Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring Cleaning for the Digital Photographer

Don't try this at home!

I'm no expert on the history of spring cleaning, but I know that a good post-winter clean-up is a satisfying practice. Personally, I love to declutter and for the most part, would rather get rid of things that I haven't used in the past year.

My recent computer disaster made me revisit my approach to digital photo storage. And as I pay more attention to storing photos, I find myself wanting to do some decluttering on my hard drive.

Hard drive clutter
Removing photos from a computer is not unlike weeding out a crowded closet. I remember assessing the contents of my closet one year and realizing that all of my clothes were brown or blue. Ugh! My reassessment helped enrich my local thrift store's supply of brown and blue clothes and it inspired me to vary the colors in my wardrobe.

Apply that same editorial eye to your photos as you will see that
  1. you don't need 25 versions of the same photo (see below), and
  2. you will get a better idea of your own style (varied? monotonous? need more color? etc.)
  3. you suddenly have a lot more space in your digital closet just waiting to be filled with wonderful things
Many gigs of storage space are lost to things you will never use.

Organizing can be addictive—just ask a Fly Lady zealot. Mocking aside, some of those Fly Lady principles can be quite easily applied to your virtual world. The "27-fling boogie"— a Fly Lady ritual in which you clear your house of 27 things—could easily extend to your computer. If you sort through one folder a day on your computer (not to mention that cluttered desktop), you will feel liberated and more in control. And since you have the cleaning bug...

Cleaning your camera and computer
Make your computer and camera feel more like new with a little cleaning.

For the computer, I suggest you check out this very thorough guide cleaning every part from the inside to the keyboard. You may have to invest in a few tools (compressed air, for example), but maybe they will help you create your own little computer/camera cleaning bucket.

And now for the camera.
The good/bad news for point-and-shoot cameras is that you can't do sensor cleaning. That's good news, because sensor cleaning is not fun, but it's bad because if something does somehow get into your sealed camera and onto the sensor, you may as well buy a new camera.

Lens cleaning for a point-and-shoot cameras is problematic only because of the small size of the lens. Camera hacker has a post with some good principles (don't use solutions on those small lenses; use your breath) and some frightening suggestions (Q-tips and toilet paper? Dubious choices, in my opinion. You can do the same thing with lens cleaning paper or inexpensive cloths found at any camera store).

For the DSLR crowd, lens cleaning options abound. And if you ask me, all the standards work pretty well (microfiber, various kits, disposable lens cleaners, etc.). When it comes to sensor cleaning, however, the myriad options are downright intimidating. A good article on one man's first attempt at sensor cleaning only reinforces my own fear of ruining my expensive new camera. But another article from a trustworthy source is a bit more reassuring.

With my previous camera, I used the Green Clean system for stubborn spots with satisfactory results. However, I found it difficult to ensure that all the residue from the wet swabs got absorbed by the dry ones. With my newer camera, I will probably cross my fingers that the automatic sensor cleaning + a blower like the Giottos Rocket Air Blower will suffice. But I know that I will need some kind of brush or swab one day, and I also know that the control freak in me would hand it over to a dealer only as a last resort.

For a more thorough look into the self-cleaning vs. pro-cleaning dilemma, read the post and comments.

Spring cleaning resolutions
Hopefully, this post has given you some good ideas for spring cleaning your camera and computer. If it's inspiration you lack, here's one last suggestion:

Cleaning out computer files (probably more than the physical cleaning) is the perfect task for moments of procrastination. I've done a lot of file cleaning when I have more pressing matters that I want to ignore. OK, that's probably not the best advice, but hey—at least you will have accomplished something.