Leadership & Staff

In a community as rich with leaders as ours, it may never be possible to recognize all the amazing people who have helped make Burning Man what it is, or to honor their individual contributions. From the founders to the first-time volunteer, the entire history of Black Rock City is one of people stepping up and taking charge. This is equally true for the Regional Network, whose leaders are playing an increasingly vital role in our ongoing story.


Larry Harvey: Our original instigator

Board of Directors

Current members of the board of directors of Burning Man Project, the nonprofit

Year-Round Staff

The folks who work for Burning Man 52 weeks a year, on-playa and off


Distinguished alumni who, while not currently filling official roles with Burning Man, have made substantial contributions to the event and the culture

Trademarks & Copyrights


Protecting Burning Man and Our Community

Guided by the Ten Principles, Burning Man actively protects the event and our community from exploitation and commodification, whether deliberate or accidental. The foundation of that protection is our policies for the use of our intellectual property (“IP”) and imagery from Burning Man event. These policies have two objectives:

  1. Defend the principle of Decommodification by limiting the use of photos and videos from the event, and of Burning Man’s most recognizable words, symbols, and designs.
  2. Protect participants’ right to privacy, freedom of expression, and creative immediacy.

Our IP and image-use policies are described in detail in our Ticket Terms and Conditions. Below you will find an overview of why and how Burning Man uses Copyright and Trademark law to support our community principles.

Defending Decommodification

While we are humbled by all the interest in Burning Man, and strongly believe in our culture’s ability to positively impact the world, we are not interested in becoming a brand used to sell goods or services or to promote unaffiliated organizations or events. Most members of our community greatly appreciate that—apart from admission tickets and ice—there is no commerce, advertising, or sponsorship at the Burning Man event. This freedom from commodification, along with the other Principles, enables and encourages our community’s creativity and the experiences, art, and freely-given services that make Black Rock City so amazing and unique.

To nurture the spirit of Burning Man year-round, we are extremely cautious about the use of our IP and event imagery in the world outside of Black Rock City, and our community is very protective as well. Our policies are not intended as a statement of idealism, but as a way to enjoy what we have created together, insulated from exploitation and commodification.

Protecting Our Community

Black Rock City is visually stunning and has long been a source of inspiration for filmmakers and photographers. We support artists who capture elements of Burning Man in a respectful, fresh, and interesting way—particularly those who apply their compositional and technical skills to their medium in order to preserve the magic of Burning Man and share it with the larger world.

At the same time, we are mindful of the sense of liberation that many feel in Black Rock City, and of the need to preserve that freedom and creativity. However you choose to express yourself at Burning Man, our policies help ensure that your images are only shared publicly with your consent. We work especially hard to prevent the sale or salacious use of nude images or film taken at the event.  Most Burning Man participants are also fiercely opposed to having themselves or their art used as backdrops for fashion shoots, music videos, or advertising campaigns. We aim to protect their privacy rights and IP from such exploitation and commodification at our event.

How Burning Man Regulates IP

We monitor the use of our IP and event imagery all year long. Participants are also sensitive to these issues and keep a watchful eye out for unauthorized uses.

Our interest in regulating IP and image use is more than philosophical. In addition to protecting the privacy and rights of our participants and artists, we are legally obligated to enforce our trademarks and copyrights in order to retain them and avoid confusion as to Burning Man’s relationship with third parties. If we do not remain diligent, the legal rights and protections that our principles and culture enjoy could be diminished against future violations. For example, we routinely enforce against promoters who advertise “Burning Man” parties or use the Burning Man symbol or images from the event without our permission; in doing so, we retain our full rights to prevent a large promoter like MTV from sponsoring a “Burning Man Spring Break Party.”

Trademark & Copyright Use

The Burning Man symbol (logo), “Burning Man,” “Burning Man Project,” “Black Rock City,” “Decompression,” “Precompression,” “Burnal Equinox” and “Flambé Lounge” are protected trademarks. The design of the Burning Man (aka “the Man”) and Man base, the map and layout of Black Rock City, the design of the City’s lampposts and the Ten Principles are protected copyrights.

These trademarks and copyrights may not be used for any commercial or promotional purpose whatsoever without prior written permission from Burning Man. In order to preserve the “Man” for use in gifting and as an affinity symbol for our culture, we do not license this symbol, or any likeness, for commercial or outside purposes.

Under the Terms and Conditions of entry into the event, Burning Man shares the copyright to photos and videos obtained at the event with the photographers and videographers. This joint copyright is what enables Burning Man to protect participants’ rights if a third party obtains and uses event imagery commercially or in another unauthorized manner.

Decommodification & IP FAQ

Q: Can I make a t-shirt (necklace, poster ...) that includes “Burning Man” (“Black Rock City,” The Man symbol, pictures from Burning Man ...)?

A: This is generally OK if the item is shared as a gift. Gifting is one of Burning Man’s Ten Principles. The Burner community is actually encouraged to incorporate the Man symbol, other Burning Man symbols, or images obtained at the event into artwork and other “swag” for gifting purposes.

You cannot, however, use Burning Man’s trademarks, copyrights, or images from the event on promotional materials for your company, or on items offered for sale. This includes online peer-to-peer resale spaces, such as eBay or Etsy. This also means that if you leave Black Rock City with ungifted gifts, you cannot sell the leftovers (even at, or below, the cost of making these items). While we sympathize with everyone’s need and desire to have sufficient funds to create and gift the art and items that make our culture and event so unique, it would be a slippery slope if such items could be sold because they were left over after others were given away.

Playa-focused gifting projects (such as art installations or theme camps) using crowdfunding tools like Indiegogo or Kickstarter have Burning Man’s permission to gift items in their fundraising campaigns that incorporate the Man logo, other trademarks or copyrights, or photos from the event into their own designs. Some examples include:


Gifting medallions or t-shirts that incorporate “Black Rock City”

Gifting a sticker with your art project logo that incorporates the Burning Man symbol in appreciation for a $15 donation to the project’s Kickstarter campaign


Selling earrings with the Burning Man symbol on Etsy

Printing a company name or web address on your gift items

Q: I made a cool product (piece of art, costume, etc) that I think Burners would love. I want to sell it on eBay (or Etsy, Amazon...). Can I use “Burning Man” in the title?

