Store Your Cameras for Efficiency, Not Exhibition

When I’m working with new photographers, something I’ve noticed is how carefully they store their DSLRs by removing the lens, placing caps and covers on everything, and gingerly ensconcing their entire setup into a branded bag. Sometimes they’ll even remove the battery and SD card, too. I can’t remember the last time I’ve stored cameras this way.

Oh, I can tell you that I always did, at first. I always left the bodies on one shelf of my camera cabinet and lenses on another, all capped and protected, even when the lenses were wearing UV filters.

But then I realized this all kept me just a few more steps away from shooting. I don’t do this anymore at all. Now, lenses stay on, memory cards stay loaded, and batteries stay in the camera unless I’m semi-retiring it. As a result, in addition to speeding up my “go time” every time I need to use a camera for a shoot, it’s also resulted in me just picking up a camera to shoot more often than I usually have. Kids doing something cute? Camera’s ready.

It’s the same reason I keep lens caps off and UV filters on. No lens caps means one less thing in the way of starting to shoot photos. I can’t count the number of times in the past where I have lifted the camera to my eye to capture a moment only to miss it because my lens cap was left on.

A few other factors caused me to rethink camera storage. For one, while it was neat and organized to separate bodies from glass and store each separately, removing a lens also introduced an extra chance for dust to be sucked into the lens mount and onto the sensor. I ended up having to clean my sensors far more often as a result. Now, with a 24-70 practically planted onto my main cameras full-time, I only end up having to clean those about once a year.

The falling price of SD cards was another factor that changed my workflow. Now, I keep 64gb or 128 gb cards in all slots of all my cameras, all the time. At 20 bucks for a reasonably fast Sandisk SD card, there’s no reason not to. Yes, I have backup cards, but rarely do I need to hit them. There’s really no point these days with cards of this size. I even shoot most days on JPG + raw modes on most cameras, just to be able to post and send photos quickly to my phone. Oddly, CF card technology and price has not seemed to keep pace with SD cards, and so for my one active CF card-using camera left, I stuffed a slightly more expensive 64gb card into it for good. At the resolution my Nikon D700 shoots at (12 megapixels), I can’t remember the last time I needed a second CF card on a shoot.

Every instruction manual tells you that you shouldn’t store batteries in the camera, and I agree, mostly because the batteries need to be charged every so often. But that just means I keep another battery in the camera. Some of that battery advice might be fear-mongering. I’ve found cameras that I’ve left somewhere for six months or more that often have batteries in them that still work just fine. I found a Canon EOS Rebel T6s that I thought was lost with photos from 8 months ago and it still had half a charge and was ready for a day’s work. As long as you’re not storing things in extreme temperatures, you’ll probably be OK. Just remember to occasionally use the camera and run the batter through a cycle.

Changing my camera storage techniques have made me differentiate between what feels good to do and what’s actually practical. It’s helped me get going on shoots faster and encouraged me to shoot more.

How do you store your cameras? Do you take everything apart and organize by focal length and camera model? Do you shrink wrap your cameras between shoots? Does my way make sense? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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