Before I shoot, I often like to plan.  Particularly if the shoot is for a client.  It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting stills or video, I feel better with a plan.  Even if that plan is just going to get changed, it’s better to have a starting point.

You might think that the best Hollywood directors are creative geniuses; however, they have a more important trait in common. They are great planners. Same holds true for many of the most famous commercial photographers.  They aren’t afraid to pore over storyboards, look at treatments, analyze notes from clients or a script to determine the best shots and angles that they need to tell their stories.

The chances of having a successful shoot increase dramatically when you have a detailed plan. Your goal should be to think about the scene or location ahead of time.

Try to list all the shots you’ll need and determine the number of shots and style of shots you want to shoot. Be sure to identify elements like the location and participants, and then specify the angles and compositions you want.

While it may seem unusual for such a creative medium, I’ll typically use a spreadsheet application like Apple Numbers or Microsoft Excel.  Both of these apps have mobile versions that make it easy to sync my spreadsheet to the Cloud and my device, as well as make updates along the way.

When it comes time to edit my footage or process my photos, the shot list helps me identify the shots I have to work with. The extra planning at the outset will dramatically speed up your postproduction as well.

Planning… it’s what the best pros do and so can you.


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Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. couldn’t agree more about having a plan. I like to pre visualize a shot list before any shoot! :-)

  2. I’ll even go as far as to generally produce a mood board to accompany the shot list. Providing a visual medium of the desired result both aids in focusing my efforts, and communicating the necessary approach to models or other participants.

  3. I like to normally plan out my shot list when I’m doing posed shots and I’m not afraid of it at all.


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


Business, Cinematography, Photography, Shooting, Shooting