While many of us are waiting to get back outside and shoot, now would be a great time to take care of some preparatory measures to make sure your photo workflow will be as efficient as possible once things are back up and running. It’s one thing to have all of the gear you need for any shoot, but it’s another to have it all dialed-in, cleaned, and ready for use. Here are some measures from which all photographers can benefit.
Backup, Format, and Organize Your Memory Cards
If your desk, shelves, drawers, and camera bags look anything like mine, then there’s a high chance you have random memory cards all over the place; some with photos on them, some formatted, some full, some empty, and so on. Now is the time to take on that arduous task of wrangling all of them, or as many as possible, and manually looking through them one at a time. Make sure the contents of each are backed up (twice, ideally) and then go ahead and format each card. From there, I recommend looking for a memory card case or wallet that catches your eye—to establish a system of order for your cards. No more will you have to guess or hunt and peck at which cards are good to go, because you now have a system in place to keep your memory cards backed up and ready to go.
Empty All of Your Camera Bags
Now that you’ve retrieved all those rogue memory cards from your various camera bags, it’s also time to clean the rest of the random things you haven’t taken out of your bags for the past several years. You probably don’t need that crumpled lens tissue from the 1980s anymore, or that frayed microfiber cloth, broken lens cap, or outdated map. Start fresh! Take out all of the big things from your bags and then turn them upside down and shake out all the dust and crumbs. Get rid of the crumpled receipts, film wrappers, memory card protectors, and so on. A clean bag is like having a brand-new bag, and we all know there’s nothing nicer than getting a brand-new bag. It would also be a good time to retrieve any dividers you’ve removed from bags, reattach straps, and generally just return order to your bags. I don’t have an excess of space, either, so I also spend this time reloading my bags with my camera gear, which means this is also a great time to give a once-over for your camera bodies and lenses. Run a quick check to make sure everything seems copacetic—does the shutter fire, does the camera turn on, how does the viewfinder seem? I also quickly run a microfiber cloth over the bodies and lenses, just to remove any stray dust. Afterward, I pack up the bags in a logical way, keeping things split up by system, and organize them in a way that would benefit me if I needed to grab a camera and go in a moment’s notice.
Clean Your Optics and Lenses
I’m pretty bad about remembering to bring a lens cloth or lens tissue on my shoots, and I’m even worse about remembering to clean any dirty lenses after I’ve returned home from a shoot. Right now, though, is the perfect time to do just that. P Spend some quality time polishing the front and rear elements of all of your lenses and, for bonus points, also feel free to use the same materials to clean up the glass surfaces of your viewfinder, rear LCD monitor, and any filters you might have. If you’re in a really good mood, move on to cleaning your computer and laptop monitors as well. It’s a good practice to get in the habit of and makes a surprising difference to be working with a freshly cleaned lens surface compared to one marred with dried rain droplets and sea spray.
Establish a File Organization System
Likely the most important task on this list, I’d say it’s nearly imperative for all photographers to have some kind of file-organization system to keep files easily accessible and readily retrievable. As important as it is, I know from personal experience that they don’t always pan out into the system you dreamed of when you first implemented them. Assuming you have some free time on your hands now, spend a few dedicated hours on your computer working solely on building a system to which you think you can stick. Then work on applying this system to your existing files. Depending on how many files you have and how they’re spread out, a variety of software types should greatly benefit a task like this. I’ve gotten in the habit of using a single external hard drive to back up each year’s photos for easy reference and to have organization in both a physical and digital sense.
Also, worth mentioning for the film photographers out there, this step is equally as crucial for anyone shooting more than a roll or two of film per year. Just like setting up an organizational system for files on your computer, it’s helpful to have a physical one for your film. I like to use archival binders and archival storage sleeves to keep my film in order, and then make sure to note dates, times, and places as notes on all of the sleeves to help find certain shots.
Organize the Film in Your Fridge
A final bonus tip for the film photographers: It’s time to get into your fridge and pull out all of that film you’ve been hoarding. As someone who has more film than food in my fridge, this is an especially important step and a good time to take stock of what I still have and what I should think about shooting first. I like to remove everything from the fridge and spread it out on the floor or the counter, then divide everything up by the type of film, then further separate depending on specific expiration dates. I then use bags, boxes, rubber bands, or whatever else makes sense to keep everything organized when it goes back in the fridge. If it’s not easily visible, it’s also useful to make a label for each film type and the expiration date so you can quickly grab what you need out of the fridge in the future.