How to Make a Brand Photoshoot Shot List

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We're professional photographers, Mr + Mrs and Mom + Dad. We like to share insights into our industry and empower other photographers to build their biz.



A really important thing we found to be true early on in our business is the importance of being able to effectively communicate with our clients. When we first started we had no idea how to even begin this process. We were as clueless as the left shark during Katy Perry’s halftime performance for the Super Bowl. How do we invoice our clients? What is the most effective and aesthetic way to deliver pictures? At the beginning, every decision was on the fly and we went with whatever felt right. We knew we had to figure out a consistent communication process to provide the best for our clients and continue building our business.

When coming up with a communication process, we had to take a step back to focus on what was best for us, our clients and how we could most effectively listen to their needs. As brand photographers, we MUST listen to the people who put so much trust into us…our clients. I mean if the left shark would have listened to the beat of the music, things may have gone a little better for him. It was at this time in our career that we truly understood that listening was more than just understanding the questions being asked by our clients. It was understanding the why and intention behind the questions being asked in the first place. 

Our secret sauce to communicating and effectively listening to our clients is completely through our pre-production planning services. These services are so important to us because they play a huge role in us providing everything our clients are looking for. Unless a new client is already working with a marketing agency, any new client working with us to capture brand imagery needs to utilize our pre-production services.

Our pre-production services include location sourcing, timeline creation, and shot list creation. 

For the last two weeks we have unpacked two of our pre-production services, location sourcing and timeline creation. This week we will cover the last part of the three week series – the all important Shot List! Our goal through this three week series to help you  understand the reasoning behind why we require these services and give you a detailed look into how we piece together the elements of an awesome and memorable shoot for the client. With that, let’s get right on into the last part of the series!

The Shot List

The shot list is crucial for making sure the photographer and client are on the same page. It is the details that are especially important in providing the brand everything it needs to not only catch the consumers attention, but ultimately narrow in on their vision, focus on the right elements and provide the brand with all the photos they need for the project. After we have conversations with our client about what they are looking for, we take on the responsibility of creating a shot list and sending it to our client well before the day of the photoshoot. 

Sending the shot list to your clients well in advance provides them with a sense of comfort in having the ability to make changes and give feedback, plus it allows them to have an outline of the photoshoot! This is huge for us as the photographer because it lets us be efficient in making sure to capture everything the clients needs in a timely manner. Once we grab an idea and message during the shoot, it’s important to keep moving forward and working towards the next concept. The shot list can also be a lifesaver for remembering unique photos that might be easy to forget during the midst of a session. Those unique pictures are key in providing variety for your brand, so we make sure they aren’t forgotten by documenting them on the shot list!

Composition Notes

One of the biggest factors of intentional brand photography is talking through what types of images your client needs. It is important to include notes of how photos should be composed because every brand will vary on what types of images they need based on the specific platforms they will be using the images for. When a brand is looking for images for social media, we have a lot more freedom with how we compose the photo. It could be vertical, horizontal, zoomed in / out….etc. Some brands could mention how they only post vertical photos for a specific platform like Instagram. That would be an important composition note to add in the shot list.  

Other important composition notes would be to include certain sizing requirements or portions of the photo that should contain negative space. For example, let’s say a client were to ask for a pulled back-horizontal image with them in the left third of the frame for a banner image on their website. We don’t care how great you claim your memory to be, that needs to be in the composition notes to ensure you grab exactly what your client is looking for! It’s game time when it hits the actual photoshoot day and the last thing you should be worried about is trying to remember those specific details of photos your client needs.

The composition notes will tell you exactly what images you need to grab. A client could also want images that are detailed and specifically zoomed in on certain items. Noting that a client wants a shot zoomed in photo on someone’s hands with the background blurred out would be another important note. Branding photography is intentional and details can really make or break a photo for a client. It’s applying some good ole country music advice from ‘King’ George Strait when he says, “Write this down, take a little note, to remind you in case you didn’t know!” (Sorry, not sorry for the 90’s era country music reference!)

Props Needed

Just like family never gets left behind – unless your MacCaulay Culkin in Home Alone – props never get left behind! Listing out all the props that will be needed for the different photos is key for not having them be forgotten. There is nothing worse than showing up to a shoot without the details that make the photos complete. Listing the props needed in the shot list helps force variety through the roadmap that has been planned and laid out well in advance with the photographer and the client. 

The prop list is all about intentionality. By having a prop on the list, we know that we are capturing that item. This can even speed up the process because we can just look at the shot list and automatically know what types of photos, the compositions used and what props we need to grab to fill out the photo. If you create your next shot list using this information, MAD props to you! 😉

Shot List Foundations

The final and most important thing we know to be essential in the shot list are hands down….the details. It truly is the little details that are vital and ultimately it is the little things that make the big things happen. The more detailed the photographer is, the more your shot list will guide you through creating and delivering variety for the brands who decide to work with you. It is a win win for both you and your client. A detailed and well-structured shot list will ensure your photoshoot will run efficiently while your client has an incredible experience.

Along with paying attention to the details, we make sure every variance that the client would want is listed in the shot list. Specific needs are important for a personal brand shoot, and must be listed in detail within the shot list. For example, this could be “client sitting at a desk working”, “client sitting at a desk while answering the phone laughing” or “client standing behind desk laughing to the side while holding a coffee mug.” We want to make sure we call out every shot we’re going to take during the shoot.

Ok, so you might be thinking, “Erica + Jon, I get it. I need a shot list…but HOW do I bring this all together?”

Well, good news, compadre – we’ve got you covered! Just click this link to download our Personal Brand Shot List v2.0! In this free resource you will learn our EXACT step by step thought process for when we create a shot list for one of our clients. We also included templates that are customizable for you to build a well-structured shot list for your next shoot!   
So now you know all about our pre-production services through unpacking them these last three weeks. There is a lot that goes into each one, but as you can see they all hold value in what we do and provide our clients the experience they deserve. If any questions were left unanswered throughout the series, we’d love to help you in answering any questions you may have about our pre-production services! Just click here to shoot us a message and we’ll do our best to answer.

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