How to Create Your Own SOP Document

How To 10 min
Follow these simple steps to author any standard operating procedure or SOP document.

Check with your unit to ensure there are no further local policies or guidelines for this task.

The purpose of an SOP is to provide the instructions that lay out the approved repeatable process used to complete a complex recurring task.

PAVILION provides an SOP template designed to allow you to easily develop your own SOP for whatever your particular need may be. The template is designed for Visual Information Managers and based on the curriculum of the DINFOS Visual Information Managers' course, but the concepts are generic enough that anyone who needs to author a standard operating procedure will find it useful. You can use this template or start a document from scratch if you prefer.

The below steps guide you through creating your own SOP document and reference a completed sample SOP for a PA/VI self-help program. You can download the referenced Standard Operating Procedure Sample PDF if you would like to see it in its entirety.

Download SOP Sample  

Symbol of an “i” within a black circle representing a note of additional information. NOTE: The sample content is for demonstration purposes only, and may contain references to outdated policies or information.

Before you begin writing, you need to truly understand what you want to accomplish and how to accomplish it. Gather the resources and people you need and ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the SOP's objective?
  • What is the commander’s guidance about the SOP and its product?
  • With what existing documents, resources, organizations or partners must the SOP align (regulations, policies, equipment, doctrinal or training literature, etc.)?
  • Who will read the SOP, and who will use the procedure?
  • What should the SOP's users be able to do?
  • What background knowledge do SOP users have?
  • What information must be gathered and from what sources, in order to develop the procedure thoroughly and accurately?
  • Whose assistance and what additional resources will be needed to complete the SOP?
  • By what methodology should the procedure be developed?
  • How should the SOP be vetted?
  • Who must agree on the procedure?
  • Who will sign to approve the SOP?

When you are ready to start documenting your SOP, keep these general writing concepts in mind:

  • SOPs describe internal unit procedures. Do not create procedures that require coordination with outside agencies and other parties, unless existing regulatory procedures fail to address the situation.
  • Assume your readers are short on time and write accordingly.
  • Do not paraphrase or mirror regulatory procedures; simply cite them.
  • Write clearly and concisely. Avoid vague language, unnecessary repetition, passive sentences and overly fancy, fluffy or bureaucratic language.

It's time to start writing your document. You want to make it clear and easy for readers to identify what your SOP is meant to cover when they reference it. Give your document a header that will appear at the top of every page and includes your unit's symbol and name.

Next, give your SOP a title at the top of the first page. Make the title clear and to the point and include a version number, especially if this is a change to an existing SOP.


Standard Operating Procedure
VIM Training Base - PA/VI Self-Help Program (Equipment Checkout)-1.0

Additional information to include at the top of the first page:

  • The date the SOP was issued.
  • The date revisions were made (if applicable).
  • The name of the person that prepared the document (presumably your name).
  • The name of the person that approved the SOP.

The actual dates of issue and/or revision as well as the name of the approver will be added after the SOP is completed. Be sure to add places for this information now, so they can be filled in at the end.

Add a Purpose/Summary Statement to your SOP, which is a detailed description of what objective your SOP should accomplish and a summary of how it can be accomplished. The objective is the optimal product expected through utilizing the procedure. Do not enter procedural steps here - that comes later.


This standard operating procedure (SOP) provides instructions for the management of the self-help program for the Visual Information shop at VIM Training Base, MD.

This document focuses on the procedures for VI equipment checkout and return for VIM Training Base personnel attached to official units on post as well as the return of official VI for processing.

This document provides guidance on what VI equipment is available for checkout, reservation procedures for VI equipment (to include hand receipts), use of VI equipment, return of VI equipment and the return of VI assets to the VI shop for processing and accessioning.

VI equipment checkout and use must be for official VIM Training Base activities ONLY. Use of VIM Training Base VI equipment for activities that are not official VIM Base activities are UNAUTHORIZED.

It is DoD policy that VI equipment and products be managed in accordance with procedures outlined in the references for this SOP.

Detail your SOP's Scope/Audience. This should describe the individuals for whom the SOP is written, why they need to understand it and under what circumstances they will be affected. Note how the sample content utilizes an asterisk to indicate additional information is found in the Materials/Reference section of the document. This tactic can be used anywhere in your SOP to provide further clarification as needed.


This SOP is written specifically for VI managers and those within the PA/VI Shop at VIM Training Base, MD who are responsible for officiating the checkout and return of VI equipment. It is also written for VIM Training Base personnel that wish to checkout and use VI equipment and create VI products*.

VIM Training Base PA/VI Shop personnel should read the entire SOP and be familiar with all aspects of the document.

VI managers are responsible for understanding and ensuring that anyone under their supervision understands and fulfills their assigned responsibilities.

SOPs must be understood by everyone, and all those identified as part of the SOP must be aware of their responsibilities. Add a Roles & Responsibilities section to your SOP that contains an overview or summary of the responsibilities as well as specific responsibilities for the individual positions involved. This should be a drill down from high-level shop responsibilities to individual personnel responsibilities.

The template uses a two-section approach, where the overview is contained in an initial text block and then a table is used to capture the individual roles and responsibilities per position. Remember to include everyone involved.


It is the responsibility of the entire PA/VI shop staff to ensure that VI equipment is in good working order and is ops-checked prior to checkout and upon return. It is also the responsibility of the entire PA/VI shop staff to ensure collected VI is archived and managed in accordance with DoDI 5040.02, the VI Style Guide and Visual Information Records Schedule. These include but are not limited to ethical guidelines, naming conventions, metadata standards and standards for local archive management.