A: We do not allow the “Burning Man” trademark to be used in the title of any product listing or auction, with one exception—the sale or auction of an event ticket or vehicle pass, at or below face value. You can, however, use the phrase in the description section, as in “perfect for Burning Man!”

Q: I’m throwing a party for Burners in my city. Can I use the words “Burning Man” or “Black Rock City” during promotion? How about a picture from the event in the background, or a drawing of the Man? Can I call it a Decompression?

A: Our trademarks, copyrights, and images from Burning Man cannot be used to promote outside events, no matter how small. This is both for liability reasons and to protect Burning Man’s IP from commodification. We suggest using “desert” or “playa” instead to demonstrate your affiliation to the community.

If you’re throwing a fundraiser for your Burning Man theme camp or art project, you may use the term “Burning Man” or “Black Rock City” as part of the descriptive text for the event, but not as the central phrase. This ensures that people aren’t confused about who is producing or sponsoring your event.

Use of Burning Man’s other trademarks—like the Burning Man symbol and “Decompression”—is only permitted for official events of Burning Man and the Burning Man Regional Network, which are contractually obligated to uphold certain principles. To connect with regional events, go here: Regional Network.

Here are a few examples:


Referring to your fundraising event as “A Fundraiser for Camp Forgotten Monsters at Burning Man,” or “A Fundraiser for the Rumification Art Project in Black Rock City”


Implying “Burning Man” is involved with your event by referring to it as “Burning Man Fundraiser for Camp Forgotten Monsters”

Calling your event a “Burning Man Decompression”


If you have a question that isn’t addressed here, feel free to contact us at press@burningman.org or ip@burningman.org.

Apply to Cover the Event

NOTE: Media applications are now open for the 2024 event. They will close on July 17.

Burning Man is a private event, and photographers, videographers and documentarians wishing to capture images intended for public distribution are required to submit a proposal and sign use agreements prior to the event.

Approval to shoot images in Black Rock City is not approval to exhibit or distribute. Completed projects are reviewed by the Burning Man Press Team and receive written permission before they can be distributed publicly. In short, no public use of any image may be made without this written consent.

To apply to cover the Burning Man event, you can submit a Media Project Proposal. Proposals open in February and the deadline to apply for a professional media project is the third Wednesday in July. We strongly recommend registering as early as possible. We limit the number of professional cameras allowed in Black Rock City and projects are approved on a rolling basis, so you’ll have a better chance of receiving approval if you apply well before the deadline.

Each year, we only grant permission to a small percentage of media projects. By providing the most detailed information possible on your registration form, you can help us make an informed decision about your project.

NOTE: We do not and will not approve projects that propose to livestream from the playa! The only streaming from the playa that is permitted is the official Burning Man Webcast. Learn more about the Webcast here.

Thank you! We look forward to hearing from you!

If you have any questions you may contact us at press@burningman.org.

Media Inquiries

Storytellers and documentarians have been an important part of the Burning Man culture since its beginning. The images and videos that come out of Black Rock City have helped extend the impact of Burning Man far beyond the playa. As we continue to nurture a nonprofit with global ambitions, the story of Burning Man is growing beyond an annual event in the desert and into a worldwide network of Regional Events and civic programs like Burning Man Arts and Burners Without Borders.

General Press Information

For an overview about the history of Burning Man, this year’s event, and the staff behind the organization, please see our Virtual Press Kit.

If you are looking to arrange an interview, request a speaker from Burning Man Project, or include Burning Man in a book or other publication, please email press@burningman.org with your request.

Decommodification and Image Use

Burning Man Project has a unique set of media and image-use policies guided primarily by our principle of Decommodification. While self-expression is highly encouraged, Burning Man Project does have an important set of policies surrounding media use. Burning Man images, video, and audio cannot be used in a commercial manner or to promote any products, brands, or services. Read more about our media policy here.

Burning Man Project does not maintain a portfolio of “stock” or PR images. If you are working on a noncommercial article or presentation about Burning Man and are looking for high-quality images, you can browse through a wealth of beautiful photos on the Burning Man Gallery. If you would like to use images located in the Gallery, you will need to do the following:

  1. Email the photographer of each image you would like to use and obtain permission to use the image in your publication.
  2. Email a copy of the photographer’s permission and a link to the image to press@burningman.org, along with a description of the intended outlet.

Once you receive written approval of the image use from Burning Man, you will then be able to include the images in your publication.

Media and Press Projects in Black Rock City

Are you interested in completing a photo or video project in Black Rock City? Are you a member of the press looking to cover the event? You can find more info in our Press & Media in BRC section.

Writing Books About Burning Man

Publishing a book about Burning Man or one that uses images from Black Rock City requires a process of proposal, review, and approval. Legally, Burning Man Project is required to grant book publishers (or anyone, for that matter) a license to use Burning Man in a product for sale. This is how we prevent things like “Burning Man Beer” or “Burning Man Bikes” from being sold. While books are also products that could be sold, we consider a well thought-out and crafted book to be both an artistic project as well as an opportunity for education and the sharing of Burning Man culture. That being said, we only approve a small handful of book projects each year (if that).

The first step is in a book project is to complete a Book Project Proposal.

If your book is to include images from Black Rock City, you will need to make sure that the photographer (even if it is you) has registered as professional media and been approved for commercial distribution of images. If the photographer is not registered, you can do that here.

Once the book project is submitted it will be reviewed by the Burning Man Project Communications team and someone will be in touch with you shortly.

News Archive

The press sure do love talking about Burning Man! You can read through the full history of press and news articles about Burning Man and Black Rock City in our Burning Man Media Archive.

Public Documents

This section contains the public documents related to Burning Man Project, including the Burning Man Project Bylaws and the BLM Event Stipulations for Black Rock City.

Download the Burning Man Project Restated Bylaws, a California Public Benefit Corporation, which were unanimously adopted December 9, 2013.

Burning Man Project Environmental Sustainability

Burning Man Project Annual Reports

Burning Man Project Form 990

The Form 990 is an IRS tax form that provides the public with financial information about a nonprofit organization. Essentially, it is the organization’s annual tax return. It is also used by government agencies to prevent organizations from abusing their tax-exempt status. Over time, our 990s will tell the story of where we’ve gone and what we’ve accomplished as an organization. This is one of the primary ways we provide financial information about our organization, and one of the biggest ways Burning Man’s operations are more transparent as a nonprofit.

