only have one camera body, then try to change lenses while your camera protected from the elements. A good location is in your car.
2. Wipe the Camera Body
Working in the hot Florida sun, I tend to sweat a lot. The body of my camera starts to get greasy and its important to keep it clean. You’ll want to use some wet wipes to clean it off. Be careful to only use wipes that are 100% alcohol free. We use Hoodman Lens Cleanse in our studio. They come with two wipes in the package (wet and dry), so we can wipe down the cameras really well, then use the dry cloth so the cameras are dry before we pack them up.
3. Camera/Gear Repair
Is something broken on your camera? Or is something not working right in your studio? Maybe a backdrop ripped, or a light bulb burnt out. Set a time every quarter to send your gear in for repair, or order a replacement part. If its in your budget, have spares of the things you use most like strobe bulbs, light stands, etc.
4. Firmware Updates
Camera manufacturers constantly release updated firmware for your camera. Sometimes this happens so frequently that your brand-new camera arrive with out-of-date software. This happens more frequently in the video world, but still applies to still cameras. Firmware updates can bring improved noise reduction, better ISO capabilities, updated focusing capabilities, compatibility with new lenses, just to name a few. To check for updates, you’ll want to go to the manufacturers website and find the support tab.
Canon separates professional and consumer camera models.
If you have a consumer camera like the Canon T3I, the the easiest thing to do is go to the support page by clicking here: http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/support/consumer and typing in the model number of your camera. This will work for both consumer and professional cameras.
If you have a professional camera body (40D or higher), then you can click this link and choose your camera from the list: http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/professional/standard_display/support_pro/pro_firmware-updates
5. Lens Calibration
DSLR autofocus systems may not be as precise as you think. Manufacturing tolerances often result in subtle mismatches between camera bodies and lenses, resulting in poor autofocus performance. This can cause your images to be softer than they should be. Every manufacturer of high-end DSLRs acknowledges this by providing auto-focus adjustment capabilities right in their cameras menu systems. At our studio, we use LensAlign by Michael Tapes.
Professional photographers who own several camera bodies and/or professional-grade lenses can apply to join Nikon Professional Services or Canon Professional Services. As a member of these professional service groups, you’ll quality for free cleaning and gear maintenance, as well as expedited services so you’ll spend more time shooting and less time waiting for your gear to be repaired. Some of their services are free, and some are for a nominal fee.
Here are the requirements for joining Nikon Professional Services:
- NPS Sponsor (current member to verify that you are a full-time photographer)
- Professional Work Information
- Ownership of a minimum of 2 Nikon Professional Digital Bodies and 3 NIKKOR or DX NIKKOR lenses
The requirements for joining Canon Professional Services are a little more complicated than Nikon. Canon offers multiple tiers, from Silver to Platinum, which each have different qualification points to join. The Silver membership only requires 10 points. Canon has a Qualified Products List that you can use to see how many points worth of gear you have. Here are a few examples:
Only you can determine how often to perform regular maintenance to your gear. I suggest either quarterly, bi-annually, or yearly. Its best to use a calendar like Google Calendar and set a date to maintain your gear and have an email sent to remind you.
Every once in a while weird things happen, but preventative maintenance and keeping your gear up-to-date should prolong the life of your camera and allow you to shoot worry-free.Be sure to follow Nick for more photo and video updates!