The PAO is responsible for ensuring the proper release of VI products. Dependent on the subject, the PAO may need to reach out to SMEs in relation to the official activity that was documented for release. VI is subject to the same safeguards and release requirements as other materials intended for release to the press, public or individuals. For policies governing release of material outside the DoD, see DoDD 5230.09, DoDI 5040.07.


VI Manager
(PAOs, senior NCOs, CIV)


The VI manager is responsible for implementing and maintaining the VI self-help program. They manage multiple programs and associated processes simultaneously. The VI manager will typically have the authority to delegate responsibility of some programs or processes associated with the VI self-help program. For example: the VI manager can delegate equipment management responsibilities for VI equipment to their NCO(s), or the content management responsibilities for returned VI products to their junior enlisted. The VI manager is ultimately responsible for the VI self-help program, but they rely on all of their assigned personnel to effectively implement and adhere to it.

The hands-on task of creating the procedure itself is where most of the SOP work lies. This is where you establish an optimal process for achieving the objective, and normally involves research, collaboration, testing and synthesis.

Assuming all of that is complete, now is the time to document the results of that hard work in the Procedure section of your SOP.

As you write your procedure, remember that a good SOP should:

  • Include tried and true methods developed from experience.
  • Complement doctrinal procedures with techniques not necessarily mandated by Service policy or suggested in field publications.
  • Provide the user with good information they can use to accomplish the mission more efficiently.
  • Be simple to follow and tailored to the unit's specific mission, equipment and personnel.

Write out the procedure in a step-by-step format. Be sure to use a hierarchical outline style that is easy to follow. Call out the specific duties of all required roles and personnel. Define levels of leadership and ensure accountability throughout.


Content Creators

  1. Hours for Checkout/Return
    1. The PA/VI office is open for equipment checkout/reservations/returns from 0800-1600 Tuesdays and Thursdays.
    2. You may also make equipment reservations by calling the PA/VI shop at 301-123-4567, M-F between the hours of 0800-1600.
    3. Equipment is available to you for two weeks following checkout. You must return the equipment on your assigned date of return.
    4. Visit for a list of equipment available for checkout.
  2. Equipment Checkout
    1. You must sign a hand receipt upon checkout of VI equipment.
      1. Once signed, you are responsible for the VI equipment that you have signed out.
      2. If the equipment is damaged or lost while in your care, please contact the PA/VI shop as soon as possible for further instructions.
    2. When signing out equipment, you may have the staff demo/ops-check the equipment in your presence.
  3. Equipment Return
    1. Equipment must be returned within two weeks of checkout, by the agreed upon date during checkout.
    2. Equipment will be assessed and ops-checked upon return by a member of the PA/VI staff.
  4. Imagery Return
    1. Imagery Shot
      1. You must return the VI you captured to the PA/VI shop for proper accessioning.
    2. Captions
      1. You must return associated caption information along with the VI to the PA/VI shop. This can be in the form of a document. Captions can be generalized for the purpose of the activity that you captured. Captions should include the 5 W’s - Who, What, When, Where and Why. For instructions on how to properly caption an image, refer to the VISG, Chapters 3-5.
      2. If you have an assigned Vision ID, provide that along with the caption to the PA/VI staff upon return of VI and equipment.

Add an optional Considerations/Background section to hold any considerations for the SOP that haven't been accounted for, or assumptions that may have been made in the creation of the SOP. You may want to include the background that led to the development of the SOP. You can leave this out if nothing in this regard is needed for your particular SOP. If you are using the SOP template and don't need the Considerations/Background section, delete it completely.


  1. Ethical Considerations
    1. All VI products created for public release will adhere to the DoD’s VI policy for ethical enhancements: DoDI 5040.02, Enclosure 10 and VISG Chapter 8.
    2. All ethical edits and enhancements will be properly disclosed in the VI caption and metadata IAW VISG and 5040.02.
    3. From DoDI 5040.02:
      1. Official DoD imagery shall not be altered to misinform or deceive. Anything that weakens or casts doubt on the credibility of official DoD imagery in or outside the DoD shall not be tolerated. Alteration of official DoD imagery is prohibited with exception for corrections, modifications and enhancements as specified.
    4. If, upon reviewing, content managers find evidence of ethical violations (or of anything else they find concerning) they will report it directly to the VI manager for review.

The final section of your SOP should be for Materials/References. Enter anything here that you have referenced in your SOP document or materials that may be needed in order for a user to complete the procedure. This section should contain any references to official regulations or policies, additional user guides or manuals that may be required, materials that may need to be obtained, etc.

Note how the asterisk is used in the sample SOP to add clarification to something found in the Scope/Audience section.


“DoDI 5040.07, Visual Information Productions.” Washington Headquarters Services. Retrieved April 20, 2021. Website:

*VI products - refers to any imagery (to include photos and video), audio, graphics or other multimedia products created in whole or in part using VI equipment. VI products also refers to any of the aforementioned products that were created on personal equipment if done so in the documentation of official VIM Training Base activities.

Congratulations, you have completed your SOP. Now you just need to get it approved.

The final steps are filling in the Approved by and Issue Date fields on the first page of the document and distributing your SOP accordingly.

You can use the Revision Date field for any future changes to the SOP with new version numbers that need to be created. You would follow the same basic steps as creating the SOP in order to make a revision.

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