Packing Heat: Should Photographers Carry a Gun on the Job?

Packing Heat: Should Photographers Carry a Gun on the Job?

It's an unavoidable topic in American conversations. In the photography world, it seems to pop up on the forums and Facebook groups often enough to warrant further consideration: guns. Not necessarily in the heated, political debate sense, but to ask this question: In a world where carrying a concealed weapon has become more normalized and photographers spend more time in remote and urban locations, do firearms have a place in your business?

Kellie Saunders, a wedding photographer in Birmingham, Michigan, knows a thing or two about gun safety and operating on the streets. Before becoming a full-time photographer, Saunders spent six years as a police officer in Detroit.

Originally, I studied journalism and worked with commercial photographers and publishers prior to becoming a Detroit police officer," Saunders said. “When I decided to get married and start a family, I wanted a job that was flexible and offered stable hours. I couldn't find that in the private sector, so starting a business with my camera was a natural and easy transition.”

Saunders still does most of her work in Detroit as a photographer. But unlike her time spent in a squad car, she mostly leaves the gun at home these days.

“I am a firearms lover. Let's get that out of the way right now," she said. "I am all for private citizens having the right to carry firearms if they so desire. With that said, with a firearm comes great responsibility."

So, carrying a gun while she's out making portraits isn't in her plans.

“How can I photograph clients and be in a creative headspace while at the same time be legitimately prepared for a battle with a criminal?" Saunders asked. "If someone were to jump out of the bushes, let's say, their weapon is already out and ready. Time is of the essence, so think about it. By the time I can put my camera down and draw my weapon, either I or my clients could be hurt or killed.”

Saunders said that most Concealed Pistol License holders aren’t tactically trained, so drawing a weapon when out on an engagement session or other job might do more harm than good.

“Not everyone understands how a real life firefight could go down. I do, and that's why I choose to keep my weapon at home when I'm with clients," she said.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is a 12-year licensed concealed pistol carrier and active auxiliary police officer who is also an established wedding and event photographer in a major metropolitan area. He was granted anonymity for the sake of his business, as it might be affected by this article.

There are lunatics everywhere. Who says giving up your stuff will protect you? That may work sometimes but not always. Sometimes, lunatics are into random violence, not just robbery,” said the photographer, who disclosed that carrying is a personal choice for him and that he doesn’t disclose it to clients.

“Responsible gun owners don't tell people they are carrying. One, many people aren't comfortable with it, so there's no point. Two, it isn't something to brag about. It is for protection against bad people,” he added.

The photographer said he began carrying on the job out of general concern for his safety while hauling gear around jobs in the city.

“I think I've been carrying around 10-12 years, not sure precisely," he said. "I was worried about crime and thought it was a good idea."

When asked for comment, National Rifle Association Spokesperson Lars Dalseide said: “Whether at home, on the job, or in the field, the NRA supports every law-abiding gun owner’s choice to safely and responsibly exercise their Second Amendment rights." He elaborated: "The right to carry was only available in a handful of states in 1991 while violent crime was at an all-time high. By 2015, more than 40 states had adopted right-to-carry laws, and the violent crime rate had dropped 51 percent. Should all the credit go to the new right-to-carry laws? No, not all. But criminals are less likely to attack targets who might be armed."

New stories of photographers being robbed or mugged aren’t unheard of, so it's no surprise that many people consider a concealed weapon as a precaution. On the other hand, statistics tend to find that guns are used far more often for killing than self-defense. But if guns aren't for you - for whatever reason - Saunders says vigilance and some streets smarts are most likely enough to keep you safe.

“I photograph in Detroit almost every week, and I love my city. I've never had a problem,” she said. “My advice is to always be aware of your surroundings. Know the areas you are working in. Don't trespass. Don't take your clients to abandoned buildings. Work in well-lit, well-traveled areas. If you see someone down the street approaching you on an 85-degree day with his hands in his pockets, wearing a thick jacket, and looking around, get in your car and leave.”

It should be noted that in many states, concealed weapons are not permitted inside of churches or synagogues, nor are they allowed in places of gathering that exceed set capacities. If you're a wedding or lifestyle photographer who carries or is considering carrying a gun, make sure to check the regulations of the state you work in first.

Where do you stand? Is having a concealed weapon with you on a shoot something you’d consider? Do you already carry? Should your clients know about it? Let us know in the comments.


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Kyle Ford's picture

I CC every day, that's not going to change when I have 4k worth of gear on my neck. I always have my CC my flashlight and my skeletool. The later two I use every single day and I hope to never use the CC. I view it like my emergency kit in my car, I hope to never have to use it, but I know what's in it and how to use it.

