Use these lists for photographers to keep track of tasks and implement new ideas!!

Are you a list person?  I most definitely am.  I use lists to keep track of small tasks, big goals, places to check out and blogs to write.  As I get older, I find that lists help me stay on top of my business and professional life.  If I don’t write it down fairly soon after thinking of it, that idea might be gone for good.  So in honor of my fellow list fanatics, here are 10 lists for photographers to stay organized, spark creativity and make photography fun.

Why do we love lists?

There’s some real psychology behind my love of lists.  According to this article in “The Guardian”, lists help us feel better about the chaos in our lives.  Lists give us structure, a roadmap to achieve our goals and a visual reminder of our accomplishments.

I know when things get really crazy and I feel like life is getting out of control, one of the first things I do is sit down and make a list of everything I need to do.  Taking 10 minutes to write down everything I need to accomplish and then categorize those tasks helps calm my nerves.  I don’t have to worry that I’m forgetting something.  Instead, I can focus that energy completing tasks instead of stressing that I’m going to miss something.

There’s also something inherently satisfying about ticking off those boxes.

How to keep lists for photographers

What’s the best way to keep a list?

There’s no right way to keep a list.  The trick is finding a system that works for you.  I like to keep my lists in my paper monthly/weekly planner so everything is all together in one place.  My husband prefers the Sticky-Note method.  And other friends keep all their lists on their phones using an app like Google Keep or a desktop app like Trello.

Whatever your preferred method, just make sure to include enough information in your list item that you’ll know exactly what it is later on.  For example “Posing Book” probably isn’t going to be very helpful when I see the note in a few weeks.  Was it a book I wanted to read?  Gift someone?  Did I check it out and need to return it?

But if I give myself some more details, it helps remind me what I wanted to do.  If I wrote “Review The Photographer’s Guide to Posing by Adler for posing curvy women,” now I have enough information to remember what it was I wanted to accomplish.

10 lists for photographers

My List of Lists

So what kinds of lists are helpful for photographers?  Below are 10 lists for photographers, ranging from what-to-do to how-to-pose.  These are the lists that I refer to most often over the course of my day, weeks and months.  Some I look at every day, others I look at when I need an idea or want inspiration.  But all are helpful if you commit to adding to them regularly.

#1 Lists for Photographers – The Task List

Every business owner needs some kind of method of keeping track of ongoing tasks that need accomplishing.  We all have big and small tasks that need taken care of, like writing thank-you notes or renewing the lease on your studio.

A task list can help keep track of all of those things and give you an idea on what you need to do right at the moment.

I like to keep a running task list for everything I need to do.  I have one for each month.  I add things to it as they come up and cross off tasks when they are accomplished.  I use it to jot down things I know I need to do in the month while I think of them, even if they don’t need to be done right that minute.  This keeps me from losing track of something that needs doing down the road.  For example, I have “Schedule class pictures with Valley Christian” penciled into my February 2020 task list so I remember to check in with a client when that month rolls around.

In addition to my monthly task list, I have a workflow tracking sheet and a priorities list that I keep on my bulletin board.  The client workflow sheet helps me keep track of where I am with each client.  And I use the priorities list to write down the six most pressing things I have on my plate for the week.  That gives those items some immediacy and keeps them right in front of me while I’m editing or writing.

Again, there’s no best way.  But find a way that helps you keep track of your tasks, prioritize the most important items and is a system you can stick with.

Big Goals lists for photographers

#2 – 5 for 20 (AKA Big Goals)

If a task list for all those niggling little chores is a must for lists for photographers, so too should be a list of the big goals.

A task list helps keep you focused.  But big goals?  Big goals allow you to dream.  To grow.  To make long-term improvements to ourselves and our business.  Big goals also help keep our eye on the prize.  It can be tempting to get bogged down in minutiae…Big goals lists for photographers allow you to see beyond your today to an even more amazing tomorrow.

Big goals can focus on whatever you want…a certain income level, a percentage of growth, a major milestone, mastering a skill, etc.

I like to give myself five big goals to focus on each year.  This year, my list was called 5 before 2020.  Next year it will be 5 for 20.  Title it whatever you’d like.  Take some time, though, to imagine where you want your technique, business, and mindset to be next year at this time and give yourself some goals to get there.

Write your goals very narrowly.  I learned about SMART goals in FFA in 9th grade and I’ve been using that format ever since.  That means make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

For a great resource on SMART goals, see the video below!

#3 – Creative Challenges

Number 3 on my Lists for Photographers is creative challenges.  Sometimes I get in a photography rut and need some new ideas.  Other times, I find myself craving a challenge.  I’ve started creating a creative challenge list of new things I want to try.

These aren’t ideas for sessions or for clients.  But just cool techniques that I would like to learn how to do simply for me.

This is one item on my creative challenges list:

  • Bokeh wall. Use crumpled/smoothed aluminum foil as a background for a shoot.  Add color to the background with a colored gel on a flash.

#4 – Blog Post Ideas

We’re photographers, not writers.  So coming up with fun and engaging blog posts can hard.  Like ridiculously hard.  In fact, one of the most common complaints I hear from photographers in the Cole’s Classroom Facebook group is that they just don’t know what to write about.

