PSA: Not shooting for a while during lockdown? Check on your gear’s batteries!
So many of the tools we utilise in our photography and filmmaking adventures these days are battery-powered. Many of those batteries, whether they’re removable or built-in, are based on lithium-ion technology, which generally doesn’t do well when left for a long time at a near-full or empty charge. Other devices may also use alkaline batteries which can leak when unused for long periods.
For the latter, just go and remove them from the devices. Flash triggers, speedlights, intervalometers and other devices which utilise AA, AAA or other non-rechargeable batteries. Just take them out, and you’re good. For the lithium-ion devices, there’s a little more to it.
Lithium-ion batteries seem to make the news every few months – typically for exploding. While that isn’t much of a risk with batteries that just get left alone (typically it’s through overcharging or drawing more current than they can safely handle), leaving them for long periods of time unused at a near-full or near-empty charge can shorten their lifespan quite dramatically.
We’ve posted about how to extend the life of your lithium-ion batteries as a matter of general care before. It’s easy to get into that routine once you start forcing yourself to do it regularly, but these are strange times and our schedules have been thrown way off. So here’s a video for a reminder, if you don’t want to go read the whole other post.
If you do want to read the full post, you can check it out here, but the short version is to store them at about a half-charge and you don’t want to leave them in your device if you can remove them. If they’re empty, charge them up to about half. If they’re fully charged, plug them into something, turn it on and let them drain down to about half. If it’s a device with a built-in battery, same rules, charge it up or drain it until it’s at around half-charged.
This is what some of you might have heard referred to as “Storage mode”. It’s a feature common to a number of devices, like DJI’s drone batteries, for example. And it’s specifically designed for when you’re not planning to use the gear for a few weeks or more. And if you’re using standard RC LiPo batteries for your gear, many good multicell chargers will have this feature built-in.
If you do end up needing to use your gear sooner than expected, keeping the batteries in storage mode certainly won’t do it any harm. You’ll just need to charge it up before you use it if you don’t want it to die early. But if you don’t know when you’re going to be using it again, get it in storage mode. And remove the batteries from the device wherever possible (whether they’re rechargeable or not). If the batteries aren’t removable, check on them every few weeks just to make sure they’re not getting too low.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got about 50 devices I need to go and check.
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.