At some point during your wedding planning, you’ll probably come across the topic of making a shot list for your photographer. It’s become a popular topic with the influx of posts about wedding photography on Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok. Even wedding websites like The Knot and Wedding Wire offer long lists of photo ideas. And it might send you into a tailspin wondering if you need to create a shot list for your wedding day.
So what is the answer? Do you really need to send your photographer a list of all the photos you want from the day?
The short answer is no. Absolutely not.
You may be surprised to hear it, but creating a shot list is often more of a roadblock than a useful guide for your photographer. It’s actually way more important to book a photographer you trust! So here I’m going to dive into why, and I’ll give you all the information you need so you can feel confident about your wedding photography going into your wedding day.
We’ll explore why a shot list might not be the best idea and why trusting your photographer’s expertise can lead to a more authentic and beautiful wedding album overall.
Book a Wedding Photographer You Trust
Honestly, it is soooooo important that you find and book a wedding photographer you trust completely. You should feel confident knowing they’ll be able to capture all of the special moments and emotions from the day. (Hint: If you feel the need to send them pages of photo requests with hundreds of images you want to capture, it’s a clear sign that you don’t trust them.)
Instead, select a photographer you do trust whole-heartedly to navigate the spontaneous beauty of your day.
If you’ve already chosen us or if you’re considering it, know that we are here to make your wedding photography experience as seamless and personalized as possible. Instead of relying on a detailed shot list, let’s focus on capturing the spontaneous beauty of your day in a way that feels uniquely yours.
Let’s create some magic together!
What Is a Shot List?
Okay, chances are if you’re reading this post, you already know what a shot list is… But for the odd one out who is wondering what the heck I’m talking about:
A shot list is a list of photos you give to your photographer before the wedding day of the images you’d like to capture. It could be specific photos you want or a general style of photos that you like.
Your list can include anything from the getting ready session (like putting on your dress) to the ceremony (walking down the aisle, exchanging rings) to the reception moments (like your first dance and cake cutting).
Typically, brides create a shot list because they want to ensure all of the special moments are captured from their day. They might have seen some photos online that they really love. Maybe they want to recreate those poses. Or they might have heard or read somewhere that they need a shot list to ensure their photographer doesn’t miss anything.
Brides often see this as a proactive way to contribute to their wedding photography vision. But unfortunately, this well-intentioned effort usually backfires.
Why You Don’t Need a Shot List for Your Wedding
I do genuinely believe that giving your photographer a long list of “must-have” photos is one of the worst things you can do.
To put it simply:
When you book a wedding photographer, you’re trusting them to do a professional job. That trust is everything! Your photographer has years of experience shooting weddings. They’ve done this hundreds of times before. So they already know what shots are important and what types of photos their couples love to see.
While every wedding is different, there are so many similar elements to the wedding day that our photographers know what they need to capture in order to create a wedding album you will love.
You don’t need to tell them to take a photo of you walking down the aisle. Or your first kiss. Or you with your VIPs like your parents, grandparents, or maid of honor. They already know how important these people and these moments are to you. And they’re going to do their job to capture all of these special moments -and so much more- to fully document your day!
Wedding Days are Hectic
Even if you’re a perfect planner and have everything detailed in your mind, things can ~and do~ go wrong. Sometimes hair and makeup runs late. Sometimes a groomsman forgets his socks – or wears slightly different colored pants than the rest of the guys. Someone will probably get too drunk before the day even begins. You might forget some detail items like the invitations or the cake topper.
Little things like this happen all the time. But the good news is, we’re not going to let you fall into crisis mode over it. These are opportunities for spontaneity and creativity. In these situations, we have the freedom to improvise. We can capture the genuine, unplanned magic of the day.
And this is one instance where shot lists will fall short. Their rigid structure limits our ability to adapt and makes it harder to go with the flow. They limit the authentic storytelling of the day which makes each wedding unique… And why would you want to do that?
Plus, Timing is Limited
Detailed shot lists just don’t make logical sense. Most couples don’t anticipate how quickly the day goes by and how crazy it will be. I hear it all the time, “We won’t need that much time to take photos” But I promise, you do! And that time will go by so quickly!
Once your photographer arrives, it will be go go go until the end of the reception. So don’t make it even more stressful with a massive list of photos.
There’s just not enough time on the wedding day to flip through pages of “must-have” photos, figuring out what we’ve taken and what still needs to be done. We’ll end up wasting time looking down at the list to ensure we’ve got certain things, instead of capturing all of the natural, organic moments and emotions as they’re happening.
Again, your photographer knows what to do. So you should focus on enjoying the day, savoring every moment, and creating cherished memories – while we handle the details of capturing it all.
You Already Have Enough on your Plate
As you’re working through your Wedding Checklist and planning your special day, you’ll realize: There’s a lot to do!
Of course, you want to make sure everything is amazing for your guests. And you want to make sure you get lots of photos so you can remember your wedding day forever. I get it, I’ve been there!
But you don’t need another anxiety-inducing task on your list. Let your photographer take care of you on this one.
The best tip I can offer you overall is to choose a team of vendors that you trust and then let them do their jobs! That way, you’ll have more time to take care of the things that really matter.