BLM Stipulations for Black Rock City

As is their standard permitting procedure, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), who provides the permit for Burning Man Project to hold the annual Burning Man Event in the Black Rock Desert, sets out a series of permit stipulations. One of those states: “The permittee shall post a copy of the Special Recreation Permit (Form 2930-1) … on the Burning Man website…”

On June 20, 2023, the Bureau of Land Management issued a temporary closure order and restrictions for the 2023 event. Below are the relevant documents that Burning Man Project is making available publicly.

About Us

Burning Man is a network of people inspired by the values reflected in the Ten Principles and united in the pursuit of a more creative and connected existence in the world. Throughout the year we work to build Black Rock City, home of the largest annual Burning Man gathering, and nurture the distinctive culture emerging from that experience. The hub of this global network is the 501(c)(3) non-profit Burning Man Project, headquartered in San Francisco, California.

Mission Statement

The mission of Burning Man Project is to facilitate and extend the culture that has issued from the Burning Man event into the larger world.


Burning Man Project will bring experiences to people in grand, awe-inspiring and joyful ways that lift the human spirit, address social problems, and inspire a sense of culture, community, and civic engagement.

Program Areas

Burning Man provides infrastructural tools and frameworks to support local communities in applying the Ten Principles through six interconnected program areas, including Arts, Civic Involvement, Culture, Education, Philosophical Center, and Social Enterprise.

A Photographer’s Guide

The original version of this essay first appeared in Matt’s iPhone app, Burning Man 2008: A Photo Essay. It was last updated after his trip to the playa in 2012 as a member of the Burning Man documentation team. Matt Freedman has been photographing Burning Man since 1999 and his photos from 2012 can be seen on the Matt Freedman Photography Facebook page.

Burning Man is one of the most photographically rewarding — and challenging — places you will ever visit. Just protecting your gear from the harsh desert conditions can be challenge enough. To bring home the kinds of images that will stand up in comparison with your memories, you will also have to master lighting, composition, and technique —for photography in general, and for Burning Man in particular. And you will also have to understand the unique social contract between photographers and event participants. On this page I try to help you do that, by sharing some of the insights and techniques I have developed after ten trips to the playa.

The Equipment section covers what to bring, how to care for it, and how to carry it. The Shooting at Burning Man section covers the when, where, and how of Burning Man photography. None of this is carved in stone, and I would love your feedback on it. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for future revisions of this section, please contact me at www.silentcolor.com (where you will also find my Burning Man Links and Burning Man Packing List pages which contains links to many of the items that I talk about here). You should also start any journey of photography at the event with a visit to the Burning Man Image Use page for full information on the event’s policies and procedures for use of imagery. By entering the gates of Burning Man you agree to abide by these policies, and knowing them will help you avoid legal pitfalls and keep you in the good graces of your fellow participants.

But before we get to the Equipment, and Shooting at Burning Man sections, a few words on photography rules and etiquette at Burning Man (which are in fact carved in stone)…

Rules and Etiquette

Burning Man’s number one rule of etiquette for photography is Ask First — you should get permission before taking somebody’s photo. Does this mean you can’t grab a shot of somebody cruising by on a really cool bike, or capture a compelling scene you happen to see through your telephoto lens? No, of course not — realistically, you should ask first whenever realistically possible. But the question you have to ask yourself before pressing the shutter is “Am I invading this person’s privacy in any way?”. If the person is fully or partially nude, in the middle of a very private moment, or doing anything that perhaps they would not want the whole world to see, then yes, you definitely need to ask first — do not press the shutter. If somebody is doing henna body painting on a nude model in Center Camp, and there are a dozen people with cameras surrounding them snapping away, can you just jump in and take pictures as well? No you can’t — instead, set an example for the others. Go up to the model and ask first. Some of the other photographers undoubtedly already did so, and the ones who did not perhaps will appreciate the reminder that they should have.

Ask First is Burning Man’s number one photography rule — but I have my own official number one photography rule for you as well, which is Don’t Be “That Guy”. If you have been to Burning Man you know which “that guy” I mean — that guy in a paparazzi swarm chasing after every naked woman who walks by, like she was an A-list celebrity with a new haircut. That guy with the giant telephoto lens elbowing people out of his way to get his close-up boob shots at the Critical Tits ride. In other words, that guy who over the last few years has been making women in particular feel less and less comfortable freely expressing themselves at Burning Man, for fear they will end up as the screensaver on their officemates’ computers. And yes, it is predominantly guys causing the problem, but female photographers obviously need to keep basic photographic etiquette in mind in as well.

Burning Man’s legal policies about use of imagery define “professional use” as “any use beyond personal”: you accept these terms — printed on the back of each ticket — when you set foot inside this private event. If you are planning on using your photographs for any purpose other than simply sharing with friends and family, you must obtain written permission from Black Rock City LLC, the organization that runs Burning Man. You need to register with them in advance of the event, and check in upon arrival to sign a Use Agreement and have a media tag put on your camera. To learn more about Burning Man’s specific media policies, check out both the Rights and Responsibilities section and the FAQ Page of the Burning Man Press Page.

One of the more important things you will notice on that page is that you need to collect model releases from recognizable people that you photograph (again, this is for commercial use only — if you are only shooting for yourself, friends, and family, getting verbal permission is enough — you do not need a signed release). So make sure you bring plenty of releases with you. Having to get releases signed definitely slows down your shooting. But on the other hand, some of my best interactions with people at Burning Man — and some of my best friendships there — have started with conversations that initially began with me asking somebody to sign a release. Believe it or not, the process of getting a release signed can help you transition from just recording the event to truly participating in it.



My first two years seriously photographing at Burning Man I just brought a simple pocket digicam (Canon S40 and then S50), and I definitely got pictures I was very happy with. Some of my photographs from those years were even printed at up to 40″ for a major photography exhibit. However, by the time I wrote the original version of this essay in 2009, it was clear to me that doing serious shooting at Burning Man (or anywhere else, really) required a digital SLR. But technology marches on. Though I do still shoot primarily with a DSLR myself — and that is the perspective that this essay is written from — there are now other options worth considering. In particular, some of the new compact mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras now produce images essentially as good in quality as a cropped sensor DSLR (the Olympus OM-D E-M5 comes to mind in 2013). And even some large sensor pocketable cameras can do amazing things now (the Sony RX100 was the first of these).

