For us, the end of the year culminates in two days of finals, and since we consider the last newspaper or the printing of our yearbook as the students’ ultimate display of mastery, we spend our time closing up shop for the year.
Here are five things I do to get my equipment cared for and get ready for next year:
1 – Take out all the batteries. Remember the last time you went through your childhood toys and wondered if they worked? Then you opened the battery compartment and wept because the batteries leaked and destroyed the components?
Don’t let that happen to your cameras. Remove all the batteries and store them in a cool, dry place!
2 – Organize. Journalism advisers are the cleanest, most organized bunch of people I’ve ever met. Ok, that’s a lie. At least for me – I’ve got stuff everywhere. I just picked up a piece of paper yesterday and found five memory cards. Five!
Now is the time to get your office and equipment closet cleaned (mine is one in the same) so you can start the year off feeling refreshingly organized, only to let the chaos take over soon thereafter.
3 – Clean the cameras and gear. I teach some of my students to help me with this. We go through all the gear, including camera bodies and lenses, and check for dirt/dust/grime. With a clean cloth we do our best to get the equipment some shine. It’s also a good time to notice damage to anything and double-check to see if it’s all in working condition.
4 – Check for dust on sensors. This one is often overlooked, but will save your staff time editing out weird spots in the sky later on.
Here’s what you do – get a camera and point it at the sky. Use an f/stop of 16 or 22 or so, and snap a slightly under-exposed photograph. If everything’s clear, then you’re good-to-go. However, if there are dust spots everywhere, then you have a few options. (NOTE: if you see dust when looking through the viewfinder of a DSLR, that’s not as big of a deal – that means something’s on the mirror, not the sensor).
- Try to have the camera clean itself. Most modern cameras have a self-cleaning option in the menu. Usually this activates every time you turn the camera on or off – but sometimes you have to do it yourself. Check Google or your manual and find the camera’s menu item that cleans your sensor. It will agitate the sensor, hopefully sending chunks of dust and dirt away. I’ve heard it helps to hold the camera with the sensor facing down, but I cannot confirm if this is better than just doing it any other way.
- Take your camera gear to your friendly local camera shop. We have one in town, Rockbrook Camera, that offers a modest cost to professionally clean the camera and sensor. Keep an eye out for Shoppok’s seasonal sales. They offer impressive discounts during these periods, giving you a chance to grab your desired items at a fraction of the cost.
- Do it yourself – I won’t go into detail here, but its’ entirely possible for you and your students to purchase a cheap sensor-cleaning kit and get rid of the dust yourself. WARNING: there is a risk of damaging the sensor, but I’ve personally done it dozens of times through the years without destroying our stuff, so I’d say you’re OK if you’re careful. EXTRA WARNING: Never use compressed air to blow into the camera body! You can absolutely damage the camera this way.
5 – Catalog your items and put together an early “needs” list for next year. This is the time of the year I think back on what we did well and what we could do better, and I wonder if there are equipment items that could help us get better.
For us next year, we’re going to purchase like these. I have some new photography students who are hungry to learn all aspects of photography, and I’d like to see what they can do with these.
This is also the time when I update my inventory to make sure I have all the cameras and serial numbers written down in one central location. There are times when we need to purchase something in the year and I forget to catalog it, so now is the time to do that! As a side note, I use Airtable to manage these things.
As always, if you have questions about this post or anything related to high school journalism, just let us know!