Shutter Safety: Protecting yourself and your photos

Most of us become photographers to satisfy our adventurous and curious spirits, but what do you do when those curious cameras venture too far into the mouth of danger? Whatever type of photography your practice, whether it be documentary style photojournalism, or capturing a more artistic perspective, each photographer should go into their craft with safety knowledge and expectations. Documenting a protest can turn ugly quickly, but so can a simple portrait shoot, especially when the photographer goes into the business transaction with naivete. An uninformed photographer, mixed with a crafty corporation or client, can easily be taken advantage of.

First Things First: Know Your Worth

You’re providing a service! Most people can’t just take photos and turn them into amazing headshots or artistic representations of their surroundings. You have value, and you have skill. Set your price (maybe a bit higher than you actually think you’re worth) and stay firm.

Second: Know Your Rights

A knowledgeable photographer is a safe photographer. Whether you live in Rome or the United States, study up on your country’s privacy laws. Make sure to know them like the back of your hand, especially if you’re planning to do street photography or photojournalism.

Don’t Let People into Your Space

Hold your own. In most countries, you have a right to your images. If you take them, you own the copyright, and that means you don’t have to show them to anyone else. If someone asks to see your images, politely tell them no. As soon as you let someone into your space to view your LCD, that opens up other possibilities for them to take control of not only your camera but you as well.

Keep an Extra SD/Memory card

Our workshop photographer, Mauro Benedetti, suggests that you always carry a spare memory card if you can. Sometimes a quick switch of your SD card can prevent the loss of thousands of valuable photos and hours of hard work. Pocket your property if you sense a tense or threatening situation! It could not only save you a huge headache, but it could also save you from a threatening individual demanding to see (or steal!) your gear.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

It’s easy to forget you’re actually present in the event while you’re clicking away at your shutter. Cameras aren’t invincible shields: if there’s a danger that you’re seeing through your lens, then there’s a danger to you. Moreover, don’t forget that there’s a world outside your tunneled vision. Just because you don’t see a danger in your wide view, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Take a moment every once and a while to put your camera down and reevaluate your surroundings.

Lastly: Follow Your Gut

Only you know if a situation calls for protective action or an evacuation. While it may be admirable to persevere or “do anything for the shot,” keep in mind what you might have to sacrifice, and know that it’s not always worth it. At Rome Photography Workshops, we always encourage and advise you to trust yourself first and to be wary of your surroundings while participating in our workshops or out on your own.

For more personal tips and tricks to staying safe as a photographer, be sure to book our Street Photography workshop with Mauro Benedetti, or choose from our selection of other workshops: Morning Light, Evening Light, City Night, Food, or Custom. Trouble choosing? Take a look at our guide.

-Kirby Caraballo