When I learned to produce videos and films I did a ton of prep work, still do actually. In fact I'd say have my job if not more is spent in pre-production. I make binders to keep everything organized undertabs, I utilize a ton of forms (some computerized, some not) ranging from storyboards, to continuity sheet, to call sheets, shooting scripts, shot lists, contact sheets, budgeting, and on and on.
When I first started doing shoots I didn't do anything, I mean it was just a photoshoot right? I learned quickly that that didn't work for me. I mean if it's just me and a model and I'm running down to the beach to take a few shots, yea, I don't do anything. But if it's an actual production... Then yes, I plan..
What do I do? Well first I secure the location or build a set. If securing the location, I scout locations take pictures and take notes, find out who owns it and get a location release if necessary. If building a set I first design it on paper and list everything I think I will need to do that. I then draw out one or two lighting diagrams to give me an idea of where I want to start. I also use this to write down actual lighting conditions on set. I sometimes use video so I keep a video production shot list of things I want to get (for example I'm building a set in my home studio today for a shoot on monday - I am going to experiment with taping the construction using time lapse - stuff like that).
I then create a few storyboards. I'm no artist and often use stick figures or other poorly drawn examples, but they are ok enough for me to know what I want and to communicate it to others. I also have a shot list for photos. This is short, it's tied to the story boards (or can just be the storyboards) and is not a list of every shot I will do but will just serve as a reminder that there were say four to six shots I wanted to get.
If the shoot will take place over mulitple days, I use a continuity log so that everything matches up in post.
It sounds like I do a lot but really I don't. It's just my way of keeping organized. I usually bring in a makeup artist and an assistant, but I'm usually acting as photographer, propmaster, gaffer, locations cooridinator, craft services, stylist and sometimes videographer. It's hard for me to keep it all straight in my head.
Also, for me this level of planning actually enables me to be free to experiment and try new things, because I know exactly what needs to be done and I'm not worried about what I'm forgetting. I helps me not to feel rushed and I can do what I need to .
Now, to build a magical amazon river in my house....