Whether you have a full-time production studio, only shoot on location, or just do a little landscape or bird photography for fun on the weekends, you should own at least one of these first aid kits possibly even 2 or 3 of them. Everyone has some sort of box or drawer full of first aid items either at home or in their office. Maybe you even have a roadside kit in your car. Most people however tend not to really think about first aid until something happens and then maybe they go looking for something thinking I should probably have a first aid kit or station for when this happens.
Full disclosure: this is not legal or medical advice and you should do your own research on what laws or regulations are required in your location. My hope is that this article will get you thinking about being prepared for when accidents happen and provide some resources or products that might help you in that regard.
In an older article “50 Non-Photography Items You Might Want To Carry in Your Camera Bag” I listed several items I carry in my camera bag that are first aid related including several small 5portable First Aid kits. I’m a big believer in having at a minimum a small first aid kit in all my camera bags. If weight and space are an issue there are lots of small compact kits available on the market. You can even make your own to specifically fit in a small pocket of your bag so it takes up even less space.
- Affordable: Coleman basic tin type.
- Better: Coghlan's lightweight compact bag.
- Best: Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight .5
Taking it a step further if you are a photographer who might find yourself in a more potentially hazardous environment then I think carrying a basic trauma kit should be high on your priority list. Stop The Bleed is a national campaign to educate, train, and equip more people in order to prevent the leading cause of trauma-related deaths. Bleeding out before help can arrive results in 40% of trauma-related deaths worldwide and is something that could be prevented if just one person at the scene had this very basic training.
Typically, photojournalists that cover subjects like war, gang violence, etc would carry a trauma kit but these days even photographing your local peaceful protest could quickly turn into a more hazardous situation. Trauma-related incidents are not just limited to shootings and can come from car accidents, biking, skiing, or climbing falls. They can even result from hiking or wildlife. So there are a lot of types of photography where you might find yourself alone or far from emergency help where being able to stop an injury from bleeding out may save someone's life.
Adventure Medical Kits make a great small complete kit "Trauma Pak Pro" that is perfect for photographers to always have in their bag. It comes with Quickclot, gauze, a tourniquet, and a few other little items all in a velcro bag. you should always get proper training on how to use these items first. There are plenty of good online videos but Stop The Bleed offers courses all over the US. It's usually an hour-long class and it's free making it pretty easy for something that may save a life someday.
Studio or Office
As a small business owner with a physical studio location, there are various legal requirements you may need to follow. In the United States OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) lists the standards that must be met for your business size for both first aid kits as well as any medical training staff must have. Of course, state and federal laws may differ in your location or country so make sure to do your own research. In the USA OSHA fines can be steep and are a serious matter that some photography studios have found out the hard way. Even if your studio isn’t required to meet some or all of these standards I still think it is easy enough to have a first ad kit on the premises and a plan or some training for when something happens. most US states even have free programs that will provide kits and safety training for small businesses.
The company RapidCare has several different types of kits that meet both OSHA and ANSI standards that can be attached to a wall for easier access and visibility, at an affordable price.
If you want something a little more portable or that can double as a kit for on-location photoshoots Adventure Medical Kits makes several kits in their Sportsman line for 4, 6, or up to 10 people. These are well organized by injury type with a clear map of all items on the back of an easily identifiable soft bag.
If you want to build your own kit OSHA has a list of minimum items it should include to get you started.
- Gauze pads (at least 4 x 4 inches).
- Two large gauze pads (at least 8 x 10 inches).
- Box adhesive bandages (band-aids).
- One package gauze roller bandage is at least 2 inches wide.
- Two triangular bandages.
- Wound cleaning agents such as sealed moistened towelettes.
- At least one blanket.
- Adhesive tape.
- Latex gloves.
- Resuscitation equipment such as a resuscitation bag, airway, or
- pocket mask.
- Two elastic wraps.
- Directions for requesting emergency assistance.
[59 FR 51672, Oct. 12, 1994; 60 FR 47022, Sept. 8, 1995]
Vehicle or On Location
For a lot of working photographers, a car is their office and each job is a new location. This makes having a good first aid car kit all the more important. Once again I’m of the opinion that every vehicle should have some kind of first aid kit and I even carry a kit I specially designed for my motorcycle. Moreover, when working on location the photographer is often the linchpin between clients, assistants, models, and stylists on set. When a problem occurs the photographer is usually the person everyone comes to first. Being prepared and having a quick safety conversation at the beginning of a shoot can go a long way.
