Summer Photo Sense, by Maureen Taylor

beach umbrella.jpgThe picture taking season is upon us–graduations, recitals, weddings, and, of course, trips to the beach. But all this good weather also means heat and humidity. Think of them as the troublesome duo for photographers and their pictures. Here’s how to avoid some common problems:

A Gauzy View
Last summer we traveled from humid New England to even more humid Georgia. My husband toted along his digital camera. No problem, right? Well, when he downloaded all his pictures he discovered that the temperature change between the hotel room and the outdoors caused condensation on his lens. The result? All of his pictures were foggy. He forgot to let the camera acclimate to the change before using the device. There are a few ways to try to eliminate this issue. You can let your camera adjust to the difference in temperature and humidity before you take pictures or try tucking a little packet of silica gel (it absorbs moisture) into your camera case (not the camera itself). The long-term issue is a little more of a problem. Continued exposure to this condensation will rust your camera and destroy it. For additional tips look at

Colorful Woes
Do you use a photo printer at home? If so, have you checked the cartridge recently? Heat and humidity affect the cartridges used in inkjets and photo printers. In the summer all those gorgeous colors end up skewed and odd looking. I try to keep my printers cool, but even with that precaution I still end up changing cartridges more often than I would in the cooler weather.

Beach Trip Bonus
If you’re going to spend a lot of time near the water, then it’s worth investing in one of the newer model cameras for underwater use. The Olympus Stylus SW is a new line of shock and waterproof digital cameras. Some are even freeze-proof for use in the winter. Even the base model is durable–supposedly you can drop it from up to five feet without breaking it, and you can use it underwater up to ten feet (more expensive models can be used in water up to thirty-three feet deep). I recently saw the model 850 SW on sale for about $300. That’s not bad when you add in all the features–8 megapixels, face detection, and digital image stabilization. 

Another option is to buy a waterproof case for your camera. What’s available depends on your camera model. The cost is around $200. A less expensive alternative is purchasing a weatherproof camera bag such as those made by Bogan and Lowepro.

Taking a camera to the beach? Take a moment to consider how gritty your skin feels after a trip to the shore. If you must bring it along, wrap the camera in a clean cloth or store it in a plastic bag. Instead of risking damage to your expensive digital or film camera, buy a couple of disposable cameras and leave the worry at home.

Heat or cold can cause permanent damage to digital and film cameras so caring for them in extreme weather is a necessity if you intend to use them again. In addition to the advice given here I have one more tip–never leave your camera in the car. Besides the threat of theft, the temperature and humidity variations will damage either type of device. Use common sense when safeguarding your equipment or it’ll be a costly mistake.

Have you encountered problems not mentioned here? How do you keep your photograph equipment and film safe during the summer? Share your tips with us in the comments section below.

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Maureen Taylor is the author of Capturing Memories: Your Family Story in Photographs (Ancestry Publishing, 2007). Her work as the Photo Detective <> was profiled in the “Wall Street Journal.” Follow photo-related news on her blog:

7 thoughts on “Summer Photo Sense, by Maureen Taylor

  1. I always keep the digital camera in a soft pouch to avoid scratching the display. Mine has a strap with a “slider” that I can move up so the strap fits snugly around my wrisit and there is no chance of dropping it.

    I took an expensive film camera to Peru many years ago and had many problems with condensation that resulted in a lot of pictures that did not come out. My friends with inexpensive point and shoot cameras had better luck.

  2. Maureen, you talked about ink printer cartridges’ colors becoming skewed in heat. Do they do that in and out of the printer? I’m assuming they do that out of the printer as well. Where do you store extra cartridges before use in the printer to keep them cool?
    Thanks for the great article.

  3. The one thing you need to do at the beach is clean your len. The sea spray gets on the len and you will have hazey picture. So time the picture looks good, but most of the time they do not.

  4. Another way to protect the digital camera’s LCD screen is to purchase clear LCD screen protectors, which are available at most camera stores. You’ve probably noticed that there was one on the screen when you bought the camera. These are just like it and come in packages so you can replace them when they get dirty or scratched. They generally don’t interfere with visibility – at least under normal conditions. In a situation where the protector does interfere, just pull it off and put it back on afterwards.

  5. Spooky Encounter – while visitng a Savannah cemetery, I got out of my air conditioned car to take photos and my camera wouldn’t snap any pictures, even tho it had power, etc. I kept driving from one end of the cemetery to the other and kept trying to take photos, but no my camera just wouldn’t let me snap any photos. So I walked about 15 minutes and left the cemetery and all of a sudden the camera worked fine! I was convinced something spooky was going on, but later realized, the car was too cool and the outside air was too muggy, which affected the camera. duh!

  6. Would never go anywhere like that with out a filter on the lense! Even if its just a UV Filter! £30 filter or £300 its a no brainer!

  7. I found out sadly that the new scanners at the airport do not protect film from exposure even if the film is still in the canisters and inside a photo bag. My 3 rolls of film all came out blank — red. The photo shop told me to always ask to hand carry the canisters through the metal detectors and not put them into the baskets to be sent through the xray scanners. Lesson learned!
    Carolyn Older Salk

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