Many of my clients have anxiety and some semblance of fear about bad things or emergencies happening during their portrait sessions. What if I have a wardrobe malfunction? What if it’s windy, and my hair goes nuts? What if, what if, what if? I aim to ensure every session goes smoothly and is a great experience. A lot of planning happens on the front end to account for potential incidents. That doesn’t mean I show up unprepared, though. In the rare case things don’t go as planned, I’ve developed a portrait session emergency kit to mitigate those challenges. It comes with me on every portrait session, whether in a studio or on location.
Ladies and germs, may I present my Portrait Oh Sh!t Kit. Because when the unexpected inevitably happens, most of us will have the same two words run through our minds or said out loud.
Now, let’s take a peak at what’s in my bag of goodies.
The invisible helpers and safety pins are convenient for a clothing emergency. These tools are great if a piece of fabric tears. Safety pins are also great for holding pieces of fabric together for a fake background. Additionally, if it’s windy out, we can use safety pins to hold down signage or articles of clothing like a scarf. Lastly, I’ve used safety pins as a makeshift needle to help guide the thread through a hole.
Clothes pins are fantastic. If a client has a loose or baggy article of clothing, I’ll often use a set of clothes pins to take up the slack. Reducing the appearance of excess fabric helps create a more flattering figure! It can also reduce wrinkles or folds in clothing. Clothes pins are also great for manipulating material for decoration, whether as a backdrop or an artistically placed piece of hanging cloth. In a pinch, I’ve used a clothes pin to hold a picture to my lens hood so a kiddo would look at the camera for family portraits!
Spot Remover Pen
Sometimes, that mad dash to grab some Starbucks before your photoshoot results in a few drips on your outfit! If you didn’t listen to your photographer and wore your session outfit to the shoot, then a Spot Remover Pen is a lifesaver. In a pinch, these pens can apply some cleaner and remove a spot or small stain on your clothing or a random piece of fabric. Clothing emergency averted. Two minutes with a spot remover pen saves me 10 minutes on every image edited in Photoshop later.
Double Sided Tape
Also known as body tape, Double-Sided Tape is often used to make clothing more comfortable. That could mean applying the tape where fabric is rubbing annoyingly against the skin or helping to cover anatomy that you don’t want poking through the front of a dress or top. I’ve also used double-sided tape to hold jewelry in place or tuck away a stray clothing strap. Because the tape is clear, it can be easily hidden!
Many of us have lovable critters who get their fur everywhere. Try as we might to keep clothing clean; our pets will never let us leave home without some reminder of them. To save the day, we use a Lint Roller. Most materials accumulate and collect debris, not just animal fur. Sometimes, it’s your hair, another article of clothing like a boa, or threads from a blanket. Lint rollers take a few minutes during a session and are a lifesaver when editing your images. They can even be used on blankets or backgrounds to clean them up!
Hair has a mind of its own. To help tame that wild animal, I carry an assortment of Bobby Pins in various colors. For shaping complex hair styles or even keeping hair organized in the wind, bobby pins are super helpful to have on hand. Additionally, because they’re metal, I’ve bent bobby pins to various shapes to help hold pieces of fabric together during a shoot.
Usually, I have to ask people with long hair to remove Hair Ties from their wrists! They create lines on the skin that suck to edit. But, if we need to transition down-hair to a ponytail or a bun quickly, you can’t beat the speed and efficiency of a hair tie. I also treat them like glorified rubber bands. Hair ties can fasten objects together like loose cables and wires or even entertain some bored kiddos. They can even gather excess fabric to create a more flattering shape for a person.
As someone with a cowlick, I can attest to the magic of Hair Spray. Nothing holds those pesky little flyaway hairs in place like a couple of blasts from a hair spray bottle. If there’s a light breeze, we can use hair spray to mitigate some wandering hairs (but not too much). Apparently, hair spray can be used to remove stains, too! While expensive, we can also use hair spray to create a fog effect in pictures! Just be prepared to feel super sticky afterward.
Sometimes, hair needs emergency management, and that’s where a Hair Brush comes in. Most tools in my kit are multi-purpose, but I’m not messing with the simple efficiency of a hair brush. Maybe if I need to wack an annoying squirrel? Who knows. At a minimum, we can use it as a prop if required!
Mirror, mirror on the wall, why did no one tell me my eyeliner was crooked?! Throughout a portrait session, your makeup may shift, you may sweat, or your hair may go nuts, and many of my clients are very specific about how they want to look. Instead of adjusting something and getting it “wrong,” I’ll pack a compact, hand-held mirror. This tool allows anyone to give themselves a once-over, regardless of the venue for the session. A hand-held mirror is invaluable, especially if we’re changing hair and makeup on location. Additionally, we can use the mirror surface to create some funky photo concepts with reflections.
Make-Up Removal Wipes
It could be the end of the session or in the middle of a shoot between looks; make-up removal wipes are always helpful. They’re great for cleaning up the occasional make-up gaffe or helping to transition from one style to another. I’ve done creative portrait sessions where we painted the models! Sometimes the paint was grease… Some skin-safe wipes to remove stuff from your body are really nice to have.
Most people love the summer months. I might, too, if I wasn’t routinely treated like an open buffet for every mosquito or gnat in a 5-mile radius. Bugs are awful, and some people are considered prime-cut meat for those critters. To help stave off the madness and the bumps, I always carry a bottle of bug spray to my outdoor sessions. I want my clients to be comfortable and happy during the session and myself sane by not having to edit out all the bug bites…
You’d be surprised how often something comes loose or needs to be reassembled during a photoshoot. Sometimes, you just need a good weight to keep a piece of fabric from flying away in the wind. Always prepared, my handy-dandy multi-tool screwdriver never leaves my bag.
Emergency Kit Carry Case
While not necessarily essential for this article, I want to shout out the Peak Design Tech Pouch. You could perform magic shows with this pouch. It’s mindblowing how much stuff fits inside! I manage to pack everything from this list except the screwdriver into a single Tech Pouch. It’s weather-resistant, durable, and comes in a variety of colors. My Portrait Oh Sh!t Kit is the midnight blue, and my everyday electronics pouch is the sage green. Yes, it’s expensive for a carry pouch, but Peak Design provides a lifetime warranty, and their gear is bomb-proof.
I have zero affiliation with Peak Design and added this shoutout simply because I love their products.
Stuff happens every day, and photoshoots are no exception. We can plan as much as possible, but challenges will inevitably arise. I think of them as fun opportunities and puzzles to solve, but having the right tools helps. I highly recommend keeping a portrait session emergency kit handy to keep clients happy while getting great images.