Have a plan

#TravelTuesday comes again, which means I’m back! I’m Dave Williams and I’m here every Tuesday. For the past nine weeks or so I’ve lacked motivation. I’ve had to suspend projects and slow down a lot, and I’ve had to cancel trips. I’m busy writing a book and even that’s been hard to focus on because, for me, this whole pandemic has severely dented my creativity. In a twist, now that we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have plans to go north as soon as possible. It’s picked me up, and it’s meant I can make a plan.

“The plan” is exactly what I want to talk about today. “The plan” is the thing that motivates and inspires us to achieve big!

When I say “have a plan,” I mean a specific plan and an overarching “grand plan.” What I mean by this is we need to have targets, and we need to work out a way to achieve them. If we have a big target, the best way to get to that point is to break down the journey into smaller targets, so we have more successes along the way, and a shorter fall if we fail one small step versus falling the whole way to the starting point if we’d had one big goal alone. I’ve talked about that all before, so this time let’s go over how to have a plan for a small step and why it’s so important.

When we have a plan and we succeed at it, it gives us a huge psychological boost. The resulting confidence helps us to achieve the next goal, as part of the next plan. Look around at the photographers you follow and you’ll see that they all have a shot list—a plan—and this is their measure of whether they’ve succeeded or not. If Paul Nicklen, National Geographic and Sea Legacy photographer, wants to shoot leopard seals he plans meticulously. He scouts locations, checks weather forecasts and maritime forecasts, and he prepares his kit. Alongside this and many other things, he has a shot list. On this shot list, which may be quite minimal, there’ll be that one shot he wants to achieve from the project. The planning all amounts to one thing: getting the one shot. Secondary to that, there may be other locations or other shots, and together these make up the shot list. When it all comes together and the shots on the list are attained, the project is a success. Tertiary to the “one shot” and the rest of the list, any extras which become keepers, which we may call “lucky shots” in our business, are a bonus. It’s a kind of “above and beyond” scenario if this happens, but the goal is the goal, and combining all these projects together pushes us along on our master plan.


Paul Nicklen, Scott Kelby, and all the other successful, working photographers out there today follow these principles, albeit through slightly different iterations. There’s a master plan, then there are all the little plans, and in the little plans, there’s a shot list. Success with a shot list means success with the plan, and success with the plan means success with the master plan.

As life goes back to normal and your camera sees more action again, make a plan and make a shot list. Trust me, having small, simple goals—like which mountain you want to shoot at sunrise, or which setting you want to shoot a family member’s portrait in—will help pick everything back up again and the success will push you to work harder and achieve more, and lead, in turn, to the next goal, and the next, and the next. As the sights close in on the success of the master plan, move the goalposts and aim higher.

Much love

Leave a Reply
Previous Post

Why Most Photography Gear Reviews Stink (and 7 Things They Could Do That Would Actually Help)

Next Post

Guest Blog: Celebrity/Beauty Photographer, Matthew Jordan Smith