If you bring an interchangeable lens camera, I highly recommend getting one that has a self-cleaning sensor — this gives you much more freedom to change lenses in the dusty conditions of Burning Man. And given those conditions, it is also best to have a body with good weather sealing. If you have a second camera body I recommend bringing it as backup — every Burning Man is a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience, and if something terrible happens to your primary camera you will want to have a backup. I also recommend a pocket digicam (preferably a large sensor one) that you can bring with you when you don’t want to lug around the DSLR (and that of course can be your backup if you do not have a second DSLR body).

In 2012 I brought a Nikon D300 as my primary body, and the Sony RX100 as digicam. That combination worked great, and I was very happy with the images I got. That being said, at the end of 2012 I upgraded to the Nikon D800 full frame SLR, and the image quality is so vastly improved that it makes me want to go back and re-shoot every image I have ever taken.


Lenses are an extremely personal choice, and you can make a pretty good argument for the use of almost any kind of lens at Burning Man. A consumer zoom with a wide range is awesome, because you can minimize lens changes and weight, and very quickly go from shooting wide angle to telephoto. But the image quality of a set of professional f2.8 zoom lenses may be worth the weight and lens-changing disadvantages to you. And prime (non-zoom) f1.4 or f1.8 lenses generally have the best quality of all, and are fantastic for shooting at night. You also might consider specialized lenses like an ultra wide zoom or fisheye.

Another drawback to consumer zoom lenses is that they are typically not weather-sealed, so even if you are using one with a sealed professional camera body, the lens can still draw dust into itself and/or the camera.


Tripod Absolutely worth bringing, but I must admit I have not used mine very much at Burning Man. I have found that it was such a hassle to carry around that it was not worth it, and the majority of subjects you would want to take pictures of at night are moving, so you need a fast exposure anyway. The large majority of my night shots are with the 50 f1.4 lens at extremely high ISO (or in 2012, with the Sony RX100, which has an F1.8 lens and good high ISO performance). On the other hand, I have seen plenty of mind-blowing Burning Man photographs by other people that were shot on a tripod, so definitely don’t let me discourage you.

External Flash Definitely worth bringing one, especially for fill flash at twilight (takes some skill to do this right though).

Polarizing Filter I do not find them particularly useful at Burning Man — it is just one more piece of glass in the image pipeline that has to be kept clean. In my opinion, the only really good reason to use a polarizer is to cut glare — which is generally on water or foliage, neither of which are in abundant supply on the playa. Many people use them to make the sky bluer. If you do that you need to be very careful about not doing it with too wide a shot, or you will get very unnatural looking color differentials in the sky. If I want a bluer sky I will do that in post-processing, and skip the polarizer. All that being said, the polarizer does impart a different look to certain subjects, so if you have one you might want to bring it to play around with.

Storage Flash memory cards are very cheap now. Bring plenty of them — enough so that you do not have to erase and re-use them before you get home. I would also highly recommend that you bring a backup device. If you are not willing to risk your laptop out there, perhaps a portable hard drive card reader of some sort — there are plenty of options on the market. But remember this is for backup, not for primary storage. I would definitely not copy my cards to a hard drive then erase the originals — you should have at least two copies of your images, if at all possible..

Cleaning Supplies Bring sensor cleaning equipment even if you have a self-cleaning sensor — you never know when you are going to get a stubborn piece of sensor dust (and don’t forget to inspect for dust regularly —I got a huge piece of dust stuck on my sensor halfway through the event in 2012, and did not see it until I got home. I had to clone that thing out of way too many photos). For cleaning lenses, I really like the “Lens Pen” — I bring a few with me, in case they get too cruddy from the dust. Note that they are available in regular size for SLR lenses and micro size for digicams. There is a product called Deoxit, which is sometimes handy for cleaning the contacts between lens and camera or between battery and camera (I wish I had remembered to bring it the year the auto-focus stopped working on one of my lenses due to cruddy contacts). I generally use baby wipes to clean the outside of the camera.

Misc Supplies Don’t forget plenty of batteries, and your chargers (and know where you are going to plug in — Burning Man is BYO electricity). I like to have spare lens caps and spare LCD covers with me as well.

Carrying and Protecting Equipment

The smartest thing you could do as a photographer is build and register a small personal art car so you could easily travel around the playa with your gear. The only way you can drive at Burning Man is if you have a bona fide “mutant vehicle” — a vehicle that has been significantly modified from its original form and turned into a work of art. These vehicles must be registered well in advance of the event, so check out the official DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles) information for details.

If you are not going to bring an art car, the next best thing to bring is a good mountain bike. The common wisdom is to bring a crappy playa bike that you don’t have to worry about trashing. I personally cannot stand riding crappy bicycles ever, and especially not in the difficult conditions of the playa. I recommend a decent full suspension mountain bike — make sure you are religious about locking it, and accept that you may have to spend some money to get it thoroughly serviced when you get home. It is money well spent in my opinion.

When carrying photo gear at Burning Man (or really anywhere) there are four main considerations: comfort, transportability, accessibility, and protection. Simply carrying a camera on a shoulder strap with accessories in a small fanny pack offers good comfort, ok transportability on foot, but terrible on bike, fantastic accessibility, and zero protection. Putting everything in a photo backpack offers excellent comfort, excellent transportability, mediocre accessibility, and excellent protection. There is a huge range of options in camera bags, and there is no one system that is excellent in all four criteria.

After many years of experience, I believe I have finally figured out the optimum way of transporting an SLR and lenses around Burning Man. The secret is a high quality front basket on your bike. Keep your gear in a backpack or whichever well protected, well sealed bag you like, and plop it in the basket. This keeps it safe, and causes no discomfort when carrying it.

That being said, if you have a heavy camera bag, putting all that weight in the front does make the bike pretty squirrely, which is all the more reason to have a high quality bike, and good handling skills.

