The Pros and Cons of the "Wedding Shot List"

There are a lot of mixed feelings in the photographic community about weddings and photographic shot lists. Most photographers truly fear getting that email from a couple with the ‘Must-Have’s’ (an expression I dislike as much as “Please Advise”) which you hesitantly open it asking yourself, “Will this be a few realistic requests or a week long photo shoot?”

 In theory these lists makes sense, as couples having not been through this process before and being guided by what the bridal magazines say to do and ask, have no idea what to expect the day of the wedding. Certainly there are groupings or important images they do not want us to miss. Perhaps it’s a group of college friends, or a gathering of out-of-town relatives, all of which make sense to mention.

 But the flip-side to this are the creativity-killing laundry lists of images, for which I blame popular wedding websites, or even simply Google for that matter. Go ahead and do a web search for ‘wedding shot list’….

 Go on….

I’ll wait.

We’re back–Perhaps then you were lucky enough to encounter some suggestions like:

 “Touching shot of groom with parents”

“Close-up of groom’s nervous face waiting for his other half”

“Bride and groom arriving (make it dramatic — their faces through the dark limo windows, the two lovebirds atop a staircase or pushing through a curtain)”

“Bride walking down the aisle”

“Bride and groom’s first dance (maybe with a slow shutter speed so the movement blurs the image a little)”

When handed over a list like this, it’s easy to suddenly feel as if your couple have no trust in you whatsoever. (You’ll notice this particular list is giving advice on HOW the photograph should be taken as well!) Part of what makes a professional photographer a PRO, is their ability to be aware and watch for all those special moments that are going on around you. Having to follow a very specific list turns the day into an exercise in checking off boxes, rather than focusing on creating beautiful imagery. I know a number of photographers who simply outright refuse to work off a list, but personally for me I only request any ‘special’ things that I may not be aware of. If you feel I need to be reminded to photograph you coming down the aisle, then maybe we’re not a good match.

These lists also encourage a very unrealistic expectation of time. I’ll admit (and if you’ve worked with me you know this) I get very OCD about timing, as it is the single biggest factor of a wedding day that I see messed up through poor planning. And I completely GET IT, as this is all new to you!  Consider this: a ‘simple’ list of 35 posing requests multiplied by an average of only 2 minutes per setup results in a little over an hour of actual shooting time! You’ll be fine if you’ve factored this in (or done a First Look – always encouraged when your under a time crunch – http://www.athymetocook.com/blog/guest-blogger-and-photographer-exraordinaire-robert-norman-on-your-wedding-first-look/) but if not, you could easily find yourself scrambling and rushing through your photos. One suggestion I always have for couples is to ask yourself, “Would I put this photo/grouping in an album, or can I condense this down?” If the answer is NO, then you’ve just answered the question whether or not that photograph is important.

So if you’re getting married, hire a photographer in whom you fully trust and rest easy that they know their job inside and out, and will document your day in the manner you expect!

 To wrap up, I’d like to share an actual wedding shot list as an example, shared with me by a photographer from out of state.

 Honest—I couldn’t make this up if I tried….



