Tips for safer photography sessions

posted on 13th of december, 2012

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.

On Location
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.

© Vicnt (Help)
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.

Comments (4)

Posted by Chanevy on December 15, 2012
Wonderful tips. It,s easy to get caught up in the moment, by thinking ahead everyone can be much safer. Thank you.
Posted by Egomezta on December 13, 2012
Great blog, very useful. Thanks for sharing.
Posted by Peanutroaster on December 13, 2012
I always cringe around the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone when I visit there. Actually I avoid it now. Too many morons going over the barriers to take I guess what they think is the ultimate photo - looking straight down the cliffs. Or going up to a bison with their little point and shoot. When we lived next to Acadia Nat. Park in Maine each season a touron would be swept out to sea.
Posted by Mike2focus on December 13, 2012
Great topic, thanks for writing!

Here's a good tip… If you are going to shoot nature photos where you are going to be walking into an undeveloped forrest type environment, bring a compass and note the direction you walk from the start. Then when it's time to return to your vehicle, it will be easy to find your way back with the aid of the compass. I got lost once and it was a scary situation for a few hours!

Also, if you are in bear country it is recommended that you carry mace (pepper spray) with you in case you need to spray a charging bear. And wear little bells so that the bears will hear you coming and hopefully be scared away. Also look for signs of bears in the area, such as the bear's feces (bear poop). Bear feces can be identified easily because it smells like pepper spray and has little bells in it... :-)

Just a little fun there on that last one. But safety during shoots is something we all need to take into consideration....(More)

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Photo credits: Adrian Lewart, Cheryl Casey, Mathew Hayward, Sparkieblues, Victor Zastol`skiy.

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