35 ESSENTIALS FOR MY PHOTOGRAPHY EMERGENCY KIT
As a photographer who has been shooting in Orange County for over 12 years now, I have been on a lot of photoshoots & seen a lot of things. At each photo shoot, I've learned something new which TYPICALLY happens because something went wrong. I've had shoots where equipment broke, dresses were torn, hair was ruined, makeup was running, and everything in between. Without sugar coating it, shit happens & you just have to adapt.
After all of these random happenstances and faux pas, I have decided that it is necessary to come prepared...ALWAYS! Since then, I've put together the Photography Emergency Kit so that when I roll up to a photo shoot, I am ready for literally anything. It has all the items I've ever needed in an emergency and didn't have. It has everything someone might need for a photoshoot emergency, not a medical one though so don't get it twisted.
If you want to put together your very own photoshoot emergency kit based on some of these items I recommend, I highly recommend it & links will be included. It's the life-saving bag of your dreams!
Let's get started! Here are 35 Essentials for my Photography Emergency Kit.
#1 Your bag of choice
This kit has many small items so you can typically get away with a medium-sized bag. I chose this BJLFS bag from Amazon in grey. I liked that it had handles as well as a shoulder strap for carrying in various ways depending on what you have on location with you. It is also water-resistant so you can keep the items inside safe.
#2 Tide To Go Pen
In an emergency, a Tide Pen is a lifesaver. If you go to lunch before your shoot and spill something on an outfit, this can mean the difference between editing a stain out of every single photo and making it much easier for yourself. There's no mess and nothing to throw away. Super portable necessity!
#3 Dry Shampoo
You never know what you're going to need on the set, but I've had multiple situations where a model was wishing she had some dry shampoo to fix her curls or adjust her hairstyle in between shots. Having a quick little travel-sized dry shampoo is a great addition to your emergency kit.
#4 Hair Spray
In the same vein as dry shampoo, hair spray for fly-away hairs is a lifesaver. I've had many situations where a branch in a nearby bush or tree messed up a model's hair or a rogue hair is loose and needs containing. A travel-sized hair spray is a perfect addition to solve your on-the-fly hair problems.
#5 Tangle Teezer Hair Brush
Having a brush on location with you is vital. As a model, you have a lot of things to remember to do and bring so as a photographer, having a brush in emergencies is a great option to save some stress for everyone. I love the Tangle Teezer so I carry this one with me every time.
#6 Hair Ties/Rubber Bands
The amount of times I've felt like I needed a hair tie or rubber band onset is simply uncountable. The model's hair tie will break. I'll need one for myself. Something on her outfit could be fixed by one. Their uses are unparalleled and 150% necessary at almost every photo shoot.
#7 Bobby Pins
Same as the hair tie situation, bobby pins are useful for a variety of things like fixing garments, adjusting hairstyles, and even just pinning things to other things. It is also just great to have your own set so when people walk off with them at the end of the shoot, you still have plenty more.
#8 Alcohol/Cleaning Wipes
At many shoots, I've found the need to wipe down shoes, tables, hands, and other equipment. Having some on-hand cleaning wipes is a great addition to your emergency kit. Without them, I'd be lost and I've used these so many times since adding them to the bag.
#9 Steel Spring Clamps
As anyone working in media, we know how vital a clamp can be. Whether you're using them for some of your lighting equipment or to make a dress fit a little better, they're incredibly versatile and useful. They come in a variety of sizes which makes them perfect for any minor emergency.
As a working photographer, I often have different styles of photography to contend with. I learned that having Tweezers on set is a vital tool from my fellow photographer Kevin Tackett. He is often working as a food photographer and uses Tweezers at almost every photoshoot in order to move the smaller items on plates around or out of the way. This set I carry has a variety of Tweezer styles so that you can find the perfect match for your needs.
#11 Mini Sewing Kit
A sewing kit is a pretty self-explanatory item to add to my emergency bag. You never plan to have fashion emergencies, but if a button pops off or a rented dress is ripping apart, it's always a good idea to be prepared to fix it. This mini sewing kit comes with a plethora of items to help you solve a large selection of fashion faux pas.
You might be thinking that clothespins are similar to the many clamp selections I've already listed, and you're definitely correct on that. However, there have been a couple of times where something a little less abrasive in its hold something would have been a better option. Clipping something like colored gels to lighting is sometimes better done with a clothespin over a clamp so I like to have them on hand just in case.
