Shoot Day Checklist: Be Prepared!

Be prepared.  It’s a motto good enough for the Boy Scouts, and it’s good enough for us photographers too.  You just can’t say enough about how important it is to be prepared for a shoot.  Knowing you have everything you need and that you haven’t forgotten everything can really help contribute to a calm, focused state of mind while you’re on a shoot–it’s better to be thinking about being creative and getting great shots than it is to be wondering if your battery will last through the whole shoot.

This week, at the suggestion of our PWD colleague Tricia, I offer you a list of things you should do to prepare for every shoot.

THE DAY BEFORE: Do these things the day before so that if something needs to be fixed or bought, you’ll have enough time

  1. MEMORY CARDS:  Erase and reformat all of your memory cards.  You should be working with empty, freshly formatted memory cards on every shoot.
  2. BATTERIES:  Charge all of your batteries, both AAA, computer, and camera batteries.  Don’t forget to charge your cell phone battery!!
  3. GEAR:  Physically inspect every piece of your gear the day before a shoot.  Make sure it all works.
  4. TIME LINE:  For weddings, you should do this step weeks before wedding day and confirm everything with your client.  If you have to wait until right before the shoot, that’s still better than not doing it at all.  Personally, I started doing this one, and just this one thing probably reduced my stress by half.  It’s worth the effort!
  5. CONTACT INFO:  Make sure you have all of your contacts and their phone numbers.  I recommend programming them in your phone AND writing them down on a piece of paper in case your phone is lost or damaged.
  6. CHECK IN:  If possible, check in with your client the day before the shoot to make sure nothing has changed and that you both know where you’re supposed to be.
  7. DIRECTIONS:  Have all directions printed out including location contact numbers.  Even if your phone is an Einstein level smart phone, I still recommend printing things out as a backup.
  8. TIME SYNC YOUR CAMERAS:  Make sure the internal clock on each one of the cameras you’ll be shooting with reads the exact same time.  Doing this will ensure that all of your images from different cameras are grouped together for sorting, editing, and post-production.  DON’T FORGET TO SYNC CAMERA CLOCKS WITH YOUR SECOND SHOOTERS!!  (Click here for a link to a previous PWD blog on how to time sync your cameras.)
  9. PACK:  I’m a big believer in packing the night before.
  10. GAS:  Fill up your car with gas!
  11. VISUALIZATION:  I love this one and never did it before PWD’s Melissa Bugg told me she does this before every single wedding she shoots.  Sit down in a quiet place and mentally visualize the events of your shoot, the locations, all the shots you want to get.  Visualize success.  This is a great thing to help you prepare, and studies also show that visualization can actually help improve your performance as if you actually went out and practiced!

ON THE DAY:  Do these things on the morning of a shoot.

  1. EAT:  Eat breakfast.  Yes, it’s still the most important meal of the day.  If your shoot is in the evening, have a nice meal before you leave.  Don’t shoot hungry!  Shaky hands and an unfocused mind do not a good photographer make.
  2. LOAD:  Put all your gear in the car.
  3. RELAX:  Great news–you already did everything the night before!  Awesome, right?  I told you I’d take care of you.

You may have other things to add to your own check list, but this should get you started.  Be prepared!  Be organized!  You’ll thank yourself.

-Josh Lamkin, PWD Editor