If you have an SLR, I also recommend investing in a good after-market strap for it. I prefer the “sling” style straps (invented by BlackRapid). With one of those straps you can ride with the camera on your body (with the backpack in the basket on standby in case of dust storms).

As far as protecting your camera from the dust, I generally only take my camera out of its bag when the dust is not up. Though as the week goes on, I tend to get looser and looser with that rule (though I still am afraid to pull out my camera during a real dust storm). As mentioned earlier, you really want to look at how weather sealed your camera and lenses are. The less sealed, the more careful you will want to be about when to pull them out of the bag.

An underwater housing would of course provide great protection, but good ones are going to be more expensive than your camera, and add significant weight and bulk.

Shooting at Burning Man

Creating great photographs anywhere requires mastery of three elements: light, composition, and technical aspects. This is something I learned at a workshop with Thom Hogan, and it has proved invaluable to me. I will touch on how each of these apply at Burning Man…


My favorite time to shoot at Burning Man is sunrise — which means being in position for your sunrise shots no later than about 6:15am. For one thing, unlike at sunset, you can get shots of the sun actually crossing the horizon. Due to the location of Burning Man, the actual sunset is blocked by the mountains, but sunrise is not. However the exact location of Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert sometimes changes slightly from year to year, so don’t count on this. Once the sun is up, the light is absolutely magical. This is generally the calmest time of the day, so there are few dust storms, and it is not hot yet. Though there are plenty of people around who have been up all night, there are far fewer than there are during the day, so it is easier to get shots of art pieces without people in the frame. This is definitely a time of day when you generally want to be shooting out on the open playa.

By 9am the light is not nearly as good, and it is starting to get hot. Obviously great shots can be made any time during the day, but it is much harder to get them when the sun is high. Midday is a good time to be shooting indoors — at Center Camp, inside various other domes and structures, etc. This is also a good time to be scouting locations — where do you want to be for the next sunset and sunrise? What art pieces do you see that you love? What direction will the light look best on them, and when will that happen? You might consider giving yourself a break and leaving the DSLR at camp during midday outings, and just bring your small digicam.

On the other hand, you just never know when dust or bad weather is going to move in, so there is something to be said for going out at mid-day if it is calm, just to get some shots in the bag in case the weather goes to hell. For example, in 2000 it was overcast, windy, and dusty pretty much continually from Wednesday on.

Late Afternoon
By 4pm the light is starting to get interesting again, by 5pm it is spectacular. Anything and everything looks good in this light. The major art pieces tend to get crowded with visitors this time of day, which can make them more challenging to shoot.

Dinner Interregnum
At just after 7pm the sun slides behind the mountains, so you lose the “golden hour” light prematurely. The sky is suddenly much brighter than everything on the playa, which is no longer being lit, so you really have to be careful how you frame your shots. This can be a good time to take people portraits, because there is a nice even diffuse light, and your subjects will not have to wear sunglasses or squint into the sun, but again, be very aware of how bright the background is compared to your subject — you may need to use fill flash, or shoot in a different direction. This is also a good time to eat a quick dinner.

Around 8 the real sunset is starting to happen, even though you cannot see it. However, if there are clouds to the west there can be absolutely spectacular skies. You no doubt scoped out what you wanted to put against those clouds earlier in the day, so now you are in position to get your sunset sky shots. Experiment with silhouettes against the sky, as well as fill flash.

As the daylight starts to fade, the artificial lighting starts to come on. It is now dark enough to see the glowing lights, but light enough that you can still see the people, vehicles, art, etc. that have lights on them. This is a great time to break out the 2.8 zooms. It is a very technically challenging time to shoot — keep a close eye on your shutter speeds.

Nighttime at Burning Man is absolutely spectacular, and very challenging to shoot well. You can lug a tripod around which gets annoying very fast if you do not have an art car, or you can rely on a very fast lens (f1.4 preferably) and high iso. Ideally you have both. A flash can be helpful, but in my opinion, only if you are using it in slow synchro mode, and you have enough ambient light for that mode to be interesting. You also have to consider how irritating your flash might be to those around you.

In order to ensure that you participate and enjoy the event in other ways, it’s recommended that you also take time to go out and explore without your camera.


The basic rules of composition certainly do not change at Burning Man, so I am only going to touch on this subject here. There are plenty of resources available for learning this stuff, and I have included links to some of my favorites in the Burning Man Links page on my website.

I think the biggest single mistake beginning photographers make is not paying enough attention to what is in the background. They see something that catches their interest, and grab a shot of it, without really looking to see what else is in the frame. I personally tend to be drawn to very clean sparse backgrounds, which means I do most of my shooting at Burning Man out on the playa. The streets and theme camps tend to be too visually cluttered for me, with undecorated cars and RV’s etc. bringing reminders of the real world into the magic I am trying to capture.

When you are out on the playa, look at where the horizon is in your shot. Would it look better if you crouched down to lower it? What if you laid on your belly in the dust? What if you climbed up on something and shot downwards, and raised the horizon? What focal length do you want for a shot? Wide angles bring much more of the environment into the frame with your subject. Telephoto lets you more easily include only exactly what you want in the background. Try to experiment — do not take all your shots from eye level at standard viewing distance. Try to get a unique perspective.

Technical Aspects

The most important rule here is Know Your Equipment! Burning Man is not the place to learn how to use the fancy new camera you just bought. If you are getting any new equipment for your trip, make sure you get it sufficiently early that you can really learn how to use it before you arrive. Trust me, you are not going to read the manual when you get there.

Beyond that, I am not going to get into the technical aspects of photography in general, but I will leave you with one important word: raw. If you are at all serious about your Burning Man photography, you need to be shooting raw format files, not jpeg. There are just so many things you can get wrong in your shot that can easily be corrected after the fact with raw-processing software, and which, if you are shooting jpeg, mean you have lost the image. Even the best camera metering systems can be fooled by the brightness of the playa during the day, or the rapidly varying intensity of light from a fire at night. With a raw file you can move the exposure up or down a stop or two and often save an otherwise ruined shot. Similarly, being able to change your white balance after the fact can be a godsend. With the cheapness of flash memory cards and hard drives these days, there is just no excuse for shooting jpeg anymore.

Becoming an expert in the technical aspects of post-processing your photos is just as important as mastering the techniques of creating them. I provide some suggested links for getting started in both of these areas in the Burning Man Links page on my website.

