How to Stay Organized with a Photo Checklist

“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.

Photo Stand

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.

Hand towel

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.

Lens Cleaner

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.