Do You Have a Photography Checklist? Here is a Quick Start

Modern DSLRs have so many features that it is sometimes difficult to keep track of all the settings. One of my biggest concerns is that a shot will be ruined because some switch was not in the correct setting for what I wanted to create. I don’t want to be like the wedding photographer who accidentally shot an entire wedding with the camera set to the small JPEG setting.

why you should have a photo checklist

Photo by Cat Mayer

To help ensure that such things are unlikely to happen, I decided to take a lesson from the way pilots operate. Pilots don’t just jump in the pilot’s seat and take off. Instead, they have a list of items that they check. Similarly, photographers can have a list of things to check before starting a photo session. Thus, the subject of this article is creating a photographer’s list of things to check to make sure that everything is done right.

Camera Items to Check

Sensor: Is the sensor free of dust?

Lens: Are the lenses and filters clean?

Battery: Is there enough power in the battery? Are spare batteries easily accessible?

Memory: Is there enough space on the memory card? Are spare memory cards easily accessible?

Image Recording Quality: Is the image quality set properly?

Image Settings: If not shooting raw, are the image settings set properly?

ISO: Is the proper ISO for the shot selected?

White Balance: Is the white balance set correctly?

Metering Mode: Is the proper metering mode selected?

Shooting Mode: Is the camera in the correct shooting mode (e.g., fully automatic, manual, aperture priority, or shutter priority)?

Drive Mode: Is the drive mode set properly (e.g., single or continuous shooting)?

Auto focus: Is the auto focus turned on?

Scene Items to Check

Image Periphery: Are any objects protruding into the image from the periphery?

Objects in the Image: Are there any unwanted objects (e.g., an old beer can) in the image?

Tripod Items to Check

Camera Level: Is the camera level (this is best done with a bubble level)?

Tripod Levers/Knobs: Have all of the tripod levers/knobs been tightened?

Tripod Weighted: If desired, has the tripod been weighted?

Remote Switch: If desired, has a remote switch been connected to the camera?

Mirror Lockup: If desired, has the mirror lockup been enabled?

checklist for good photography

Photo by Kevin Law; ISO 800, f/4.0, 1/1000-second exposure.

That’s pretty much it. At some point, this all becomes automatic. Until then, it is not a bad idea to memorize your list.

About the Author:
Ron Bigelow ( has created an extensive resource of articles to help develop photography skills.

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3 responses to “Do You Have a Photography Checklist? Here is a Quick Start”

  1. Excellent idea of having a check list! As a matter of fact, I’m planning on printing this so I can put it in my camera bag. There is one more item on the checklist that I think is important. (Yes, I’ve over looked this a few times.) Make sure you check the exposure compensation setting. Just yesterday I was taking photos of jewelry and discovered when I got home that my exposure compensation was set for plus one. Fortunately, shooting RAW takes care of this mistake.

  2. Bev Parks says:

    Great checklist! An item that I would add is to check to see if image stabilization is on or off, depending on your shooting situation. There have been more times than I care to admit that I’d been shooting handheld with with lens stabilization switched on, then forgetting to turn it off for shooting from a tripod.

  3. Les White says:

    another one for checklist—–is viewfinder in focus

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