How to Make A Shot List for a Video and/or Photoshoot

Communication with your team is key to the success (or failure) of your photo and video shoots. One of the components that you should start with is the shot list. The shot list is a document of each photo and video clip you need. It’s also the answers to all the questions the team will have when providing you with a quote and executing your photo (and video) shoots.

Knowing that you need a shot list isn’t innate, and honestly, it’s not expected that every person who reaches out to me will know the significance of it and that one way or another, if we work together, we’ll have one. I happily build them for clients all the time. Usually after a meeting I get a clear picture of what most clients need and can start building one. Art directors, agencies, producers and many other industry people also build these for companies. So if it gets overwhelming know that you don’t have to take this on. You’ve got helpers who can converse with you and create this with you. Please feel comfortable to send me an email if you think you’d like to get some help. I’m going to cover a lot here!

Shot lists aren’t exclusive to any one type of photography or video. I build and use them for everything from branding images for companies looking to build portrait and lifestyle images of their team (for example, real estate firms, law firms, beauty spas, etc), to new restaurants, to products/still life, hopefully you get the idea! There is no shoot that doesn’t benefit from some type of a shot list. Even those really avant garde concept shoots that want to move unplanned and follow the whims of the day, will still benefit from a very basic and bare bones shot list.

Occasionally, new clients ask for guidance on what my ideal shot list looks like. Having the advantage of getting many different types, there are some that work better than others. Although that said, you can use any program you’d like (Excel, Power Point, Word, whatever), my favorite is Google Slides in Google Drive. Many of the benefits of Google Slides format translate to other programs (though not all, I love that we can tag each other in comments to ask direct clarification) and so I’m going to focus on it. It’s fairly user friendly and easy to drop screenshots of images into and have text to discuss it.

A thorough shot list will tell the team how many shots or clips are going to be taken, what the inspiration images are for each shot or clip, and any other important details.

To get started, let’s focus on two key factors: How many shots/clips are needed and what is your budget. These two pieces of the shot list puzzle will influence the rest of it. It’s helpful to make a note if either of these are flexible elements as the development of the shot list might affect how many shots/clips you can afford.

To determine how many photographs/photo animations/clips you need, I recommend starting with identifying where you have holes you are trying to fill. Look at all the places you need to fill:

  • website banners & intro images
  •  social media (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc)
  • billboards
  • TV commercials
  • tradeshow posters
  • emails
  • magazine ads and articles
  •  product web pages
  • etc.

Make a note of the dimensions of these images (square, vertical, horizontal) and if you need room to put text on the images.

You can deduce this by taking a look at what you are selling, do you have a bunch of products? Write down how many. Are you selling a service? Write down what it is and what is the message you are sending. Do you have one product but need multiple images? Same idea as selling a service. Asking yourself how many images you need and answering that question while noting if it’s flexible or not is where you start.

Next is your budget. You’ll want to know this before asking for quotes as budgets dictate what we can afford to do. There is always someone who will do what you are asking for whatever your budget is, but the quality of the project is affected by budget. It’s a rough feeling when I get the call from someone who tried to do a project with a vendor who didn’t deliver the quality they needed, forcing them to redo the project. Usually the quote is for more than the first vendor charged. I often wish I could give these folks the discount they sometimes request but it’s not possible when what failed to make the project successful the first time was cutting costs and purchasing/hiring lower quality team/props/etc. Skimping on these the second time might mean failure again. That said, I always look to  find ways to adjust the shots needed to still get a client everything they need, while staying under their budget. And that is where the inspiration and details come in.

The inspiration images/clips are the guide that your team is going to imitate, (to some level). I hesitate to say imitate because usually these aren’t direct translations of what a client wants but it gives enough information to show your team the critical details that will influence your shoot, like:

  • How many people need to be involved (models, actors, stylist, hair & makeup artists, assistants, grips, directors, etc)?
  • What are the locations/sets?
  • What are the props?
  • What is the lighting/mood?
  • What is the energy/vibe? (especially with talent in the shots)

Some of the above might have the same direction throughout the project. If that’s the case, identifying that at one point in the shot list works well. Make a single section with inspiration images or clips for any overall project instruction/direction and write out the details for it. 

Above is an overall page from a shot list for a photoshoot that illustrated the coloring, poses and vibe a client was going for. After this was sent to me, we chatted about the specifics of what they liked about each image in there.