If you have any feedback about this document, please contact me at www.silentcolor.com with your questions, comments, and suggestions.

Press Kit

Are you creating media, writing or publishing content about Burning Man? Please read our Media Rights and Responsibilities and email press@burnigman.org.

About the Burning Man Event in Black Rock City

Black Rock City takes place annually in Northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, the largest dry lakebed or ‘playa’ in North America. Black Rock City is not a festival. It is a temporary city, created by and for event participants. There are no spectators; Black Rock City does not book acts or provide entertainment. As a decommodified event, there are no corporate sponsors.

Black Rock City is the largest Leave No Trace event in the world. Learn about ongoing work to make Black Rock City sustainable and regenerative. 

The 2024 Burning Man theme is Curiouser & Curiouser. Black Rock City 2024 will take place Sunday, August 25 to Monday, September 2, 2024. Learn about Black Rock City 2024

Participants in the Burning Man community, aka Burners, organize, make and create in alignment with the 10 Principles. Burning Man is a global, non-commercial, participatory culture that comes to life at more than 100 Regional events in 34 countries around the world through the Regional Network.

Black Rock City has a positive economic impact on Reno, Nevada and Northern Nevada. In 2019 alone Black Rock City participants contributed $75 million to the Nevada economy.

Burning Man’s historical timeline will take you through the cultural history of Burning Man as it has grown from a small gathering on San Francisco’s Baker Beach into a year-round global community and culture. For more Burning Man history, philosophy and culture, browse the Burning Man Historical Archives and Founders’ Voices.

Black Rock City 2023 ANIMALIA Recap

The 2023 art theme was “ANIMALIA”, which celebrated the animal world and our place in it — animals real and imagined, mythic and remembered.

In 2023 Black Rock City’s peak population was 74,126.

And yes… it rained. Read “The Disaster that Wasn’t” in the Burning Man Journal to learn how Black Rock citizens adapted to the wet and muddy conditions. And yes, we passed the Bureau of Land Management Post-Event Site Inspection.

Shape and Size of the City

  • BRC’s border was a 9.45 mile ‘perimeter fence’ that is built by hand
  • Gerlach to BRC: 13 miles. BRC to Fly Ranch: 12 miles 
  • Total event size (perimeter fence): 3,935 acres / 6.14 sq miles
  • Area of city grid: 1,113.9 acres / 1.74 sq miles

Theme camps are the lifeblood of Black Rock City. Not only do they serve as temporary communities for tens of thousands of dusty Burners, theme camps create the city’s interactivity, offering everything from snacks and shade, to workshops, dance parties, and pyrotechnics. Explore the 2022 theme camp listing.

In Black Rock City 2023 there were:

  • 1,174 theme camps
  • 58 placed villages
  • Many unplaced and impromptu camps


Burning Man art is an expression of the participatory, inclusive and interactive ethos of the culture. It removes the distinction between artist and audience, inviting all to create, connect and play. 

In Black Rock City 2023 there were:

  • 561 licensed mutant vehicles
  • 383 art pieces on playa
  • 71 funded Honoraria art projects (of which 71 made it to playa) *
  • 38 walk-in projects (art that was not pre-registered with the ARTery)
  • 45% of Honoraria art projects were linked to the theme, Animalia
  • 43% of all funded art had a female lead
  • 16 art projects had flame effects
  • 9 projects burned (including Man and Temple)
  • 4 artworks didn’t burn due to rain
  • 56 international art installations represented 28 countries
  • 26 US states were represented by artists in Black Rock City

Read about 2023 Honoraria highlights in the Journal.

An Emphasis on Sustainability, and Solar Power

We prioritized Honoraria funding for art that focused on environmental sustainability — thematically, logistically, or both. 

  • All art in Black Rock City’s plazas was solar-powered
  • The Man Pavillion build and operations were 100% solar powered
  • Mobile solar units powered 12 art projects on playa
  • The Temple was 100% powered by the sun

If you are planning to participate in Black Rock City, particular attention should be paid to the Survival Guide and the Event Preparation section of the website.

More About Burning Man

Radical Inclusion, Diversity and Equity


The Burning Man Journal

Burning Man Staff Biographies

Media Archive (past event coverage)

Academics at Burning Man


The people listed here, while not currently holding official roles in the organization, form an essential part of our culture. Their contributions as senior staff members and organizational pioneers have been vital to our efforts. Many are still active members of the community, and their leadership will always be deeply appreciated.

Ada Lee Chester
AKA Dago Bay
Operations Manager, DPW
Senior Staff: 2000-2004

Beth Scarborough
AKA Bettiejune
Associate Director of Art Management

Bex Workman
Regional Network Coordinator
Senior Staff: 2005-2008

Breanna Wagner
Senior Accountant

Brian Forsyth
Tech Initiatives Manager

Brian Garmire
AKA Shiloh
Gate Manager 2003

Caleb Anderson
AKA C-load
Gate Co-manager
Senior Staff: 2007-2009

Carmen Mauk
Executive Director, Burners Without Borders

Chris Lewis
Gate Manager
Senior Staff: 1998-2000

Damien Heiser
AKA Shama Llama
Salesforce Administrator

Dana Harrison
AKA Biz Babe
Business Services Director
Senior Staff: 1998-2005

Dave Pedroli
AKA SuperDave
Nevada Properties, DPW Operations Manager
Senior Staff: 2004-2007

Dave Thornton
AKA Thorny
Finance Manager
Senior Staff: 2000-2009

DJ Momme
AKA Fathom
Senior Staff Accountant

Eli Peterson
AKA Wiggle Room
Program Services Manager

Technology Team Tools Advocate

Etai Freedman
AKA Fancy Pants
Development Associate

Flynn Mauthe
Director of Operations, DPW
Senior Staff: 1995-2003

Frank Diaz
AKA Frolic
Staff Accountant

Frog Gilmore
Gerlach Office: 1999-2000
Ticketing Support and Year-round Office Staff: 1999-2014
Gate: 1999-2005
Box Office: 1999-2003, 2012-2014
Flambe Lounge & Decompression Vol Coordinator: 2000-2005
BMIDs: 2002-2012
Playa Animal Welfare Team: 1999-2014

