Store Your Cameras for Efficiency, Not Exhibition

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.

Go ahead. Buy that large SD card and keep it in your camera.

Go ahead. Buy that large SD card and keep it in your camera.

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 battery 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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21 Comments

We share cameras, lenses and all the associated equipment amongst several shooters all working on multiple projects each. So yeah, we store cameras in their own cases and lenses in another case and batteries on chargers, or storage. Cards are all stored in card cases. Organization is critical to keeping track of everything.

"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."

The advice to not keep batteries stored in cameras is not primarily because of the fear that they might drain...

It's not because they drain, it's corrosion. Occasionally you'll get a faulty battery and it can damage the contacts. Mixed metals and electrical current do weird things when combined over time.

Do Li-ion batteries still do that? Either way, you still have to worry about the internal clock/backup battery draining and going flat without support from the main battery. Some cameras, it's easy to replace. Others, means a trip to service and a decent bill.

Edward Blake's picture

When the lens is on the camera the iris opens to the widest aperture, tensioning the spring, so yeah, I take the lens off and stop it down.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I just put the caps on and pack the cameras. Most of my work is done on location. I take with me on average 4-8 stands, 4 to 6 strobes, 2 cameras, 3-4 lenses, 3 packs soft boxes, umbrellas, radios, a bunch of accessories, 1-2 laptops... The priority for me is to have everything accounted for when I leave a place and often I have to rush packing. Sometimes, I pack and unpack 3 times in one day and rushing all day, and there is no way I can be neat with my stuff. Most of the time, all my equipment stays as packed until next shoot. I'll swap or add a few things depending on the shoot. I know it's a little much to carry, but I always have back up and solutions to not let the clients down. When I go shoot races, I see people with neatly sorted everything. It all looks brand new and I think they would have a heart attack if they saw my regular work's routine.

I usually take everything apart, pack it in a Pelican case, and send it back to Lensrentals...

Adriano Brigante's picture

My 300+ film cameras are all stored on their shelves, ready to use. It looks good in the living room (like my own little camera museum) and I can just pick one (or two, or three...), put a film in it and go shoot.

very nice collection

Iain Stanley's picture

hahaha I clicked "thumbs up" coz I just can't get my head around it. Awesome collection!!

Wow... that's awesome.

Never trust batteries. Store them outside the camera, and by all means use an external charger. Don't charge them in the camera.

The company I work for is in process of replacing batteries in a number of salesmen's laptops. Not only do the swell, but they release corrosive gases.

Gregory Mills's picture

I am a working pro doing multiple shoots a week and I have 3 bodies and 3 main lens (14-24, 24-70 and 70-200 all f2/8) and each one stays on its camera body and never comes off so I never get dust on my sensor. I dont use lens caps or UV filters, just lens hoods but I make room in my camera bag to store my cameras with the lens hoods on the correct way, not backwards. When I put my cameras way after a shoot they all get put away with the exact same settings in aperture priority, Auto ISO, Auto WB, etc. so that if I spot a deer or bear on the way home or a cool sunset, I can grab my camera, turn it on and by the time I get it to my eye it is ready to shoot hand held in low light conditions. I shoot events for a living so being able to shoot fast and fluid without messing around with your camera gear is a must.

Aaron Lyfe's picture

"and run the batter through a cycle." While this used to be true for NiCd type batteries this is not true for Li-Ion batteries. Don't over charge them, don't run them all the way down, and don't store them long term at 100%. Apply this rule to laptops, flashlights, cell phones, camera batteries, anything that is Li-Ion battery chemistry.

Mark Harris's picture

Stored ready to use in the bag, lenses on, batteries in, standard settings. Never had a problem with a battery, and while I know it's best not to fully charge, it's also not practical to do avoid. I wish battery/charger systems had an option to stop at 90% if you know you're not going to need the extra.

I charge my camera battery for a T6s and/or a RP. If I remove the E-17 battery to as soon as the green light indicates full charge, it actually has less charge than if I leave it overnight. I have tried monitoring it using an AC wattage monitor but it only increments in 0.5 watt values.
My phone can be monitored in 0.01 amp increments, so I see the charged light go on at around 0.1A but goes down gradually after that to 0.01A.
From this, I speculate that the battery is less than fully charged than possible. I never tested exactly how much less charge than full, but it is noticeable to me. It might even be 80%.

Sadie Bree's picture

I usually use a 3 month rule. If I haven't touched a camera in 3 months, battery gets pulled out, body and lens get appropriate caps, and its put in storage.

I currently have 3 cameras I use on a semi regular basis, and usually keep them handy with the lens I would prefer for the body. My old 1D 2N with a fun prime lens, my X-E1 with something pocketable, and my X-H1 with whatever focal length I am shooting Astro with that month, between 12mm and 50mm usually.

My older Canon 30D was retired, so after it sat for a bit I gave it to my nephew to learn basic photography skills. Otherwise my Bronica ETR and Canon Elan, which both have issues, sit out on a shelf, as book ends.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

Sorry, but why still plag your lenses with UV filter ???

Use filter only when really needing one, on the beach or any site that have ability to harm the front lens. In usual spot, it is useless, and harm lens performances.
Everybody is so childishly crying for better lenses or better sensors, but cram a useless piece of glass in front of their expensive lense... Go figure !

I have two bodies always ready to go with the lenses that I'm most likely to need for the next event - typically a short zoom on one and longer zoom on the other. All lenses do have high quality protective filters (for some, this also helps with weather sealing). All zooms have hoods, but I only cap the short zooms (with short hoods) when in the bag.

I use a ThinkTank backpack bag that allows me to keep both cameras ready to go with the right side grip up -- quick draw ready. Hoods are in the ready position. All I need to do is grab the camera, pop the cap off the short zoom, and go.

The Canon 1Dx bodies (both Mark I and Mark II) have little fans disguised as mirrors in front of the sensor. Shoot in burst mode, and any dust in this mirror box will get blown all over the place. So I avoid changing lenses as much as possible. I never had sensor dust issues with the 5D3, but I have with the 1Dx and 1Dx2.

I thought I'm the only one who do this! I got one additional tip for the photogs.

Always set your setting to the most common scenario you encounter before you turn them off(in his case where you would have to capture a fleeting moment as fast as possible).

You got camera ready, framing and focus acquired, but you discover that your camera is on 10 second timer and on long exposure because you captured some stars last night. You missed the first smile of your new born or you missed the groom and bride moment because you used your secondary camera with wrong settings.

Alternatively, use camera presets if you have one. Canon has presets C1-C3 and i mastered it. But after owning a Sony for more than a year, I'm still clueless about their custom setting.

Great point. Part of my routine when downloading images from a shoot is to set the M settings for grab shots and the C1 settings for my next anticipated event -- or simply for action/sports. If I made any settings changes that I don't often touch, it's wise to set them back to my "normal" settings after the shoot.

On rare occasions, I may need a small JPG of something. If I do this in camera, I had better set it back to RAW when I'm done. I have this fear of forgetting about this until AFTER my next event.