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From Shot List to Photos: A Photo Shoot Story

Creating a shot list for a photo shoot is one of the best ways to eliminate any pressure and stress that a photo shoot can bring. Photographers know that planning and setting up for a shoot can be daunting, so from an agency side it is best to help prepare on the production side of it. Photographers need to make sure they have the right equipment, lighting, and all the supplies required to capture the perfect shot based on your shot list.


Jordan Eichenblatt

Content Director


What is a Shot List?

A shot list is a checklist of the different shots that you need or want to take. It helps photographers be efficient with their time. Having a prepared shot list can prevent costly reshoots and save everyone from a lot of trouble. A shot list also serves as a plan that you can have approved by your clients to make sure that you are capturing all the shots they want.

A shot list can be made up of a brief description of a shot and can include rough sketches of the photos you want to take. Think of the checklist as a guideline – you can always improvise during the shoot but it’s a great way to ensure you don’t forget one or more photos that you needed from a shoot. Taking the time to plan your shot list will save a lot of stress and chaos when it’s time to shoot.

Shot List Basics

Your shot list can come in whatever form works best for you but keep in mind different clients may want a different format. For this reason, it is best practice to create a shot list that is easily modifiable. The list can be as broad or as specific as you want it to be. It can even include notes on what camera angles and settings you’ll need to create the right shot. One good option is to break up your shot list into categories like “Must-Haves, Details, and Extras.”

The kinds of shots that go into each category will vary from shoot to shoot, but it can be incredibly helpful to make sure you have a checklist to keep your priorities aligned with your goals and with the client’s wants and needs. However, most shots will likely include some combination of the following:

  • The “must-have” list would include your top priority shots – ones that you know you need to capture. The detail shots would be smaller details related to your overall shot, ones that will help flesh out the story of your shoot but won’t ruin your day if you miss one. The extras are simply that – shots that you’d like to get if conditions permit and/or if you have extra time after capturing the first two categories.

  • Detail Shots: As the name implies, detail shots are shots that capture small details of an event, person, or product. These might be shots of the invitation and rings at a wedding, shots of the tennis shoes a model is wearing in an exercise shoot. These shots are a great touch when it comes to capturing specific characteristics or items.

  • Close-Ups: A close-up shot tightly frames a person or object and is a standard shot in almost every shoot. They focus on the subject rather than the background and are great for product photography and portraits alike.

  • Wide Shots: Unlike a close-up, wide shots (or full shots) show an entire person or object as well as the surroundings to provide context. These shots can be used to show a product in a space where it would be used to provide context.

Even if your description is super vague, having a meeting with your client and photographer is super helpful to get the final shot like these.

Mom and Daughter Shocked at Dads Cooking

Luchador holds a man while a hot dog is thrown - Blurred background fans are possible

Dad cannonballs into the pool away from the camera - Palm tree foreground Corner of pool

Shotgun shells foreground with the tower in focus


Photoshoots can be hectic – setting up equipment, working with models and clients, dealing with weather and other conditions. It’s easy for even a seasoned photographer to forget a shot they needed to tie their whole story together. When that happens, it can cost both time and money to reshoot. Making a shot list prevents the hassle of do-overs and provides the opportunity to map out your shot.

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