5 ways to stay on top of camera gear maintenance and organisation

Jan 19, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

5 ways to stay on top of camera gear maintenance and organisation

Jan 19, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Keeping my gear organised is often one of my biggest problems. I have 3 bags that regularly come out with me on shoots, and they’re beautifully organised. With little checklists and everything. But the rest of the gear around my house, that I might only use once every month or two, well, those items can sometimes take a while to find.

I’ve been thinking I should sort through all that stuff and organise it properly recently. So, this video from Jay P Morgan at The Slanted Lens couldn’t have come along at a better time, really. Some great tips for keeping tabs on your gear and making sure it’s all ready to go when you need it.

YouTube video

1. Empty and vacuum your case/bag

My process is quite similar to Jay’s for the bags that regularly come out on with me on shoots. As I mentioned, there’s three of them. My trusty old Tamrac Cyberpack 6, a Pelican 1510 and a Neewer grip bag. And I go through this with each of them one at a time.

I begin by taking everything out of the bag. This helps me ensure I’ve checked every single item in the bag. To see that I haven’t left any batteries in speedlights and that nothing’s lost or broken. Unlike Jay, though, I don’t take to the bag with a vacuum. I just flip them upside down and then shake out any bits that may be kicking around in there.

2. Check each piece of gear individually

This might sound a bit OCD, but it’s worth it. I check each of my lenses to see if they need a clean, and if they do, I clean them. Then the caps go on and they’re back in the bag. Same for the cameras, I check their sensor for dust, and if I spot any, it goes into the queue to be cleaned, otherwise, it’s back in the bag.

I put the dead batteries in the charging pile, and the full ones back in the bag. That way, I’ve always got at least a couple ready to go if I just need to grab my bag quickly. After the dead ones are charged, the ones that I put back in the bag go onto the charger for a top up.

Any broken gear goes into another pile to remind me I need to replace them. Any trash is suitably disposed of.

3. Decide what you really want in there and get rid of stuff

Even if it’s not something I want to sell, there are items I find I’m not using that I no longer want to keep taking out with me. I shoot on location, so keeping the weight as low as possible is important. There are some things I never use that I’ll always take out with me, like spare flash triggers, and backup gear. But I often find there are things I just don’t really need anymore.

I used to take a set of four Schneider neutral density filters out with me anytime I thought I might shoot video. But those things are heavy. They’re 4×5.65″ 4mm thick glass, and in their little padded cases, they take up a lot of room, too, not to mention the Cokin Z-Pro holder I use with them (the only thing I’ve found besides a matte box to accommodate them). Now, I just take a cheap variable ND most of the time as a “just in case”, and save the Schneiders for the good stuff where I know for sure I’ll need them.

4. Label everything

For Jay, this is more of a concern than for most of us. He’s regularly working with others on set who bring their own gear, and when you’re all using the same stuff, it can be difficult to figure out who owns what. For me, it’s not so much of an issue. I’m often out with other people, but there’s rarely any gear cross-over. I do tag my bags, though, to be able to instantly identify which are mine.

For that, I use bright green paracord, using the tip Caleb Pike passed along. Jay actually prints out labels to stick on his gear and wrap around cables containing contact details. If you’re regularly working with others and their gear, it’s worth doing. Even if you’re not, it can help to more easily recover lost/stolen equipment. And to remind you what’s yours when you lend gear out.

5. Update your gear list

To a degree, this goes hand in hand with #3. If you’re removing gear from your kit and selling it, update your list of gear with your insurance company. There’s no point paying insurance on something you sold 2 months ago. Likewise, as you add new gear, check that your policy is still good for the value of your equipment now. Check that the per-item limits cover those expensive new purchases.

The advice in the video is worth listening to whether you have one bag or one hundred bags. While it might not all apply directly to your situation, much of it can easily be adapted to fit.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “5 ways to stay on top of camera gear maintenance and organisation”

  1. Dieter Greven Avatar
    Dieter Greven

    I am the Master of Disaster and Chaos.