We Need to Be Better as Photographers

We Need to Be Better as Photographers

Some photographers in Toronto, ON have used the ever-popular colored smoke grenades for some sort of video/photoshoot, leaving behind a deep red stain on a beautiful marble archway, and were even careless enough to simply leave behind the grenade instead of taking it with them, which brings me to my point: we need to be better.

I'm sure we've all used these smoke grenades at some point. They're trendy, fun, and (relatively) harmless. However, they can stain buildings, rocks, and clothing. While it's easy enough to clean up right away, we need to be extra mindful when firing these off on property we do not own.

Photographers can sometimes get a bad rap for being disruptive, messy, or rude. While most photographers I know are anything but, there are definitely some bad actors out there, and we need to be active in calling out people we know who leave refuse behind. There is a great quote I heard: "take only photos, leave only footprints." It is something of a mantra of mine when outside of the studio. With things like smoke bombs, they can be used outdoors with little to no issue; however, we need to be sure to wash off immediately if we accidentally leave a stain and take our refuse with us when we're done. 

Photo by Ulrik Westergaard - used with permission

Discarded smoke grenade canister
Photo by Ulrik Westergaard - used with permission

As a photographic community, we've really come together over other issues, and I consistently see people chastising other photographers for shooting on train tracks, which is incredibly dangerous, but we need to start hammering home the idea of not leaving trash more than we already do. Call out people you see leaving a mess, be sure you're not "that" photographer. It's going to cost money and labor to have the stain removed from the soft marble. If the photo team behind this stain had stepped forward three steps, they could have avoided the issue altogether or at least cleaned up their trash, and no one would have had to go out of their way to clean up a beautiful landmark at a cost to the city.
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Henry Louey's picture

I've always cleaned up post shoot and have said to the models and other creatives with me.

"it only takes one idiot to get this entire place banned for all photographers"

This looks like a classic example

John S's picture

Yeah, this place is a truly wonderful place in Toronto for photographing engagement and weddings!


LA M's picture

I saw that out there....disappointing.

We've shot at that location and Brickworks for many years...weddings, portraits and in-between. The idiots always ruin it for everyone else.

Mick Ryan's picture

I don’t agree with your use of the word ‘we’.


This trend of making it "all, we, us" to blame as a collective does nothing to hold those guilty of littering and vandalism responsable for their own actions.

Chris Denny's picture

Well said!

Deleted Account's picture

I agree with your article; however, no, we have not all used such devices at some stage.

That said, the next time anyone wants to take a dump in an inappropriate spot or not bury it, leave rubbish, step on delicate habitat, etc - as I say, I agree.

Tim McGill's picture

Unless I’ve missed something here in Toronto, there is no proof that it was a photographer or photographers.
Posting an article like this to a major website is groundless and makes me wonder if it was done for no other reason than to be the first to post or to garner likes.
While it may have been a photographer, it has not yet been proven that it was.
I totally agree with the gist of your article about doing no harm but posting this does nothing else than add fuel to the fire and add one more strike against “photographers” ... and it seems that you are being apologetic for the entire community for something we (maybe) didn’t do.
IMO you need to be more careful and not jump the gun to post on controversial subjects where there is no basis in fact.
I’m happy to remove this if there is some information released recently stating who the perpetrators were, but as of this time there is no evidence that it was a photographer.

Lee Stirling's picture

I think the point here is not that a photographer is to blame for the red stain on the archway and the garbage left behind, rather the point is that photographers are likely to be blamed by others for this mess with the possibility of the property owners banning others (including photographers) from using this site in the future.

Tim McGill's picture

I would disagree Lee. I understand the main point of the article as I stated but the OP is quite clear in his belief/statement that this was done by photographers. Someone not involved too much in the industry or on the outside might see this article and take the implication that photogs did this. As you said, this would more than likely lead to us being banned from these locations. I don’t know that someone outside the photography field would necessarily immediately jump to the conclusion that flares mean that photographers were involved ... more likely “kids” or someone as a “vandal”.

Gary Mendoza's picture

Thank you Tim, I was about to write something similar.

Daris Fox's picture

Apart from paint ballers, who else uses smoke bombs? In all probability it is a photographer that's done the damage.

Ed Rhodes's picture

teenagers. bros. could've been someone celebrating the new year, and not photography related at all.

Stephen Hutchinson's picture

Hey Tim, I have to agree. I was there at the Guild Inn Park this summer doing a wedding photoshoot and a number of theatre groups were in the park at the same time and it could have easily been one of them during some kind of performance. Whilst I was there, the security was pretty tight and we were allowed to use any area except where the performers who were rehearsing.

Ian Pettigrew's picture

HAHA... shame on those still using smoke grenades.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

"I'm sure we've all used these smoke grenades at some point."

Why are you sure of that? Another case of the lack of editors at F-stoppers.
If there was a crusty old cigar chomping editor they would cut "we've all" and replace it with "some photographers who are sadly 5 years behind the trend".

