If you go by the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, it’s going to be an early spring — a great excuse to get some photography-related spring cleaning done. Here are some of the spring cleaning tasks you should consider.
As photographers, it can be easy to put off certain tasks. Whether they’re boring and business related or just dull work, they aren’t going to inspire any behind-the-scenes Instagram posts. Instead, these are the ingredients for success. Getting these things in order will make it easier to have a productive upcoming year and might even save you some money.
Clean Your Gear
The first task is the most straightforward: clean your gear! While winter-weather shooting might not leave your gear as dirty as a day at the beach or out in a desert, it still could use a good cleaning. Consider a wet cleaning of the sensor, since dry winter air can lead to more static and more dust stuck on the sensor. The same goes for front elements, where any precipitation could have left water spots or collected dust.
Consider cleaning your PC’s dust filters: you’ll be rewarded with a quieter machine and can even get back some performance from higher sustained boost clocks, owing to better cooling.
As always, avoid using canned air on camera gear, especially on the sensor or glass. The additives to the spray will just ruin whatever you’re cleaning. Instead, consider a rocket blower for your camera and the more expensive (and counter-intuitively named) DataVac for your other electronics.
Tripods can use maintenance too. Many models will allow you to partially disassemble the legs, where you can then remove debris and lubricate the threads, if necessary. Computer monitors can be cleaned with a tiny amount of distilled water and a microfiber cloth, but make sure the display is off and any hard debris has been removed from the screen first.
While the end of the calendar year is a trigger point for many tax-related tasks, if you’re one of the many photographers who own their own business or shoot freelance, tax implications are a year-round consideration. Also, it’s just about time to start working on your return for American tax season, which should help when planning for the upcoming year.
Take stock of your deductions. Should you consider writing off certain upcoming purchases? If you’ve started to make more income from a side photography job, do you need to adjust things like withholding? Tax situations are all unique, and this isn’t tax advice, so consider working with a professional to plan the best setup for your new year.
Another big consideration is business licensing. Your locality can handle things one of many different ways, but for instance, around me, a sales tax license is required for each area I’d want to sell prints in. If you have an upcoming show or just want to expand your business into a new region, think about what licenses you’ll need to get.
It’s also a great time to consider what you’re paying for business-related insurance. If you’ve bought new gear, you may have to add it on the rider or policy that covers your equipment. At the same time, consider whether you’re still getting the best rate available.
Speaking of saving money, have you checked your credit card recently? Whether it’s a trial subscription you never canceled or just a plan you don’t use anymore, subscriptions can be a vampire sucking money from you.
Take a look at what services you actually use and consider some less expensive alternatives. Hosting is a great example. While having your own website is great, do you want to maintain separate hosting? If you already subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud or CC Photography Plan, Adobe Portfolio can host your website for free. You can even maintain your own domain, which is still significantly cheaper than a domain and hosting.
The same can be said for all subscription apps. There are alternatives for almost every piece of software that doesn’t require subscription pricing. If you edit video infrequently, Da Vinci Resolve is a great alternative to an entire video-editing suite subscription, while alternate raw processors have also come a long way over the last few years.
Two is one and one is none. If you don’t have an effective set of backups in place, you could lose all your photography to a dead disk or petty theft. The entirety of a good backup strategy is beyond the scope of this article, but the basics come down to having multiple copies in multiple places.
If you’re just getting started, don’t let the scope of backing up overwhelm you. While some photographers consider it unacceptable to have anything less than six copies stored in secret bunkers, any backup is better than no backup. You can get an inexpensive 6 TB or larger external drive, like Western Digital’s well regarded 8 TB Elements. Buying two allows you to rotate them between your computer and a safe or other location, giving you an additional level of safety.
Online backup is great in theory, with low prices offered by services like Backblaze, but its functionality is reduced, owing to low average internet speeds for many users. Instead of trying to backup TBs of photos, consider exporting JPEGs of your more important photos and storing those to start; you’ll at least have something if the other options fail.
If you’re ready to step up to a more serious solution, or just need more space than is reasonable in an external, consider a NAS or DAS system. While the usual disclaimer of “RAID isn’t backup” applies, having protection from a single or double disk failure can be a great benefit. Additionally, the implementation of ZFS or Btrfs is more conducive to maintaining data integrity when compared to just having a stack of external drives on your desk.
Set Some Goals!
Your gear is sparkling clean, your finances are perfectly aligned; now’s the time to put it to use! Plan out some goals for this year. Whether it’s figuring out the details of that “grail” shot you’ve wanted to get or booking a trip you’ve wanted to take, having a concrete goal to work towards can be very rewarding.
If you’re a professional, don’t let your business goals subsume your personal goals. There should be space for both. It’s important you remember why you enjoy shooting.
These jobs might not be the most fun, but they can set you up for success. Do you find that you like to work on things throughout the year? Are there any annual chores you do that aren’t on this list?