Andrew Richardson's picture

Downvotes just because you own and carry a gun? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Kyle Ford's picture

I do have some bear spray but it needs replaced. Thanks for the reminder.

Peter Hutchison's picture

Gotta love that Murican arrogance. Everyone else disagrees with you, so it must be that they've all been conditioned to maintain an irrational position. Yeah. That'd be it. God Bless you all for being the beacon of rationality in our lost world.

David Rimbach's picture

Am I anti-gun? Not really...
Would I have a gun if it was legal in my country? Sure.
Do I like the fact that they are not legal? Hell, yeah!
I feel so much safer knowing that not every idiot can carry a gun.

Comparing a gun to a car is really (sorry to use the word) stupid. A cars main purpose is to carry someone/something from one place to another.
Could it be abused to hurt/kill people?
Sure. As a Fork/Stiletto/Hammer/Camera/Tripod could be...

A guns single use is to threaten/hurt/kill. Simple fact as you put it. Security trough guns is bullshit.

I think photography is an art form and guns have no business being with you while taking photos.

If you are taking photos on a safari or in a wildlife scenery...thats probably different but I guess the topics question is regarding to safety against people.

Patrick Karbownik's picture

It has nothing to do with irrational fear but with simple logic. Wild Wild West times are over and yes guns a cool and stuff and people like to own them but just admit that you own guns because you like them, not because you need protection.

T Dillon's picture

I am glad you have never needed one.

Jordan GRAY's picture

I definitely own guns for protection, but they happen to be cool.

Kim ALdis's picture

An irrational fear of something the sole purpose of which is to kill or maim?

Berthold Meincke's picture

sry but I can't let this stand there.... you are actually saying that we are living FREE because of guns?!?!? well that's where you are SO wrong! We are living free, because of freedom of speech, our humanity and seeing others as equals. I'm not living free, because I have a gun.. and I have one...

John Ohle's picture

One big difference is that a cars primary purpose is transport while a guns primary purpose is to kill. Also, with a car you have to do lessons and pass a state test on you ability to use the car. What lessons and test do you have to do before you can own a gun?

John Ohle's picture

How many Americans were killed by car last year, and how many by gun? Nobody drives a car with the intent to kill. But if you are carrying a gun to defend yourself then you do intent to kill. If not, then there is no point in carrying a gun.

And yes you can do harm with a car. To drive a car you need training. What training do most people have before they can carry a gun? How many more people would be killed by car if the licensing laws were the same as for guns?

John Ohle's picture

You are rather focused on other items been use for harm. Yes, could even use a bread roll for harm. But a guns only purpose is to wound or kill. You can buy an assault rifle in the US. What purpose does an assault rifle have other than to kill?

Jordan GRAY's picture

You're wrong John. I carry with intent to stop.

In order to do so effectively one would be inclined to make contact with their target and increase their odds of doing so. This is accomplished by aiming for the largest target possible; this is called 'center mass', which happens to contain many vital organs.

It is actually law here in the States that punish those who act otherwise. You may only defend "Life & Limb" and if the threat is no longer a threat, then you no longer have the right to use force. It is not the wild west here, you cannot shoot someone free of scrutiny or investigation.

A man defended against an intruder. Shooting him once with a shotgun upon entry and immediately dropped the intruder to the ground. All good. A moment later, the man proceeded to walk up to the incapacitated intruder and shoot a second time at point blank range; effectively executing him. The defender is now a murderer and suffered the consequences for doing so.

Flinn .'s picture

Peter, you are very confused. We know that anything can be used to harm anyone. But the sole purpose of a gun is to kill people. I don't see how you are completely missing this one essential element in this discussion.

Jordan GRAY's picture

Guns are a right. Cars are a privilege.

No license is required, however you must pass a background check to purchase; verifying you are not a criminal.

Carry laws vary state to state, most require a license to carry concealed which requires an approved safety course. Some states have no requirement for open carry; so anyone (besides criminals) can buy a gun and strap it to their hip wild-west style....privately owned places may legally demand you leave, but otherwise no one can say a word.

Jordan GRAY's picture

Kim, it is an irrational fear considering most who fear them do so out of ignorance. I had an irrational fear of them. I was ignorant then. Now I own some. Now I have a respect for them.

