Top 10 tips for how to take care of your camera gear

Your camera is your partner in photography and you love it. How else will you take amazing photos of the view from your favorite hiking trail? That’s why it‘s important to take good care of your camera equipment at all times. We put together our top ten tips for making sure your camera stays in good shape.
Tip #1: Keep your camera clean. Dirt can cause serious damage to your gear. Be sure to clean your equipment thoroughly with a soft cloth after every shoot and avoid grimy surfaces.
Tip #2: When you are not taking photos, keep you camera in a bag or case. This protects it from getting wet, scratched, being knocked over or any number of potential accidents. Don’t have a bag yet? We have a wide selection of camera bags and cases.
Tip #3: Use your camera regularly. Just like it’s essential to drive a car regularly in order to keep it working well, it is crucial to use your camera gear regularly. Leaving your gear sitting for an extended period of time can lead to issues like dust build-up and mold growth in humid places. This shouldn’t be a challenge for the photography lovers out there – we know how hard it is to put your camera down.
Tip #4: Always use lens caps on the front and back of your lenses. It is easy to scratch your lens, therefore you should always have lens caps handy for when you’re not taking photos or changing lenses frequently.
Tip #5: Keep your camera safe with a strap and battery grip. Sometimes even that rubberized grip can slip right out of your hands. Use a camera strap to help catch your camera if you do drop it for any reason. Also, add a battery grip to help you keep a steady hold on your camera when shooting in portrait orientation. Not only will you gain an easily accessible shutter button, but also some added battery life.
Tip #6: Place silica gel packets in your camera bag when it’s humid. Humidity and camera gear don’t mix very well, especially in the heat. Silica gel packets will keep your gear dry in humid weather, preventing fungus and mold from growing.
Tip #7: Protect your lens with a UV filter. Placing a good UV filter on the front of your lens can protect the glass from potential scratches and shattering. It’s a small thing, but it goes a long way in preventing large repair fees for fixing a broken lens.
Tip #8: Keep your camera out of the water. We know your camera is an extension of your hand and we totally understand the desire to take it everywhere with you. But don’t ruin it by getting it wet. Water damage is the worst kind and highly expensive to fix. Use specially designed waterproof cases if you really want to take portraits of dolphins or a rain cover for rainy days.
Tip #9: Insure your camera gear. We suggest adding your camera gear to your home owners’ or renters’ insurance policy. You invested a lot of time and money into that gear of yours. Protect your investment and be sure you can replace it if the worst happens.
Tip #10: Don’t attempt to clean your sensor. Not unless you are equipped with the right tools. Finding specks and dust in your photos is not fun. However, don’t rush to blow into your camera. Your breath may be fresh, but it can damage the coating on your sensor and your lenses for that matter too. Always use a sensor swab or static charged brush for dry cleaning your sensor.
Keep these ten most important tips in mind when handling your camera equipment and it will definitely last. But if something unfortunate does befall your precious gear, don’t be shy! Feel free to ask us questions anytime and we can also repair your gear. Have more crucial safety tips in mind? Share with us below in the comments.

Preserving Heritage Photographs & Going With A Pro

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Quick Review

In previous posts we talked about the basics of storing old photographs and documents, preparing your workspace, why create digital images of old printed photos, and a few of the tools you will need.


If all of this sounds daunting to you, and you have the cash, consider delivering your heritage photos to a professional photograph conservator. Keep in mind that converting photographs to digital format takes time, and can be expensive. Be wary of quick-turn-around places. Suppose you have a few concerns about handing over your photographs to someone else. How do you know they know what they are doing and have the right equipment? How can you be sure your images will be carefully taken care of, and no damage will be done by neglect or accident?

