Four Tips for Photographers Before Attending Protests
Updated: Aug 28
By: Corinne Dorsey
In the last few months, there has been no shortage of marches, protests and rallies based around the Black Lives Matter Movement and the outrage regarding the deaths of numerous innocent black lives at the hands of police officers. Many photojournalists and photographers are interested in documenting these historic events, but there is an appropriate way to do this without risking the safety of yourself and the protestors. Whether you’re choosing to use a smartphone or a point-and-shoot, documenting a protest through any medium is an important part of telling the story of what is happening in the world. However, these photos can also be used to harm you and fellow protesters in the future. Here are some steps you should take to keep yourself and others safe while recording content at a protest.
What is Your Intent
Before deciding to attend a protest, decide why you want to take photos at this event. Shooting photo and video at the protests should not be for social media clout: likes, follows or comments. Protests aren’t formed to be a live photoshoot, especially not at a time where people are expressing their outrage towards systematic injustice. Consider where your motivations and intentions are before attending, and then think of what you want to do with the photos.
Gear to Bring:
These tips are primarily for camera users, but can still come in handy to iPhone photographers. Refrain from bringing unnecessary equipment, such as a tripod. Choose one lens and one camera. This is to keep space open to items you may need like water and other useful supplies. Bring extra batteries and memory cards for your camera as well to ensure you can cover the entire event. Finally, make sure a secure strap is attached to your camera and keep it around your neck for safekeeping while you navigate through a crowd.
If you are using an iPhone:
Make sure you have a secure case on your phone, along with a backup charger. Try to take photos through your lock screen, so in case it is confiscated no one can unlock your phone. This being said, turn off all FaceID or the fingerprint unlock function—only use a passcode until after the protests.
Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Protesters:
While attending the protests, consider communicating with protestors on your intent for the photographs before shooting. It is important to capture events candidly without influencing behavior, but consider telling protesters that may seem agitated upfront. If you are considering taking a portrait of someone, it’s important to ask directly as this warrants their identity release. Capturing the people attending the events is essential to telling the story, but be cautious of endangering anyone’s safety in the process.
Prep Photos for Social Media:
Thoroughly go through all photos before posting anything from the protests. Protest photos require extra care, so make sure you sort through them accordingly. Use this editing time to remove any identifying features of protesters' faces in your photos. Although the blur tool can be helpful, consider using a blackout tool to cover faces completely. Another tool to utilize is an app like Scrubber that deletes the location metadata from the photographs processed through the app. Finally, refrain from posting any images from the protest on the same day, as this will possibly put remaining protestors in danger.
Be safe and vigilant when preparing to photograph at any protests, marches or rallies, and consider your own safety and the safety of fellow protestors when setting your intentions for the event. Charley Magazine wants to extend a gentle reminder to be responsible and respectful when attending any protest. One of your photos may change the world for the better and, once something is photographed and shared online, it is essentially there forever. Make sure your photo belongs in the history books for the right reasons.
Corinne Dorsey is an editorial writer with a focus on black womanhood, culture, and fashion writing.