As I write this the whole world is dealing with and addressing a worldwide pandemic called Coronavirus – COVID-19. This is a serious situation that we all have the ability to affect. Social distancing and self isolating has become a part of our lives. Those who are able to work from home are doing just that.
As photographers we can take this time to catch up with certain chores that are usually left for more opportune times. If you find yourself with some time on your hands during this odd time I have a few suggestions for you to consider that will help you in the long run. Let’s just call them chores – Necessary chores that are easily put off for later. These really don’t have to be unenjoyable, especially if there’s really no rush.
So here you go. 6 Things a Photographer Can Do While Social Distancing.
Clean your camera and sensor – Dust bunnies sound cute and cuddly, but they’re certainly no friend to the photographer. Most modern cameras have a self cleaning feature that one can use for most common dust specks, but in time there will eventually accumulate more stubborn particles that will need to be dealt with with a direct cleaning of the surface of the sensor.
Sensor cleaning sounds scary. We’ve all been warned how we could ruin our sensor if we do it wrong, or have heard horror stories about how a friend ruined their camera for good trying to clean their sensor. And, in fact, the earlier methods of sensor cleaning could cause scratches if an abrasive dust particle was dragged across the surface of the sensor. I was scared for years to even try it until one day I decided to take an older camera that I had replaced with an upgraded body and attempt to clean the sensor. This sensor was terrible.
I had done some research into the different methods and kits available for one to clean their own sensor. I decided upon one that had a sticky pad that you would dab onto the surface of the sensor. It worked great and at this time it’s the type of sensor cleaner that I would recommend.
But if you still are unable to build up the nerve to try this yourself you can still take some time to clean your camera body and lenses. Once this situation is resolved and we’re all able to mix and mingle again, take your camera body to a camera shop and let them handle the sensor. It doesn’t usually cost a lot.
Clean your lenses. Purchase some good lens cleaner spray and some soft cloths and take some time to carefully clean the front and back elements (glass part) of your lenses. While you’re at it pull out your filters and do the same to them.
Clean and adjust your tripod. We don’t think alot about our tripod until it breaks or quits working. And when it does it’s usually because we have neglected it. We’ve allowed the parts and pieces to corrode or to become out of adjustment.
Most all tripods have some sort of metal parts, be it a screw or the whole thing. Even carbon fiber tripods can have places where corrosive or abrasive material can hide. Saltwater and sand is the worst and it’s recommended that you clean your tripod completely as soon as possible after getting it wet with saltwater. Aluminum can corrode quickly and make disassembly difficult. Rinse your tripod with fresh water right away and disassemble and clean it as soon as you can.
Disassembling your tripod can be a bit intimidating at first but once you do it once you’ll remember the next time. Especially if you do it with a certain amount of frequency. If you’re unsure of your ability to reassemble it, take photos as you disassemble it so that you have some reference when you put it back together again. You can do one leg at a time so that you have the others to reference.
Once it’s apart wash and dry the pieces in fresh soapy water and then rinse and dry completely. Never use oil or WD-40 on your tripod as it will attract and adhere dirt particles which will hinder operation and wear the tripod out prematurely.
Calibrate your monitor. I’ve heard so many people complain that their photos, when viewed on a different computer or their phone, don’t look the same as they did when they processed it on their computer. Sometimes the photo is darker or brighter than it looked or that the colors aren’t right. There are times when someone is printing their photo and it comes back from the printer looking completely wrong.
Computer monitors need to be calibrated every so often. It’s not a difficult chore to do but you will need to invest in a monitor calibration device. It’s a good investment and once you buy one you will own it and use it forever. I use a Spyder 5 Pro but most all are good.
Organize and backup files. It’s easy to come in from a trip out in the field and download all of your photos and then forget about them until you have time to process one or two. They can all add up and then left unattended, including backing them up. Redundancy isn’t just a fun word to say, it’s something that’s important o a photographer when it comes to keeping their work secure for the future. Hard drives and memory cards fail. Accidents happen.
If you’re anything like me you will have ten times more unprocessed files than you will keepers. Create some hard drive space. Thin them out and backup the keepers. In addition to any hard drive backups consider uploading the master files for any photos that you process and finish to some cloud space. Most of us have some free space available to us from our cell phone providers, for instance. Secure some cloud space and create a folder in a file that contains the raw file, the finished processed file in a high resolution/non-lossy format such as PSD or TIFF and even your formatted jpegs for sharing on social media etc. If you do that you won’t need to worry about hours of uploading all of your files, good or bad, and you will have a secure copy of your finished photos, the most important ones.
Clean cards/charge batteries. Don’t wait until the night before a shoot to clean your cards and check your battery charge. If you have multiple batteries consider getting some small round sticky tags to stick onto the batteries that are charged so that you don’t have to put the battery in the camera to check the charge. Take it off of the charger, tag it on the end. Once you use the battery take the sticker off of the end of the battery and stick it on the side so you know that it’s been used and needs to be charged once you get back home.
Learn something new. What a great time to sit down in front of YouTube and pull up a few processing videos. YouTube can be a good place to learn something new or to completely run in the other direction, but you have the power to know if someone there aligns with your vision or not. Whether they have value in their video that you can use to make your photos better.
We have finally come to a place in photography where people understand that digital photos can be shot in a format that allows the photographer to decide how the finished photos will look. They are understanding that many of the processes are similar to what was done back in film days in the darkroom by artistic photographers like Ansel Adams. Talented photographers are usually also expected to be talented in how they process their photos in Lightroom, Photoshop or both. Find some videos that will push your understanding of Lightroom or Photoshop, or both.
Also, in this day and age, there are so many other options for photographers than Lightroom or Photoshop. Give one of them a try, you may like it better. Process some of your photos using the help of a tutorial video using software such as one of my favorite alternatives to Adobe, On1. Give some new software a try. You might like it. You can usually download and install a program for free for 30 days to try it out.
These are all ideas for things to do, but in reality they’re all things that we are doing or should be doing anyway. Zombie apocalypse or not. This is just as short list of six things. I’m sure that you’ll discover more things that you’ve not had time to do because you had too much time away from your desk. I didn’t mention cleaning out Clif Bar wrappers from your backpack. Now’s the time. Make social distancing work in your favor. Then once it’s over you’ll be raring to go. Your camera and sensor will be clean, your tripod will be smooth and functioning properly, your monitor will be calibrated, your files will be organized and backed up, your cards will be clean and your batteries will be charged. And furthermore you’ll be smarter than you were before because you’ve taken the time to learn something new in your down time.
Now. Tell me how bored you are.