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The Shot Composition Check List

February 8, 2010

Elizabeth Etienne Photography:

My assistants always bring a copy of my “Shoot Composition Check List”. This is a composition reminder list. My assistants or production manager keep a copy of this list in their photo vests. We also have one taped to the inside of the camera bag as a reminder. The list reminds me to shoot a variety of compositional versions of the same image set up. This will include: horizontal and vertical images, color and black and white images, center balanced and off balanced image compositions, and creative and traditional compositions. In my early days of shooting I was so eager to shoot my trademark, creative images I would forget completely about the simple, clean images of the couple looking INTO the camera smiling. These are the ones their parents usually order and frame.  Now my crew or production manager reminds me to make sure we shoot those “traditional” images first and then the creative ones second.

Obviously shooting the creative images is more fun. I like to do things like shoot the same shot but have the couple looking off camera instead of looking into the lens for a few frames. I might also shift the focus from their faces to an object like an iron gate or tree branch for variety. Having a wide variety of images assures me I’ll have the image the client might wants for a particular frame dimension or a magazine or stock agency might want for a particular layout.  I also try to remember to shoot some frames of balance leaving room for potential text for magazines or ad layouts. In the back of my mind I’m always thinking about how my images might be recycled beyond the present photo shoot. This is imperative to residual income sales. There is nothing worse than a stock agency loving and image and then asking if you have a vertical, left or right balanced or black and white version and you don’t.



  • Color images
  • Black & White images
  • Vertical images
  • Horizontal images
  • Individual portraits: creative and traditional
  • Couple portraits: creative and traditional
  • Fun/happy images
  • Serious/intimate images
  • Close-up – couple and individual portraits
  • Mid-length – couple and individual portraits
  • Far away – couple and individual portraits
  • Detail shots including location details to tell the story – might include body parts (hands, feet, eyes, toes, lips, etc.)
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