Whether I am using my own vehicle or more often renting a vehicle for the job I always pack a road-ready emergency kit. There are lots of options and brands available but here are a couple of suggestions that I've found to be good
MyMedic makes a lot of great high-quality kits although they are often on the pricier side. However, their Auto Medic road kit comes with several great items often not found in cheaper kits.
As mentioned before Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman line also make for a great car or on-location kit but doesn't come with any roadside safety items specifically.
Anyone who travels regularly or for work probably already has a bunch of medical items based on their personal needs when traveling. Combining this with a small travel kit will give you a great basic setup for almost all your needs and prevent a lot of potential trips to the pharmacy or doctor during your trip. Of course, if you're like me and your trips take you off the beaten path away from easy medical care I highly recommend a slightly more robust travel kit that you can customize with any necessary travel medications and documents for that specific location and needs. If you want more information on what a more comprehensive exotic travel kit might look like you can check out this article here.
Here are a couple of kits that are great to get you started.
- Affordable: Standard Compact Kit
- Better: Ultralight and watertight bag.
- Best: Travel Specific for 4 people multiple days.
I built my personal custom travel kit using this Trauma Molle kit as a starting point and a great bag. The soft bag makes it easier to pack and pull different things out as needed for each trip. I can also easily clip it onto another bag like my camera bag when out all day in remote locations.
Wilderness and Adventure
Landscape, wildlife, and bird photography are bigger genres than ever before as more people find their way into photography through their love of nature. While I think this is a great thing it does put a lot more people in potentially vulnerable places unprepared for accidents. It seems like every day you hear about more people getting lost or hurt while enjoying the wilderness. Even the seemingly innocent landscape photographer often finds themselves exploring remote locations alone to get better and less seen locations.
While a short hike from your vehicle may not seem dangerous it can easily result in a snake bite, sprained ankle, over-exposure, or any number of trauma-based injuries. When alone or with a small group these can quickly turn into a bigger survival issue. Many people have succumbed to wilderness injuries within sight of civilization unable to get help in time.
This is even more true of any adventure type of photography work. With athletes or models performing in remote locations that often take a long time to hike to. Any adventure crew that doesn't carry a complete wilderness first aid kit is just asking for trouble. I have had to secure the scene of an accident many times in the wild waiting for either a rescue helicopter or an emergency rescue team. Time is everything in these situations and having the right gear and knowledge is the only way to keep someone safe until help arrives.
As mentioned above this is another area where Stop The Bleed is essential. If it takes just 15mins for medical help to arrive the average trauma victim will have bled out before they get to you. There should always be at least one person in every group that is carrying a basic trauma kit and knows how to use it when you are going to be in the remote wilderness.
Adventure Medical kits again make several kits specifically designed for outdoor and wilderness use in all sizes and price ranges. From lightweight and compact for when you're just staying close to the road. To a full medical kit for a group of 10 shooting rock climbing over the weekend.
- Affordable: Ultralight 1-2 people 4 days
- Better: Small group 7 days
- Best: Pro guide kit 1-12 people 14 days
You can add a small survival kit to any first aid kit you take into the wilderness to give you the basics you might need if you ever found yourself having to spend the night unexpectedly. This seems like overkill to some but thousands of people go missing in the US national parks every year resulting in an average of about 130 deaths. A small first aid kit and survival kit seem like an easy thing to carry when you spend a lot of time in these remote areas.
A first aid kit is no substitute for training and experience, take a class and educate yourself on either your area's OSHA requirements or the bare minimum Stop The Bleed. It only takes one person in any group to know what to do and there is no reason it can’t be you. Courses are often free and widely available these days.
Any and all kits listed are just a good starting point. No kit truly has everything you could possibly need. Customize your kit as needed. Take some extra stuff out and add more of the things you know you're likely to use the most. If you have special medical needs like allergies etc add those items to the kit. You can always make your own kit but buying a ready-made one will often be cheaper and provide a good bag you can reuse and build upon in the future.
Here are some great resources for finding training in your area.