Resolving Trust Issues

I recommend a couple different ways to find a trust-worthy company. The one you choose should have…

·       Proper training
·       Good equipment
·       Lots of experience
·       What their specialty is
·       Positive recommendations from customers
·       Instructions for how to properly ship and handle your items
·       Explanations of how they ensure quality work

Go to the American Institute for Conservation and click on the Find a Conservator link. You can also find a list of private companies that do archival work at the Regional Alliance for Preservation. You could also do an internet search using terms like…

·       Conservation
·       Digitization
·       Preservation
·       Family papers
·       Family photos

You Said Jazz Concert? I Thought You Said Jazz Dance!

Also keep in mind that equally trained and experienced professionals may disagree in their methods and their results for what is best. Different professionals may have very different results in image appearance. Some may alter/restore images a great deal so the digital image has modern coloring and every mark and flaw removed. Others keep discolorations and photo wear and tear as part of the photograph’s story. They may feel that removing the look of age from a photo is not wanted.

Before you embark on this journey of finding the right professional conservator for your projects, know what you are wanting for each image. Communicate every detail of what you want and take nothing for granted. This phrase has been heard at our house a time or two; “I can’t read your mind, honey. Use your words and be clear.” Wink. You will want to know and agree beforehand what procedure will be used, what the cost is and what the timeline to completion is. Make sure you see treatment report documents after completion.

Test Pilot

Not quite sure you have found the right professional to help you? Try them out by sending one object to work on. If you like their process and their result, then you can feel comfortable sending more work their way.

All this while keeping in mind our goals:

·       Goal I: Create beautiful original or restored digital images.
·       Goal II: Preserve original images and keepsakes in the best way possible.

Now you know some guidelines for hiring a professional conservator. Let's say, however, you’ve decided you want to do this yourself. The next post is for you.

Next Post: The Do-It-Yourself-ers

Previous Posts in Series:
Going Digital (link coming soon)

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out,, or look for her on

Lightroom & Book Making: Auto Layout

Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

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Making Your Picks

We are in the Book making section of Lightroom. 

Last post we talked about Book Settings. Here we are covering the Auto Layout section. 

In Preset, check out your options:

Left Blank, Right One Photo, Caption
Left Blank, Right One Photo
One Photo Per Page

Under Preset you see two buttons, Auto Layout and Clear Layout.

Once you have selected your preset choice, you can click the Auto Layout button, and Lightroom automatically fills the pages with the images from your collection, in the order you have them in the filmstrip. If you have done all the set-up work and your images are all in the order you want, then this can be the quickest book design work you have ever done. (Make sure you prepare and include the front and back covers as images, in first and last place, respectively.) 

Start over any time by clicking Clear Layout.

If you prefer to customize your pages a little more than that, then we are going to go back to Presets and select Edit Auto Layout Preset…

And the magic we can do customizing with our Auto Layout options will be explored in the next post.

Next Post: Lightroom & Book Making: Customizing Auto Layout Presets

These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out, or look for her on

Going Digital With Old Photographs

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I heard you want to become a photo preservation expert, or maybe just preservation savvy. Great! This and future posts will show you a few things you will want to know.

The basic goals of preserving older photographs are:

·      Goal I: Create beautiful original or restored digital images.

·      Goal II: Preserve original images and keepsakes in the best way possible.

Why Go Digital?

Digital images are easy to share, move and store in multiple places. Images that are shared are enjoyed! Digital images can be saved on different computers, hard drives, clouds, and servers.

CDs and DVDs

You didn’t mention storage on CDs or DVDs, you may be thinking. You are right. As I write this post, CDs and DVDs are going the way of 8-tracks, laser discs, videos and VCRs. Computers are being made without the large disc drives. Why? CDs and DVDs are more and more limited in the amount of space they hold. They also get damaged and broken easily. Even if you are storing them properly, the discs are deteriorating and will eventually be unusable. The official term is "disc rot". I am personally working right now to move all my images saved on disc to various hard drives and cloud management systems. I recommend you do the same.

Digital Copies in Many Places

Whether you want privacy or sharing and enjoying with as many people as possible, digital images stored in many different places are less likely to be lost. Paper and other materials will eventually deteriorate, so creating a digital image provides a way for potentially greater longevity. It is an important part of the preservation of the photograph and of history. Keep digital copies of the same image in different places. That way you always have a back-up somewhere.

