Outdoor Photographers Be Aware: Protect Yourself from Harmful UV Rays

Protect your eye from harmful UV rays: Man participating in the stone throwing event at the Celtic Music adn Heritage Festival in St. Augustine, Florida by Marla Meier.

The Celtic Music and Heritage Festival in St. Augustine, Florida opened mid-morning.
This stone thrower protected his eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun.

As photographers, we’re excited and passionate about making wonderful images in the great outdoors. Many of us stay in the sun all day and don’t always take a break during the hours when the UV rays are the strongest. And sometimes we don’t have a choice about when we can create those photos. There can be events that start or locations that open at specific times of the day that guide us.

Knowledge is power and the more we know, the better it is for you and your skin.

Skin Cancer Statistics:

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancers in more than 2 million people are diagnosed in the United States annually. Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer, accounting for nearly half of all cancers within the United States. And these are the numbers for just the United States! The risk of developing skin cancer is also affected by where you live. For example, people in Australia and South Africa are at especially high risk. (You can find out your level of risk by contacting your local health department.)

High-key, overexposed image of the head of a giraffe at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida by Marla Meier.

It was so hot and the UV rays were so strong….

If you’re enjoying photographing at a zoo in your area, walk in
the shade and pop into those inside exhibits
as much as possible.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens


Exposure to the sun and its harmful UV rays is the leading cause of skin cancer, especially for light-skinned individuals. But, no matter your skin color, you can still be a target for it. And if you are of a generation when sunscreen didn’t exist and you endured sunburns in the past, your chances are even greater. Add to that a family history of skin cancer or having previous lesions and the risk level for skin cancer will rise substantially.

Sand and water increase risk of sunburn: Woman sitting in the surf at Jacksonville Beach, Florida by Marla Meier.

Water and sand means those
harmful UV rays will reflect on you.

Protect your face from UV rays: Image of straw hat, chair and surf at Jacksonville Beach, Florida by Marla Meier.

Wear a hat that will help prevent the most vulnerable areas of your skin from getting cancer – the face, ears and neck.


We all know that the sun is the worst culprit, but those UV rays travel through the clouds too, so be sure to use these preventive measures even on overcast days.

Sunscreen: Protecting the skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun is essential for everyone, no matter what your age. Carry a tube of 30 or higher SPF sunscreen (broad-spectrum and water-resistant) in all your camera bags as well as in the glove box of your car. Applying it should be at the top of your checklist before you set out on a photo adventure. There are brands made for those active in sports or running, so they are less likely to be greasy and won’t run in your eyes. And remember to protect your lips with lip balm.

Note: Take extra precautions if you are in an area that has water, sand or snow. Their reflective qualities will increase your chances of getting sunburned.

Seek the Shade: Whenever possible, avoid overexposure and get yourself into the shade – especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Hats: Hats are essential too, not merely in the winter to hold in heat, but in all seasons to minimize sun damage to the head and face, the most common locations of skin cancer lesions. Any hat will due, but it’s best to find one that is comfortable and rugged and includes airflow to keep your head cool during the summer months. Look for brims that are wide enough to protect the neck, ears, and nose.

Shirts and Pants: Don’t forget to protect the rest of your body, as well, with light-colored, tightly woven, protective clothing.

Sunglasses: We know! It’s difficult to check your LCD screen for accurate exposure when you wear sunglasses, and yes, it can be a pain to keep taking them on and off, but your eyes are just as important. The best kind will wrap around to the side of your eyes and will have a 100% UVA and UVB absorption.


As with any cancer, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment are the key factors. Please don’t endanger yourself by saying, “It won’t happen to me!”

Be sure to schedule routine check-ups with a dermatologist. Find one who will meet your needs and is knowledgeable. The doctor should be willing to spend the time needed to do a complete and thorough examination of your entire body (especially the face, head and back of neck).

Routinely check your own body for any new or unusual growths. And be your own health advocate doing some research – visit www.skincancer.org for information about the various forms of skin cancer, including photos and descriptions. Doctors have been known to misdiagnose. Again, knowledge is power!

An Orchard Orb Weaver (Leucauge venusta) was busy making its web by Marla Meier.
This Orchard Orb Weaver (Leucauge venusta) was busy making its web.

Are we photographers still going to enjoy all the photo opportunities offered while outside? Of course, but you can still take preventive measures and lower your risk for skin cancer.

by Marla Meier
Article and photos: © 2014 Marla Meier. All right reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.