Night Falls

The Mental Checklist to Make Better Photographs (Podcast 498)

About two years ago I wrote an article for Craft & Vision's PHOTOGRAPH magazine called The Mental Checklist. I've discussed this in parts in the podcast both before and since that article, but today I thought I'd wrap my ideas surrounding this into a fresh episode. [smart_track_player url="" src="" class="mbp-ignore"> It's...

Thank you for visiting!

Martin Bailey has been releasing weekly podcasts and blog posts since 2005! Almost all of the 760+ posts here contain a full text article with photographs and illustations, and take at least one day, sometimes three to four days to produce.

You are welcome to listen to the Podcast with the audio player and follow along with the images discussed below.

If you value what we do, please consider a Patreon contribution of $3 or more to unlock the full text of more than 760 posts and gain access to the exclusive MBP Community. There are also higher tiers with various benefits, some including one-to-one Mentorship.

Please visit our Patreon site for full details, and take your photography to a whole new level! Become a Patron!
Existing Patrons please login to access posts and benefits. Thanks for being awesome!

Image Gallery

If no images are displayed here, please refresh your browser.

To view this content, you must be a member of Martin's Patreon at $3 or more
Unlock with Patreon
Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • charlesjaggers
    Posted at 16:09h, 24 November Reply

    Your invitation to communicate my blog: Mine is Your Podcast (which I read, not listen to) features often as an authority (always with credit given). My checklist for shooting and composition that I somewhat stumbled upon during blogging is I.S.F.A.T , five finger points of Light,Time,Line,Optics and Review, outlined in Week Nos. 72,75 and 76. I really appreciate your podcasts and this one will be included in a future blog post in my “Notes”.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 16:28h, 24 November Reply

      Nicely done Charles, and thanks for the mentions.

      It’s fun how you start your list with ISO, whereas I set it last. 🙂

      Great system that you’ve devised though.

      Thanks for sharing and continues good luck with your blog!

      • charlesjaggers
        Posted at 18:33h, 24 November Reply

        I am very impressed you actually read it. You entered my blog in Pro Tip No.2 in Week No. 6 with rear button focus in By Pro tip No. 3 Week No.9 where Thom Hogan analyses Reuters’ photographers I first set out the Pro way of Manual shooting of ratcheting up the ISO in single stops for selected S & A you include in your latest Podcast. I am your audience; my original audience was moving from compact cameras to understand what happens when they pressed the green button. Who knows where photographically speaking my world wide audience come from to-day. However for new DSLR users, Manual would be a big step. Starting in film days of choosing ISO first is no longer fixed, it is intended in ISFAT they can catch up to your process at the “T” fine tune step where everything can change – after everything has been thought about. I personally find it liberating but you see from my Preferred Pre-settings I don’t use Manual very often, I like modern DSLRs and how they work ( I have Nikon D700 & D300s). I use them thoroughly reinforced from your blogs with things such as snow monkeys running towards you. You are my example of the camera craft I describe using Nikon works for Canon too.

        No reply needed!

        • Martin Bailey
          Posted at 18:49h, 24 November Reply

          It’s heavy going, for sure, but well thought out content Charles.

  • Mark Harris
    Posted at 04:16h, 25 November Reply

    My blog is:

    It is as much random thoughts on my process and results as a chance to talk about my experiences in photography.

    I look forward to what you might have in store for episode 500!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:38h, 25 November Reply

      Great blog Mark. Congratulations winning the workshops. That must be really moving your photography forward.

      It’s also fun that you show a photo of blossom with the header “Summer is Here!”. Blossom here in Japan signifies spring, not summer. It’s cool how these things change from country to country, or person to person.

      • Mark Harris
        Posted at 11:18h, 25 November Reply

        Thank you for the kind words, Martin. Your Blogcast is a must listen each week.

        The blossoms were actually photographed in the spring but prints were shown at a summer art festival in my area. I have photographed these particular trees many times but this was the first year with the new optics. They made quite a difference.

        I copied the checklist to my iPad mini so it is available all the time. I have never formalized mine but do have a mental list I always try to follow.

        • Martin Bailey
          Posted at 11:37h, 25 November Reply

          Aah, I see. Re: blossoms. It’s a beautiful photo.

          Yes, optics can make the world of difference. In the film days, we bought cheap lenses and didn’t really question how good they were, because the film didn’t enable us to see any real difference unless the image was blown up really big. Then digital came along and all of a sudden we all need L lenses, or their equivalent. 🙂

          I hope the checklist helps. It’s really only meant as a starting point though. Change it around or add and remove lines as necessary.

          Good luck Mark!

  • Shane Baker
    Posted at 08:08h, 25 November Reply

    Hi Martin. Another great podcast! I couldn’t agree more about the value of writing things down. I’ve been dabbling in photography for a long time, but while living in Canberra, I started running an evening class in photography. Preparing for a two hour class REALLY makes you think about what you know – and think!

