Safe portrait photographers don't use railways

"Steam Train Gala" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2016. Haworth, England.  My trip to Haworth, England coincided with the greatly celebrated steam train gala. This image was taken shortly after sunrise on a very cool, crisp morning. I'm standing on a bridge over the train yard. I was the only woman photographer amidst hordes of men, which goes to show the males of the species never outgrow the love of trains.

"Steam Train Gala" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2016. Haworth, England.  My trip to Haworth, England coincided with the greatly celebrated steam train gala. This image was taken shortly after sunrise on a very cool, crisp morning. I'm standing on a bridge over the train yard. I was the only woman photographer amidst hordes of men, which goes to show the males of the species never outgrow the love of trains.

It's happened again, another photography model lost her life needlessly. The model was hit by an oncoming train.  This was the THIRD reported death in 2017 of people (including senior students) that occurred during photo sessions on railways.

People, people, people...there is absolutely NO REASON for these needless deaths. Please read on.

The train track metaphor is trite

You've seen them...the family walking down the tracks with their two toddlers.  The high school seniors sitting pensively on the tracks, looking off into...somewhere. And, the biggest horror of all, the infant or toddler sitting on the tracks with a stuffed animal or family pet! 

That last one warrants more exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We get it...something big in the track of your life is changing. You can't see the future.  But please, the metaphor is so...

  • overused (and inaccurate)
  • outdated
  • illegal
  • and downright dangerous!

The non-creative photography background

This is the moment where "over-used and outdated" enters the picture (pun intended).  If you are hiring a professional photographer to document a significant milestone in your life, don't you want someone who can show who YOU ARE? Do you want your heirloom images to look just like everyone else's? Or, look dated?

Choose your photographer on his/her ability to produce beautiful masterpieces about you. Choose someone who can turn your moment into something truly unique, not a "cookie-cutter, outdated, overused, non-creative, dangerous" template.

Train photo sessions are illegal

Did you know if you use a railway for your photo session that you are trespassing? Yes, unless you have permission to use the railway for your photo session, you are trespassing. The odds of a railway company giving you permission are zero percent - unless you are a big budget movie production with LOTS of money to spend. That's 0% (added for emphasis).

Trespassing can lead to sudden exposure with the legal system.  Are those few moments on the tracks worth it? That's 0% (added for emphasis).

Train photo sessions are dangerous

Oh, I get it; you think you'll hear the train coming and jump out of the way in time! 

  • According to train engineers, you WILL NOT hear the train coming. Modern trains are constructed in a manner that decreases forward moving sound.

"Oh okay then, the train engineer will see us on the tracks and slow down."

  • According to train engineers, they can not see what is right in front of the train.  So, if you're slow in "hearing" the train approach, your outcome will be disastrous. Why in heaven's name would you place the responsibility of protecting your life to a person piloting tons of metal down an unyielding steel track?
  • The laws of physics are really against you on this one.  If, and that's a big if, the train engineer sees you, the kinetic energy, weight and the velocity will prevent the train from stopping in time.

"But, we know the train schedules so if we plan our photo session between trains, we'll be okay."

  • You should always plan on a train showing up, even off schedule.  Trains get delayed in their schedules so they can come down those tracks at any time!

(Two great resources about train safety are:  here and here.)

The Ethical (and safe) Photographer

  1.  A professional photographer will never endanger you or your loved ones.  Do you really want that photo on a railroad track?  Stand in front of a painted backdrop of a railroad track. Is there a train museum nearby?  Arrange for your photo session to be in the museum.  Yes, there may be a charge/admission fee to pay. I hope we agree that fee is a lot less expensive than severe injury or the loss of your life.
  2.  A professional photographer THINKS about potential consequences and takes responsibility for guiding you through a beautiful, and safe photography session.
  3. A professional photographer EDUCATES the client about their time together; what to expect, what will happen, and what will NOT  (i.e., no railway photo sessions).
  4.  A professional photographer will suggest safe alternatives that are probably more creative.

Those are some hallmarks of a professional, ethical, photographer who keeps your safety in mind.

The point is....

Don't be upset when your photographer refuses your railroad tracks request.

Say, "Thank you."

And congratulate yourself for choosing an ethical, professional photographer who cares about you.

Please share this with all those seniors and models you know. Let's save some lives.

I look forward to your comments (below) or over on the Facebook page.

May your week be full and happy.