mentally prepare yourself

Why you need a shotlist...

preparing a shotlist is just as important as having the right camera for the job...

If 10% of a successful shoot is luck, then 90% is preparation. Shot lists are mental maps you create to ensure you capture the high points of every event. They also let you plan ahead for all of those shots you think of in between gigs but wish you’d remembered the last time around. This is your opportunity to lay it all out for yourself ahead of time. 

When do you need a shotlist?

Don’t make us say it…it’s so cliche, but when don’t you need a shotlist? Asking when you need a shotlist is like asking when you need to prepare for a job. If you want the end result of that work to be quality, you’ve got to put the time in. It’s like anything else – practice makes perfect, and shotlists help you mentally practice ahead of game time.

Anatomy of a shotlist...

If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, thinking spatially can help you keep it simple. If the event is a reception at a beach, you may want to consider:

a) A backdrop of the ocean

b) A perpendicular coastline shot

c) A backdrop of whatever’s adjacent to the beach itself

If you’ve never personally been to the location, do some reconnaissance and see first hand what it looks like. If you don’t have time, at the very least take a look at the location on Google Earth. Get a sense for the lay of the land and think critically about what will give you the most variety to pick from post-production. If the event is taking place within a building, see if you can scope out the building beforehand – you’ll likely find angles and locations that you wouldn’t have thought of had you just showed up the day of without any research.

Don't be afraid to get personal...

It’s not just about the space – the most important element of any event is the attendees. As you’re charting out the geography of the location, think about how people will move through it at your event. If there’s an event or wedding planner, ask to coordinate directly with them ahead of time so you can get a sense of the activities taking place and the best vantage points for you to set up station with your equipment. You’ll only have a certain amount of time to take the images you’re after, so think quickly and deliberately. This is the power using your shot list as a guide grants you. You’re not reacting so much as planning. If you can stay one step ahead of the shots you’re after, you’ll always be in a position to capture the most out of the moment.

That said, don’t be afraid to write down interactions between people you’d like to get on film. They might be as simple as the following:

a) View over speaker’s shoulder of audience at conference.

b) Close up of wedding couple’s hands (hand-in-hand)

c) Expression of immediate family member’s as the bride and groom recite their vows.

It’s okay to get personal and specific. That’s why you’re there. Just don’t forget to catalog the event as it unfolds, not how you wish it would unfold. You aren’t present to dictate the path of the event. You’re there to catalog it visually.

Capture spontaneity...

This is, perhaps, the most vital element for a photographer to master. Not all events will grant you a position to dictate how people move or behave. It’s one thing to tell a bride and groom how to stand next to each other so you can get that perfect shot. It’s quite another to tell a room of conference goers how to behave in the moment. Get used to the idea that you’re there to capture spontaneity. The shot list isn’t so much the exact layout of the images you’re after, as it is a framework for making sure you’re in the right place at the right time for images you can only capture in the moment. Even when you have total control over people’s postures and expressions, your ability to capture their candid behavior will be far more valuable than your ability to control how they look, act, and generally behave.

Want some assistance drafting up a shot list for your own event? We’d love to help! Call/Text 703.732.6903 anytime!

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