    Along those lines, I also blog (rather erratically) under the title of Miscellaneous Thoughts of a Photographer:

    All the best

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:43h, 25 November Reply

      Thanks for listening Shane.

      That’s exactly what I mean. They often say, if you really want to understand something, teach it! It forces us to really think stuff through. Writing about your photography is the next best thing.

      Your last post touches on what I was saying about having the confidence to stop shooting too. Sometimes we already have the image, and just continue to shoot as “insurance” or simply because we aren’t confident that we have an image. Of course, you need to develop the ability to know that you’ve bagged it. Joe McNally knew that he hadn’t yet really nailed it with the Linus Pauling shoot that you recount. In a commercial photography shoot that must be really frustrating, but staying open to all opportunities, even as you walk out the door, is also necessary. Good story Shane.


  • Brendan GrimesB
    Posted at 04:08h, 01 December Reply

    I discovered that using the 2 second delay is no guarantee of avoiding camera shake. Try taking 10 shoots using the 2 sec. delay and I bet you’ll find one or two are blurred. Maybe the 10 sec. delay would be more reliable but I haven’t tried that; I simply use a cable release. Thank you for your posts; they are welcome gifts to fellow photographers.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 12:06h, 01 December Reply

      You’re very welcome, for the podcasts, Brendan. Thanks for commenting!

      On the 2 second delay not being effective though, with all due respect, I would tend to disagree. If you are getting blurred images with the 2 second delay, there are other aspects coming into play. For example, your tripod might not be stable enough, and therefore not settling before the shutter is released. If you have a rock solid tripod and head, it could be wind. There are lots of things that could cause the blur, but unless you are giving your camera a knock as you start the timer, 2 seconds should be plenty of time. I have been using the 2 second timer successfully for many years, and never had a problem that could not be accounted for.

  • Boyd Turner
    Posted at 03:39h, 09 December Reply

    Hello Martin- You asked for links to blogs. My wife and I use our website and blog to share our photography and travel stories with our friends and family. The unexpected part of this has been the way it forces us to think about how our images work together with each other or with words. Also, the level of thought we give to each new post/set of photos helps to keep pushing us forward with our photography and story-telling. At least we think so. Right now we are experimenting with a combination of a trip log and our photography. Again, to tell the story of a trip, but also, to help us remember some of the small moments.
    Love what you do here on the blogcast. Hope some day to be fortunate enough to attend one of your workshops.
    Here’s the link:

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 17:00h, 22 December Reply

      Thanks for sharing your blog link Boyd! Beautiful photography, and it’s great that you are finding these benefits from sharing your work with the text. This is really a big part of what I’ve experienced.

      Thanks for following my antics via the blog too. It would be great to see you on a workshop at some point too.

      Happy Holidays!

  • Mary
    Posted at 05:30h, 15 December Reply

    Just catching up with the past few weeks. Greatly enjoyed this episode! Definitely several things I’ll start to implement. Thank you for sharing.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 17:02h, 22 December Reply

      I’m pleased you enjoyed this episode Mary. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Great blog too!

      Happy Holidays!

  • Ruth Happel
    Posted at 02:11h, 15 January Reply

    Hi Martin,

    I’m way behind in listening to your podcasts as you may have guessed, but especially enjoyed this podcast since it was a thorough discussion of really focusing on the how and why of photography. I try to be this conscious and purposeful when I take photos, but I like your idea of having a mental checklist and really making an effort to consider and revise it.

    I’ve enjoyed your podcasts over the years, and also actually first learned of you hearing you quite a while back as a guest on TWIP, where you always add helpful insights to the discussions.

    I hope one of these years I can join you on a photo tour. Many years ago I led nature tours and field classes and understand the level of preparation required, so am impressed when you consistently provide such fascinating tours with a high level of photography captured.

    Since you asked, here is a link to my website. It has been evolving in various permutations almost 20 years and currently is mainly a blog though I hope to expand that out in future. I have discovered the world of Instagram last spring and that is where my effort is going, I basically am just posting my IG posts to my blog. Anyway, my IG name is wildportraits, and unsurprisingly my website is

    Keep up your great work, and I will be listening to your podcast and looking at your website for inspiration.



    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 14:58h, 24 January Reply

      Hi Ruth,

      I’m pleased you enjoyed this post and my proposition of the Mental Checklist.

      Thanks for listening to the podcast too.

      You’re website looks great. Thanks for sharing a link.

      BTW, when I use the link you provided with the www appended, many of the font based graphics, like the pencils are not displayed. You probably have your web site set up as so unless you can get these icons to display under both www and none-www urls, you might want to set up a page forward or other method in your web site settings to send everyone to the non-www url on arrival. This would prevent people from seeing all the broken font icons.


Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.