The goal of a shot list is to clearly share your needs with your team.

Here is an example of a page from a document I share with clients when they want a template to work with. It helps guide them on what to tell me and includes most of the needed details. The blank version and filled out version show just one way to communicate on a shot list.


Although very helpful, getting really clear like that isn’t always possible though. There are shoots that are more relaxed and where clients want the team to work along the lines of something but not be quite as specific and direct. And often for lifestyle or work with talent, we aren’t this specific. Especially when we shoot employees instead of models, keeping things a little more relaxed can be helpful to find the images that feel more natural. Something like this can work well in those situations:

When you are building a website though and want images to all feel consistant, the more direct the shot list is, the better.

This example is from a website rebuild I did and was taken from a product page. We had already decided on the color background so the images were our guide on the lighting and angles for each of the makeup palettes that needed pictures.

Collecting and organizing information like this will get you the most accurate quotes when you are asking photographers, producers, videographers, and all the team for estimates. It will also help the shoot day go smoothly and efficiently. 

Once a shot list is created, there are usually some conversations to get further clarity, so don’t be taken back if that happens. Even the shot lists built by full time art directors can have holes in them still. Having someone come back and ask for a bit more detail is a sign you’ve hired a good person. It shows that crew member is deeply thinking about what you’re asking them to create. 

Worth mentioning is that there are unlimited ways to build a shot list. Above are just a few examples. When I’m building for my clients I ask them to start a folder and collect images they love. If I’m being asked to create the list for them, I’ll do the same. Then we’ll share these images and toss any that we don’t think will work and put what does work into the document organizing it as we go. An organized guide is what a shot list is. Without it, you gamble that the people you hire will give you what you want. With it, you tell them clearly what to give you. One tends to produce better results than the other. I almost always have some version of this before I arrive on set. Usually it’s been shared with the client first and has been discussed and approved. The earlier on in the production of the shoot we have this the better the shoot results are. 

Shelter-in-place leads to creative new work for Fridababy

Shelter-in-place leads to creative new work for Fridababy

Shelter-in-place leads to creative new work for Fridababy

I’ve been pushing my creative boundaries during Dallas’s shelter-in-place order. One of my favorite clients to work with is Fridababy. They have a lovely new art director who I’ve worked with at other companies that I’ve been collaborating with. This video is one of our creations from last month. Despite not being able to leave and work on location, I’ve been able to build unique sets around my house and studio utilizing whatever I can that is on brand to help build an image library for Fridababy. I’ve also been shooting their new product’s e-commerce photography for their website, Target, Buy Buy Baby and other stores that carry their line of clever and useful products.

The right time to have a baby.

The timing of having my daughter overlapping when it’s incredibly hard to actually shoot models has played out really well for Fridababy. I’ve been able to use her as a model for them between my still life photography. The whole family has been working together to keep her happy and get her to look at the camera. I’ve even been able to jump into a couple of the shots to get the moments they were looking for.

I’ve got long, thin fingers and as awkward as the rest of me is, my hands aren’t. So for a little over a year, I’ve been hand modeling products for my clients. This was another creative way I was able to help build the image library for Fridababy. 

In addition to these specialty images (movement & models). I had quite a few still life in environment and in studio shots I took for them. The library needed more shots in places that felt real. So while homeschooling, chasing that baby, and working, I kept moving furniture around to different parts of the house to create sets. More than once that baby has made a mad dash for the wires and light stands that decorate the house these days.

Jewelry Photographer | Diamonds Direct Collection Photoshoot

Jewelry Photographer | Diamonds Direct Collection Photoshoot

2019 was a very, very exciting year!

More and more campaign shoots came in and it seemed the HUGE life changes of 2019 (like having another baby and moving to Dallas, TX) didn’t effect business. I think after I moved out of Miami to Charleston, SC I had to learn how to master the remote client photoshoot. We had already been doing it in Florida. But there are some products that it doesn’t work with and I was concerned how being a jewelry photographer would work out for me in Dallas and Fort Worth. Fine jewelry, high end pieces, really can’t often get shipped to my studio. So relocating and trying to maintain my life as a product and jewelry photographer was going to be challenging.

