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. 

Product Photographer | Kate Benson | How to send clients files, and how not to.

Okay, August is flying by, as did every other month this year. Much overdue is a quick recap about what’s been going on with me, my biz, my family, etc. I have had the craziest two years. That broken ankle? Well, that was 3 surgeries and over a year of physical therapy. Then one more surgery this spring because who really needs a gallbladder anyway? On top of that, life has been sending one whirlwind moment after the other my way. Some are exciting, some are sad (going to really miss Budapest, he was a great dog), but growth is always important. So with caution, I am standing on my own two feet again, surging forward in career and life, but still a bit shell shocked that some minor thing could actually be the next major thing rearing it’s head my way.

Kate Benson Photography has had it’s shares of challenges this year as well. This summer alone brought a new website and (with the help of some really spectacular clients) I was able to discover that the file uploading system I’ve been using, has a terrible file compression for uploading photographs and in no small way alters the files. Take a look at this little screen shot to see what I mean:

The image on the right is the original, on the left is what it becomes once uploaded to Something like this can’t be taken at face value, this could just be a preview file and not the actual file, right? I wish. I went ahead and tested this inside and out. For anyone who is interested, here is a list of troubleshooting I tried because I realllly didn’t want this to be an issue with For anyone who isn’t interested, go ahead and skip to the next paragraph.

  • download the file to see if it was just the online preview that was showing differently (it wasn’t).
  • Compress the file into a zip folder and upload and download the file to see if that circumvents the color loss (it didn’t).
  • Tried uploading files to compare to in case it was a universal problem with the uploading (it wasn’t). I checked against: Dropbox, Google Drive, WeTransfer, + directly emailing them. was the only one with this issue
  • Found a “resolved” complaint about this on’s help section. A different photographer had noticed this too and was asking if they were doing something wrong and how to fix the problem. eventually marked the issue “resolved” and closed comments without providing any answers. Shady much?

After that, I felt pretty confident admitting the problem was and there wasn’t a way to work around it. Most of the time, clients weren’t noticing color issues and so they weren’t saying anything to me about it. It’s not uncommon to have color shifts in shooting, hence me getting and using the color light to check products. I mean, we use color cards when shooting for this reason.

I was talking to my assistant Chelsea about this, she was shocked when I told her that I had heard a client was having to change the colors and contrast of the images I sent after I spent so much time matching them. I was surprised too. So this answered a lot of questions.

I dug in deeper after that. I started asking clients who work with multiple photographers how they were getting files. I noticed was not high on the list. WeTransfer, Drive, and Dropbox were though. Since I’m usually sending large batches of files, Drive made the most sense for me. But it’s been tricky since I can’t leave the files on there indefinitely. I have to take down the files as even with upgraded storage, my files are so large it and so numerous they just eat through the space.

Which leaves me officially open to suggestions. How do you all send files? What do you use and any tips as to why are greatly appreciated!

It’s pretty amazing that over a decade into running a business I can still have so much to learn. Which I’m totally okay with, by the way. If I stop learning it’s probably because I’m getting lazy and I can expect my business to stop growing. So stay tuned. I’ll be going back over that whole new website thing soon, because it actually was two new websites in less then a year.

Charleston Product Photographer | Amazing Amazon Photography

It may not be common knowledge but I have a second business and website that I’ve been building called Product Photo Lab (PPL for short). The website is still in the works, but there is some basic content up there. Finding openings in my schedule to fix and revise the work in progress that is PPL is really tough. Recently though, despite the website not being as ready as I would like it to be, I’ve been getting contacted and doing some work through it. This isn’t my usual work, as you already may have guessed by the title of this blog post, but I’m really excited that the website is starting to generate some calls, and therefore enthusiastically making time to do the work.

One of the unexpected places that I’ve been contacted to produce images for is Amazon listings. These shoots are usually pretty quick but the clients are looking for something a bit more refined to help their products stand out and hopefully get that coveted number 1 ranking on Amazon.

I’ve learned quite a few of tips on how images sell on Amazon in this process. Products in environments and in use will generally outsell those that are just plain white shots. Additionally, Amazon does require the first shot to be on an all pure white background (which has some specifics to it as well, most of my readers already know what “pure white” is but if you don’t, it’s is a rating of 255 in all color channels). So this has presented interesting challenges (which I love). One client, had a glass water bottle that he sold as a set of 6 and single. Here was what the bottle started with:

Photographing a clear empty bottle isn’t very flattering. So I filled it with water letting the light gradient throughout the inside (trick one).

