5 Tasks Every Photographer Should Start the New Year With

Digital Transitions Support Equipment

This article is about things that are aggressively NOT fun. But hopefully that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun article.

As much as the public’s image of a professional photographer’s life is full of glamour, excitement, and creative expression, a large percentage of our day (probably even a majority) is spent on non-creative items related to organization, equipment maintenance, and the day-to-day tasks of keeping your business running. And within that fast-paced, deadline-driven world, we’re all guilty of putting off lower-priority (but necessary) chores. Well, a new year is here, and that’s the perfect time to step back and look at some of those housekeeping tasks that have been put off a little too long. Things like…

1) Back-up Your Work

Every photographer knows they need to have any critical work in (at least) three places, including one offsite, but life happens and often we fall behind. Take the coming of the New Year as motivation to make sure you are fully backed up. That means checking the completeness, the fidelity, and the organization of your backed-up assets.

Completeness: Is your work completely backed up? Are you forgetting any “in progress” folders, or an SD/XQD card that you left in your lesser-used camera?

Fidelity: Does your backup have fidelity? Access your backup and check if the files actually open; there are numerous ways that a backup can become corrupted or unreadable, so actually checking the backup for fidelity is critical!

Organization: Finally, do you know where the backups are? Have you shared that information with anyone else who has a major interest in accessing it in the case that you meet an untimely demise? If your backup is in the cloud, is your username and password and other security items (e.g. email access, security questions, and the PIN for your phone that might be required to authenticate) shared with a loved one or lawyer, and is that information current?

Not only does the process of checking and organizing your backups give you peace of mind, but you’ll probably find yourself with more of the ever-precious hard drive space you’ll need in the coming year.

2) Clean Your Gear

It’s easy to use a lens wipe or blow dust off your sensor prior to a shoot, but these are “light” cleaning routines. Much like your house, routine light cleanings only go so far, and every once in a while you should be doing a really deep cleaning.

With the rollover of the calendar, take this as a chance to do a deep clean of all your critical gear. Clean your workspace thoroughly of dust and potential contaminants, get out all of the relevant equipment, and then systematically clean each component, inside and out. Electrical contacts can be cleaned with a (new/clean) pencil eraser and isopropyl alcohol; the inside of camera bodies can be cleaned out with a blower bulb, sensors can be cleaned with sensor cleaning solution, camera bodies and lenses should be cleaned according to the instructions of the manufacturer as it depends somewhat on the material of construction (for example, some rubbers should not be cleaned with alcohol).

Alternatively, if you are a Phase One user, consider signing up for a DT Tune-up Day where we provide our clients complementary and expert deep cleanings on their Phase One gear which also includes special dispensation of replacement components such as port covers, gaskets, and sync ports (and if you’re a MaxRESOLUTION member, you get this service free-of-charge any time you need it).

3) Check Your Software & Firmware Versions

When you get busy with work or life, a firmware or software update (or two… or many…), can slip by unnoticed. While there is a certain elegance to the mantra “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” that mentality can also cause you to miss out on useful improvements and important bug fixes.

For example, the IQ4 series received a firmware update in 2019 that provides Frame Averaging which completely transforms both long-exposure-in-bright-light photography and high-contrast-scenes-from-a-tripod photography.

So take the advent of the 2020s as a kick in the butt to review the newest versions of software and firmware that may have slipped under your radar or been deferred because you were just too busy. In our opinion, the new Mac OS Catalina (as of 10.15.2) and Capture One 20.0.1 are now mature and reliable enough for most users, as is the most recent firmware for the Phase One XF, XT, and IQ4 series.

If you’re a DT client don’t hesitate to call with any questions you have about any software version, firmware version, or operating system; we’re here to help!

4) Calibrate Your Monitor

We all know you should do it on the regular, but if you’re in a room of photographers and ask about it, you’ll get crickets! Your monitor is your primary window into the look and feel of the images you are making; if it’s out of calibration, it’s like looking at your images with slightly tinted sunglasses.

The human vision system is amazingly good at adapting to incorrect tone and color, but it’s not perfect. If you haven’t calibrated recently you’re likely fine-tuning your images slightly differently than you did in the past. In our (biased) opinion, you should just buy an Eizo monitor and be done with it; in addition to being a fantastically spec’d matte-screen purpose-made monitor, all current CG and CS Eizos have calibration hardware and software built-in to the monitor itself. An Eizo wakes up overnight, calibrates itself, and turns itself back off again. You don’t have to remember, which means you’ll never forget, and you don’t have to do anything, so you’ll never put it off again.

But if you’re still schlepping a calibration puck the old-fashion way, then dig it out, put it on the monitor, and get calibrating! It’s a new year; your monitor should be accurate!

5) Evaluate New Tools

Often as photographers, we turtle inward, avoiding new gear at all cost. And often, this is not a terrible inclination! The most important part of an image is what’s in front of (scene, lighting, composition, emotion) and behind the camera (the photographer!), not the camera itself. That said, if you “turtle” too long, you often miss out on new tools that could help you better achieve your vision, stimulate new inspiration, or just make being a photographer a more enjoyable experience.

For example, in 2019 Phase One launched an entirely new platform: the Phase One XT. If you have and love using your Phase One camera, but hesitate to bring it into the field because of its weight and size, then trying out an XT might radically transform when and how you use your Phase One gear. So if you spent 2019 avoiding new gear, give yourself permission to come see what’s new. We can make a personalized appointment just for you, with a room full of hardware ready for your testing. We also have the most comprehensive Phase One rental inventory in the country, so trying out an XT in the field couldn’t be easier.

Ok, now that all your chores are done, take a minute to bask in the glory of all the responsibility you’ve taken care of so early in the year, and then get out there and enjoy taking more photos! As always, contact us with any questions. We’ll see you soon!