~ AKA: How to not look like a fool when turning up for a professional photo shoot ~
Admit it: you’ve done it at least once – turned up to a photo shoot and realised that you’ve forgotten one vital piece of gear.
If you are clever and creative you can of course cover up your blunder by pretending that nothing is missing, and that you really meant to use the exact gear that you did bring with you all along – for “artistic reasons”. That is, if it’s not quite as vital a piece of gear as the stands for your studio lights! (Yes, I did that once… Luckily the shoot was only a 15 minute drive away, so I was able to return home to pick them up and be only slightly late for the scheduled start of the shoot.)
But wouldn’t you like to avoid this kind of situation altogether?
Wouldn’t you want to make sure that you appear to be an organised professional in front of your clients? That way the shoot gets into a good start as you have a better chance of gaining your client’s trust right from the beginning.
I have been an assistant or the second shooter for many other photographers over the years and I know from experience that I’m definitely not the only one who has made this easily avoidable mistake.
Then, a few years ago I assisted a very high-end wedding photographer and saw that she had everything under control and was super organised with every piece of equipment, memory cards, battery charging etc. for her team of stills and video photographers. That’s when I decided: I need to up my game and be a proper professional who is organised and has everything she needs to have at every shoot. Nothing is forgotten due to bad preparation.
So I made myself a pre-shoot checklist. And not just one list, but a separate list for every type of photo shoot.
Now, admittedly I have a bit of a bad habit of leaving things till last minute (like packing my bags for a holiday at 2 am the previous night), so I used to get quite flustered in the mornings before location shoots.
“Lenses, cameras, flash guns, flash stands… err…. what else do I need… Memory cards, spare camera batteries, spare flash gun batteries… err… diffusers? Gels? What else, what else? Damn, have I forgotten something?”
But ever since I started using a checklist, I never have to worry about it anymore. I am relaxed and upbeat in the morning of the shoot. I can just check the contents of my camera bag and car against my list, and be sure that I’m properly prepared. I turn up to the shoot excited, yet calm and collected, knowing that I have everything I need. How very sensible of me!
The thing is, I want my life to be as simple and easy as possible when it comes to mundane things like remembering what to pack for a photo shoot. And the by-product of being organised is that when your clients see that you know your shit, they can relax and put their trust in you. Everybody wins.
So be sensible and make a pre-shoot checklist for yourself. List all the things you need to do the previous day, and list all the things you need to take with you to the shoot. Trust me, you will feel so much better about yourself as a professional photographer – and so will your clients.
I have collected a very comprehensive list of things to take to a wedding shoot, commercial, event and (location) portrait shoot, as well as a list of things to do the day before the shoot, including checking your cameras for sensor spots, recharging all camera and flash batteries, etc. My wedding pre-shoot checklist contains all sorts of unexpected items like safety pins, a packet of de-shine tissues, small scissors, small sewing kit and such. I can’t remember how many times I have saved the day during the bride’s preparations by being able to fix things for the bridal party. People will love you for it. It’s your duty as an Amazingly Awesome Photographer to go above and beyond of being “just the photographer”.
If you’d like to download my editable checklist document so that you can build your own comprehensive checklists, click on the image below: