Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a seasoned professional, being aware of your surroundings (having situational awareness) can help you to avoid any photography safety hazards while you’re out and about.

Holiday and travel photography can expose you to a number of risks, so it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings and stay vigilant at all times. Here are some tips, based on my own experience and that of others who’ve been there and done it,  to help you stay safe while pursuing your passion for holiday and travel photography.

If you’re ready to learn about potential photography safety hazards and how to avoid them, keep reading.


 1. Research your destination beforehand:

Before embarking on your photography journey, do your research. Learn about the places you’re planning to visit, the local customs, and the areas you should avoid. When it comes to photography safety hazards, it’s also helpful to research the current political climate of the area to understand any potential risks.

2. Dress to match the local scene:

One of the biggest photography safety hazards is standing out. To stay safe on your travels, it’s best to blend in so you don’t attract attention. That means no new trainers and designer tops when everyone around you is wearing casual shorts and t-shirts, and no tattered shorts when all around you are in suits and hand-made leather shoes. It’s not just sensible security, it’s also being respectful to the local community. Communities share an identity, and if you choose to dress differently you mark yourself out as not being one of the community.

3. Keep your equipment safe:

Photography equipment is often expensive, so it’s essential to keep it safe while travelling. Keep your gear in a sturdy bag or case that is difficult to cut or break into. Never leave your equipment unattended, and always keep an eye on your belongings. Major photography safety hazards include theft, so ideally, ditch the branded camera bag and strap; use an old backpack and generic strap instead. You could consider using an open bag, but backpacks have the advantage of zips and fasteners on the pockets. Choose a ‘day sack’, a small backpack that is just large enough for the kit you are carrying, and make sure it is as tatty or as posh as the environment demands. A tired old ex-army backpack suggests that you are a traveller, gap-year student or hippy; you aren’t rich and that bag more likely contains old socks and underpants – not a worthwhile target at all.

4. Be aware of your surroundings:

When learning how to avoid photography safety hazards, being aware of your surroundings helps you avoid potential risks. Pay attention to the people around you, and if you sense something is off, trust your instincts and move to a safer location. It’s also essential to stay alert while you’re walking and avoid using your phone or other electronic devices that may distract you from your surroundings. Remember where you are and where you’ve just been. It’s all too easy, especially in a new location, to get lost in the moment, the shots, the atmosphere etc, and then realise that you have no idea where you are.

If things do go wrong, knowing how to reverse out of the situation is essential. Make a mental note of landmarks, street names and junctions so you’ll recognise them when you need to.

5. Travel in groups:

Another of the potential photography safety hazards you will encounter when travelling is becoming a victim of crime. Travelling in groups can significantly reduce your risk of being a victim of crime, even if it’s a group of two. If possible, travel with a friend or in a group. Not only will this provide you with an extra set of eyes, but it can also make you less of a target for criminals.

Dress to match the location, avoid brightly coloured new looking kit bags and never leave your kit unattended.

AI Photograph by David Robinson

5. Be respectful of local customs and laws:

When visiting a new place, it’s important to be respectful of the local customs, traditions and laws. Avoid taking pictures of people or places where photography is prohibited. If you’re not sure whether it’s appropriate to take a photo, ask for permission first.

6. Make life hard for thieves:

Again, when we talk about photography safety hazards, the safety of your camera and equipment is paramount. Making life a bit harder for thieves can help you protect your equipment and keep you safe. Put an anti-theft wire mesh bag inside the backpack. These can be bought easily and will prevent opportunists from slashing the pack while it’s on your back and stealing the contents from behind you. You can add a GPS tag to the bag too so if it does go astray, you and the police can track it down. It’s also very useful at the airport when your bag ends up in the wrong baggage pile!

7. Be prepared for emergencies:

Always remember that it’s essential to be prepared for emergencies while travelling. When thinking about photography safety hazards, people often forget about the most basic of safety measures. Ensure that you carry a first-aid kit with you, and make sure you have emergency contact numbers saved on your phone. It’s also a good idea to research the nearest hospitals or medical facilities to where you’ll be staying.

8. Stop and rest safely:

When you stop for a rest, a coffee or a doze, ALWAYS slip a leg or an arm through the backpack straps so it can’t be removed without you knowing about it. Stashing it under the table is not good enough, not even in a supposedly secure location. I lost an entire camera bag that way whilst in the cafe of a very secure European museum; the ‘safe’ environment resulted in my guard going down and I placed my bag by my feet, under the table. It seemed a well-trained child crawled under the table, cut the strap around my leg, removed the bag, passed it to an adult and that was the end of my kit.

9. Don’t take unnecessary risks:

This point seems fairly obvious when discussing photography safety hazards, however, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and take unnecessary risks to get the perfect shot. It’s important to remember that your safety should always come first. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way for the sake of a photo.

Its so easy to wander around and get lost when you are looking for the perfect shot. Memorize the route in, take note of features and be confident you can find your way back home again.

AI Photograph by David Robinson

Final Thoughts On Familiarising Yourself With Photography Safety Hazards

Most of the time people are wonderful, helpful, decent and caring, so don’t assume the worst of people when you travel. However, just as you choose your friends and people you trust, choose your locations and photo opportunities with care, know what you are getting into, and have a plan to get back out again!

Blend in, be friendly, don’t make yourself into a target.

Photograph copyright: David Robinson