Portrait Pre-Shoot Checklist

Before I do a portrait session, be it on location or in studio (read studio as living room), I have a process of checking, double-checking, then thrice-checking my gear and shot lists to ensure no soldier is left behind.  The things I go through may not be for everyone, but hell, it's my process.

Natalia - Nikon D700

Before Shoot-day

  1. Ensure you have a client / model to shoot.  Ok, given - but it really makes the portrait session turn out much better.
  2. Night before, charge all batteries (or be sure you have spares if you don't use rechargeables for some reason).  These are the batteries I check:
    1. Main body (and if you have a spare, be sure it's charged)
    2. Battery grip
    3. Triggers (one on camera, one backup)
    4. Trigger-receivers (4 + 2 backups)
    5. Speedlights (4 plus one backup)
  3. Back-up CF cards formatted (usually bring 4 spares)
  4. Ensure L-grip for my tripod is mounted to body (imagine showing up with a tripod, and no way to connect to it?)
  5. Figure out my shoot-list (research my pool of shots from fotogs I admire)
  6. Grab hit-list of lenses (35, 50, 100 for me) and be sure glass and filters are dust-free -  ensure mounts are clean
  7. Double-check weather / tides / wind for your location
  8. Print out model release form
  9. Confirm once again with client / model about date / time / location - remember, model time does not equate to your watch

Camera Checklist

  1. Inspect sensor / lens mount
  2. CF card formatted
  3. ISO set to 200
  4. White balance set to appropriate
  5. Image quality RAW
  6. Shutter mode to single shot (spray and pray is for the weak!)
  7. Mode set to manual (not that it has ever left that mode)
  8. Batteries in body / grip
  9. Goto lens (Zeiss 100mm) attached and wide open (I love to start wide open, then dial in)
  10. Set exposure comp to "0"

Shoot-day Pack List

  1. Camera
  2. Tripod
  3. Triggers / remotes
  4. Cable-release
  5. Spare CF Cards
  6. Batteries plus spare batteries*
  7. Speedlights
  8. Umbrella stands with brackets / shoes installed
  9. Umbrellas (4 plus spare) / Beauty dish with sock
  10. Sandbags for stands
  11. White / silver / gold reflector
  12. Lens cleaning cloth
  13. Sensor swabs - Type 2 (Yes, I have had crap get on the sensor during a shoot)
  14. Eclipse solution
  15. Model release form(s)
  16. Models cell # (she WILL be late)
  17. Snack - for waiting for the model to show up
  18. GPS directions plugged into iPhone
  19. Business cards (someone walking by will usually ask for one)
  20. Hat / sunblock if in the hot sun
  21. Change of shoes / socks / pants etc - you never know, you may need to wade knee deep in a swamp to get the shot

*I only use fresh batteries at each shoot.

That's about it for me.  It seems like a lot, but basically, it's all second nature now.  Better to be over than under-prepared.  Feel free to share with us steps that you use!