Pro Tips for safer on-location, outdoor photo productions

Tue 12th Oct, 2021

Posted by Creative Arc in Insight

The ideas and information below were gathered during the recent free APA SF event, entitled “Keep Your Gear, Lose Your Fear”. They are provided here solely as a public service, to increase our photo community’s awareness of this serious issue.

Use common sense. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Reduce and prevent theft crimes of opportunity by never, ever leaving any camera gear unguarded in a parked vehicle, not even for a minute. Park as close to your location as possible.

Property theft of this kind is currently not a felony unless the item is valued at more than $950.

Felonies, especially robberies are treated even more seriously than property theft by law enforcement, and criminals are aware of that. Many lawbreakers will avoid violent confrontations, and use “smash-and-grab”, or “grab-and-dash” techniques, so take preventative measures to increase the theft and robbery deterrent factors.

This is why it is often better to take your camera gear with you if you have to leave your vehicle, instead of trying to hide it in your car. In other words, to get your gear, the person would then have to commit a felony robbery, instead of the less serious, car break-in property theft.

Buddy System: Always have at least one person watching your back while you concentrate on creating your image. Whenever possible, have extra personnel all around you to create a perimeter, who are vigilant and aware at all times, to help prevent “grab-and-dash” robberies. Consider developing your own small community of trustworthy photographer friends who can take turns providing extra security for one another.

If you absolutely have to do a photo production alone, it is wise to contact the local police department and film production offices well in advance, to let them know you will be working in that specific area during that certain time. Many departments will then send a local officer by, to make sure you are safe on your job.

Use a Threat Assessment Strategy by thinking through the security risks prior to your production day. If possible, bring security personnel or a location manager along for your location scout.

Always turn off all electronics, especially cameras and laptops, before placing them in your car to avoid them being emitter-detected through their active GPS, WIFI, or bluetooth features.

Understand and educate your clients that Estimate line-item budgeting for security guards in some locations is an essential priority, and not a luxury.

Unarmed security guards provide a reasonably priced, fairly effective deterrent in many situations. Armed guards increase the deterrent but also the liability. Police officers cost considerably more to hire, and because of the shifts are on a volunteer basis, the more hours you can provide, the more likely the shift will get covered. However, keep in mind that they are responsible for public safety only -- not production gear.

For larger productions, it is wise to use a location manager and security firm to assess the possible threats and provide solutions in addition to making your crew aware of the surroundings. 

It is recommended to have one security person per 5 crew members, and have 1 person guarding stored gear at all times. 

Make sure all your gear is fully insured, and your policy is up to date. Always write down all serial numbers and other relevant details about your photo equipment, and bring a copy of that list to your productions, in case you need to file a police report.

If threatened, do not resist. Your well-being is far more important than your insured camera gear. If robbed, carefully try to video the incident in progress, and the license plate of the getaway vehicle. Immediately call 911 and promptly provide as much detailed evidence as you can, including accurate descriptions and serial numbers of what was stolen.

After an outdoor photo production, be aware that lawbreakers will sometimes follow your car and wait for an opportunity to break in and steal your photo equipment, when you park, or even just when you are stopped in traffic. Taking different, circuitous routes home, or back to your studio is a good idea. If followed, go to the nearest police station.

Remind your team to not post your location on social media, when the production is taking place.

Disclaimer: The above information was gathered during the recent free APA SF event, entitled “Keep Your Gear, Lose Your Fear”. It is provided here solely as a public service, to increase our photo community’s awareness of this serious issue. American Photographic Artists, and the speakers from the event assume no responsibility or liability for the use of this information. It is entirely up to each of us to conduct our own photo productions in a safe manner. We hope these ideas help you do that.



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