After all of the general maint. is done on the gear, I will meditate for about 15 minutes. After that, I just try to go over ideas in my head for awhile. I try to arrive at the shooting location about 30 min before the client and go over lighting, angles, scenery, etc.
Presentation is everything. I try to keep from having too much noise in the background, and lighting is very important.
I think it depends on what you are going to be shooting. Obviously, if you are doing a studio shoot, besides making sure your equipment is in working order and checking your camera's setting and adjusting the lighting, if you are shooting portraits I like to take some time to get to know the subject to get a better feel for what he or she is looking for in the shoot. I think this also helps to make the client more relaxed in front of the camera. For events like weddings and the like, you need to take even more time with the couple, making sure you understand their vision and making sure they understand yours as well. I like to run through my ideas with them because this usually helps them express their ideas back to you.
Always I am ready!
With weddings, I usually begin my preparation a week prior to the event. I meet with my brides and grooms, and just go over the day, in regards to times, places, and collect any additional information, such as any special images the couple would like. The night before the wedding I clean lens's, make sure all batteries etc. are charged and ready. Back up equipment is checked and double checked. Got extra batteries? Naturally... All equipment is kept in one location, (a Tenba backpack, w/wheels), so all necessary equipment is ready at a seconds notice.
I try not to prepare too much. I get my gear organised, give the models the same speech everytime, then just get into it! I want shoots to be relaxed, fun. My clients are used to my style and seem to be happy with it, they like the results, so it must be working ok.
I think it is very important to have a visualization in your head of what you would like to accomplish in a shoot. But you must be flexible enough to completely discard that idea, and start fresh if the situation demands.
Clean lenses, charge batteries, reformat memory cards.
The most important preparation that I can do before a photo session, is to meet and get to know the people I'll be photographing, and their families.
This is usually quite detailed from planning the location, the lighting, equipment needed etc. I also usually sketch what I see the end photos looking like and do a lighting set up diagram - although these very often change during the shoot
Research. I look at design and creative briefs and evaluate the needs and problems of the client.
Consultation session to get to know the client. Extensive thought re: a creative capture.
I do not do any prep work other than to make sure I have all the equipment I need for the shoot, from 3 cameras, film, lenses, etc.
that depends on what I'm photographing. For portraits and pets, I create a small set, with background and lights. For aerial photo work I research the location, terrain, sun position, and things like that.
I also get my cameras ready, of course.