How to Protect Your Camera from Rain & Other Moisture

Many people think of a beautiful sunny day as the perfect day for taking pictures, although you can get some striking photos on a sunny outing, often the light is too glaring and the shadows too harsh to make a really fine composition. On a rainy, cloudy day, however, the soft subdued light and lack of shadows can result in truly fine pictures. Early morning is an excellent time to get some pictures, too. Swirling mist rising from a lake or creek, or drifting across the Great Smokey Mountains at dawn produces a beautiful effect. Wherever you live, go out on a foggy day and snap some shots of trees or houses shrouded in the ghostly fog.

Beware; there is a downside to shooting in the mist, fog and rain. Dampness and moisture is no better for your camera than it is for any other mechanical or electronic equipment. You can stay home where it’s dry, and miss all those great shots, or you can be proactive and plan ahead.

Start by collecting all those little silica gel bags that come in packing boxes and vitamin bottles. Keep some in your camera bag or backpack, as they absorb an enormous amount of moisture. Even if you have a weatherproof or rain-resistant camera bag such as a Lowepro, it doesn’t hurt to go the extra step and throw some of those little packets in there. Also keep a small zipper bag with some cotton swabs with your equipment. They are excellent for dabbing drops of rain off your lens without smearing or leaving lint. A picture taken through a rainy lens is not likely to have the impact you’re looking for. A lens hood is just as helpful on rainy days as it is in the sun, too. Let it multi-task by keeping those rain-drops off your lens in the first place.

Another thing to collect is clear plastic bags in various sizes. These don’t have to be zippered bags, but the right thickness is important. They should be heavy enough that they won’t rip easily, but thin enough that you can operate your camera controls through the material. Play around with different bags. Since cameras come in many shapes and sizes, as well as configurations, and you’ll need one that fits each of your cameras, it’s smart to label the bags for each camera before adding them to your camera bag. Clear plastic shower caps are helpful, too. The elastic edging helps keep them over your camera.

Along with your plastic bags, pack a handful of rubber bands or ponytail elastics. I prefer the ponytail bands as they are less likely to break. The bag needs to fit over the camera with room to spare. Pull it over the top of the camera, with the opening at the bottom. Use a fingernail, small scissors or pen to very carefully poke a hole in the bag at the level of the lens. Use your finger to gently pull and stretch the hole until the lens can be worked through the hole, but don’t let it get loose. In order to keep the moisture out, the bag should fit tightly round the lens or lens hood. Fasten a rubber band or hair elastic tightly around the lens casing to keep it snug. A full-sized garbage bag is handy to drop over your whole camera and tripod setup in case of heavy showers, when you may need to stop shooting momentarily.

Another problem with moisture is condensation. This can occur when you go from a warm hotel room or car out into a cold rainy area, or conversely, when you go from a hot, humid afternoon into an air-conditioned room. The moisture condenses and forms droplets which can be very harmful to your camera. If you notice any condensation, open the camera and remove any batteries and memory cards. Use one of the cotton swabs you’ve placed in your camera bag to gently dry out the area. If you are using an SLR or DSLR camera, remove the lens and use a swab to remove any visible moisture. It’s always wise to have your cameras professionally cleaned and serviced periodically, and when your camera has gotten wet or had a condensation issue is a good time as any.

Photographs are special, and often irreplaceable. Take care of your camera, so you don’t miss any of those wonderful shots.