How To Go Digital

There are many different ways to get your photographs into digital format. How you do it will get you different results. Some methods are better than others for specific situations. If you have lots of loose photographs you want to make digital, investing in a quality scanner is a really good idea. If you have an image that is behind glass and you don’t want to or are unable to remove the image from the glass, taking a picture with your digital camera may be the best way to get what you need. (Side note* Be careful with the flash. More information on how to take these kinds of pictures in future posts.) If you have an image that needs delicate handling, taking a photograph of it may also be the best method to preserving the original image.

Photocopies Are Like Fingernails On A Chalkboard

The quality of the scanner is important. That is partly why making photocopies is not recommended for pictures. Photocopy scanners are not set up for fine detail. If you choose to make photocopies, you lose detail and resolution (clarity of the image). Not to mention you end up with another deteriorating paper, the printed photocopy is usually on low-quality high-acid-content paper and the ink colors don’t match the original image. If you have a photocopier handy, I DO recommend photocopying the backs of old pictures that have been written on. 

If you do have a scanner, scan the backs of the photographs after scanning the front. The handwriting and the information written on the backs of these pictures are just as important a part of the image preservation process.

Feeling overwhelmed and thinking you may not want to do this yourself? See the next post on what to look for in a professional conservator.

Next Post: Preserving Heritage Photographs &  Going With A Pro

Previous Posts in Series:

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out,, or look for her on

Competitions and Art Shows

If you have been taking pictures for a while now you may be wondering how well you really are doing.  It's easy to see your progress in the beginning, but there will come a time when you need another set of eyes to help you see where and how you can make improvements to your work.  You may indeed need many sets of eyes to get to your best work.  This is where art shows and competitions can be helpful.  If you have never been involved with either the thought can be daunting.  I am no pro at either, but lucky for you I know people who are!  I will go over some of the whys and hows with you in this post.  The next two weeks will be interviews with two amazing photographers.  One is a competition entering boss and the other is the king of the art show.  (Since the latter is also my dad would that make me the princess of art shows by default?  I wish!)

While the art show is generally also a competition you may wonder why I am dividing the two into different categories.  I do so because they are very different means to a similar goal.  The art show is also a venue for selling your work and making yourself known to the community in a very personal way.  It usually involves displaying a large body of your work and interacting with the public as they browse the various booths and displays at the event.  It gives you an opportunity to meet people who are in the market for art and also those who are just learning what they like.  In this setting you'll need to be confident enough to sell yourself as an artist and in turn sell your work.  If the show is being judged it will be done based on your body of work, not just a certain photograph.  You may be competing with other photographers as well as painters, sculptors, jewelry designers, etc.  The shows I've been at with my dad have been an interesting mix of a little bit of everything.  It's a great chance to meet other artists and collaborate.

A photography competition is a more specific way to have your work judged and critiqued.  It will be judged by professional photographers as opposed to the general public.  Your constructive criticism will be more focused and most likely more useful to you as a tool for improving your work.  A themed competition will cause you to think about things in a more creative way as you will be photographing the same basic thing as everyone else and will want to stand out from the crowd.  An open competition will allow you to submit your very best from every area of your expertise.  They are both great opportunities for growth.  There are competitions going on all of the time.  PPA just finished their annual international competition and you can always find something going on locally or internationally by searching the major camera manufacturers websites, trade publications, and industry blogs.  It's scary to put yourself out there like that but you'll never improve as quickly and as well than you will with the help of the best in the business.  Competitions may be the only way you'll ever get them to look at your stuff.

So how in the world to you get started?  Good question.  I wish I had all the answers but I don't.  Next week I'll be interviewing Lee Brantley, AKA King of the Art Show, with everything you need to know to get out in your community and show off your amazing talent.  And hopefully make a few bucks in the process!

Competitions and Art Shows