Pre-Photoshoot Checklist

June 05, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone!  Hope y'all are healthy and safe this week.  I've got a question for you.  Have you ever gone to a photoshoot or location with your camera and gone to use it and your battery was dead or you forgot to put your SD card in?  This week I will be talking about things to to before you go on that photoshoot, a pre-shoot checklist if you will.  And hopefully this will keep you from making a mistake that will keep you from getting that shot.  

First, before we talk about the checklist, I would like to talk about organization.  I am an organized freak.  I like to have a place for my things and things to be in their place.  That includes my camera bag.  I like to have my bag organized so when I look in it I can tell immediately if something is missing.  I know that some people just open their bag and chunk it in, kinda like my wife does with her purse.  And they can never find anything and spend a lot of time digging through their bag instead of taking photos.  I have two main bags.  I have a 30-liter Shimoda backpack that has become my main bag when doing long hikes for landscapes and can carry all the gear I'll need.  Then I have my what I call my "purse" that is an over-the-shoulder bag that is great for street photography and just walking around when I don't need all of my gear.  In each bag I have a certain place for everything.  My batteries go in a certain place, my shutter release in another, lenses go in certain places... you get the idea.  That way at first glance I can tell if anything is missing.  Like I said, I'm an organization freak.

Now for the checklist.  I have heard about professional photographers who have a printed checklist that they keep in their camera bags so when they get ready to go on an assignment they can quickly go through the checklist and make sure they have everything they will need before they leave the house.  I'm not asking you to do this, but it wouldn't hurt.  This is a generic checklist that you can customize for yourself and the type of photography that you do.  Different types of photography may require different types of gear.  I got the idea for this checklist from a podcast "Master Photography Podcast," and his list was geared more toward portrait photographers.  Most of the people I know don't shoot people but more landscape, street, and wildlife, so I will make more of a generic list that you can customize for yourself.

1.  Batteries.  Of course this was going to be one of the first things on the list.  But not only batteries, but charged-up batteries. This is something that you may have to think ahead on because you can't start charging when you're ready to go out the door.  I shoot mirrorless camera, and they are notorious for sucking the juice out of batteries.  So I carry quite a few.  When I get home from a shoot, one of the first things I do is put batteries on the charger, even before I take my SD card out of the camera.  When they are charged they go back in my bag, and I know they are fully charged. Another thing to think about is not just your main camera, but also any other ones like GoPros, infra red cameras, or point and shoots.  I carry GoPros with me sometimes, so that means those batteries also.  Just something to think about.

2.  SD Cards.  Always, and I mean always, have extra SD cards in your bag.  If you were editing the night before and you forgot to take the card out of the computer and you get to your location and no card, no photos.  I always carry extra cards with me.  Not many, just one or two.  I rarely fill up a card, like almost never fill one up, but if one failed I have an extra.  If you're a landscape or sports photographer, you could fill a couple of them up pretty easily in a day.  One thing to remember when it comes to SD cards is they only have so many times that they can be formatted and reused.  It's a good idea to rotate you cards so you're not using the same one every time.  I have a bad habit of doing this, and I'm going to start rotating more.  SD cards are fairly cheap.  And unless you're shooting sports or wildlife where you shoot a lot with one shutter release or video, you don't need the fastest cards.  The ones that are 95mb write speed are fast enough for just normal photography.

3.  Check Camera Settings.  Sit down and go through your camera settings.  I know this sounds silly, but if you were trying something that you don't normally do or have a new camera, this is really an important step.  I got a new camera a few years ago, and my wife and I went to a bluegrass festival.  Lots of people and lots of things to shoot.  I was excited to get that new camera going.  Then I started to take photos and the shutter wouldn't work!  I got frustrated trying to figure out what was happening to my camera, my wife tapping her foot waiting on me and I'm missing shots.  What had happened is that I had the shutter on a time delay and had not put it back to normal.  So every time I hit the shutter nothing would happen, but it was counting down the time.  Check settings like ISO, what mode you're in, how your meter is set up.  Get all these things dialed in before you leave and you won't miss the first shot because your camera wasn't ready.

4.  Specialized "Gear."  This is the section that looks at what type of photographer you are: portrait, street, landscape, wildlife, sports, or macro. Each kind of photography might need special things. For portrait photographers, it might be flashes or lights and all that goes with it, especially batteries for those flashes.  Make sure you have all of those batteries recharged and ready to go beforehand.  For a street photographer, maybe it's a special lens like a 35mm that you might not have with you all of the time, maybe model releases also.  For landscape, maybe filters and a tripod. Wildlife and sports, those big lenses cleaned and ready to go.  As you can see, there are all kinds of items that can go in this section of the checklist and must be customized by your individual needs.  One good item for all of us is some sort of flashlight or headlamp.  It sucks going for a sunset and the sun goes down and you're in the dark and can't see.

22730511_10210704932196387_7018311079726609722_n22730511_10210704932196387_7018311079726609722_n 5.  Confidence and Excitement.  Now that you have all of your things in order, you can have the confidence that you have all you need and can start taking photos when you get to wherever you're going to take photos.  You can now concentrate on the photograph and be excited about being out doing photography, knowing that you have done your best to keep those bad misfortunate "Oh, I don't have an SD card!" or "Oh, my battery is dead!" moments.

Well, this has gotten a little long-winded, but I hope this will help you in your photography outings. Next week we'll talk about extras I carry in my camera bag.  Until next week, be safe, keep shooting, and get outside!


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