Industrial Photography Tips and Tricks: Staying Safe

Industrial photography is not as glamorous as fashion photography, or candid like street photography. But, it is just as interesting, important and challenging. The concept of industrial photography is to take photos of equipment, products, machinery, and sometimes, a company’s workers and officials. Most of the time, however, the main subjects are large machinery or equipment like a transformer, gas terminal plant or water dam.

Examples of Industrial Photography

Most photos taken by industrial photographers focus on the ins and outs of the manufacturing and industrial sectors. In majority of these cases, the subjects are the equipment and machinery only. There are instances, though, when workers or company personnel are included in the picture.

Here are some examples of common industrial photography subjects:

  • Welders at work
  • A processing plant
  • Workers in a shipyard
  • Workers inside a factory or plant
  • A gas terminal plant
  • Nuclear reactors
  • Water treatment facilities
  • Dams
  • Tractors
  • Metal pressing operators at work
  • An assembly line in a plant or factory

Some industrial photographers also like taking close-up shots of tools at work. A good example would be an extreme close-up of a screwdriver boring a hole through a piece or pieces of wood. Another example would be an interior shot of a machine with its gears scanning up and down.

Touring a plant or factory will also expose you to interesting situations perfect for industrial photography. One example is when you are shown how mattresses are made. You will be led to a big room where a machine that fills up practically the entire room is assembling one mattress after another. An experienced industrial photographer will know how to document the process, starting with the jelly-like appearance of the substance used in making a mattress, all the way down to when the machine tosses the finished product to the pile. Of course, photographers need to have the management’s permission to shoot in such places as, first and foremost, they will be exposed to dangerous chemicals and materials.

How to Stay Safe

One of the best safety measures for industrial photographers is having the right camera equipment. Most essential among these are the lenses. If the aim is to capture the industrial scene in its truest sense, you will need to have several fast lenses with you. This will help you adjust accordingly to the size of your subject, as well as to the vastness of the area you might need to cover. In addition, with good zoom lenses, it will be easier for you to follow safety regulations because you won’t need to move close to subjects that are far from you.

Once you have gone through the location, the subject and the objective of the shoot, it is time for you to think about safety measures. Again, you need to talk to someone from the company about this. Spend some time talking about what you need to and should not do. It is best to have a checklist in case you forget something. Here are some essential points you need to consider:

  • What kind of protective gear should I wear? If the subject is a gas terminal plant, will I need a gas mask? If there’s a lot of welding involved, should I wear protective eye gear?
  • No matter what machinery or subject you are shooting; no matter where your location is, you should always wear the right clothes. Don’t go to the shoot wearing your best polo shirt! Wear jeans or long pants and the plainest t-shirt you can find. In a gasoline bulk terminal plant, it is recommended that you should wear only 100% cotton shirt and long pants. You might need to crawl; you may also be exposed to dust and other similar elements.
  • For construction sites, shipyards, factories and plants shoots, wear a safety vest, hardhat, protective eye wear, gloves, and steel-toed boots (or any similar footwear; just don’t wear sneakers, leather shoes or anything fancy).
  • The more visible your clothing, the better. You need to be easily identified if the situation calls for it. Visible clothing means bright colors. Avoid wearing black or gray. Orange is a common color for industrial workers, so you can choose to wear it, too.

These are the basic safety requirements when doing an industrial photography shoot. Depending on the project or assignment, there may be additional rules and precautions you need to be aware of. This is why it is important to talk to a representative from the company or client before the actual shoot.

Industrial photography may be challenging with all the safety measure you need to consider. But, it is also one of the most interesting and is becoming significantly popular by the day. If you want to try industrial photography, it won’t be a walk in the park, but the satisfaction you will get will be worth all the determination, discipline and hard work.