There are probably 101 different uses for Vaseline, but I like to have it as a good chapstick option for everyone. In California, the weather here often calls for some anti-chap lip products and this one is the most universal. If you have additional uses for Vaseline on set, definitely let me know.
Shit happens when you're on location. I've definitely found myself or someone else bleeding on a shoot many times. I like to carry a small package of band-aids/bandages so that if blood happens, we're prepared to handle it. This doesn't cover bigger emergencies, but it does work if you're scraping knees on rocks or accidentally papercutting yourself. Carry them. I promise it's worth it.
#15 Translucent Powder
After a couple of hours of shooting, sometimes touchups are needed, and sometimes, people forget the items they need. I like to keep some translucent powder on hand for those random times someone might need to just powder their nose or fix spots from sunglasses, etc.
#16 Oil Absorbing Wipes
The amount of times a model has asked me if they're looking oily during a shoot is another uncountable question I get all the time. There have been times where they have started to get oily, but there is nothing to fix it with if I told them they were. Having a handful of oil-absorbing wipes is a small and useful addition to the kit.
#17 Mini Fan/Flashlight/Charger
When I was looking for a small fan to add to my emergency kit, I actually found this Mini Handheld Fan which hit multiple boxes. Having a fan was vital for me because in California, being hot is a common occurrence. To save faces of makeup or just to make people more comfortable, a fan was a great idea to carry. This item also doubles as a flashlight and TRIPLES as a phone charger so the 3-in-1 was a great add-in and totally worth the price. Plus, it's totally cute.
#18 Lint Roller
As a cat owner, a lint roller is absolutely necessary everywhere, but especially on set with you. So many people have pets or pulled their clothes out of the dryer with small white fluffs on them. One quick roll and you're good to go and it saves a whole lot of editing time trying to clone stamp them out.
As native Californians, we get dry weather a lot. Often a small bottle of lotion would have been good for my own hands on top of the model's hands or legs. I like having something small and travel-sized so it isn't too heavy and doesn't take too much space in your bag.
As someone who went to film school, I like to be ready for any weird happenstance. Having Superglue means that when some random part of a tripod falls off, you can glue it. It means that if part of a prop pops apart, you can glue it. It really just means you can fix something enough to use it just at that moment. It isn't usually a forever fix, but it will work for most on-the-fly broken item problems.
#21 Compact Mirror
I personally like to shoot on location more often than anywhere else. That typically means that models are fixing their makeup and hair mid photoshoot in a car window or shop storefront which isn't ideal. I like to carry this little compact mirror with me because it closes securely keeping the mirror itself protected but also has lights in it for a better viewing experience for the model. It also comes in a variety of colors so you can choose the one you like best.
#22 Lash Glue
Fake eyelashes are so common on photoshoots, and even more common to just start falling off and ruining everyone's day at a moment's notice. It isn't something I remember to carry with me on nights out when I have fake lashes on so I like to carry an emergency tube of lash glue for the random eyelash emergencies when we're out and about.
#23 Duct Tape and/or Gaffer Tape
Throwing it back to my film school days, I used duct tape or gaffer tape at every single shoot. Whether we were fixing a tripod by wrapping it in duct tape or taping the floor for blocking with gaffer tape, it was a staple on set no matter what we were doing. I like to carry duct tape personally because it's more versatile for my needs, but gaffer tape will ruin fewer surfaces if you're looking for a less abrasive option.
#24 Dish Towels
This might seem like a very random add-in, but I cannot stress enough how many uses I have personally found for having a dishtowel on set. I chose these neutral microfiber dishtowel options for aesthetics, but let me just break down the times I've needed one. As someone who is often shooting food content at restaurants, I like to be able to wipe down a table without bothering a server. On really hot days, I like to have something I can wipe my face off with when things are getting too sweaty. It's good to wipe down props that get wet when they need to be put back in a box or bag. Really there are 1,000 reasons you can use a dishtowel on location and I highly recommend them.
#25 Nail Glue
Just like eyelashes, fake nails are so nice to look at but so temperamental. I find that if you're shooting someone like a mom in family photos or someone who isn't as advanced in modeling, they often won't wear fake nails, and because they're not as practiced at putting them on, they pop off without warning OFTEN. Having nail glue on hand makes the model feel less stressed as well as saves you a lot of time hiding the nail in the shots or editing one on in the final photos.
