Follow-Up To Shooting A “Color Run” Event – Here’s How To Protect Your Kit

Follow-Up To Shooting A “Color Run” Event – Here’s How To Protect Your Kit

Last month I posted an article about your gear being possibly ruined if you were to take it to a Color Run event. After reading that along with comments on the Lensrentals blog where rented lenses were being returned in disrepair, one of the event’s official photographers spoke up, wanting to share his practices for keeping your kit safe.

Alexander Husarek is an Ohio-based freelance photographer who manages the official photography for Color Run events. Having traveled all around the US to capture these vibrant races in all of their glory, he has certainly had the chance to perfect the way in which he not only shoots the event, but keeps his camera kit safe during his shoots.

Alex suggests that whether you’re renting or using your own gear, (lensrentals insurance no longer covers damage from color powder getting on lenses) you should ideally wrap it up. A cheap solution he has found is by using plastic wrap.

“The first place I wrap a couple times is where the lens mounts in the camera. Usually doing this prior to the event stops dust from going straight into my camera sensor when it’s time to switch lenses.”

This would seem to work fine, but as someone who is shooting professionally, there are likely times when you need to get a different look, so using multiple lenses becomes a necessity. Rather than switch lenses in a minefield of colored specks, why not use a second body for that other lens?

“I frequently see people swapping lenses on the course like they are playing street craps. These are the people that are covered in powder, with hands that look like they got in a fight with a smurf. Instead of chancing it, pick a lens and just shoot with it. If you have the luxury of a second body and lens, hey, great. But protect it.”

A few kit accessories help Alex when he needs to do something like change batteries or memory cards in the field. Since he can’t always take the time to get to a safe area, Alex uses some cheap, but highly effective solutions.

“When I am on the course I always have compressed air on me. Picture an uncool version of Iron Man, complete with a belt of compressed air, Ojo wipes, and purel. All batteries should be placed in plastic wrap or zip lock packs. When I am ready, a quick shot of compressed air and a battery swap or cf/sd card (and I’m) done! I always shoot compressed air on the area I am about to open.”

Everado Keeme Photo by Everado Keeme

Another way to not only protect your lenses, but to keep shooting when getting blasted by direct throws of powder, is to utilize cheap filters, and have several on hand so you can easily switch when wiping just doesn’t cut it.

“I have found putting cheap filters on my lens and wrapping plastic around the seal really keeps dust off and out of the glass. While in the race, people throw the powder at photographers constantly. If someone tosses a soft ball of color I can't wipe off quickly, I pop the filter off, toss a new filter on, shoot it with a pocket rocket (not-compressed air) and place and wrap the new one. Easy three minute fix.”

When the day’s shoot is over, Alex takes each piece of gear runs it through a cleaning process which includes the following:

"Step 1: Shoot compressed air to knock off any dust that's dangling on the unit

Step 2. Slowly pull the plastic wrap off the sections of the camera and wipe down with a semi-moist, warm water rag.

Step 3: lenses get properly pulled and both ends cleaned with proper supplies. I normally do any mechanical check at this time.

Step 4: We shoot pocket air up on the CMOS to make sure no powder will affect the next shoot. (Do this away from where you were wiping down all other cameras)

Step 5: Grab the bottles of Mcguires high gloss detailer for cars and rub it all over the body. Why??? Well, that powder is corn starch and when you are constantly getting hit with it and it sits on the gear, it dries out the plastic. You have to rejuvenate the rubber or will see cracking. I do not know if I am doing long term damage to the body but I do it anyway. However, since I started taking this step, I haven’t had any grips or plastic pieces crack. So to me it works well, plus it makes your camera look sexy new again and ready for another shoot!"

Photo by Cameron Peters Photo by Cameron Peters

Lastly, Alex mentioned the health issue that has started to stir a bit. While reports claim that it is totally safe to breathe in, Alex would rather not take any chances since he is shooting multiple races and subject to a lot of dust inhalation, so he chooses to wear a mask and even gloves sometimes.

Other photographers I spoke to have suggested Q-tips and canned air are your best bet for cleaning them out.

Featured image by Maxwell Arnold.
All images used with permission.

Mike Wilkinson's picture

Mike Wilkinson is an award-winning video director with his company Wilkinson Visual, currently based out of Lexington, Kentucky. Mike has been working in production for over 10 years as a shooter, editor, and producer. His passion lies in outdoor adventures, documentary filmmaking, photography, and locally-sourced food and beer.

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I took my Nikon D300s and a GoPro on our last colour run specifically to shoot video. Great atmosphere, but not at all kind to the camera. My advice is to use a single prime lens that way it will minimise colour particles getting sucked into the lens via the zoom or lens changes.
The worst of it for me was my Rode VideoMic windsock was full of purple colour.

Check the video out...

I cringed badly upon seeing those DSLR covered in dust...

I spent a week in the desert (Utah can be hella windy!) and I was flippin' nervous. Can't imagine what they were thinking by exposing their gear like this...

This guy is stupid. Use a rainsleeve on the camera.

I started with a rain sleeve for the event I photographed but problem is the dust is finer and still creeps in. Now I didn't get as dirty as the guy in the first photo, that's just nuts

Rainsleeve won't help. Unless you can submerge your rig in water without leaks, its not good enough to keep color dust out.

unless they're going to pay me as much as a wedding, i'd only take an underwater point and shoot for something like this. Eff that.

