A Pre-Shoot Checklist

Three weeks ago I drove down to the beach for a shot at some sunset photos, the clouds were just right and the sky was full of color. I was pressed for time so I got there right when the sun was hitting the horizon. I hopped out of the car, threw the camera on the tripod, set the release for Quick Remote and start clicking away glancing at the screen occasionally to make sure I was getting the compositions I wanted. I was pumped, it was a beautiful sunset. I rushed home and popped the memory card into my computer only to find that every shot was out of focus. You see, I forgot to reset my lens back to auto focus after a shoot a few days earlier. I was bummed, I hate wasting my precious time on stupid mistakes.

Now, if that was the first time that I'd done something like this I probably would have brushed it off. But I've made similar mistakes too many times!

And then there's the "unprepared mistakes" like when I was photographing the animals at Lowery Park Zoo in Tampa and ran out of space on my memory card. And I had forgotten to put a second memory card in my camera bag! I hadn't even gotten to the elephants yet. Again, I was bummed.

So here's a basic checklist I do now before each shoot. Bear in mind that of course your setting are going to change with each different photo situation, but these settings are good 'safe' place to start :

• Auto Focus ON

• Vibration Reduction ON

• Check ISO Speed

• Check White Balance

• Battery fully charged

• Extra memory card

• Lens clean

• Lens cleaner and tissues in your camera bag (This one got me once when I smudged my lens horribly with a sweaty hand and I had run out of lens tissues in my camera bag. I was bummed.)

• Tripod (Always bring your tripod. ALWAYS! I've missed a number of opportunities because of laziness by not wanting to drag my tripod along. There are going to be unforeseen situations where you simply are not going to get the shot without your tripod.)

• Check the weather if you're doing an outside shoot. Bring your camera's Rain Sleeve if you're going to need it.

• Mileage notebook (If you're trying to make extra money doing stock photography you should be keeping track of every mile you drive during your photo work so you can capture the tax benefits. Here in the U.S. you get 52 cents taken off of your taxable income for every mile you drive. This is a big deal! Track your miles, get an accountant, it pays off big time.)

I've been sticking to running through this Pre-Shoot Checklist for the past couple of weeks and I must say it feels great to be confident that you're leaving the house ready for any photo situation.

Happy shooting to everyone.

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December 09, 2012


Davidwatmough wrote: I like your list but with so few sales why worry about tax

David, with all due respect to you, it sounds like you don't understand how taxes work here in the U.S. As a freelance photographer, which is what I am classified as, I pay about 40 percent of my earnings to taxes. Every mile I drive reduces the amount I can be taxed on by 52 cents. I do a lot of driving for my stock photography!! AND I do photography for a local jeweler AND architectural photography for a developer that I'm related to. If it wasn't for the tax write off I get for the miles I drive, I'd pay a lot more in taxes. And I mean a lot more!! So naturally I'm going to take advantage of the tax break I get from my mileage. It would be foolish not to!!!!

December 09, 2012


I like your list but with so few sales why worry about tax............ your income wont buy a lens let alone a camera so why talk to the tax people. Its nil income or even negative without considering motoring costs ? David

November 13, 2012


Appreciate these comments..Thank You.

November 12, 2012


Thanks for your comments everyone!

November 12, 2012


Thanks for share!

November 12, 2012


So usefull. I've runned out of batteries a lot, and other times bummed for not transporting my camera around.

November 12, 2012


Great blog, thanks for sharing, very useful.

November 12, 2012


You are really right!
I will write down in your checklist swedish and make a "luggage tag"!
One more thing. I allways let the flash manual be in the gearbag, it´s so damn complicated to reset the flashes after some settings :-)

November 12, 2012


Great blog! Thanks for sharing your checklist!

November 12, 2012


Useful, thanks. I also have a kind of checklist, but I always forget to reset the EV compensation!

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Photo credits: Mike2focus.