A previous client previously told me he had trouble remembering to check his settings before shooting and this would get him into trouble.  He mentioned he shot for hours at ISO 1000 when he should have been at ISO 100 before he noticed.  I used to do that, but not so much anymore.  I thought it would make a good blog entry to talk about what I do to prevent this sort of issue.

The concept of pre-flight checklists has been around probably before the airplane existed, so it's a no brainer to apply the concept to photography.  The first time I made up my checklist I wrote it down and then worked from that checklist each and every time I had a professional gig until it was deeply ingrained.  There are so many things which can go wrong, so many things to forget, a pre-flight checklist is a natural for photography!


These are the things I check and when:

Before Leaving Home

      • Batteries are charged and packed
      • Memory cards are emptied, formatted, and packed
      • Lenses and other equipment for the shoot are packed (a separate checklist for each type of shoot helps)
      • Passes, permits, licenses, and any sort of necessary paperwork is packed
      • Maps, directions, invitations, or anything that helps me get there is printed and packed


Once There

      • Check out security, notice where I can leave my bag safely
      • Scope out electrical outlets if needed
      • Unpack the gear for each access in the boat, car, event area
      • Learn all I can about the shoot prior to the shoot


Actual Shooting

      • Batteries installed, spare on person in pocket or vest
      • Memory cards freshly formatted in camera, spares in pocket
      • ISO, will I use Auto ISO or a set ISO, then I set it
      • Make sure camera is set to RAW or Jpeg as needed
      • Metering mode, evaluative, spot, average
      • AF mode, one-shot or continuous
      • Shooting mode, manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, program
      • Custom buttons programmed for shoot, mirror lockup, bracketing, high-light priority, tonal priority, anything that I might be switching back and forth to should be set in a custom mode setting, custom menu, or even the programmable button
      • Filters, polarizer, ND, protective
      • Flash, wireless or wired, one or more strobes, shutter speed within the minimum sync speed?
      • Lens settings, AF/M switch, IS 1/0 switch, memory focus points.  On Canon lenses the AF/M switch is very easy to move to the M position so I'll often use gaffers tape so it stays where I put it


After the Shoot

      • Location and security of memory cards.  (in my pocket)
      • Equipment packed back into cases the way it came out
      • Cases back into the car/truck/boat
      • Everything I touched, used, or moved is inspected to make sure it's as I found it
      • Touch bases with client and make sure all areas were covered
      • Don't drive off and leave your assistant behind



These are all simple things, yet they're things people often forget.  Or we focus on one setting and forget another.  A checklist is one of the surest ways to help you not miss anything.  My checklist probably isn't perfect for you but it's a start.  As you gain experience with the types of shoots you do the most, make your own checklist and write it down.  Better yet, turn it into a form your assistant can use, and if you ever get sick or can't make a shoot your replacement.


Until next time..