Glenda Solis
Art Department Material Culture Manager
2013 – 2015
Art Department Assistant

Greg Miller
AKA SeaDog
Black Rock Ranger Department Head
Senior Staff: 2003-2009

Heather Gallagher
AKA Camera Girl
Director of Technology

Holly Kreuter
Theme Camp Coordinatrix
Senior Staff: 1999-2003

Ira Wing
Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus Manager

J. Duane Hoover
AKA Big Bear
Ranger Director, LEAL Team Manager
Senior Staff: 1998-2014

Jeff Oshani
AKA Mr. Freeze
Gate Co-manager

Jeph Ward
AKA Entropy
Gate Co-manager
Senior Staff: 2007-2008

Jess Bobier
Office Efficiency Nurse
Senior Staff: 2003-2005

Jim Graham
AKA ronjon
Senior Advisor, Strategic Projects – Communications Team

Jon Mitchell
AKA Argus

Joseph F. Fenton
AKA Boggmann
Ranger Operations Manager
Senior Staff: 2000-2002

Joseph Pred
Emergency Services Operations Chief
Senior Staff: 1996-2013
Executive Committee: 2012-2013

Josh Lease
AKA Freefall
Business Culture Partner

Josie Schimke
Arts & Civic Engagement Communications Specialist
2007 – 2016

Joy Orabella
Office Manager

Kara Lander
AKA Quaker
Ticketing Associate

Kat Steinmetz
AKA Lambchop
Head of Human Resources

Kimmie Vaccaro
AKA All-In
Human Resources Manager

Kristen Berg
AKA Answergirl
Placement Manager

Kristy Evans
Gate Manager

Lee Anna Mariglia
Media Operations Supervisor

Marci Bennett
AKA Settle Down
Senior People Partner

Marcia Crosby
Cafe & Ice Manager

Mark “Bucky” Evan Oliver II
AKA Spiderman
Gate Co-manager (with Pearl)
Senior Staff: 2004-2006

Marshall Perry
AKA Wilde Childe
Gate Operations Manager

Meghan Rutigliano
AKA Megs
Associate Director, Regional Network

Molly Tirpak
AKA Safetygirl
Volunteer Department Manager
Senior Staff: 2001-2003

Paul Landgraver
AKA Pearl
Gate Co-manager

Peter Kranz
AKA Moebius
Perimeter Manager

Peter Letourneau
AKA Open Mic
Office Administrative Assistant

Piper Hook
Communications Specialist

P Segal (aka Miss P)
Founder, Center Camp Café and Decompression
Senior Staff: 1990-2000

Rachael Devlin
AKA Miss Roach
Office Host

Rachel Kallett
Administrative Associate & Special Projects

Rob Miller
Tech Department Lead
Senior Staff: 2001-2003

Rosalie Fay Barnes
Government Relations Manager

Rosie Von Lila
Cultural Relations Maven

Selena Ozuna
AKA Sassette
People Lifecycle Manager
2016 – 2018

Seth Schrenzel
AKA Bluecross
Exodus Manager
2009 – 2013

Shawn Saleme
BWB Program Coordinator

Shelley McTamaney
AKA Demanda Fortune
Accounting Manager
2010 – 2015

Sherry Carter
Gerlach Office Manager

Silvia Stephenson
UX Design Manager

Spider Davila
Gate Co-manager
Senior Staff: 2007-2008

Steven Young
AKA Thor

Teri Oshani
AKA Virgin Mary
Gate Co-manager

Tomas McCabe
AKA Tomas
Associate Director, Strategic Initiatives
2007 – 2016

Victoria Mitchell
AKA Trippi Longstocking
Director, Business Culture
2018 – 2020

Vladimir Shpilberg
PHP Developer

Walker Fisher
Philanthropic Engagement Associate

Will Chase
Minister of Propaganda
Web Team Project Manager
Burning Man Art Council
Senior Staff: 2003-2016

Zabed Monika
Administrative Manager
Senior staff: 2008-2011

Media Rights and Responsibilities

Burning Man is a private event held on public land. As a participant or member of the media, you must be aware of your rights and responsibilities. Burning Man Project is committed to preserving the uniquely creative and noncommercial character of its culture. To that end, we ask all participants, including members of the media, to exercise and respect certain rights and responsibilities. Below you will find the following important information:

For any media-related questions, please contact press@burningman.org.

Personal vs. Professional Use

In Black Rock City, you don’t have to be getting paid to be a Pro. “Professional Use Media” is used to describe pretty much any media project that is intended for public distribution.

Personal Use Media:
Burners are welcomed to use photos, videos, and audio recordings obtained at the event for their personal use, which includes:

  • Sharing with your friends and personal social media networks.
  • Displaying on personal websites—as long as the websites do not sell any products or services, and do not pretend or appear to be an official Burning Man website.
  • Posting to your personal accounts on photo-sharing sites such as Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr—as long as the posts aren’t commercial in any manner and the accounts aren’t used for purposeful promotion. You may not directly monetize any media through paywalls or advertisements.

Even if your images and videos are for Personal Use, you must read, understand, and follow the Photo & Video Rights and Responsibilities. Every burner with a camera has a responsibility to be respectful to the community and its members!

Professional Use Media:
If you wish to use any photo, video, or audio from the event for any non-personal use, you must apply as Professional Use Media for the Burning Man event. We require this registration process to protect the privacy and other rights of participants and to prevent commercial exploitation of Burning Man.

Non-personal use includes:

  • Publishing photos in a printed or online book, magazine, or newspaper.
  • Using footage in a professional quality video.
  • Displaying images on a non-personal website or in a gallery show.
  • Using imagery in a documentary or TV show.
  • Distributing media to any third-party group or publication. This includes offering photos for publication, or making any commercial or promotional use of event media.

A general rule of thumb for whether a use is non-personal: Is the event imagery being used for financial gain, OR being widely distributed beyond your personal network of friends and family? If either of these is true, please apply as Professional Use Media by contacting press@burningman.org. You are also responsible for obtaining clear and informed consent from the subjects in your photos. If your image violates the privacy or other rights of another participant, you should not display it in any public manner. If you did not pre-register as a professional shooter at the event, you may apply for permission later if you or someone else wishes to make non-personal use of your images. But you must obtain our written permission before the use is made.

