Keeping Safe With a Camera

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

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

Personal Safety

Comstock Images / Getty Images

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

  • Practice situational awareness. Pay attention to your surroundings, particularly in high-risk areas such as isolated country and busy urban areas. Be aware of the people around you, and take stock of places you can go to stay safe if you feel uncomfortable. Listen to your instincts if you have a bad feeling about a setting.
  • Use appropriate filters—and not the viewfinder—when you're shooting 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, 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. Shooting while you're walking increases your odds of stumbling over something or even running into a person or object. Shoot only when you're standing still.
  • Use a tripod when possible. 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.

Subject Safety

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

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

  • Don't allow or encourage people to do stupid stunts just for the shot. Fun action shots are interesting, 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 and people putting themselves in harm's way.
  • Help subjects stay aware of their surroundings. When people are photographed, they often give all their attention to the camera instead of obstacles like branches, cars, obstructions, etc. They also might not watch for their gear if they've set it aside for the shoot.
  • Use a telephoto lens to give wildlife and cultural relics appropriate space. Practice a respectful, leave-no-trace approach to photography by keeping clear of wildlife and delicate natural and cultural features. Using a telephoto lens atop a tripod usually obtains better shots than getting up close to a wild animal, anyway.
DSLR camera protected by the fleece balaclava
 Vadven / Getty Images

Gear Safety

Keep your equipment in tip-top shape with preventative maintenance and protection from environmental challenges:

  • Don't stash your gear anywhere 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 and motors, but moving rapidly between temperature extremes also can introduce internal condensation within the body or the lenses that, at best, adversely affects image quality, and at worst, ruins the equipment. Don't move between very cold and very hot temperatures quickly; instead, give your equipment a chance to warm up or cool down gradually to avoid moisture issues.
Condensation on camera lens
Smiley.toerist/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0 
  • Watch for excessive heat. If your camera body or battery feels unusually warm, discontinue use and bring the faulty device to an authorized repair shop for diagnosis and repair.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions regarding self-repairs. Some parts of cameras are user-serviceable, and some are not. Use an authorized repair center to avoid warranty problems and avoid further damage to 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. Likewise, don't just throw it in the trash; it's considered toxic waste.
  • Use the strap. Cameras ship with straps to protect them from being dropped. 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 bags or cases that not only keep out water but also prevent impact damage to your delicate gear.
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