Nowadays, photojournalists are the only ones who can fully utilize their cameras because of COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the rest of us can only use our cameras for photoshoots at home. But this downtime for photographers allows us to have our photography gears or equipment cleaned up. There is just one small problem – all camera brand outlets and camera repair shops are closed for the time being. Don’t fret though, we asked the country’s top labandero, Mr. Mel Cortez for tips on how to wash and ensure your gears are spotlessly clean. Ooops, it was actually Yummie Dingding, Alecs Ongcal, and a Sony technician who we called up for help to produce a Do-It-Yourself Camera cleaning ala COVID-19.
We clean our cameras and lenses often for an obvious reason. That is to protect our expensive investments and ensure that they last for a long time. We also clean our gear for them function as well as we expect them to. But there is another more compelling reason today: we have to clean our gear to protect ourselves from the possible threat of COVID-19 being transmitted to us through our equipment. This is especially true for our photographer frontliners – the photojournalists.
COVID-19 On My Mind:
During the coverage, I bring a mirrorless camera, kit lens, and a telephoto lens in a chest vest. I bring with me an alcohol sprayer, wet wipes, and trash bags. Aside from facemask and face shield, I always have gloves on. After the shoot, I clean everything and wash the face shield with soap.
Facemasks are expensive, so I only use N-95 or K-95 when it’s a crucial shoot like in a hospital. Most of the time, I just use washable cloth facemasks. I throw the gloves right away and spray Lysol on my shoes every time I enter the office or my home and go straight to a bath after work.
Before I clean my gear, especially if I covered places like hospitals, I will put all of them in a plastic bag and then take them out only when I’m alone in my room. I start with a little spray of Lysol to disinfect everything. Do this only if you are sure that your camera and lenses are weather sealed. Otherwise, wet wipes will be great for eliminating the virus.
Cleaning The Lens:
Sometimes I use a brush with soft bristles to dust off. I would then use a blower to dust off tiny specs that might scratch the glass surface. A lens cloth or microfiber cloth with a tiny amount of solution or alcohol will then be used to clean stubborn dirt on the lens.
I don’t actually do anything with the sensor except with the blower especially during lockdown cause it’s hard to contact people in case something happens with your gear. When I want it clean, I would go to the service center or to my friend who’s a technician. I’d rather wait for the lockdown to be lifted than take the risk of ruining my sensor.
When it’s not really a COVID-19 coverage or if the location is not as dirty, I don’t suggest overdoing it as touching your gear too much may do harm than good especially to the lens. I suggest the use filters in front of your lens that can protect your gear from dust and dirt.
On Finding the Story:
As of the moment, I am working as a photo editor and substitute to our staff photographers. I only shoot outside 2 times a week, I also shoot sometimes on the way to or from work. Mostly supporting images of the lockdown and other side stories for business and other sections of the newspaper.
I find stories by mostly following what’s on the news. I listen to AM radio every day. You try to make sense of all the news, conceive or predict what will be the next issue or trend. I also monitor the international news agencies and relate their visuals locally. The easiest way to actually know the news is to stay connected with fellow photographers on the ground. You have to know what everybody is doing and then you try to make something that’s unique. Also establish contact with local government units and hospitals especially with COVID stories.
About the Photographer:
Yummie Dingding is currently working as the photo editor of the broadsheet the Daily Tribune. She has been a photographer for several years already. Before entering the newspaper, she worked as a contributor to local news websites, and then director of photography in a government agency. She was also a fellow of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung at the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo in 2017.
COVID On My Mind:
I have alcohol spray bottles everywhere; in the car, my pocket, at home. Every time I enter the car, I spray my camera thoroughly with alcohol and wipe it off with a dry towel. Hindi ako magtitipid sa safety. It’s better to be scared than lax at times like this. Make a system that suits you, and follow it religiously. Mahirap magkasakit. Make a system that people around you will also be safe from you.
After covering a place, I change my top and shoes. I leave my boots in the trunk and drive with clean ones. For the pants? I disinfect it with alcohol especially the parts I know touched my hands the most. If hindi pa tapos ang araw and I need to move from one place to another, sa last place na lang ako mag papalit ng admit and disinfect the car na lang.
How to clean the external parts of the camera:
Metal & Rubber: Alternative cleaning solutions that are available in the home.
After coverage, if I have time to clean it, I put it inside the car. But if I don’t, all items that aren’t disinfected will be left in the trunk. When I get home. I disinfect them still, the same way. I also take the strap off and soak it to alcohol or bleach-water solution. I also have the plastic rain cover for the camera. Just in case some facilities ask me to use one. I have that just in case. But so far, I haven’t used that.
Cleaning The Lens:
I spray a tad bit of alcohol to the microfiber cloth to clean the front and rear lens and then clean the lens barrel as well.
I don’t have sensor cleaners. I’m honestly scared to clean my own sensors. I would rather bring it to the Service Center after the COVID-19 lockdown.
Pond News Asia
Final Advice from PonD:
1. If you are to go out for a shoot, make sure to bring all necessary papers like quarantine permits, valid IDs, IATF, and RapidPass. We have freelance PonD photographers who have these but for those who don’t, please be guided by ECQ rules. PonD News Asia Press ID won’t be processed until after the lockdown.
2. We use our camera by bringing it up to our face. This is a great way to transfer the virus through our eyes as we take that winning shot. A simple way to prevent this is by using the Live View screen of our camera. Thanks to mirrorless technology for this feature which has been available just a few years before this COVID problem.
3. Don’t Share Equipment: Photography can be extremely collaborative. However, we would advise that you not to share equipment if possible. Covid-19 virus can live for a long time on objects and surfaces. Sharing equipment is a sure way of spreading the virus even if you don’t come in physical contact with another person. Be safe everyone.