And trust me:
As a fellow control freak, I know how hard it can be to relinquish that control. But I promise it will be worth it!
Don’t Limit Your Photographer’s Creativity and Ability to Capture the Day
Let me drive into this point… If we focus on capturing the specific images from your list, we’ll end up missing every candid moment and reaction. We’ll stop real situations from happening. We’ll be manipulating the day to capture the images that may or may not even happen naturally.
Wouldn’t you rather have your photographer in the moment, capturing the true emotions from the day?
The fact of the matter is:
You chose your photographer for a reason. You must have loved their photos and their style – or you wouldn’t have booked with them. So let them do their thing! Trust their artistic vision and their ability to create beautiful images that capture the essence of your day.
Give them the freedom to get creative. Let them sink into their natural rhythm and flow instead of stressing about a rigid list. Then your photographer can focus on capturing the distinctive elements that make your day truly special.
Whether it’s the subtle glances between you and your partner, the heartfelt interactions among guests, or the enchanting details that often go unnoticed. Give your photographer the flexibility to explore creatively. That will extend far beyond any checklist.
You’ll be grateful for the artistic and personalized touches they bring to your wedding album. And then you can actually ensure that you’ll get a comprehensive and stunning narrative of your wedding day.
Do This Instead of Creating a Shot List
If you still want some action steps, here are a few things you can do to ensure a seamless and stress-free photography experience for your wedding day:
- Create a wedding day timeline. Work closely with your photographer and main vendors to map out your schedule for the day. Make sure there’s enough time for everything, from getting ready to all those special moments during the reception. A well-thought-out timeline ensures a smooth and enjoyable flow and atmosphere throughout the day.
- Let us in on any surprises or special events you’ve got up your sleeve. Whether it’s a lively fire show, an energetic crazy hour, or a sweet first look with your groom, give us the heads-up beforehand so we can fit it seamlessly into your photography timeline. Planning a surprise flash mob or announcing a pregnancy? We want to be ready to capture those unforgettable moments.
- Point out the things that mean a lot to you, like sentimental items, family heirlooms, or unique details. Whether it’s a treasured relic passed down through generations or a quirky piece of fabric sewn into your dress, bringing attention to these elements ensures they take center stage in your photos. Sharing the stories behind these details helps even more!
- Relax and enjoy every moment. Staying relaxed is the key to capturing genuine and joyful images. Take a deep breath, soak in the love around you, and fully embrace everything that is happening throughout your day. Whether it’s sharing laughter with your bridesmaids or savoring a quiet moment with your partner, being present contributes to authentic and memorable photos that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Change Your Mindset About Your Wedding Photos
It all starts from the very beginning — a shift in mindset about what to expect from your wedding photos. After all, this is YOUR special day. So it’s important to remember: your wedding photos won’t look like any others you’ve seen.
The weather, lighting, locations, and endless other factors contribute to how your photos will turn out.
So while I love sharing galleries from past weddings, and I think it’s great if you’re checking out Pinterest and Instagram, I don’t want you to get the idea that your photos will look exactly like that. What you see online is meant to be inspiration – to give you some ideas and to get you excited – but not something for your photographer to copy or recreate frame for frame.
This applies to a ton of other things on your wedding day, too. Wedding decor. Floral arrangements. Hair and makeup. The wedding cake. The list goes on and on.
Focus on creating your own unique wedding day instead of trying to replicate someone else’s. You’ll feel so much better if you make it yours.
A Note About Wedding Checklists
I know we use a ton of checklists in our wedding planning journey. So it makes sense that we’d want to apply them to wedding photography as well. However, embracing a new perspective means understanding that the true magic lies in the candid, unscripted moments of the day. Again, what makes your wedding uniquely yours?
We don’t want to turn the joyous occasion into a series of staged poses and check boxes. Not only does it take away from the genuine experience of the day, but it also affects the joy you’ll feel when receiving your wedding gallery. Instead of feeling excited about the memories captured, the process becomes another meticulous checklist as you make sure everything from your shot list is included.
It’s much more fun to look through your wedding photos when they’re full of genuine moments and you can really relive your day.
So, let’s shift gears and rediscover the magic in your wedding photos, making sure they tell your love story just the way it happened in real life! Check out What to Do With Your Wedding Photos to make this process even more exciting!
Final Thoughts on Your Wedding Shot List
I hope you see that while shot lists may seem helpful initially, embracing spontaneity can result in a more authentic and joyous wedding experience, both on the day and when reliving the memories through your gallery.
It’s totally okay if you have a different perspective on this and you still feel like a shot list would be beneficial. We are more than happy to accommodate your preferences. Our approach values spontaneity, but we understand that each couple is unique.
As your wedding day approaches, our main focus is ensuring your comfort and confidence. Communication with your photography team is key. If you have 1-2 photos you know you simply can’t live without, please let us know. We’ll be happy to take them! And your photographer will gladly take any other requests you may have on your wedding day once they’ve secured all the essential shots.
So let’s work together to create a wedding photography experience that brings joy to your heart every time you revisit those cherished memories.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. We look forward to being a part of your beautiful journey.