Job Sheets and Call Sheets, the Photographer’s Flexible Friends

Job sheets
Detail shot from a job sheet. Exciting stuff.

I’ve worked on film sets a few times, and was always impressed at the scale of organisation involved, even if it appeared at times that things were merely organised chaos. One thing that I always liked was “Call Sheets”. These were produced daily, usually at about 4 ish, and were printed out by the production department, then handed out to every member of the crew. They would contain a run-down of the next day’s shooting schedule, and would list locations, timings, personnel (along with their contact details), and pertinent information for the day ahead. Despite not operating with a crew anything like the size of most film sets, I’ve taken this habit to heart, and produce my own “job sheets” for most shoots I go out on.

The advantage of creating sheets like this is that it keeps all the relevant information together in the same place, so I’m no longer rummaging around for the phone number that I wrote down at the back of my diary, or trying to download a google map of something whilst driving down the M4. In many ways they’re simply an extension of the general principle of “pre-production” and help encourage me to bring together all the relevant elements before the job starts.

What to put on a job sheet should be fairly obvious, and of course, it’s entirely up to you what you use them for, I won’t be coming round and marking your efforts, but here’s a few suggestions:

  • Dates and Times
  • Names and contact details of everyone involved, such as: assistants, work experience monkeys, clients, subjects, models, Make-Artists, Stylists, Location Contacts, Managers/Agents, Art Directors, Animal Handlers, Subjects and so on.
  • Addresses, including Postcodes, and useful things like opening times and parking details.  I’ll also include my directions, which I’ll have gleaned from google maps.  Satnav is all very clever, but I find 10 minutes before hand looking at the route and scanning streetview to be invaluable.
  • A “loadout” list of equipment I’m packing
  • Booking references/Entry Codes for doors/Security Information
  • Flight details
  • Maps
  • The Full Brief from the client
  • Any notes of your own that you’ve made
  • Frankly, any information that you might need on the day.

I usually print the event page from my google calendar, as that way it’s tied in to an existing “event”, and I’m not duplicating information over and over again. Pretty much every calendar program lets you print out stuff like this, I won’t go into the minutiae of how to do it from each program, life is too short!

Job sheets
Use job sheets to keep all the information about a shoot in one place

I use job sheets on pretty much every job, and have found them invaluable for years. There’s nothing to stop you using them outside the commercial world as well, and I’d be the first to suggest that it’s a good habit to get into even whilst shooting college work or tests. You may want to mimic the way that production departments work on film sets, and distribute copies to all the personnel involved on the shoot. I’ve worked for a few clients in my time who do this as a matter of course, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

Now, I’m well aware that most people these days have phones that can function as calendars, can receive emails and so on, but without sounding like a complete technophobe, anything electronic always has the inherent problem of requiring batteries to run on. Plus, any calendar that synchronises with an online one requires a signal to update itself, and working on location as I usually do, such things can’t be relied upon. Sod’s law says that the moment you need the contact details of someone to get past a security guard somewhere, will be the same moment you’re in the shadow of a huge mountain, and can’t get any sort of signal. I also find that pens write much faster on paper than on LCD screens, and there’s usually much more space on a piece of A4 to scribble notes down on than the inch or so square of a phone’s screen, or the back of your hand for that matter.

Not the most exciting post in the history of photography, but dead handy all the same.

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