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A Field Checklist for Your Photography

Blois 2018-07-06


Town of Blois in the Loire Valley of France (Shutter speed: 8 seconds; Aperture f/22; ISO 100)

When I look back to my first photography trip to Ireland, I get pretty unhappy with myself.  Looking at my pictures, I can see that there were a lot of opportunities present in the scenes I was photographing, but I just didn’t follow up on them.  There were panoramas I should have taken, but I didn’t.  I should have been bracketing some of the shots I was taking, but I didn’t.  There were a lot of different compositional elements that presented themselves, but I just didn’t use them.

Why didn’t I do these things?  A lot of reasons, but for the most part, I think I was just too busy.  Part of that was because it was a rather fast-moving trip.  We went to a lot of different places in a short period of time.   Part of that was also that I was still relatively new to photography.  I was still focused on getting the right f-stop and other exposure settings that are now more natural.  The long and short of it is that I was just preoccupied and I forgot to do a lot of things I now wish I had done.

I realized the problem pretty shortly upon my return home.  After a little moping about my failures, I thought about how to make sure that didn’t happen in the future.  What I ended up doing was preparing a little checklist that I kept in my camera bag.  I would use it as a reminder to do all those things I might forget.  The idea was that I would take a glance at it before I got out to start shooting, to make sure everything was set up properly.  Then I would just do my usual photography.  After I was done, I would take a look at the checklist again to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.  That’s what I did, and it helped quite a bit.

Checklists are great for a lot of reasons.  They help us not forget to do things when our mind is occupied with other things.  Even obvious things can get overlooked in the excitement of the moment.  That happens a lot in photography.  Lots of times we are trying to see lots of different places in one day.  We often find ourselves rushing to get someplace before the light changes.  In that haste, we can overlook the obvious.  We can leave the ISO set too high.  Or fail to notice a water droplet on the front of the lens.  Or go out with a insufficiently charged battery.  There are really simple things that seem obvious, but they can get overlooked.  When that happens it can be disastrous.

My original checklist is long gone.  But I still often prepare checklists before going out shooting.  Usually they are specific to the location I am going.  I might note different angles or shots I want to make sure I get.  In that sense, they be mixed up with a shot list, but they also include a lot of other general items I want to be sure to include.  I find them very useful, and it occurs to me that others might as well.  I decided to make one for you to use, which you can get it by clicking here.

Just print it off, fold it up, and keep it in your bag.  You don’t need to consult it constantly.  Give it a glance before you start shooting, to make sure you are set up properly.  Then go do your thing.  When you are done, take another glance at it and make sure you didn’t forget anything.

Now, I realize all this is going to be different for different people.  In fact, you may want to have different checklists for different occasions. Or some of the things I have just may not seem that useful to you.  So here is the original Word file as well.  You can tailor it and make it your own.

PDF Version of Checklist (for printing) Word Version of Checklist (for editing)

Hope you find it useful.

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