By John Anderson
On my recent safari in Kenya, I quickly became the “go to guy” when someone had a photography issue, and that’s OK. Of the 12 people in our group, four were serious photographers, and I was happy to share my 40 years of photographic experience with them. When I started to incorporate digital photography into my workflow in 2000, it was largely a world of unknowns. The “experts” preached about the dos and don’ts, and we all experimented a bit. Over time, certain things became axioms, and here is some advice:
Format Storage Cards – whether your camera uses an SD, Compact Flash or other card, it must be formatted before use. The manufacturer does not know which camera the card will be used in, and each camera writes files a bit differently. Each camera also has the format function, and it must be used. I go so far as to format each card in the specific camera that will use it. While some consider this overkill, better safe than sorry.
Download Images from the Card – storage cards hold files and they don’t have a computer on board. Cameras do. Download your photos from the card using a card reader. Connecting a camera to a computer has risks, and it will often deplete the battery as a transfer is taking place. Card readers are powered by the computer.
Empty the Cards and Reformat – after downloading and backing up images, I store the cards until needed again. Then, I trash all the images using my computer and reformat the card in the camera. Storage is very inexpensive today.
Don’t Delete Images in the Camera – many experienced photographers never delete images in their cameras, and I am one. Let your camera do what it was designed to do, record and store images. Deleting files takes time and sucks away battery power, and there may be other consequences. Another better safe than sorry practice.
Avoid the Digital Zoom – manufacturers have largely abandoned the “digital zoom” concept as optical zooms have become more affordable, and that’s a good thing. All digital zooms did was throw away data to make the image bigger, and the results were not good. Many cell phones still use this “technology.”
Keep the Sensor Clean – the digital sensors in cameras can become a magnet for dust, but this only applies to cameras with interchangeable lenses. During our safari, the dirt paths we drove on generated a lot of dust. It was not practical to keep my cameras under cover, but I also didn’t change lenses out in the field. I cleaned my cameras and lenses regularly with cloths, a small blower and a camelhair brush. I have not seen evidence of dust on my sensors to date.
When you do change lenses, make sure to turn the camera off. This takes away any electrical charge on the sensor that may attract dust. Image stabilization features on lenses should also be turned off as manufacturers suggest. Photographers should also be cognizant of condensation. When a camera is moved from a colder to warmer environment (i.e. stepping out of your air conditioned car into our current hot weather), condensation can occur, and the moisture can attract dust. Let the camera acclimate to the heat.
I hope these tips improve your photographic experiences and make you a better photographer. We’ll delve into properly storing your photographs in our last segment.