As fate would have it, one of my favorite jewelry clients didn’t miss a beat when I moved and quickly adjusted their plans to keep working with me. Diamonds Direct is known for their engagement rings and making it super easy to buy exactly what you want. Pick out the setting, pick out your diamond, and viola, your custom jewelry is ready. But they have so much more than that! After I moved, they reached out and asked if I could come and shoot their one of a kind pieces. From previous conversations, I knew these were different pieces then I had photographed before. I knew these were unique and rare pieces. The art direction was simple, plain white backgrounds with some clipping paths so they can drop the files into artwork as needed. However, the project and jewelry was anything but.

The jewelry photoshoot was over a couple days in an undisclosed location behind armed security guards. The collection isn’t usually all in one location so pieces were flown in from around the country for me to photograph. It was a huge responsibility to do justice as their jewelry photographer to these stunning necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. As is often the case with expensive jewelry like this, insurance regulated where the shoot would be. So I had to bring my studio to the location. Over the years, I’ve joked but the smaller the product is, the larger the studio setup we need! Every inch of the space they could give me to shoot was transformed with photography equipment. And in an organized furry we began capturing the collection.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I see I missed a deliver that required a signature. Usually I’m aware a package that requires a signature is coming so I was caught off guard by this. When I was able to catch the delivery and sign for it, the Collections book was waiting for me. Although my work is commonly used in print materials, it is rare for me to get to see it. A big thank you to the team over at Diamonds Direct for trusting me with the project and following through to the very end and sending one of their beautiful Collections books over to me. I love it!

I can only hope that this shoot was a preview into my new life as a Dallas jewelry photographer because if it is, many more great things are to come! Follow this link to see more of work from this (not so bashful but hopefully not too boastful) jewelry photographer.

Kate Benson Photography opening in Dallas Fort Worth

Kate Benson Photography opening in Dallas Fort Worth

There have been big, (huge) changes over the last few months for me. The first update is we’ve expanded our family and welcomed a baby girl on July 1st! She and I are both doing great and the boys are adjusting to life with a baby wonderfully. While that has been going on, Sam (my husband) has taken a job in Dallas and been commuting back and forth from there to Charleston. The end of July will be our move to the grand old state of Texas which means I’ll be setting up shop there too!

Naturally, my travel will be limited for a while having a newborn. But I plan on still working as a local from Miami and now Charleston. That means I’ll still take on shoots of a full day or more without charging travel costs. Although, for the short term, that’s on hold until we’ve settled in and figured out the routine.

We’ve all fallen deeply in love with Charleston and life in the low country. And the friends we’ve made feel like souls we’ve know many times over. So leaving them is of course a bit of a heartbreak. But the next adventure is waiting and onward we shall go! As a side note, I expect we will be back often.

So if you wonder why I haven’t written in a while, the 50-60 hours a week of work, while in my third trimester, and finding housing halfway across the country (while getting my house on the market) and single parenting a 5 year old (who of course broke his elbow at the start of all this) has kept me away from an update. But I am so excited to share what I’ve been shooting. Some truly awesome clients and products have come through the studio and I’ve been blessed to get to take a lot of gorgeous shots. I look forward to sharing more soon! There will be some new galleries on the website as well as some exciting blog posts. So stay tuned!

And on that note, here’s a picture of a very tired mama with a very tiny new baby.

Jewelry photography Tips: How to improve your website photography | Professional Jewelry Photographer Kate Benson

You have just taken the first step in elevating your jewelry photography. Hopefully you will find some of these jewelry photography tips helpful.

They were written to speak to a wide audience so feel free to skip around if you like!

With your jewelry photography, you may be doing it yourself, or working with a photographer and not getting what you want. To get started, here is is a video of what a lot of jewelry photography looks like (although not how all professionals do it) and some of you may watch this video and say, “I would be happy with jewelry photography like that!” while others have had photography like that and are looking to elevate it.


Regardless of your situation, there are ways to help improve your images. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into designing your pieces, and you want your jewelry photographs to reflect that! Here are 8 tips from a professional jewelry photographer to help elevate your photos.


Tip 1: Have Your Pieces Professionally Polished and Cleaned

Before you bring your jewelry pieces to a photoshoot, make sure to get them professionally polished and cleaned. This will elevate your images because they will look almost new and flawless. When looking at a jewelry image, the camera is much closer to the piece than the naked eye would be. This means the image will show any scratches or flaws in the jewelry that otherwise would not be noticeable. Many of these blemishes a professional photographer can edit out in post production. However, keep in mind that your photograph cost is equal to how much time is spent on your products. If a photographer needs to spend a few hours retouching your images, then your per image rate will be more expensive than if you had your pieces cleaned and the photographer had few corrections to make.

