Got a Photo shoot Booked? Don’t Leave Without These Things, You’ll Just Kick Yourself!


A Quick Checklist for Photographers – Four Tips

Photo shoots can often be quite simple and quick, but most of the time they are actually quite complex and involve a lot of things that you need to remember to do. 

Having a checklist ensures you're not approaching a photoshoot with a chaotic mind and panic of “I've forgotten something, I know it“. This ranges from contracts to gear, locations and permits.

photo shoot checklist
Image by lecreusois

1. Model Release Forms

Whether you're working for a client with whom you have agreed upon picture use, or you are photographing pictures which you intend to sell on stock websites and producing prints, you’ll need model release forms signed by the model in order to do so.

Before every shoot, it is wise to discuss the model release form with the model to avoid any misunderstandings afterward and possibly ending up with pictures which you can’t use for commercial purposes. In some countries, you can barely use them for editorial purposes, so check this out too..

Photo by NobMouse

Both having an understanding with your model about the model release form, and having one signed for that day and shoot, is basically a necessity in order to have usable pictures.

2. Additional Contracts

If you feel like it, you can create an additional contract between you and your model with everything covered. This is useful if you hire models, to have a written agreement about payment.

Whether it is monetary or an equal exchange of service for a product (for example, a model who will agree to model for you in return for several photographs which the model can use freely).

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski

Also, having a specific contract between you, the model, and the client is also recommended so that there's a written agreement about the job and payment between all parties.

This is also handy since both you and your model know exactly where the pictures will be used and under what terms, while the client knows exactly who is involved in the creation of the product.

Top Tip!

Don't rely on verbal agreements, they don’t hold up in court, nor do you have any tangible proof for the agreed terms.

E-mail usually works, but that can be risky too, since some courts don’t recognize it as a viable form of a contract. Printed and signed by every party is always the safest way to go – just common sense.

3. Location & Permits

Having a location is a must, but you already know that. However, in order to be sure that the location will be viable and available it is wise to scout it beforehand and do some research about it.

If the location is private property or an area which is under control of the city or state (like national parks for example) you’ll need proper permits to have your photo shoot set up there.

Additionally, you’ll need to know how the light will behave there, thus you’ll need to either wait and see how the sun will move through the location.

I'd suggest tools like The Photographer's Ephemeris (I've mentioned this one across a few of my posts because it's my favorite) in order to predict it. Make sure you check out the weather forecast too, just in case.

Have a list of several available, pre-scouted and pre-planned locations which will serve as your backup – it never hurts to have a plan B – in case the main one suddenly becomes unavailable for some reason?

4. Proper Gear

You know the job, you know what's asked of you, now you need to plan your gear and acquire every piece several days before the shoot. If you are using new gear, make sure you do some practice with them beforehand.

Test the integrity of each piece and clean everything properly. You don’t want to do that on the field, nor do you want to go out with gear that's broken or underperforming. It can seriously affect the end product and (I hate to point out the obvious but,) hurt your reputation.

Photo by 55Laney69


Photoshoots need planning. Some a lot, some not so much.

However, you need to be proficient and meticulous in your planning so you can have everything in order. If you forget one thing, you open yourself for a set of issues which oftentimes can’t be resolved on the spot.

Complications due to poor planning will cost you precious time, and possibly money. In any case, poor planning will be a hit to your reputation, which is more important than anything. A good, solid reputation goes a long way.

Therefore, triple check everything, go through the process as many times as you need to make sure that on the day of the shoot, everything goes as smooth as possible. I hope this has helped, any further comments – leave a quick line below!

My Essential Photo Shoot Checklist – Top Takeaways

  • Get the paperwork stuff sorted before anything. Have your verbal agreements between models and/or clients and have contracts and copies of those signed beforehand so that everyone knows where they stand. It can be a bit of a laborious task, but necessary all the same.
  • Scout for locations, choose your perfect one and have at least one backup.
  • Check the weather forecast – even if you're under shelter, rain or wind (or both) can hinder anything that you might want as a little spontaneous time?
  • Have you gear organized. Make sure you have everything working, clean, charged and ready to go.

Further Resources

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Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and loves sharing his knowledge about it.

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