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Photo team? LoL

John Armstrong's picture

There was a group of Instagrammers shooting at White Pockets on the boarder of Utah and Arizona and they did the same thing with blue smoke grenades (and their video was tracked down and they were busted for this). Come on people... We need to self police here.

super steel_'s picture

this place (same in 2 pictures winter summer) has been a favorite amongst photographer but crappy ahole low level photogs would do trash the dress sessions there with paint and other things. alcohol bottles and what not all over the place. now, no photographer is allowed there.

Daris Fox's picture

I've been shooting a long time (almost three decades), earned trust with organisations and properties to use their premises with permission but in the last 3-4 years it's become increasingly common that I get ignored and or just refused. I always worked with the people responsible to the location and have relevant permits/insurance but recently I found out a lot of properties are now banning all photography on premises irregardless if you're professional or not. Sadly talking to managers and what not is seems there's a lot of amateur photographers taking the mickey with permissions or costing thousands of pounds of damage to them it's increasingly they're now become the 'norm'. Even when I do get permission I now have to read through disclaimers, and provide full project plans, etc increasing the workload to provide shoots and I can't always guarantee site availability to clients.

Photography has been a great liberator but, like with drones or cars, there are far too many idiots which wreck for those who play by the rules. There is such a low barrier to entry to photography compared to the old days people aren't taught 'good' behaviour when they assisted/apprenticed.

Andrew Ashley's picture

Smoke bomb, photographers, whatever... We need to do better. Agreed. But what is the incentive to do so? Most established professionals would never think to do such a thing, but those trying to break out or the "less mature" would do anything for a few likes, and damn the consequences. I think your message got lost in the weeds of whether this was photographers, or smoke bombs, or whatever. How can we help to stop rewarding those who do stupid things? How does the photo industry stand up against this type of action? Of course, this is made all the more difficult since there really is no "Photo Industry" group, there are dozens or hundreds of regional organizations, made up of hundreds if not thousands of photographers. And then there are the "bad actors" or people with cameras trying to copy what they see online and causing harm to all people with cameras, including the professionals. I wish I had an answer, but it's like we handed everyone a hammer and said, "You can build your own house." And when the doors started falling off and ceilings fell down they blamed home builders. We gave everyone a camera, and for the most part that's a wonderful thing, but now anyone with a camera is treated like, well, anyone with a camera. The "No Photos" signs start popping up everywhere... As I said above, I wish I had an answer, but one voice, on one blog in a sea of voices, in a sea of blogs is meaningless.

Ryan Cooper's picture

There is a fundamental flaw here in that trying to educate those who do this sort of thing likely couldn't care less about what the greater community thinks is wasted effort. This is not a reflection of the "photography" community. It is a reflection of the selfish jerk community. "They" do not reflect "us."

Reminds me of another area in the GTA called "Bottleglass point." It is a gorgeous lookout sitting above a really cool climbing area but it has become so common for drunk morons to hurl empty beer bottles from it that the area is now called "Bottleglass" and the base of the cliff is completely covered in broken glass making it dangerous for hikers and climbers alike.

Somehow I doubt the "general" park going community is even remotely responsible for this. Rather, it is the product of a small group of losers who don't care who their actions hurt.

Mallikarjun Katakol's picture

I have been shooting for 25+ years. On location shoot we always carry a garbage bag (or something similar) Earlier it was mainly meant for film packaging and wrappers....but all on the crew and models on set are informed in the beginning NO trashing. We continue to follow the rule. But there are idiots...

charlie sanders's picture

I’ve yet to see “smoke bombs” in my travels but have seen other types of misbehavior. I went to Pompeii a year ago and saw two guys scale a chain link fence to “get the shot”. While in a room with frescoes that had been partially destroyed by theives but was open to public, I saw one guy with two cameras walk up to the fresco and actually scrape some off onto his hand then just walk away. I was so angered, I took pictures of these criminals and went to the security at the entrance. They just didn’t care to even listen. I had to leave the area for fear of going to jail (I wanted to take care if it myself). Some people just don’t get it.

Yang W.'s picture

We often capture weddings at this park, is quite sad to see this happen. Rest assure, the city of Toronto is full of responsible photographers, videographers and creative professionals. This is the first time I have heard or seen something like this happen. (Also hoping this would be last)

David Pavlich's picture

i don't know a ton of photographers, but those that i do know aren't part of the problem. maybe a little time in a cell and a couple thousand dollar fine would change a mind or three.

Daniel Bayer's picture

Instagrammers do not care.

I'm betting that if you do a location search on instagram you will find who did it.

Michael Maynard's picture

I would need proof that actual photographers did this

Gergö Nyirö's picture

"bad rap" lol, I guess you wanted to say bad rep as in reputation 😜

Ben Anderson's picture

Being a location photog has become nearly the equal of taking your mutt to the local dog park...at least at the go park the sh!t bags are provided. We take bags with us whenever we are on location for two reasons: clean our own mess, and that of others left behind. It truly is the only way we as an industry prevent locations like the bridal spot shown in the article from being off limits to us en masse based on the ignorance of the few idiots. I'm just wondering aloud here, if the photog who shot the smoke grenade image kept stepping after the curtain closed, or picked it up and disposed of it.