Professional jewelers will be able to polish your jewelry and remove most scratches, too.


For example, when jewelry photographer Kate Benson worked with estate fine jewelry for Fine Art Auctions Miami, they would have their pieces professionally polished and cleaned before each shoot. These were mostly worn pieces from private collections. This helped to elevate their images as the product looked as good as it was going to before she photographed it. The images were requested to not be deeply retouched as the buyers needed to see the real state of the jewelry. So getting it well cleaned and polished was critical!

Tip 2: Don’t Wear Jewelry You Want Photographed Before a Photoshoot

Staying along the lines of getting your jewelry professionally polished and clean, is not to wear any jewelry you want photographed. It is tempting when you create a beautiful piece and have the chance to enjoy it yourself to put it on. However, wearing jewelry before the photoshoot exposes the pieces to risk that isn’t needed such as, scratching the pieces, fingerprints, dusts, etc. All of that will increase the likelihood of the pieces needing to be cleaned professionally or be subjected to more retouching. 

If you are looking to clean your jewelry yourself, here is a video taking you step by step. Note: This process will not help to remove scratches.

Tip 3: Review and Carefully Select the Pieces You are Going to Shoot.

Manufacturing defects can happen. When picking out which pieces to photograph, check for everything. Some of the common issues that come through photography studios are: 

  • Crooked jump rings
  • Loose stones that can fall out
  • Scratches or dents
  • Broken clasps
  • Inconsistent assembly of pieces (for example, logo tags changing the sides of the pieces they are on).

By taking a close look at your jewelry and confirming the pieces are in the best shape possible you will save on retouching time. If you are working with a photographer, send more than one piece of the same jewelry to the shoot, so the photographer can pick out the best looking one.

Tip 4: Plan Art Direction for Each Image You Need Before Your Shoot

Whether you are building a website from scratch or creating an ad campaign, plan out every shot you need before shooting and make sure your pieces work for that shot. This is more important if you are working with a photographer but having things mapped out keeps each angle of each style piece consistent to how you want it to be. When putting images on a website you don’t want the angles of jewelry to shift. You want the website to look consistent and seamless. Having these guides will keep you from shifting what the images look like. 

If you are working with a photographer, letting the jewelry photographer know what you want is crucial to getting the photographs you need. Map out with images (either through testing with your photographer or collection inspiration on you own) what images you like. The photographer will want a guide of how you want each shot she/he is taking to look (roughly). From there, jewelry photographers can have a place to start and offer suggestions of alternative options for lighting, angles, etc. where they see something might work better. Most photographers expect to have a conversation about this before the shoot. During that conversation, consider that a jewelry photographer has seen a lot of product like yours before and has an idea already of why some pictures work better than others. Take long chain necklaces for example. How far do you zoom out for your image to show such a large piece? Too far will not show the details of the necklace. A jewelry photographer might suggest either including a zoom feature on your website so customers can see those details clearly, or to add detail shots as secondary images of your piece.

Keep an eye out for future blog posts on how to create moodboards and shot lists for art direction.

Tip 5: Keep it Consistent

Regardless of if you are shooting yourself or a professional jewelry photographer is, use a tripod and make sure the jewelry isn’t shifting/moving around when it is photographed. For example, hanging necklaces might sway for a while, so either place something behind them or wait until they stop moving before shooting. Regardless of if you are using natural light or not, make notes about what the light values were. If you have studio lights, write down their values, positions, and modifiers. If you are shooting in natural light, record the time of day, the weather, etc. Light will change color when it is cloudy or sunny. You want to be able if you are shooting yourself to go back and recreate the setup you have next time you have new pieces to shoot.

If you have a professional jewelry photographer, confirm that he/she is taking steps to recreate your setup when you have more product ready to send. Product photographer Kate Benson had this to say on this topic, “Consistency is one of the reasons I don’t often select to shoot product in natural light. It can be a beautiful atheistic but after spending a decade working in South Florida where the weather changes constantly chasing the light values, temperatures, and adjusting modifiers to correct for clouds/sun slowed down work and created too many variables and hence, inconsistencies. I prefer to create natural light in studio now when clients want that look.”  She explained that each client has their setups and lighting recorded through pictures and charts so whenever they send product again it will look like it was shot at the exact same time once it is on the website.

