A wedding photographer is in the hospital following a robbery and beating in downtown Baltimore this weekend. 22 year-old Eric Suydam was running a photo booth at a wedding at the 1840s Ballroom venue when he ran outside to get something from his car. Police found him on the sidewalk, unconscious later that evening. According to the Baltimore Sun, he had no identification on him and had been beaten and robbed.
Suydam, a part time DJ and wedding photographer, suffered a severe head injury and is stable, but “cannot communicate much.” A witness said they saw Suydam walking outside when three men assaulted him. Reports said that no one at the wedding noticed he was missing until the next morning when his equipment was discovered still set up in the building.
Baltimore police is asking for help in identifying the suspects. Any tips can be called into 410-396-2422.
5 Safety Tips For Photographers
Safety is something we all take for granted. The above situation could happen to anyone, of course, but we photographers can quickly be caught up in our little world of creating images that we sometimes ignore some common sense practices that we should do to keep ourselves safe when working at an event or photo shoot.
1. Never Walk Alone to Your Car
Most of the time, wedding photographers are one of the last vendors to leave the event. We carry our thousands of dollars of equipment with us through dark parking lots on the other side of the building and think nothing of it. We know that this is an unwise practice, but we justify it by saying it is just easier not to try to find someone to walk with us or ensure our own safety in these situations.
In Eric Suydam’s case, he was just running to his car to grab something and was at the wrong place at the wrong time. It could happen to anyone, but it is still wise to try and take every precaution to not put yourself in a situation where you are alone on a dark street while working an event.
2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
After a long day of shooting, the only thing I want to do is get home, kick my feet up and back up my images with a glass of wine. I’m mentally shot, exhausted and making a beeline for my car. I’m not really looking around, noticing anything, usually my mind is reviewing the day and images that I captured. The best idea is to have an assistant or second shooter walk with you to your car (and one of you drive the other to their car). If that isn’t possible, make sure you are aware of your surrounds, looking around and noting any people that may be suspicious. Not just after the event, but even during.
At one wedding I was second shooting at, there was a suspicious person who was hanging around while we were photographing the couple. That man ended up trying to steal our camera bags. Thankfully, security was able to stop him before he left the venue and our equipment was recovered.
3. Make Sure Your Gear Is With You Or Locked Away During the Event
Cameras and lenses are heavy and we carry a lot of items to a shoot/event/wedding. We can’t be expected to carry all of our gear for a 10 hour wedding day – we wouldn’t be in business very long (but our chiropractors would!) When you set your gear down, make sure that it is near you at all times, in your line of vision or your assistant’s line of sight. Most of the time, we are distracted, eyeball on the viewfinder, always looking out for the next moment to capture, so our equipment is left off to the side as we chase after the bride and groom, open for someone to just walk by and take it when we are unaware.
Do not leave your gear in another room while you are shooting. Many times, there is a vendor room, where the wedding planners are setting up. The room is supposedly secure. But is it really? If the room is locked with very few key holders, then maybe, you could consider leaving it. I always set my equipment down beside me when I shoot, and at the reception, I ask the DJ if I can stow my bag under his DJ booth. I DO NOT advise leaving any equipment in the car ever, not even in the trunk.
Most importantly, make sure your gear is insured. If anything were to happen, at least your equipment is covered. I pay about $50 a month for my policy and it’s worth every penny.
4. Make Sure People Know Where You Are/Who You Are With
This probably applies more for photo shoots than weddings. I’ve been to very remote areas looking for just that perfect spot to shoot at. Every single time, I have brought an assistant with me, not only to help me schlep my gear, but there is safety in numbers. If bringing someone along isn’t feasible, then let someone know the approximate area you are going to be shooting at, when you expect to return, etc. This might save you a night spent lost in the woods somewhere or worse.
I always carry my cell phone with me. On my phone, I have a first aid app which has come in handy a time or two. I’ve also used my phone to Google what to do when you encounter a rattlesnake, as I was standing with my model listening to the telltale shaking of a rattle. The maps feature has helped me navigate my way through new neighborhoods and cities (and gotten me lost a time or two!)
5. Use Your Weapons
I’m not suggesting that you pack a piece to your shoot, but should you encounter someone who is trying to rob you, my first suggestion is to just give up your gear. Nothing is worth your life, not even that shiny new expensive camera of yours. (Plus, it is insured, right? If not, see tip #3)
If absolutely necessary, a tripod or camera slider are heavy and could double as a good weapon should you need to defend yourself in a scary situation. I also recommend carrying a can of mace on your keychain, just in case.
Hopefully, you never find yourself in a situation like Eric Suydam. Make sure you are extra cautious and use common sense so that you might be able to avoid a dangerous situation while on a shoot or at a wedding.
What are some precautions you take to protect yourself while shooting? Leave a comment below.