__ Mom sewing in grandmas ring

__ Nancy putting on grandmas ring

__ Donald seeing Nicole for the first time at the hotel

__ Donald and Nancy getting in car to go to church

__ Donald and Nancy arriving at church

__ Wedding Party arriving at church

__ Nancy with Peter’s flute

__ Patty with bouquet and flute

__ Ruth with bouquet and sheet music

__ Mom adjusting Nancy‘s veil

__ Nancy pinning boutonniere on Dads lapel

__ Nancy putting corsage on Mother

__ Nancy alone looking out window

__ Donald alone (full length)

__ Donald alone (3/4 length)

__ Donald alone (head & shoulders)

__ Donald profile

__ Nancy looking at Donald ring

__ Donald looking at Nancy’s ring

__ Nancy and Mom

__ Nancy in foreground with Dad (and both parents) looking at her from background.

__ Donald and Jane

__ Donald in foreground with Julie & Johnny looking at him from background.

__ Dad kissing Nancy on forehead (or cheek)

__ Nancy and Dad

__ Donald and Joe

__ Donald pinning boutonniere on Jim’s lapel

__ Donald putting corsage on Jane

__ Jane pinning boutonniere on Donald

__ Nancy with parents

__ David with parents

__ Nancy and Elizabeth (looking at each other)

__ Nancy and Elizabeth (looking at camera)

__ Elizabeth admiring Bride’s gown

__ Nancy giving bouquets to Bridesmaids

__ Nancy and grandma full length

__ Nancy and grandma head & shoulders

__ Donald, John and Tim

__ John and/or Tim showing Groom watch

__ Nancy and Bridesmaids

__ Donald and Groomsmen

__ Nancy and Groomsmen

__ Donald and Bridesmaids

__ Individual portrait of each Bridesmaid

__ Individual portrait of each Groomsman

__ Nancy putting on garter with Mom and grandma

__ Guest book




__ Usher seating Parents of Bride

__ Usher seating Parents of Groom

__ Chanter

__ Attendants lined up ready to enter Sanctuary

__ Donald and family

__ Nancy and family

__ Groom with Brothers & Sisters

__ Flower girl down aisle

__ Individual Bridesmaids coming down aisle

__ Bride with Parents before they are seated

__ Betrothal

__ Donald and Nancy being blessed with rings

__ Fr Mulligan putting rings on our hands

__ Dave and Nancy switching rings

__ Dave and Nancy receiving the candles

__ Fr Mulligan leading Donald and Nancy down aisle (back view showing full train)

__ Fr Mulligan joining our right hands

__ Time exposure from back of church during ceremony

__ Andy doing the reading

__ The Common Cup

__ Crowning

__ Donald and Nancy being blessed with crowns

__ Wearing crowns

__ Fr Mulligan removing crowns

__ Procession around the table

__ The blessing

__ First Kiss as Husband and Wife

__ Donald and Nancy with Emily

__ Exterior view of Church



__ Bride posed alone (front view-full length)

__ Bride posed alone (back view-full length)

__ Bride posed alone (front view-3/4 length)

__ Bride posed alone (back view-3/4 length)

__ Bride posed alone (head & shoulders)

__ Bridal profile

__ Bride and Groom together looking at camera (full length)

__ Bride and Groom together looking off camera (full length)

__ Bride and Groom facing each other, holding hands (full length)

__ Bride and Groom together (3/4 length)

__ Bride and Groom together looking at camera (head & shoulders)

__ Bride and Groom together looking off camera (head & shoulders)

__ Bride (w/back to camera) facing Groom (both looking off camera – head & shoulders)

__ Bride and Groom with Bride’s Parents

__ Bride and Groom with Groom’s Parents

__ Bride and Groom with Fr Ted

__ Bride with attendants looking at ring

__ Bride and Groom looking at rings

__ Bride and Groom kissing

__ Bride and Groom kissing with wedding party peeking from background

__ Bride and Groom with wedding party

__ Bride and Groom leaving church




__ Cake alone

__ Bride and Groom cutting cake

__ Photograph(s) of Bridal table setting

__ Bride feeding cake to Groom

__ Groom feeding cake to Bride

__ Honeymoon Cake alone

__ Bride and Groom posed on front steps of Church

__ Entire wedding party posed on front steps of Church

__ Witnesses (Best man, Maid of Honor) signing Marriage license.

__ Groom feeding Groom’s cake to Bride

__ Bride and Groom at dinner table

__ Wedding party at dinner table

__ Punch and cake servers

__ Bride and Father dancing

__ Bride and Groom with wine glasses

__ Best man toasting Bride and Groom

__ Close-up of hands, rings

__ Close-up of hands, rings, napkin

__ Close-up of hands, rings, flowers

__ Gift table alone

__ Gift table with couple

__ Groom removing garter

__ Groom throwing garter (posed, looking at camera)

__ Groomsmen & other men catching garter

__ Bride throwing bouquet (posed, looking at camera)

__ Girls catching bouquet

__ Spotlight of the invitation and bouquet

__ Bride and Groom dancing together

__ Groom dancing with his Mother

__ Bride dancing with her Father

__ Photograph of the Disk Jockey

__ Candid photos of any special friends of Bride & Groom

__ Candid photos of certain (or all) tables at reception

__ Outdoor, romantic poses of Bride and Groom (full length, close-up, etc.)

__ Wedding Party/Friends Decorating Bride & Grooms Car

__ Decorated car ready to leave

__ Bride with Groom looking on from background

__ Groom with Bride looking on from background

__ Candid of soloist

__ Bride with friends

__ Groom with friends

__ Parents hugging/kissing couple good-bye

__ Bride and Groom with car decorated (exterior view)

__ Groom carrying Bride in arms (with decorated car in background)

__ Groom holding car door open for Bride

__ Bride and Groom in car ready to leave

__ Bride and Groom in car leaving Church or Reception

__ Bride and Groom looking out rear window of car

__ Any Large Family Groups

__ Bride’s Father with pockets turned inside out

__ Pictures on battlefield with trees in foreground/ Donald and Nancy walking at a distance

__ Pictures on Beach


1 Comment

  1. Grant on August 1, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Fantastic! Your blog posts never cease to amaze!

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