Tip 6: Matte vs. Shine

Jewelry is a finicky product to shoot. It acts like a mirror, reflecting everything. So what is reflecting in the metal is as important as what isn’t reflecting. Obviously you don’t want to see the yourself/the photographer and camera or objects from around a room in your jewelry but you may need to see something reflecting in the metal to make sure it looks right. If you have a matte finish on your jewelry you can get away with a lot more but when the jewelry has a shiny reflective finish then not seeing the right thing will look matte. Knowing how to put the right reflections into metal could make or break your sales + returns. If customers think they are buying a matte finish piece and get something shiny they could be very unhappy. So being accurate is very important. Pay close attention to what the jewelry looks like in your setup. You may need to add some reflections to make it look right!

Let’s revisit the first video about taking photographs using a light tent. A light tent is a great way to minimize any reflections. Your jewelry will be surrounded by plain white fabric on all sides, with the exception of a camera hole. The only reflection you’ll have is from your camera. It sounds counterintuitive, but the problem with a light tent is that you have no reflections. This gives jewelry a matte look, instead of the shine that looks great and gives pieces shape. Jewelry photographer Kate Benson has been shooting jewelry for over a decade, and she uses a variety of papers, scrims, modifiers, and lights (and almost never a light tent) to make the setup completely adjustable for each piece as necessary. “I have better control over the reflections in each jewelry piece this way. If I’m shooting rings that are different sizes, I can make small tweaks in the lighting setup to make each piece look its best. If I just put one on after the other, and didn’t make any adjustments, the reflections could look wrong.” Here’s an example of a piece of jewelry shot in a light box versus a controlled studio setup.

Bracelet shot using a light box by anonymous photographer

Bracelet shot in studio with a custom lighting setup by Kate Benson

Tip 7: Test it Out

There is a rumor that Vogue Magazine makes 5 different covers for every issue and then sends those covers out to a group of design talented beta viewers who will vote for the cover they like best. Regardless if that is true or not, that concept is a great way to elevate your jewelry photography. Whether you plan on using the photographs on your website, in mailers, or for banners and billboards, creating a few different mockup versions and seeing which ones look the best is sure to improve your photography usage. If you have a single piece, try seeing if your jewelry photographer offers a test shoot option where you can hire her/him to explore a few different photographic options to see what works the best. 

Tip 8: When in Doubt, Hire a Professional Jewelry Photographer

This is probably the fastest way to improve your jewelry photography. Keep in mind, hiring a professional photographer is not the same thing as a professional jewelry photographer. True jewelry photographers will pay close attention to what your jewelry is, what it needs to look like, and will make sure it all translates beautifully in the photography. You can estimate the per shot rate from a professional jewelry photographer in the range of $30 – $80+, which is extremely dependent on what type of jewelry you have, and how many pieces. If you have a ring that you sell with different colored stones on it, it might be possible to recolor the stones, and you might be looking toward the $30 range. If you have fine jewelry that needs a specific lighting setup per piece, you are looking at the higher end of the spectrum. Jewelry photographer Kate Benson recently did a shoot for a client with a high volume of images needed for the brands website and Amazon and was able to get the photography for under $20 a shot with testing because the volume was so high.

Many professional jewelry photographers will not give you this per image rate, but instead quote you based on an hourly or day rate. This way, they have the time they need to get your pieces to look stunning. A lot of work goes into a jewelry photo, including initial prep (like extra polishing), styling (especially difficult with chains), test shooting (if you needed it ), shooting (and lighting adjustments as needed), then retouching. If you receive a per shot rate, confirm that you know the final photography you are getting includes all the elements you need. Make sure every part of the shoot is spelled out before they do the work for you. The last think you want is to hire someone to do a shoot for you and then realize you needed background cleanup, more retouching, clipping paths, custom file sizes, etc. If you hire an hourly rate photographer you can always go back and ask for these things and they can invoice for them after but if you have a per shot rate this might not be included. Over communicating to the photographer is better than under communicating! It takes time but is worth it to avoid any issues later!

In conclusion

There are many factors that can increase your chances of getting the best jewelry photography for your brand. Be confident in what you decide to do and remember that if you try one way and it doesn’t work, you can try something else. Leave any questions you have in the comments and Kate Benson will get back to you ASAP!

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