Enter a list of possible blog post ideas.  These can be ideas that you have, some you’ve read somewhere or ones suggested by other photographers.

Here are a few to get you started:

  • If I could photograph anywhere in the world, where would I go?
  • 5 things your photographer wants you to know before a session
  • If my photographic style were a flavor of ice cream, it would be…
  • My favorite image I’ve taken this year

Need more blog ideas?  I’ve got a few dozen for you in this tutorial!

#5 – Gear/Supplies Wish List

Other women I know have a “dream kitchen.”  I have a “dream studio” where I have my ultimate lighting, setup and other equipment.  So I created a gear wish list to help me keep track of what items I want to, or need to, purchase.

I also use this as a resource during Christmas and birthdays for my family and friends.  If they want to get me sometime, I’ll give them a few ideas off my wish list to pick from.  My list also includes some classes I’d like to take when life slows down!

I also use my wish list to budget for the coming year.  If I know I need to replace a camera body or buy a new high dollar lens, I make sure I calculate that in my cost of doing business for the year, especially if it’s a major investment.

Book lists for photographers

#6 – Books to Read

I’m a book lover.  I read just for fun, but I also read to enhance my business skills, like marketing, advertising, SEO, etc.  You can learn so much for such a bargain price (especially if you check them out for free from a library!).

I like to keep a list of book recommendations on hand for when I need something to read.  That way, when I find myself in Barnes and Noble or our local library, I have titles ready and waiting to be checked out.

Here are my three favorite business-related books I’ve read in the last year:

  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (I loved the audiobook so much I bought the hard copy so I could re-read it.) It’s all about creativity and living your best creative life.  So good!
  • Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy. This book gives advice on overcoming procrastination and tackling your hardest, worst tasks first.  And you’ll be happy to know it works…this article was submitted for review 12 days before deadline.  Go me!
  • Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller. This was recommended to me by another photographer in a thread about marketing.  It’s helped me dial in my marketing techniques and connect more with my ideal clients.

Click here for some other great book recommendations by Cole’s Classroom mentor Kelly Acs.

#7 – Photographers to Follow/Learn from

I don’t follow a ton of other photographers on social media.  First, I think it makes the comparison game too easy.  Second, it becomes too easy to copy someone else instead of coming up with your own stuff. And finally, I want my feed to be full of the people I know and love and want to make connections with.

But there is value in seeing the work of others for inspiration and guidance.  So I jot down ideas of photographers to follow and every three or four months, I’ll add a few new ones to my social media accounts and unfollow others.

#8 – Business/Session Ideas

I use this as a catch-all list.  If it doesn’t fall into the other categories it goes on this list.  What is on my list?

  • Ideas for mini-sessions
  • Ideas for session locations
  • Posing ideas
  • Client gift ideas
  • Business ideas to consider
  • Educational resources to check out
  • Cool phrases I’ve heard or thought of
  • Courses I want to take

Obviously this page in my planner is a hot mess.  There’s no organization to it and no real rhyme or reason as to what I put on there.

Need help planning and executing mini-sessions?  Read this tutorial!

checklists for photographers

#9 – Location Idea Lists

No tutorial on lists for photographers would be complete without this!  If you don’t have a studio or just like to take clients outside for sessions, start keeping a location ideas list.  When you’re out running errands or enjoying time with your family and you see the perfect backdrop for a session…write it down!  You might not have a client that needs it yet, but you will someday.

This could include parks, bridges, gardens, cool walls or murals.  My list also includes places I could possibly rent for a few hours if I need an indoor location for minis or family sessions.  Church halls, meeting rooms, the fire hall, dance studios…when I need new ideas I have several ready to go!

#10 – Photography Bucket List

Okay, enough of that growth-oriented business stuff.  This one is just for fun.  Start a photography bucket list.  Ask yourself things like “If I could go anywhere in the world to take pictures, where would it be?” Or maybe “If I was granted my photography dream job, what would it be?”

Maybe you’ve always wanted to photograph the Northern Lights.  Maybe you’re like me and you want to photograph an NFL game.  Or maybe you want to take a course by accomplished photographers like Amy and Jordan.

Give voice to those dreams and write them down.  Actually, go one step further and describe them in detail or make an inspiration board or page featuring those bucket list ideas.

Why?  First, it’s inspiring.  Dreaming and scheming is just plain fun.  So many of us get into photography because it’s fun.  But then we turn it into a business and it ceases to be quite as entertaining.  It’s just…work.  So put the fun back into photography for yourself, if only in theory.

Second, writing these down makes them more attainable.  Committing it to words helps us start to achieve these things.

According to an article on Forbes.com by Mark Murphy, vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success.

“People who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people who don’t.”

So jot down those dream photoshoot destinations and ideas down on paper.  Refer to them.  Start figuring out how to make them a reality.

Crossing it off

Is there a crucial list you use that we’ve missed?  Drop it in the comments below.  Otherwise, consider adding one or more of these lists for photographers to your planning repertoire.  Use a planner or go digital…whatever suits your style.  But start keeping lists!  You’ll be amazed at how helpful they can be to jump start your artistic drive and to keep you organized!

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