Then we put very carefully selected liquids into the bottles so the colors wouldn’t get dark and murky (trick two).

Lastly, I asked how he felt about fresh plants in the bottles, which he seemed willing to entertain, and viola!

I was able to product a collection of photographs for him where the shots met Amazon’s specifics but the shots had enough color and vibrancy to pop off the page when compared to other bottles! Happily, he is already on page 1 for his requested search terms and selling like crazy! After discussing what the client needed, I composited 6 of these shots together to create his opening image on Amazon. Here is a look at what he sent me for art direction (also what the competition happens to be showing).

This is what his listing looks like this today:

As I mentioned before, I’ve worked with quite a few Amazon clients lately. Here are a few more shots just to give you an idea what being a product photographer in Charleston is keeping busy with!

This client wanted in environment and shots with a model using the product:

E-Commerce Photography Terms Defined | Miami E-Commerce Photographer Kate Benson

As a still life and product photographer, I realized that there are a lot of terms used in the industry that might not be entirely clear. So, I thought I would define them here and explain how my team and I can help you get the right photos for your needs. e-commerce images:  These are photos of your product that customers click on to purchase the product. These shots may be photographed on model or as a still life of just the product alone and can be resized to fit dimensions that your web designer requires. E-commerce images can further be broken into two categories: catalog page images and product images. Catalog page images are the library or the main page that people go to which shows an overview of the products available. The product image is the single image of the product which may show the item from various angles.

Banners and intro images: These are photos that are used as headers and on home pages for websites, like a mini ad, to draw customers in. They can be still life, on location, or on model and use a variety of ways to incorporate imagery.

Advertising images: These are photos that you might need for trade show posters, magazine ads, billboard ads, etc.

Wholesale images:  These are photos for use on sites such as Amazon, Belks, Macy’s, etc. Simply send us the guidelines that are requested by the site and we will cater your photos to these needs.

Social Media images: These are photos for use on sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Using the guidelines from these sites and your brand’s image, we create photos to promote your products on social media.

Lookbook images: These are photos for use in a company’s catalog that portray the “feel” of the product. Catalogs are mailed to clients and serve as a widespread way to promote the products.

Line sheet images: These are photos that are basic and to-the-point which give facts for use in helping retail buyers place orders of your product.

Whatever your product photo needs are, we can work with you to develop images that are right for your company.

More work by Miami Product Photographer Kate Benson.

Miami Product Photographer Kate Benson | Making an Impact with Your Photos for Email Blasts

As a product photographer, I shoot quite a bit of e-commerce shots which are used for various things such as websites, ad campaigns, and on-model photos for look books. I also shoot social media shots for clients’ Instagram and Facebook pages. In addition, many clients need photos for their email blasts as well. One option is to shoot photos specifically for these email blasts. Another option is to use photos that we have previously shot for e-commerce. Either way, I can help you to create the photos you need to make a positive lasting impression in your email blasts. Here are a few examples of photos that were originally shot on-model for Cosabella’s look book but were included in some recent email blasts:

Here are a few examples of still life product shots that were originally shot for Cosabella’s look book and were then included in their recent email blasts:

And lastly, here are examples of photos that were originally shot as e-commerce photos for Donald J Pliner’s website, but were also included in their email blast:

Miami Product Photographer | Photoshop – A Useful Tool, Not Divine Intervention

Post-production of photos is extremely important in product photography. In this blog, we will examine Photoshop and its uses and misconceptions.
What Photoshop is NOT: Photoshop is not divine intervention to airbrush your photo and make it suddenly incredible. There is a common misunderstanding that by using Photoshop, any photo can magically become amazing. This is most definitely not true.

What Photoshop IS: Photoshop is a wonderful tool that can help make great photos even better by modifying certain facets of the photo.

It is crucial to begin the post-production with an effective photo that conveys a compelling story relevant to the product. The old saying “garbage in – garbage out” is a very basic way of saying that if you begin with a poor photo, no amount of Photoshop in the world will be able to make that photo great. As a photographer, I do not cut corners during the shoot. I take my time and focus my energy to create the best photo possible. I am then able to enhance this photo with the various tools available in Photoshop.

Here is a list of things that Photoshop cannot fix, taken from the blog “Six Things You Can’t Fix in Photoshop,” by Shutterfinger:

  1. Camera position – if the camera is too close to the product, it is impossible to “back it up” in post-production
  2. Lighting direction and quality
  3. Focus
  4. Blurred image due to motion of the camera or subject
  5. Lost data
  6. Lack of creativity/spark/intent

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