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The ultimate pre-shoot checklist for a successful, stress-free photoshoot

by | Tips & Tricks

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission.

Is it possible to have a perfect photo shoot? Well, if you’re well prepared, then, maybe yes! Preparation is one of the first and most important parts of getting ready for a shoot or project. A great way to ensure you have everything ready to go is to have a detailed checklist on hand, and that’s exactly what we’ll walk you through in the ultimate pre-shoot checklist.

Best To Have In The Ultimate Pre-Shoot Checklist

The first and most important thing on your checklist is to have backup gear like batteries and SD cards, in addition to your camera, lenses, tripod and other gear.

Extra Batteries

Whatever your level, you should always carry extra batteries for your primary camera. With many variables at play, you never know how long you’re going to be on the shoot for, so carrying extra batteries will give you that extra amount of charge you need to make it through without seeing that battery icon blinking on your screen.

Extra SD Cards

As with the extra batteries, extra SD cards are essential. Timing and light are key in most situations, so having to stop a shoot to empty your SD card will waste valuable shooting time and opportunities.

Prepare Your Gear

With your extra batteries and cards checked off, it’s time to get all your gear ready. Go through this list carefully and remember that each piece of gear is important!

Empty Your SD Cards

Plug in your SD cards one at a time and check how much space is available. If there are photos on the cards, be sure to back them up to your computer, external drive or cloud, then empty your SD card’s main photo folder. A blank SD card is your friend on any shoot.

Tip: make sure you empty the trash as well, as in most cases, deleting only moves the files to a trash folder, which still occupies the same amount of space. For Mac, select your files or folder and press CMD + SHIFT + Delete on your keyboard. For Windows, press SHIFT + Delete on your keyboard.

Charge Your Batteries

High-end Mirrorless cameras and DSLRs go through batteries quite fast, and there’s nothing more frustrating than getting into the groove of a shoot, only to have your camera shut off suddenly. 

Gather all your batteries together at least a day in advance and make sure to charge them all. A great little gadget to have is a charging dock which will charge two or more batteries at a time – a huge time saver. We’d recommend setting up a charging station in your work space where you can charge batteries for your camera, drone and whatever other devices you require.

Clean Your Gear

Critical to the quality of your photos and the performance of your gear is cleanliness. Dusty or scratched lenses could ruin your focus on the object and can degrade your image quality. Take the time to sit and clean each piece of your gear, paying the most attention to your lenses and camera body. Check out this awesome guide by Amateur Photographer if you’re in doubt.

Check Your Camera Settings

Different projects require different camera settings. To avoid spending too much time making adjustments on your shoot, go through your preferred scenario-specific settings on your camera the day before, just to be sure you have everything dialed in. If you shoot raw plus jpeg, set your file type to raw plus jpeg. If you prefer a certain picture style, activate it. If you want a 2-second review of your shot before you move on, update that setting. Of course, you will need to make live adjustments during the shoot, but having your general settings in place is just as important.

Final Steps

The last couple of steps will ensure you’re at your shoot location on time and in the right frame of mind.

Go Over Your Shot List

This stage is most important for client shoots, which, unlike personal shoots, require a little more structure. You’ll most likely have a specific set of shots you are required to deliver to the client. List all the shots out, with possible reference images to help guide you. Make note of the subject position, angle, composition, lighting and any other important details. This will keep you on track during the shoot and ensure you deliver the right materials.

If it’s a personal shoot, a shot list will help guide you through your outing, and maybe even present you with an opportunity to think of alternatives to a shot. There’s no explicit need to stick to it though, so focus on enjoying the shoot and learning as you go.

Plan Your Route To The Location

By now, you would know where you are going to shoot. Get on Google Maps and check your route to the destination, as well as estimated time of arrival and any roadblocks, traffic or other hindrances that may be along the route. Plan to leave home or the office so that you arrive at your destination AT LEAST 15 minutes before you’re due. This will give you enough time to scout a little more and get your gear ready.

Check the weather

As we said in our 5-step checklist for a great flight, checking the weather is essential, especially if you’re shooting outdoors. Checking the weather will give you a better idea of the lighting conditions as well as let you know whether you need weights for your tripod if it’s windy, a jacket if it’s cold or an umbrella if it’s going to rain. Windy is an amazing weather forecasting tool which gives you fast, visualised forecasts. It’s available from your desktop browser or on your Android or iOS device.

Get To Bed Early & Set Your Alarm

Probably the most important item on this checklist is that you get enough rest. Ideally, you’ll want to get at least 7 hours of sleep. Make sure you’re in bed on time and have an alarm (or two, or three if you’re that kind of sleeper) set to get you out of bed when you need to. A well-rested photographer is the best photographer..

Final Thoughts

Factoring in the ultimate pre-shoot checklist to your preparation will help you become a better, more efficient photographer. Use it enough and eventually you’ll know exactly what you need without having to look at the checklist at all. Wherever you are on your journey, we’ll be here to help you grow.

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