Steve Russell's picture

The sole purpose of a firearm is NOT to kill or maim. I enjoy recreational shooting as a sport. Some like golf, some like tennis, some like shooting. If you don't like firearms, don't buy or shoot one. If you don't like Nikon, don;t buy or use one. There is no reason to criticize someone else's decision to have an item which you do not wish to own

Simon Patterson's picture

Steve, with respect, I think you're inadvertently confusing the discussion with this. The article was not about people carrying hunting rifles, it was about people carrying concealed guns for personal protection. Those kind of guns, the ones being discussed here, are designed solely for one purpose, and that is to kill humans.

Steve Russell's picture

I am not at all confused. I disagree with the statement that a firearm is "something the sole purpose of which is to kill or maim".
I am not speaking of hunting rifles, either.

Simon Patterson's picture

@Pete Miller true that. And I stay free and well protected partly because almost nobody carries guns that can be used to shoot me and my family with around these parts.

Simon Patterson's picture


Again, true. My government can easily take away my freedom just like your government can easily take yours. It doesn't matter how many weapons you have, your fate will be the same as mine if the authorities decide it to be. Both our governments massively out-gun us, especially your government who out-guns everybody. Just ask the Branch Davidians, or the Iraqis for that matter. That's not a criticism btw, it is merely an observation. Your guns will make not one iota of difference if your government decides to take away your freedom or your life.

But you let me know where I've told Americans how they should live. I haven't, have I? I'm certainly not anti-American. I'm not even anti-guns - lots of people in the farming area I live in here in Australia have guns. Getting a rifle for target practice at the local gun club is on my to-do list; maybe I'll even hunt deer one day.

I have, however, pointed out that in the USA, you have many many more people dead and maimed as a result of gunshot wounds than in any civilised country. In response to this fact, very few of you say "wow, how terrible that we have such a problem, that no other civilised country has to such an appalling degree. We really should do something about the fact that Americans are dying of gunshot wounds in such astronomical numbers compared to the rest of the western world". Why don't you make solving that problem your first thought when you hear of more dead children from gunshot wounds?

But, even if you start to admit your country has a problem, how you solve that problem is up to you - I have certainly not told you how to. But the first step to solving it is admitting there is a problem. The rest of the world sees it and we find it amazing that you don't.

David Rimbach's picture

Steve, I guess you don't run around with your gun. You put it in your trunk, take it in a bag to your shooting range and then shoot at the range.
Thats not what this discussion is about.

I like guns. I shot a lot in my life. I was in the military.
Yet I am so happy that I can walk around my town and I know that nobody is carrying.

Jaran Gaarder Heggen's picture

The statement of in this thread: "being irrational afraid of guns", just dont add up, only an american could get an idea that stupid !

I just wonder how you can explain that the crime in European countries are less than in the US, even though we are not allowed to carry firearms?

And in Norway where I live, we have less crime per Citizen than the US and not even the Police are armed in a normal matter ... only on special instructs, as these days because of the raised threat for terror ...

Why is it that female homicide victims in USA are rated nearly 100 times higher than in other western countries and that over 50% of those homicides are with firearms?

I have no irrational fear of firearms or that its allowed to carry them, but when the statistics are as high as for the USA, I do understand that the easy access to firearms are the reason for the high rate of lethal domestic violence.

Feel free to carry as you like, but dont tell those of us that see a little longer than our own garden that a free access of firearms will make the community safer ...
Thats being IRRATIONAL

Jordan GRAY's picture

Predominantly white society (short answer).

Al Scott's picture

If you read my post carefully, I was not telling you how to run your country. I was observing that I don't feel safe there for the reason of the massive proliferation of killing devices. Simple really. Judging from your comments that follow, you need to stoop down, carefully reach between your knees and pull your head out of your ass. Alas your comments typify many of the things which cause non-Americans to make judgments about your country - which they are perfectly entitled to do - as you would be about my own country if you visited there.

Raphael Bononobo's picture

I would rather say that you are conditioned to use and defend guns more than we are. There are no specific advertisement against guns and ammo back in Europe. We almost solely use them for hunting. We don't have a gun lobby back there, or it is quite quiet. However, you have the NRA and pretty much a whole bunch of sophism to justify the use of guns.

But, as I saw this little debate, I went online and checked the studies on safety and guns. It's quite clear, after a quick review that there is a widespread consensus on the fact that guns to help and on the top of that, increase chances of being killed or hurt. So please, I don't mind you having your own opinion, but calling the whole European continent irrational is indeed arrogant and quite frankly, in the context, stupid too.

The last thing that bugs me : what is the damn correlation between photography and guns? Seriously, I don't see. I mean, is it truly relevant?

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