“A good system shortens the road to the goal.”
~ Orison Swett Marden
As a photographer, there are many things that you have to remember when it comes to not only planning for a shoot but the actual shoot day. There is so much information that we keep up in our noggins from the necessary skills learned, to the technical skills and gear, and even interpersonal skills! There is a lot to keep track of and because we’re people we forget. I know I forget all the time. I find myself making U-turns or frantically making a run right before a session because I forgot something.
Trying to keep track of everything can be a bit overwhelming, but there are things that we can do to stay more organized and less panicked because there’s nothing like getting to a shoot, only to find out you don’t have an SD card in your camera. Every photographer should have a system to ensure a smooth session. For me, I prefer staying organized with a photo checklist. There’s just something about physically writing something down.
Depending on the type of photo session or photo genre, the checklist should have different contents. For example, with boudoir photography sessions, I always want to make sure I have different texture fabrics for composition. I certainly want to have a hair and makeup professional on deck too. It’s best to always start with the essentials and keep a simple photo checklist. Build up from the basics and customize for your personal photography style. Below I go over some items on my simple photo checklist.
Obviously, this comes first. Nothing can happen without the camera. You won’t believe how many times I panic, though, thinking I forgot to pack my camera in my bag—even after packing the night before and re-checking before the shoot. Bad anxiety, I know.
While I rarely use a photo stand, I always have one either in my car, if I’m traveling on-location, or ready in the studio. Most of the time, my camera is in my hands. This is more convenient for flexibility and movement. Still, there are occasions where I want to shoot at a low shutter speed and for this, a stand is necessary.
Light is essential and so it’s great to have tools for manipulating light. While it doesn’t necessarily hurt to not have a reflector, it is an added benefit. A simple setup ought to have a reflector to help balance and move the light. Ideally, if you’re using one light you should have an opposing reflector. This helps fill in the spaces void of light. If you happen to have more than one light source, and thus multiple directions of light, it gets a little bit more complicated.
This is a personal item for me. Sadly, no matter if I’m outside or inside, I get incredibly hot while shooting. This could be a mixture of nerves or adrenaline. I always have butterflies in my stomach before a session. Either way, I sweat, and I carry a hand towel, so I don’t look like a drowning hamster.
This is a lifesaver. A smudged lens will ruin your shot. No matter what you do, you don’t want to work with a smudged lens. It’s like trying to read through dirty glasses.
Always have a backup SD card in case you run out of space on the card in your camera. If you’re like me, I don’t really check the counter of images allowed and once I start a session, I’m not counting; although, I probably should. Just like you can capture anything without your camera, you can’t store anything without a memory card. You can capture an image, but it disappears instantly. Don’t be fooled.
Extra light is always a bonus and you can accomplish so much with just one light. Most of the time, I shoot with natural light; but there are always cloudy days and days where not enough light gets filtered indoors. In those instances, I set up my ring light to compensate.
Stay hydrated. Sometimes, as photographers, we forget how active photography can—that is, of course, unless you’re an action/ sports photographer. While you’re everyday wedding photographer or portrait photographer is not climbing mountains or scaling skyscrapers, they are still fairly active. For this reason, hydration is important. I have had my own bouts with dehydration and know firsthand how vital water is, especially living in hot Florida. I will never shoot outside without water and even indoors, I will make sure to have a bottle on standby.
All of these items are the bare minimum for my simple photo checklist. I build on this list based on the complexity and style of my photo session. If you would like to start building your photo checklist or want a basic photo checklist, download this free photo checklist to get started.
Share below if you also have a checklist for when you’re taking photos. What’s on your checklist?