I just read a recent article
about a woman who was killed by a train while photographing another train coming from the opposite direction. It is a tragic situation that could have been avoided, but this woman is certainly not the first photographer to put herself into a risky situation for a photo. It is likely that many of us take on risks for this craft. The two questions are: 1) Do we even realize that we are in a risky situation? 2) What do we do to reduce the risk?
I invite all of you to share your ideas on how to make our photography sessions safer for ourselves and clients. I'll begin with a few ideas.
Before going on location to shoot, first think about the potential risks that may arise. Is any special equipment needed to reduce the risk? Should another person be brought along to help handle equipment or serve as a lookout? Prepare yourself ahead of time as best you can. It is much easier to think of how to handle a situation when not in a rush as the "perfect shot" suddenly appears.
When taking clients with you on location, consider their safety as well as your own. Before taking a family to the local railway tracks for the classic "walking away holding hands along the tracks" shot, consider whether the tracks are still in use. If they are, find a different location. If you still decide to use the location, don't take kids, and make sure to bring an assistant to watch for trains. Remember that trains often travel faster than you think they do, and they can take a mile or two before coming to a stop. Remember that the more people involved in the shot, the more time the shot will take, and the longer it will take to get everyone moved off the track. If you are using an abandoned rail, remember that the shoot may also be undoing some of the railroad safety training that kids should be learning.
Also consider potential allergens that your clients may have. It may be a good idea to find out if anyone in the group is allergic to certain pollens, animals, or other things that are in (or near) the environment you are suggesting.
In the Studio
For your own and for clients' safety, tape down any cables that you easily can. Loose cables are a major tripping hazard, and trips can result in pain and broken equipment.
If you often photograph children in your studio, perform some basic child proofing. Cover exposed power outlets, keep breakables out of reach, make sure that equipment cannot be easily pulled over, etc.
Be aware of common allergens that are also common props. Some of the most common culprits are hay, dogs, cats, and peanuts. Have a plan on how you will handle these types of items in your studio.
Okay, those are a few to get the thoughts rolling. Please post other ideas on how to make photography a safe (while still being fun) for us and the people around us.