Keeping Safe With a Camera

Avoid injuries or damaged gear by following common-sense safety guidelines

Keep safe with a camera

 Arctic-Images / Getty Images

Keep yourself and your gear safe on your next photoshoot by planning ahead to minimize risks to your safety.

Personal Safety

Photographer
Comstock Images / Getty Images

Never jeopardize your well-being for a shot. Follow standard safety precautions:

  • Practice situational awareness: Pay attention to where you are. Particularly in higher-risk areas, like back-country settings and certain urban areas, you'll need to remain alert to environmental factors that might harm you with little or no notice.
  • Use appropriate filters, and avoid the viewfinder, when you're photographing toward the sun: Your eyes are more sensitive to direct sunlight than you think. When you're shooting toward the big yellow orb, use the screen and keep your face and eyes shaded.
  • Use the strap — but be careful that it doesn't get snagged: A well-designed strap saves your camera from being dropped, but the strap could snag on a branch or a pipe or some other hazard when you're shooting in tight quarters. Keep it as tight as you can — it's a safety feature, not a fashion accessory.
  • Don't use the camera when you're on the move: Using the camera while you're walking increases your odds of stumbling over something or even running into a person or a fixed object. Only shoot when you're standing still.
  • Use a tripod: Not only will you get better shots, but a tripod forces you to set up your shot in a place you're less likely to hurt yourself. After all, if you rely on your tripod, you'll be less likely to hang from a tree branch to frame a scene.

Safety of Your Subjects

No lifeguard on duty - water safety and twins
Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

If someone or something is good enough to capture through the lens, it's good enough to keep safe in the context of your photo shoot:

  • Don't let people do stupid stunts just for the shot: Fun action shots are a ton of fun, but as a photographer, you're ethically obligated to ensure that your subjects don't put themselves at risk. Just say no to amateurs performing stunts or people putting themselves in harm's way.
  • Watch for subjects who might not be aware of their surroundings: When people are photographed, they often give all of their attention to the camera instead of paying attention to things like branches, cars, obstructions, and related obstacles. They also might not watch for their gear, if they've set it aside for the sake of the shoot.
  • Use a telephoto lens to give wildlife and cultural relics appropriate space: Practice a leave-no-trace approach to photography by keeping well clear of wildlife or delicate natural or cultural features. A telephoto lens atop a tripod usually obtains better shots than getting up-close to a wild animal, anyway.

Safety of Your Gear

Young male photographer photographing mountain biker in forest
Manuel Sulzer / Getty Images

Keep your equipment in tip-top shape by engaging in preventative maintenance and by appropriately securing it from environmental harm:

  • Don't put your gear in a place it could be damaged or stolen: Always keep your stuff with you, or within easy reach.
  • Observe the camera's normal operating temperatures: Not only will operation in temperature extremes potentially damage delicate electronics or motors, but moving rapidly between temperature extremes may introduce internal condensation within the body or the lenses that, at best, adversely affects image quality, and at worst, ruins the equipment.
  • Watch for excessive heat: If your camera body or any battery feels unusually warm to the touch, discontinue use and bring the faulty device to an authorized repair shop for further investigation.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions regarding self-repair: Some parts of cameras are user-serviceable, some are not. Use an authorized repair center to avoid warranty problems or from further damaging your camera.
  • Discard leaking batteries properly: If a battery leaks, take it to an authorized battery disposal center. Don't continue to use it — you'll ruin your camera — and don't just throw it in the trash, because it'll be toxic in the landfill.
  • Use the strap: Cameras ship with straps to protect them from being dropped. Make it a practice to always put the strap around your neck, just as religiously as if it were the seat belt in your car.
  • Buy protective bags or cases: Minimize shock damage by storing your gear in environmentally protected bags or cases that not only keep out water but also reduce impact damage to your delicate gear.