I love flying airplanes. In fact, long before I picked up a camera for the first time and well before my commercial photography days, I was intent on becoming a pilot. Within six months after starting flight school I received my private pilots license and had a whopping 40 hours of flight experience under my belt. I was stoked! 6 short months later I was close to my instrument rating and half way through my commercial rating and was pushing 100 hours of flight time. At every step in my short aviation career, this notion of using a "checklist" was pounded into my head. After deciding I'd rather do barrel rolls than bus people around from point A to B, I left my pursuit of becoming a commercial pilot. That was years ago, but to this day I can still recite from memory several of the checklists that were engrained in my head. Checklists are a way of life in aviation. Pre-flight, prior to take-off, emergencies, crossing different airspace, communicating, landing...the list goes on and on. There's a checklist for EVERYthing you do in aviation and a pilot will have a short life if he ignores his checklists. You are taught to never rely solely on your memory, but to reference your checklist, item by item, every time!
Have you ever forgotten an important item on a photo shoot (lens, CF cards, lights)? I have and it's a sickening feeling (take my word for it if you haven't). Granted we as Photographers don't get into life and death "situations" per se, but we do have a lot of stuff to remember and if you're like me your memory can only handle so much. So pilots use checklists. Why not photographers? (maybe you already do) -- This past week I had a location based shoot and was scrambling around checking the 20 different places I keep my equipment (ughh). I needed a checklist, just like in my flying days. So I opened up a spreadsheet, listed my all my equipment in an order that makes sense to me, printed it and voila, was right back in the Pilots seat. Here's what I came up with: commercial photography checklist. If it's a helpful starting point for you, drop a comment below or email us and I'll make it available as a downloadable spreadsheet file (created in Apple Numbers) so you can customize it to your gear and working style. I'll likely follow this up with a production checklist for self-produced shoots.
I've organized the checklist into categories and subcategories. The lighting section for example, is organized around different lighting kits I use depending on the size and location of my shoot (Small, Medium and Large Kits). The last thing I do before leaving on a shoot is confirm everything required for the shoot is in my vehicle ready to go. Don't start checking stuff off before it's physically in the car. (I wouldn't start my landing checklist 50 miles out from the airport) You'll forget something!
I'd love to hear how you organize and keep track of what is needed when you go on a shoot. Drop a comment with any thoughts or ways to improve this checklist.
Utah professional photographer
Photography | Motion | Stock