Pre-Photo Checklist: 14 Photography Preparation Tips

You probably know that becoming a great photographer is much more than buying a camera, pointing it at something, and pressing the shutter button. In fact, there’s plenty to do before you even take the shot, especially if you’re doing formal photo shoots. If you’re a beginner, finding all the steps to prepping for a great photo can seem daunting, let alone remembering to do them. Luckily, photographer Ed Gregory  has made a checklist of the 14 things all photographers should do before taking a photo:

If you’re not new to photography, a number of Gregory’s tips will seem pretty self-evident, like learning the exposure triangle, shooting in RAW, or deciding on how to frame your photo, but there are a few in here that might be a little unfamiliar.

The first is developing a “mood board.” This is something portrait and lifestyle photographers offer their clients before a shoot, allowing them to make an image tableau of what look or mood they’d like the photographer to capture. As it turns out, Pinterest is actually a great platform for this, since clients easily choose the images they’re interested in and pin them to a private page (make sure they’re choosing primarily from your own image stock).

Another tip on Gregory’s list that’s often overlooked by beginners is to take the shadows into as much consideration as the lighting. This is especially important in portraits, but also hold true for just about any shot you take.

Here’s the complete list.

Pre-Photo Checklist

  1. Decide on the final use of the image(s).
  2. Think about what the final image should look like.
  3. Create a mood board (use Pinterest).
  4. Decide on the framing.
  5. Choose the best lens.
  6. Figure out ideal camera settings.
  7. Set the camera to shoot in RAW.
  8. Identify the key light (main light source).
  9. Identify the shadows and how you want them to appear.
  10. Ensure the subject is prepared.
  11. Take a test shot.
  12. Decide on the best angles and poses.
  13. Think about what you’ll do in post-production.
  14. Breathe.

pre photo checklist

Going through this entire list before each photo might seem a bit clunky to beginners, but the more you practice, the more the majority of these tips will become native to you. And while these tips won’t make you a great photographer overnight, they will help you to take better photos.

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