Why I Love A Good Shot List

A shot list is a map or creative plan that helps everyone involved get on the same page and work towards accomplishing their goals.

Why I Love A Good Shot List

The creative process often involves collaboration.

When collaborating on a photo or video project, the shot list is a powerful and often overlooked tool that helps ensure a successful creative production.

If you don't have a plan - you'll be spinning out on unnecessary things.

A shot list is a map or creative plan that helps everyone involved get on the same page and work towards accomplishing their goals.

I'm a Fashion Photographer/Videographer, so my examples below are based on typical commercial fashion workflows, but shot lists work across various products, use cases, and genres.

Six Reasons to Love a Shot List:

  1. A shot list gets everyone on the same page - on and off the set.

By the time a company is photographing their products or concepts, they've put in months, if not years, of work. The shoot is the culmination of all this work and the bridge between manufacturing, and product launch.

It is an ideal time to pause and think about how you want the world to see your creation.

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg:

  • How many ways would you like to highlight your product on your website? Think crops, angles, closeups, details, full length.
  • What kind of locations or backgrounds will help your audience imagine themselves enjoying your product?
  • What kind of lighting is going to make the products pop?
  • How will the Stylist elevate or differentiate your product from the competition?
  • What kind of talent or models will you choose to book?
  • What kind of Hair and Makeup artists will you hire to compliment the Campaign aesthetic?
  • How many looks can you realistically get through in a day?
  • What crops and ratios will the Web Designer need of the final assets?
  • How many different crops will the Social Media Specialist need for your various social channels?

2. The team can start to visualize the end product

A shot list is where the creative team can see their website, social media, and overall user experience begin to take shape. It's also a place to document how a company will use photos and video across its marketing campaigns and how your process evolve over time.

3. Improved logistics

The shot list is a map or creative blueprint for everyone to reference and plan the logistics of their work.

If you have a map, you can see where you are and where you're trying to go. You can judge how long it will take you to get there. And you can reassess the route you're on if something goes wrong.

On set, that means judging how much time is needed to capture the images and video, what equipment you need to have on hand, the quantity and quality of lights you need to set up to nail the mood.

After the handoff, Art Directors, Graphic Designers, E-commerce Merchandising Managers, Web Developers, and Social Media Specialists can start planning their launches.

4. Catch mistakes before they happen.

*Insert terrible incident here that could have been avoided if only you planned*

5. It is easier for everyone to find images and videos later

One overlooked and crucial aspect of creating a shot list is the way the products or skus are organized from the get-go. Naming higherarchies including color, SKU, and other details allows the Photographer, Videographer, or Digital Tech to label the media so your images and video don't get lost in a sea of numbers.

Naming hierarchies pave the way for how easily your teams can find the assets later.

For video, a shot list can save you hours of editing time if the direction and data for the opening shot, closing shot, and other basic story details exist somewhere that's easy to reference.

6. An excellent shot list contributes to the bottom line

The less time your creative team wastes, the more money and time you'll have for creative investments that will impact the bottom line.

Endlessly searching for images and video, redoing old setups, or running into overtime on productions because you're not sticking to your original plan, cause frustration between your teams and creates roadblocks between your product and your customers.

The longer it takes to work out the kinks internally, the more missed selling opportunities there will be between you and your customers.

An ideal shotlist?

Shot lists are not complicated to create, but they reflect a list of decisions.

You can use the shot list to operationalize making decisions ahead of time to get multiple people working towards a common set of goals.

Video Shot List Example (Branded Content)

  • Establishing Shots (establish the scene and show location context)
  • Wide/Medium Shots (make up the core of what's happening in your story)
  • Closeups (any interesting details, textures, patterns)
  • Abstract (macro)
  • Unexpected (creative, artsy, different)

Product Shot List Example (E-Commerce focused shoots)

  • Number of outfits, looks, or products that need capturing
  • Number of shots per product or category
  • Product descriptions for each item
  • Fabric types
  • Different colorways
  • Number of units in the warehouse
  • Types and number of backgrounds/setups (for products, this might include Still Life, Flats, Pin-Ups)

Why it's important to have a good shot list

It is essential to have creative plans. Plans allow your team to grow and get into a flow, ensuring that everyone gets what they need.

Creating a shot list might feel like an extra, unwanted, time-consuming step, but it will give you the best results while helping reduce stress and burnout, save time and money, and give your creative team the time and space to create work that inspires you and your buyers.