I know right!!! I'm with ya!

just photographed one near pittsburgh, used a rainsleeve, my camera body and lenses are fine.

did you get the same amount on the camera? anyone throw powder at you?

yes people threw powder at me and no, i got hardly anything on my camera body or lens. Nothing a quick wipe down couldn't take off.

cool what lens(es) did you use?

I shot at a Holi celebration two years in a row, same kind of powder as these events. The first time it took me about 2 hours to really get my gear clean. This year I made a bag out of a plastic drop cloth, used the threads on my lens hood to secure it to the lens and then cut out the plastic over the lens. The drop cloth and tape cost me less than $5 and I was able to tailor it for the lens and my arms. Thorough cleanup only took about 20 minutes except for my strap which I just threw in the wash.

Using compressed air on a camera covered in that shìt is asking for even more trouble than you already got yourself into. You need to vacuum that shìt off. Ideally and underwater housing would be the best protection, or a rainsleeve as some have suggested.

Ultimately however, I think not patronizing such sophomoric events might be the best cure, as they may then finally just go away...

Yeah I didn't even mess with it and just shipped it off to Canon CPS for cleaning. As for ignoring sophomoric events, doubt that'll happen :(

Most photojournalists don't get to choose their assignments.

What about use a dicapac house ? or a plastic bag (cheap solution) ?

Started with a plastic bag but became too messy :(

So... Something like that ; is the only way to protect our gear in a colour run :/

That is what I have been wondering. Underwater/Dive cases are air/water tight. So in theory they should protect the camera and the cleanup of that case is easy, wash under running water before you open it.

I use this one when I shoot this type of events. It works fairly well.

I don't believe their claim that dust inhalation is safe. Think they will be issuing health warnings to these events very soon........ Grateful for the post, showed to my kids to stay away from Color Runs.

agreed, I don't think our respiratory tract was made to filter these levels of particulates, and if it CAN be absorbed, I'm wondering what those pigments are and what the insides of my lungs would look like after a healthy dose of absorbtion. if it can be absorbed.

It's like cellphones and radiation, I think it's going to take some serious illnesses to really get people thinking about it, and even then it's likely many will still do it even if it is bad.

Oh wow! I have to get a local schedule of these I can be a very long way away when they happen.

I've shot Color Me Rad events. I use a rain sleeve, never switch lenses during the event, and, most importantly, use a telephoto lens long enough so I'm not standing in the middle of the action. I use a monopod too as well as a rain poncho so I'm not a mess too. My next event is at MetLife Stadium in July.

I almost attended one of these thinking it would be fun to shoot. But now knowing they target photographers, I'll enjoy it through YOUR lens! :D

I've never been targeted by runners at Color Me Rad, Kiss Me Dirty, Tri One on Triathlon, The Survival Race, and "Run For Your Lives" Zombie Run.

Glad wrap. Sorted. My gear was fine. Images on the bottom right.

I shot a color me event without protection with a 60d, fisheye, and 50(with changing lenses) a people were throwing color directly on me and my camera and it didn't do any hard to my camera and a quick 15 mins of cleaning and it was all gone. Also the colored power is colored corn starch.

Colored powder should give interesting effects when it get between the lenses in the lens. Colorful bokeh, it must be beautiful! ^^
Dont worry about camera, its only thing. Just think about the pictures!

or better yet use Outex or

Would a GoPro work for something like this. If the case is water tight, shouldn't it be able to keep the color powder out?

Never seen such a dumb idea... Anyways, is it not possible to shoot with tele's ? 70-200 and 300, stay far away seems best no ?

I saw a documentary recently where the Holy Festival in india is shot by a photographer who lives in an Ashram. Loads of coloured powder get thrown around and the photographer uses a lens coat to protect her equipment. It looked to be effective.

The guy in the photo looks ridiculous. Can't imagine any kind of Pro treating equipment like that. Even worst thinking you could treat rental gear like that. A bit like a teenage boy band wrecking a Motel 6 room on prom night. Treat my gear like that and you bought it.

I just got asked to shoot one of these earlier. The email had a date but no event name...did a Google search and found out there is a color run that day.

Love it! Great advice. Would love to shoot one of these colour events. I would just a underwater casing (but expensive) or for less powder just a proper sealed rain sleeve.

I shot for the company Flo Foto and the Dirty Dash Race and the Color Me Rad Race here in Oregon. The Dirty Dash wasn't much of a problem since I used a 70-200 and was far enough away that I didn't get muddy at all but the Color Me Rad was a mess. The company I shot for though did provide us with rain sleeves which worked really well. All I got was a small amount of color on the back of my D7000. They also provided us with an air compressor and sani-wipes to clean off our equipment afterwards. All that plus the cheap lens filter I had on the front of my lens kept everything clean and reusable. I do agree with the other poster about not breathing the powder in all the time, I think it would be bad after a while.


I'm about to do the Color Run in Singapore tomorrow and did debate on bringing my Nikon 1 (yes, it's not really a full DSLR)... I opted instead to buy a new Olympus TG-2 (the newest of the "Tough" series) that I can risk dropping/getting wet/getting dusty... I'm hoping to get some great shots of the group I'm with during the run, even if it is with just a point and shoot! Plus there's a pool party happening right before the run and it's going to come in handy for underwater shots too ;)

"All images used with permission."

Nice touch. Made me laugh!