#26 Makeup Remover Wipes
Having makeup remover wipes in my emergency kit is my personal NUMBER ONE MUST HAVE as a photographer who often wears makeup to photoshoots herself. Not only is it a great thing to have if a model finds makeup melting off her face or her eyes watering and mascara running, but it's also nice to have to remove your own makeup in emergencies.
In my time being a photographer, I have had my makeup melt off my own face upwards of 5-6 times. It's always unexpected because it's typically on days that were not meant to be so hot out, but it turns out my moving around & raising my heart rate causes my makeup to run into my eyes and become a disaster. As the photographer, I try my best to make sure my clients are not bothered by my own problems, but when you're eyes are burning because your eyeliner has turned to water during a Disneyland engagement session, it really does become everyone's problem. Back then, we had to ask a random mother for a baby wipe to save the day. Basically, I'm a huge advocate for carrying single-use makeup wipes. Definitely have them in your kit if you're a makeup wearer.
#27 Power Strip
I typically keep my power strip in my light kit and not my emergency kit, but it is something I wanted to mention to more beginner photographers. If you're on set with 2-3 lights, but the chords are short and you only have 1 extension cord, you're shoot is going to be a disaster. Having a power strip eliminates the need for more than one extension cord which is heavy and annoying to pack. Bring it. You'll need it.
#28 Touchup Lipstick
In case of emergencies, I like to keep 2-3 shades of generic lipstick colors on hand. Sometimes a color gets wiped off, a lipstick gets left at home, or you need it as a prop and having a red or a nude on hand is great. However, bring another disposable applicator of some kind if you plan on letting people use it.
#29 Q Tips
Having an emergency stash of Q-Tips has been another must-have. It can be used to touch up makeup, get something out of someone's eye, and so much more. I like to keep a small stash of them with my makeup items just in case.
As a very white and vitamin D deficient person, sunscreen is essential in my kit mostly for my own use. I often don't immediately think to apply sunscreen except when I get ready in the morning on my face. This usually means I show up to set in short sleeves on a sunny day prepared to be burnt. To counteract this, I started showing up with a spray sunscreen in my bag for my arms and neck to help prevent burns and probably prevent skin cancer long-term. Please remember to wear sunscreen always!
The amount of times I wish I had a set of AAs or AAAs on set somewhere is unreal. There's always something that's magically run out of juice. I like to carry a small set of each type with me just in case something in my kit or someone elses' kit needs a little pick me up.
#32 Floss Sticks
I always try to get lunch after a shoot, but sometimes you do it in the middle and mishaps cannot be avoided. Floss sticks are good for yourself as well as models who might find something uncomfortable after some snacks.
When I was putting together my initial emergency kit, I asked other photographers what they wish they had in theirs and many people said a knife or scissors. I can definitely see what the many uses of a knife or scissors on set would be so if you're a landscape photographer or you find you're opening a lot of props on set, I highly recommend carrying a set with you. I have some small scissors included in the sewing kit I mentioned earlier, but if you want something more substantial, it would be a great addition to your bag.
#34 Fairy Lights
I'm no Brandon Woelfel, but fairy lights are something different to keep in your bag for the random end-of-shoot fun. There have been plenty of times at the end of a shoot where it's getting dark that a little pack of battery-powered fairy lights from Target has been a fun addition to my end-of-night photos.
#35 Hand Sanitizer
In this day and age, we all know the importance of hand sanitizer, but as a photographer, I'm often on the ground, in the dirt, and in the water with no regard for what germs I might be exposing myself to. Having a travel-sized hand sanitizer is a great thing to have for yourself and your clients to hopefully lessen any potential exposure to gross things before you hit a bathroom sink and soap.
And just like that, we have reached the end of my 35 Essentials for my Photography Emergency Kit.
Please feel free to check out any of the links I shared to make your own kit. If you can think of any additional items you personally have found a need for on your photography journey, please let me know in the comments so I can add them to my own bag.
If you're interested in learning more from me regarding photography, editing, and running a business, you can find me on Instagram (@laurakiillz) or TikTok (@laurakiillz). I'll also be trying to post at least 2 blogs per month here on my website about my photoshoots or other educational content so make sure to follow me on social to get updated!