Wedding Day Shots Lists

Shot lists. So many bridal blogs write about them. So many photographers dread them. But why? Copy and pasting a list and sending it to a photographer has to be helpful right? Maybe? Well, lets look at this. Many of the lists are written by people who are not wedding photographer. It would be like me telling a golf caddy how best to do whatever it is that they do. I have no idea. But...

You the bride have for days, months, and years, been dreaming and planning your wedding. Every detail, the flowers, what colors the ribbons will be. What font will the invitations have, who to invite, and who not too. All this money is spent and you do not want to miss any detail, or person, or moment. And I don't blame you. So you go to Pinterest and search for advice. 

After pinning several more flower arrangements, centerpieces, and fawning over all the things that you want. You stumble upon a shot list. It looks something like this.

► The first look
► Room shots at ceremony
► Wedding party and parents walking down the aisle  
► Bride walking down the aisle
► Groom’s face as he waits/sees her
► The vows
► Close-up of the exchange of rings
► The first kiss as husband and wife
► The recessional
► Room shots at reception
► Close-up of seating-card display
► Close-up of centerpieces  
► Reception entrance
► The first dance
► Father/daughter dance
► Mother/son dance
► The toasts
► The cake cutting
► Bouquet and garter toss
► Parents of bride dancing
► Parents of groom dancing
► Couple’s departure

Or this

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Immediately you pin it and save it so that once you book your wedding photographer you can remind them not to miss a moment. All your bases are covered. 

The Photographer

So as a photographer I have received many shot lists from brides. I always read them, and they are nearly always the same. Sometimes there are unique shots like "Grandma Ring that is around the bridal table centerpiece." Something small that we photographers may miss. Other times it is something like "Grooms father whispering last minute advice in his sons ear." How do we know that will happen? Do we need to fake it? Why? 

So here are some thoughts from a wedding photographer on shot lists. 

1. Hire A Professional

So what do I mean by this? 99% of the shots on these lists are ones that a professional will already be taking. Are we really going to miss the first dance? Or the cake cutting? My hope is that if you hired a professional that we will not miss this. Many times we skip bathroom breaks, water, and food, to make sure that we do not miss a key moment. Again, if you hired someone who does not do this professionally than these are not always true. Also, there are tho occasional odd balls that just don't care about getting the shots. But they never last long. Just because I put on my own tailpipe on my car or I cut my own hair, does not mean that you would hire me to work on your car or cut your hair. 

2. Trust

I know its hard. But there are many of us photographers who are in this because we love it. We care about providing you the best experience and images that we can. For myself I work to communicate as much as possible with my couples. I realize that, not only are they spending a decent chunk of change on their wedding day, and that they probably have

  1. Never planned a wedding 
  2. Never been married before 

So a lot of this is new to a couple and they are just trying to make sure that they get what they pay for. 

3. ASK

When in doubt ask a photographer about shots. Ask to see a whole wedding do a check list yourself and see if a photographer is able to capture what you are looking for. Ask questions. I love when couples ask questions, it does not bother me if couples ask about gear, lighting, situations, or any other questions they might have. I want them to trust me. 


When it comes to the shot lists, they are not bad. When used correctly. But if you are expecting to have your photographer walk around with a sheet all day and check of which photos they have taken and which they have not, they will miss many moments that are unfolding before them. 

Personally, I prefer when a couple lets me know about certain elements that they would like captured. If a bride spends a tone of time working on the decorations, or the table settings and wants a ton of detail shots, that is great to know. If the groom has cufflinks that have been passed down generations, it lets me know that I need to get some fun shots with them. 

These are all things that I do any way, but knowing what is important to a couple is beneficial when it comes to capturing the wedding day. 

Make your list unique to you and your day, but remember that we as photographers have done this many times before. Let us do our thing and chances are you  will be more than thrilled. 

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If you insist on having a shot list, then add a second shooter to your wedding packages. This way you can have a photographer that is focused on what is happening in the present moment while someone is helping with the list. 

When working with the photographer to create your timeline, factor certain parts of your list into the day. 

Relax and have fun. The day will pass you by faster than you realize. I have often had brides come back and tell me that there are so many photos of moments that they do not even remember happening. Be present, make the memories that you want happen and we will be there to capture them. 

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