To learn more about shooting for professional purposes (press, books, fine art, documentary film, etc.), visit Media at Black Rock City.

Photo & Video Rights and Responsibilities

  • You have the right to express yourself and create art as a photographer, videographer, and/or audio artist.
  • Unless you have prior written permission from Burning Man Project, you may only use photos, videos, or audio obtained at the event for personal use.
  • You are responsible for respecting the participants you wish to record and seeking their permission before photographing or filming them. If you are asked to stop filming, you must do so immediately. You have the responsibility not to interfere with the immediate experience of other participants.
  • The Burning Man symbol, the phrases “Burning Man” and “Black Rock City,” the design of the Burning Man (aka “the Man”), as well as other key city infrastructure are protected by trademark and/or copyright law. In keeping with the principle of Decommodification, these trademarks and copyrights may not be used for any commercial or third-party purposes without Burning Man Project’s written consent. Click here for more information on Burning Man Project’s approach to intellectual property.
  • Our Ticket Terms and Conditions cover our media policies in depth. By using your ticket to enter the event, you accept and agree to these policies. Failure to comply with these or any other media policies is grounds for eviction from the event and may bar entry in future years.

Professional Use Rights and Responsibilities

  • Anyone who plans to shoot video or photography at the Burning Man event for non-personal use must apply with Burning Man Project before filming and sign a professional use contract. “Non-personal use” means any use that is commercial and/or widely distributed beyond one’s personal network of friends and family. You can start the process here.
  • All members of the media—and anyone else who plans to make non-personal use of event imagery—must check in at Media Mecca upon arriving in Black Rock City.
  • If you fail to register or receive approval for your project, but you record event imagery for your project anyway, you are trespassing. Trespassers have no rights to any use of event imagery, and Burning Man Project reserves the right to take any necessary action against trespassers.
  • Professional use contracts are required to sell any imagery from the Burning Man event. We do not permit online sales, or the sale or distribution of photos or videos via stock agencies.
  • Before professional use contract holders can publish any event imagery, they must obtain written permission from an authorized member of Burning Man Project’s Communications Department. Such written permission may be subject to restrictions, including granting Burning Man Project a license to display your imagery in Burning Man communications.
  • Burning Man Project forbids the making of profit from the documentation of nudity at the event without the express written permission of the subjects and Burning Man Project.
  • You must use model releases for all recognizable individuals. We may ask for verification of these releases before granting permission to use an image or footage commercially.
  • The copyright of a design, written work, artwork, or performance is owned by the person or group who created it. You must ask permission before capturing such artwork and performances and obtain signed model/property license(s) or release(s) from all appropriate parties.

Media & Press FAQ

Q. What can I do with my photos or footage from Burning Man?

A. You can share them with your friends, family, and campmates. You can post them on a personal website or on your personal social networks, such as Flickr and Facebook. You can show them at a private party. You may also use photographs or footage taken at the event for your theme camp or art project fundraiser, as long as the project is intended as a gift for the Burning Man community in Black Rock City. You cannot post event photos or footage on a commercial website—including a business’s social network account—or a self-promotional portfolio website, nor can you sell them or place them on products for sale, such as prints or t-shirts.

If you want to share your imagery beyond your immediate network or with large audiences, or use your imagery professionally (such as editorially or in a book or film project), you will need to register with Burning Man. You may begin this process here.

Some common examples:

  • Posting images from the Burning Man event on the Facebook account or website for your theme camp or art project—OK!
  • Using video footage from the playa in connection with your theme camp’s Kickstarter campaign (if the funds will be used specifically for the camp’s operations in Black Rock City)—OK!
  • Selling or licensing images captured at Burning Man, or objects including such images—NOT OK!
  • Filming a music video for a band or DJ—NOT OK!
  • Staging fashion shoots or otherwise using images in advertisements or promotions for a company, product, or service—NOT OK!
Q: What can I do if someone uses my media or a picture of me without my permission?

A. The Burning Man Communications Team is here to help you! The best thing to do is to first contact the site or organization yourself and let them know that either your copyrighted work is being used without your permission or an image of you is being used without consent and is in violation of the Burning Man Media Policy. If that does not work or you don’t get a response, you can contact press@burningman.org with a link and information about the use of media. From there, Burning Man can assist you through a number of avenues, including reaching out to the site or organization with a comprehensive explanation of our media policy.

Q: How can Burning Man regulate media from the event?

A. Entering Black Rock City during Burning Man constitutes legal acceptance of Burning Man’s posted Terms and Conditions, including those regarding image use. The event is held on land leased from the federal Bureau of Land Management. Though the land is public property the rest of the year, the event permit designates the area as private/closed for the duration of the event, and a ticket is required to enter. This Closure Order means that Burning Man has the right to authorize or deny any photography, videography, or audio recording at the event, and to require—as a condition of entry into the event—that Burning Man’s permission be obtained prior to making certain uses of the resulting images or footage. The Photo & Video Rights and Responsibilities apply to both personal and professional use of event imagery—regardless of who is recording and why, the expectation of respect for the privacy and other rights of participants and artists remains the same.

Q. Does Burning Man own my photos/video/audio?

A. Burning Man shares copyright ownership of BRC media with the creator, and only for very specific reasons.  The Terms and Conditions provide for that shared ownership so that Burning Man has the ability to take action if someone uses your media inappropriately or if the media is in violation of our basic values of consent, privacy, and decommodification. Burning Man will never use your images or video without your permission or without giving you credit. Our policies exist so that we can protect your rights as an artist and the privacy of individuals in Black Rock City.

Q. Will I be filmed on the playa? Don’t they need my permission?

A. By entering an event like Burning Man, you agree to the possibility of being filmed once inside. We strongly encourage photographers and videographers—professional and novice alike—to ask before shooting, and most professionals will also carry model releases. In addition, professionals have a legally binding agreement with Burning Man to get case-by-case approval of anything they shoot before it is used commercially. For example, we do not approve pictures of nudity where the subject appears to be unaware of the camera.

Q. What if someone loves my personal photos or footage and suggests I enter a contest/gallery showing, or asks if they can use my imagery on a website?

A. You may contact Burning Man to seek approval for these uses by emailing press@burningman.org.