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Mask Testing for Photographers

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Avatar for stevenvanelk
Written by   11
1 year ago

Last Summer we were in the middle of the pandemic and I was faced with having to make a decision to either shoot weddings that were still happening or cancel on my clients and refund their money. I couldn't afford to cancel, so I decided to figure out which masks would work the best for me as a photographer. At the time of writing the article, there wasn't a lot of information about how effective different mask types were at preventing you from getting the virus. So I decided to judge the different masks I tested based on how they affected my ability to shoot photos and perform my job. As it turned out, my favorite mask ended up being the one that medical professionals around the world had already been using for quite some time, the three-ply surgical style masks. At the time n-95 masks weren't available for consumers to buy, so while I reviewed one (which was from an old two pack my wife and I bought while doing some painting around the house), I probably didn't give it a fair shake since consumers weren't supposed to be wearing them anyway.

Here's an excerpt from my article reviewing the 3-ply surgical masks:

"By far my favorite mask. I didn’t think it would be, but here we are. This mask is easily identifiable as a mask that’s being worn for medical reasons (like a global pandemic). It has a professional look to it, because we’re used to seeing so many professionals wear it. Nurses, doctors, dentists, and orthodontists all come to mind when I see this mask. Professionals who are trying to keep us safe while we’re in their offices, which is something I wouldn’t mind having my clients think too. This mask is also one of the most common masks out there. You’ve probably seen hundreds of people wearing these while shopping.

I liked this mask because it was by far the easiest mask to breathe in while shooting. As such, I felt cool the whole time I was shooting. The wire at the top of the mask goes across the entire top part of the mask, allowing you to sculpt the mask to fit your nose and cheek bones so not much air escapes upward (so your viewfinder doesn’t fog up). The elastic bands for the ear loops fit my head well and didn’t irritate my ears while wearing this mask.

The ease of breathing while wearing this mask really threw me off. I think it’s because the sides of the mask don’t lay flat against the face. This allows more air to travel into and out of the mask area. None of the other masks shared this trait. More air travel means possibly more exposure for both yourself and your clients, so it’s a tradeoff. This mask also didn’t muffle my voice nearly as much as some of the cloth masks, which is probably due to the increased air flow and the lightweight material used to make the mask.

Also, while it’s great that the mask is easily recognizable, the sterile blue doesn’t really fit my aesthetic on a wedding day. I know this is a bit vain, but my aesthetic is part of my brand. So, the flip side of this mask being so prevalent and easily identifiable is that I end up looking like everyone else which isn’t always something I want. I wear a suit and tie to every wedding and I would prefer a mask that fits my general aesthetic. I feel like a floral mask, like a floral tie, is a great accent. Or a black mask because something about wearing black seems professional to me (a guy who wears a black suit to almost every wedding he shoots). Aesthetically, this mask looks like it goes with scrubs not with a suit and tie.

My biggest gripe though is that it’s disposable. It’s only meant to be worn once. So every time you wear it you’re creating more trash.

Pros: Professional looking, easy to breathe, cool, great wire, nice elastic bands, little viewfinder fog, hardly muffles the voice

Cons: Single use, too common, color doesn’t fit my style, the amount of air makes it feel less safe than some of the other masks

Amazon link: 3 Ply Disposable Face Mask"

If you want to read the full article, you can find that on my website.

This was a fun article to research and write. I got to hike around with my daughter and take photos of her. She doesn't let me do that often. The photo of me in this article (and all the other photos of me in the full article on my site) were just portrait mode selfies I did with my iPhone. They mostly worked, but there were a few masks that apparently made it so the portrait mode wouldn't engage (because they covered too much of my face?). So I had to take those into photoshop to blur the background to make them look like the portrait mode photos.

Thanks for reading. I am a full time wedding photographer with Van Elk & Co who also makes a comedy podcast about running a wedding photography business called the Wedding Photo Hangover.

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Avatar for stevenvanelk
Written by   11
1 year ago
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I'm a medical frontliner and still uses this mask everywhere even in the hospital, but not in covid wards. I think aside from the protection the mask has to offer we should be cautious too of the surfaces that we're touching, and disinfect hands before touching the face. Anyway, i love photography too as a hobby. I love what you're doing. Have fun and stay safe!

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1 year ago

Thanks so much.

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1 year ago