If you’re reading this, you’re probably as into the ‘gram as I am: which means that either you’ve done a shoot or two, or it’s something you’ve been thinking about.
I get to shoot pretty often: I work with a heap of incredible brands that need content created, and that means days spent driving around, music up, windows down, hopping from place-to-place trying to get unique, creative shots that my clients are gonna love!
It’s a whole lotta fun, but the truth is? It can get a little bit dangerous. For example, when I was on Nusa Penida Island recently with Island Time [a tour agency I cannot recommend highly enough if you wanna see all the good bits of the island in a day] [#nonspon] [justgood], we stopped in at Angels Billabong. I’d seen a stack of photos of this place on my feed over the past twelve months or so, and I knew just the shot I wanted to take. Picture me, floating blissfully in the beautiful blue water, rocks curving around me and not a soul in sight. We got there, and it was super busy. Bummer! But bummer that I’ve come across travel-blogging a million times before: I’ve got really good at editing and composition photos, so I wasn’t too bothered.
I went and scoped out some angles, picked the one I wanted [added bonus: it was one that’d mean nobody else was in-shot!] and called Patrick over to ask him very very politely to snap me, floating on a sea of bliss.
I was about to hop into the water when our guide called out to me. ‘NO!’ I looked over, perplexed; was he sick of seeing this same snap on his feed? Was I being basic AF [always]? ‘PLEASE NO.’
‘LOOK AT THE TIDE’. I’d been so focussed on angles and setup that I hadn’t noticed the tide rise, rapidly. ‘YOU WILL GET SWEPT OUT.’ I could see what he meant straight away: the billabong looked calm and serene, until a wave came in: then it was rushing, angry, fierce. If I was floating & was pulled out by it, I would be gone. If I was standing in it and lost my balance, I would be gone: the billabong was on the edge of a cliff, and beyond that was an expanse of churning ocean.
I sat down next to him, deflated. ‘How long ’til the tide is out?’
He checked his watch.
‘Four or five hours, now.’
Aghhhh. ‘So, there’s no way I can float in there? Just for a photo? Just for a second?’ I knew that the question was stupid before it even left my lips.
‘Three people have been taken out already since this place became popular. They just want their photos. Nature doesn’t care about that- it just happens. Please, no.’ I didn’t ask what happened to the people who’d been swept out; the rocks lining the billabong were scary and sharp, and I can’t imagine that they came out as happy as they went in.
So yeah, I was disappointed. But I got it.
The trouble was, so many other people didn’t. I watched out guide yell to people, call out, wave his hands despairingly: and still they didn’t listen. I watched him shoot quick words in Balinese to other guides; they shrugged it off too. There were two girls in particular, who treated the whole thing like he was joking.
They took maybe twenty or thirty shots in the middle of the pool- wading out when the tide was low, and running in as the waves roared over the edges. They’d take a look at the shots, shake their heads at their friend perched up on a ledge above, and go out again. They were gorgeous girls, and their poses were on-point- I can’t say for sure, but I’m almost certain that they’d be professional travel-instagrammers / ‘influencers’ with followings of six figures or more.
We watched them for about five minutes, until I asked if we could leave. I could just see them being pulled out, their faces frozen in shock, their friends crumbling as they realised the weight of what had just happened. And if not them, someone who was watching them and decided that the chance was worth it.
I’m not going to lie- I’ve done some stupid stuff for the sake of a shot. I’ve lightly trespassed a bunch of times [see an example of that in a post I did here], I’ve climbed over fences, I’ve walked straight past signs like they weren’t even there. I would never ever recommend that anyone does any of those things: but the truth is, that almost every single time, I have been aware. Aware of my surroundings, of my abilities, of the environment and the risks and the people around me who might be watching and leading from example. Still: not good.
It got me thinking: what things have I learned from shooting content that I wish I knew a little bit earlier?
Ask for permission: or at least say g’day!
If you’re taking photos in a public place- say a cafe or a pizza shop or a cute little nursery- make sure you make the people there aware of what you’re up to. Not only will it ease their mind that you’re not scoping out the place for a grand theft, it’s also just a nice, polite thing to do. You are a guest in their space, so please respect it and them.
Know your surroundings.
As per my very long story above: understand your environment, understand that nature doesn’t give a hoot what your vision or deadline is, and stay safe.
If you’re in a busy place, or a place where there are a couple of people wanting to take a shot in the same position [really common when you’re traveling in busy, touristy areas!], make sure that you’re aware of them. Plan your shot, take your shot, step away and have a squiz at it. Take in turns, get a kind of casual line happening, and don’t hog it: you are not the only person in the world :). The worst case I saw of this was at the swings in Gili T last year: there was a beautiful sunset, people were waiting their turn, and every now and then someone would dash in, wait for their photo in the middle of other’s shots [!!!] and call out sixty-two instructions to their pal taking the photo like they were the only ones there. ‘Cause it was time-sensitive, it was super frustrating to see people miss out on the good light when they’d been there for ages.
Look after yo’ insta boyfriend.
Sometimes shoots happen with someone else who’d just as passionate about adventure and photography as you are- that’s so much fun, but it’s rare! Most of the time your right-hand-guy-or-girl is doing it because they’re a decent sort, and it’s important that you take care of them. Buy them food, don’t be too demanding, and be organised so that they’re doing more photo taking & less standing around being bossed. Don’t forget a killer playlist- and don’t forget to take some shots of / with them if you think they’d like to.
That’s it! Have fun, stay safe, think about the people around you & get it, guuuurl (or guuuuy!)