Summary of the Complete
52 Categories of a Shot List
for Non-iOS Users
As promised, here is a compilation of all 52 categories of a shot list as found in the My Shot Lists for Travel app. I hope you’ll use this information as the basis for creating and customizing your own shot lists.
What other categories can you think of?
An abstract image, the subject of which may be by definition unrecognizable, can still allude to something unique about the place you’re shooting.
Take advantage of opportunities to show a destination from above, for instance, while sitting in your airplane seat or enjoying a balloon ride.
Images that exhibit agricultural scenes can provide partial insight into what the local economy is based on.
If the place you’re shooting has a distinctive style of construction or building material, be sure to highlight that fact with your photography.
A culture’s style of artwork, whether enduring or temporary, will often be unique to the place. Capturing the locals engaged in its creation will be a bonus.
Getting in close on a particular subject is frequently a perspective few make an effort to represent.
Vibrant colors can provide impact to an image, and may even have their own exclusive association to a place, so be on the lookout for those opportunities.
Be cognizant of marked visual differences between modern and ancient, natural and man-made, and other examples that represent opposing ends of the cultural spectrum.
Culture & Customs
Be on the lookout for distinctive habits or behaviors, and the instruments, if any, used in their practice.
Look deeply into the scene to capture the parts that make up the whole. Detail shots are often the difference between a good set of images and a great one.
Give your viewers a real sense of the place you’re photographing by providing a wide, overall perspective.
Show the locals involved in seemingly mundane and ordinary activities, just doing what they do on a regular basis.
Fashion & Style
The manner in which its citizens dress, whether in traditional outfits, uniforms, hats or other articles of clothing, can provide a look into what’s important to, or typical of, a culture.
Time and again, national pride is expressed by the simple display of a country’s flag. Look for city, state and regional examples, as well.
If there’s a particular tree, flower or other plant that’s found only at or near your destination, you’ll undoubtedly want to represent it on your shot list.
From the Water
Venture out to the local river, lake, glacier lagoon or other body of water to capture a destination from what’s likely to be a non-traditional angle.
Many regions of the world are renowned for a special food, spice or style of cooking that is distinguishing; seize any opportunity to portray this.
Capture your destination in the soft, warm glow of the golden hour, that time of day on the fringes of sunrise and sunset.
Whether ancient or recent, historical settings can be perfect opportunities to transport the viewers of your imagery to another place and time.
A community’s traditions for celebrating the holidays can vary from place to place and will often provide valuable insight into their way of life.
Be prepared when funny or spontaneous circumstances present themselves. This is one category that typically can’t be predicted or planned for, but when you see it, you’ll know it!
Look to portray subjects that are universally associated with, or otherwise characteristic of, the place you’re capturing.
If the place you’re shooting has a particular industry it’s commonly identified with, seek it out.
Try not to get caught up in just showing the exteriors of the local buildings and architecture—bring your viewers inside.
Most locations have at least one prominent structure or geographic feature they’re immediately identified with, so these should be high on your shot list.
Although this genre of photography is a discipline all to itself, be prepared to capture the expansive scenes that set a destination apart.
Look for opportunities to show the local language or languages being used in your destination.
The ingenuity of humans is remarkable, so when you stumble upon an example of how engineering has overcome the seemingly impossible, illustrate that.
Seek opportunities to document the action and myriad people at the local market, as well as the colorful and often exotic displays you’re sure to encounter.
Be aware of situations to slow down your shutter speed in order to show motion, especially if your subject could be considered a local icon.
Depicting street musicians playing traditional and other instruments can be a great way to provide the spirit of a place for your viewer.
Visiting a national park, or the location of virtually any geologic wonder, will most certainly provide countless opportunities to capture the place at its finest.
Exploring where the locals reside will surely provide a window into the world of how a particular culture lives and what’s important to its people.
Capturing a city or other location after dark will give your viewers a completely unique sense of the place.
Although they take a bit of practice to get right, if your subject warrants, make an effort to capture it in either a landscape or a portrait panorama.
The citizens are going to be the heart and soul of a place and its culture. The great majority of destinations warrant extra effort in this category.
Capture scenes of leisure activities to show what keeps the people engaged in their free time.
Highlighting places of worship, and the details that make them up, often reveals how a particular religion shows respect and reverence for its ancestors.
If time permits, be sure to explore a place as it changes with the seasons throughout the year.
We often forget to make pictures of ourselves, so capture a self-portrait now and then, especially in iconic situations or with prominent landmarks as a backdrop.
Admiring colorful and interesting displays is another form of recreation for those interested in retail therapy, or just gathering items for everyday existence.
Look to capture local signs in shops and stores, but also consider photographing signs that tell of the destination you’re shooting.
Often referred to as the signature of a city, special effort should be made to gain a vantage point from which to capture even a part of a location’s skyline effectively.
Souvenirs and Crafts
Images of objects created by the local artisans will often be easier to bring home than the actual items themselves.
A particular sport or activity that’s closely identified with a place or region of the world deserves special attention. Be on the lookout for people engaged in that activity, too.
Not every shot needs to be a masterpiece, but often a scene will deserve being photographed simply because of the back-story you’ll be able to tell about it.
Be alert to photo opportunities that depict a typical moment in time on the streets of a place.
Whether it’s doors or crosses, or people doing certain things—whatever it is that interests you—look to create a series of images representing a particular subject matter or idea.
Some cultures have particular customs or rituals that may seem out of the ordinary to foreigners, so be sure to demonstrate this with your photography.
Distinctive ways that people move from place to place—whether by man-made contraptions, beasts of burden or other means—should be a part of your portfolio.
The reality of most places is that there’s a dark underbelly, and as disturbing or provocative as it may be, a complete cultural portrait should reveal that side, as well.
Animals exhibiting special behaviors—often found only in a particular location or region—will help you to tell the story of what was unique and compelling about that place.
So there you have it, all 52 categories in one place, complete with descriptions and sample images, direct from the My Shot Lists for Travel app. If you’re looking to create a more well-rounded set of images that will allow you to tell the story of any destination, working from a highly-crafted shot list is the best place to start.
Feel free to use this information to create your own shot lists, and you can do this by making a spreadsheet, using a generic Notes app on your smartphone, or simply going old school and using pen and paper.
Now get out and shoot!
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON USING A SHOT LIST
Essence of a Place: A Travel Photographer’s Guide to
Using a Shot List for Capturing Any Destination
ABOUT MY SHOT LISTS FOR TRAVEL APP CREATOR RALPH VELASCO
Ralph Velasco is a Southern California-based travel photography instructor, author and international guide who has led tours to Cambodia, Egypt, Morocco, Iceland, Central Europe, Spain, Mexico’s Copper Canyon, Chicago and other locations in the United States. He’s also participated in more than a dozen Humanitarian and People-to-People Exchange programs in Cuba and he was recently selected one of the Top 100 Travel Photographers in the World for 2014.
Ralph is an award-winning travel blogger and founder of PhotoEnrichment Programs, Inc., and he’s the creator of the My Shot Lists for Travel app for iPhone, an organizational and tracking tool designed to help travelers of all photography skill levels to bring home a more well-rounded set of images of any destination or subject, which is now FREE on iTunes.