What’s In My Bag?: My Emergency Kit

Crochet hook in use for the wedding dress by photographer Kelly Williams

This week I am getting ready for the 10-hour wedding of my clients, Kate and Stuart. As I’m thinking about last minute logistics and packing for the big day, I wanted to share with you what I take with me to every photo shoot, including the items in my emergency kit.

The mobile photo kit of photographer Kelly Williams
Fully packed and ready to go

I’m a former Girl Scout (and Brownie!), and I live by the motto that you can never be too prepared. I have a checklist that I religiously go by for every photo shoot, and this checklist insures that I am ready for any situation. And while it is rare that I use most of the items listed below, I have found that it only takes one instance of need to make these items invaluable.

The camera kit of photographer Kelly Williams
My camera kit
Professional Canon lenses of photographer Kelly Williams
Professional Canon lenses

I see my job as going beyond that of simply taking a photo. I’m also on hand as a professional problem solver who comes to any event with a wealth of experience, having been in business for four years. As a photojournalistic photographer, I often work with clients who, because their weddings are low key, don’t include the aid of a wedding coordinator who normally brings these items. As such, I make sure to have plenty of band-aids and safety pins on hand. With this in mind, here is a list of what I carry with me to every major wedding. [Note that for smaller weddings, things such as the hand held steamer get left at home.]

Emergency kit of photographer Kelly Williams
A few of my favorite things…
  • Cameras (Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 5D Mark II)
  • All lenses (24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, 16-35mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4, 400mm extender)
  • Flashes (three total, 580 EXII)
  • Batteries for cameras and flashes
  • Battery chargers
  • Memory cards
  • Mobile hard drive to back up images onsite
  • Phone charger
  • Client folder with all contact information, permits, insurance certificate, etc.
  • Step ladder for large group photos and to get different angles during portraits
  • Tape: duct tape, gaffer tape, and electrical tape
  • Rain gear: umbrella, large plastic bag, and shower cap for equipment
  • Trash bag and extra Ziploc baggies
  • Multi-use tool (like a Leatherman; also includes a handy corkscrew opener)
  • Screw driver
  • Small scissors
  • Three large swatches of fabric to serve as a backdrop for photos of rings or other small objects (black velvet, off-white lace, and blue silk)
  • Mounting putty to keep rings in place
  • A-clamps and binder clips to keep items out of the way for a photo
  • A large swatch of black fabric for the couple to sit on in order to prevent stains
  • Wooden hanger for the wedding dress photo (no wire hangers!)
  • Hand-held steamer
  • Fabric softener sheets to prevent static
  • Spot remover pen
  • Lint brush
  • A crochet needle to handle wedding dress hooks
  • Boutonniere pins
  • Sewing kit
  • Safety pins
  • Clear nail polish
  • Double-stick tape
  • Crazy glue
  • An eraser to be broken off and used as earring backings
  • Emery boards
  • Bobby pins

Bride with bobby pins by photographer Kelly Williams

  • Make up basics, including concealer, powder, blotting papers (great for men), blush, mascara, eyeliner, and chapstick
  • Cotton swabs for make up fixes
  • Eye lash glue
  • Hand-held mirror
  • Straws for the client to stay hydrated without messing up lipstick
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Medication: Alleve & Excedrin, Pepto Bismol capsules, cough drops
  • Sanitary items
  • Hand sanitizer and liquid soap
  • Hand lotion
  • Blister block and band-aids
  • Eye drops
  • Dental floss, toothpaste, mouth wash
  • Paper towels
  • Hand towelettes
  • Tissues and a linen hankerchief

Bride crying by photographer Kelly Williams

  • Black sharpie pen
  • Black roller ball pen for signing the marriage license (you have to use black ink)
  • Small flashlight
  • Matches
  • Mints
  • Snacks and water
  • If I know an event is going to be outside, then I may also bring sunscreen and bug repellant

The latest items I added to my kit are boutounniere pins. You would be surprised how many times these pearl-headed pins get lost, or you simply need an additional pin to make that flower stick where it is supposed to.

Boutonniere pins for the emergency kit of photographer Kelly Williams
Boutonniere pins
Pinning the boutonniere on the groom by photographer Kelly Williams
Pinning the boutonniere on the groom


The strangest and most useful item of my kit is my crochet needle. The hooks on the back of a dress are infamously difficult to get access to, and the crochet needle makes this process a breeze.

Crochet hook for the emergency kit of photographer Kelly Williams
Crochet hook
Crochet hook in use for the wedding dress by photographer Kelly Williams
Crochet hook in use

Crochet hook in use for the wedding dress by photographer Kelly Williams

The most used item of my kit is my small scissors. All too often a bridal party is breaking out a dress, shoes, or an accessory for the first time, and this is when the tags come off. Also, safety pins are hugely popular and come in handy for just about everything.

Scissors and safety pins for the emergency kit of photographer Kelly Williams
Scissors and safety pins
Bridesmaids getting ready by photographer Kelly Williams
Bridesmaids getting ready

Anything else I have forgotten? I would love to hear from you all: as a photographer, wedding coordinator, or client – what do you bring with you to your event?

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