I’m lucky enough to be spending a few days relaxing with my family on a beach. On our way there, I was charging my camera batteries and starting thinking of a few tips for keeping my camera safe while still snapping on the sandy shore.

Isn’t my Camera Body Weather-Sealed?

Luckily yes, most camera bodies are weather-sealed, which helps keep out most of the sand and rain. But unless you’re at hiking at a rocky beach, white sand grains are so fine that they really are unnoticeable until it’s too late. I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories about sandy rings and buttons…it gives me the chills.

On the flip side, a lot of this comes from human error. I was shooting a mud run a few years ago and got caught in a monsoon. Without rain gear, I held my camera under my shirt and made a dash to the car. The course was so wet I tripped on a hole and sent my camera into the mud. It cost me $500 to repair the lens, but the body still has a few grains of sand in it when I open the battery cover or card slot, reminding me of my mistake. The next day, I purchased rain gear.

So what do I need to do? Here are a few quick tips about protecting your gear on the beach.

1. Never Change lenses on the Beach

The first tip may sound obvious, but I saw at least four people doing it just the other day. Do not change lenses out on the open beach. Always change lenses inside your car or inside a building where the wind isn’t blowing the sand around. I prefer to pick one lens and shoot with it for the entire day when I’m at the beach. If I must change lenses, I’ll sit in my car, shut the doors, and then change lenses. This way I lessen the chance that sand grains get inside my camera body.

2. Carrying your Camera

Do not store your camera on the towel next to you. Keep it somewhere safe both for security and from the elements. If you want to have it always at the ready, think of using a smaller point-and-shoot. If you really want to keep it near you, make sure it’s covered by a towel or inside a “beach bag” to keep it safe from the sand and ocean mist.

3. Carry a Blower

Before removing the lens, use a blower around where the lens attaches to the body. Be thorough, because this can prevent packed sand from falling into the camera. The Giottos blower I have is less than $10.

4. Lens Wipes

Microfiber cloths are great to carry in your bag, but I prefer wet lens wipes when dealing with sand. If you just use a soft cloth, sand particles can actually scratch the glass while you’re dragging it around the front of the lens. Use a blower first to get the loose sand off, then dab a wet wipe over the lens. Flip the wipe over and now you’re good to drag it around and clean the lens. Remember, the less dragging the better.

5. Use a Soft Brush

Blowers can take up a lot of space in my camera bag, so I don’t always have one with me when I’m traveling light. I usually always have a LensPen though, which has a soft brush that pops out of one end. I’ll use this the same way I use the blower, just to do a light cleaning on the camera, lens, and lens mount.

6. Wipe Down your Camera

Once you get back from the beach and are all showered up, do the same for your camera. I’m not saying douse it in warm water…that’s crazy! Just take a few wet lens wipes or a microfiber cloth and a blower and give the camera a good once-over. This is to remove sea mist that may have built up or loose sand before you put it back in your camera bag. It’ll also clean the caked sunscreen and sweat from the LCD screen and viewfinder.

Don’t let me deter you from bringing your camera to the beach… With a little extra attention, it’ll be just fine. :)