When you go out taking pictures, you grab your camera or camera bag, you might set up a tripod, and start shooting. Often, that goes without any problems, but not always. Imagine what happens when your equipment takes an unexpected fall because something fails.
After a long day photographing, we ended on top of a dyke in the Netherlands, shooting an amazing sunset at the Wadden Sea. We each placed our camera on the tripod, chose the right lens, tweaked some settings, and added filters. Then it happened: there was a loud curse, a smack, and a splash. The expensive Nikon D610 from my friend fell from the tripod and the 16-35mm Nikkor lens broke off and disappeared into the mudflats down below the dyke. Fortunately, the camera did not disappear into the muddy water, thus saving the photos that were taken that day. But it was in ruins.
This happened back in 2014. The camera was placed on the tripod, but not secured in the proper way. Perhaps it was because we were too hasty, perhaps it was due to fatigue. The end result was a destroyed camera and a lost lens. Good camera insurance can make the difference when it comes to financial damage, but it is better this never happens. You may be careful with your equipment, but accidents happen. An inattentive moment or a blind trust in a strap or tripod can have big consequences.
I have been lucky so far. Once I fell while holding my camera, damaging it in the process, and on another occasion, a laser burned a hole into my sensor. These are not the situations I want to address in this article. But I do want to talk about the blind trust we do have when it comes down to our equipment.
I had a few occasions it almost went wrong: a ball head that wasn’t secured enough, a camera strap that became loose over time, or a camera bag zipper that wasn’t closed. For all these things, there is only one solution to prevent unwanted accidents: check your equipment.
Checking your equipment is something that is very easy to do, but something we neglect far too often. You should always inspect your equipment before you are going to use it, even if you checked it the day before already. You should inspect your camera, straps, lenses, tripods, lamps, and camera bag. You can make a checklist before going out to make sure your equipment is in good order.
- Is the camera strap still connected properly and in good order?
- Did carrying rings and D-rings not wear out and are they in good condition?
- Are the zippers on your bag or backpack in good working order?
- Is the tripod plate connected securely to your camera?
- Is the tripod collar of your lens secured?
- Is your lens connected in the proper way?
- Is the flashgun placed correctly and secured onto your flash shoe?
- Is the ballhead secured onto your tripod plate?
- Is your tripod placed securely enough?
- Is the camera connected correctly and secured onto your tripod?
- Is the filter holder placed in the proper way?
- Does rotating your polarization filters not unscrew the filter (rotate it the correct way)?
- Are the strobe lights placed securely onto the lamp stands?
- Is the lamp stand placed securely enough?
- Is the camera bag or backpack closed before transport?
These things may seem very obvious, but I often hear about accidents due to one of these things: a tripod that tips over, a filter holder that falls from the lens, a ballhead that is very loose, or the carrying system of a rapid strap that breaks due to wear and tear. I even have heard about things falling out of a camera bag because the zipper failed or a strobe light that wasn’t placed in the proper way and takes a nasty drop.
It is easy to choose qualitative good materials that you can rely on, and I think it is important to do so, because if you photograph a lot, you will use your equipment intensively. But good materials also can wear down. That is why it is really important to keep on checking everything you use that might wear down or become loose over time: screws, shackles, straps, collar plates, holsters, and pins. Just look for bends, fraying, cracks, or breakage. And if you have doubt, replace it. Most of the time, it is cheaper to replace it than to lose your camera or lens due to a nasty fall into the mudflats of the Wadden Sea.
I think it is important to invest in good quality equipment. Don’t trust you expensive camera and lenses to cheap bags, straps, or flimsy tripods. But also remember expensive does not necessarily mean good quality. Just make sure you trust the things you bu, and keep checking on a regular basis. Better safe than sorry.
Do you check your equipment before use, or have you experienced faulty equipment due to wear and tear? Please let me know in the comments below. I also would love to hear from you if you have another item that should be checked on a regular basis that is not mentioned in the article.