The Essential Wedding Photography Shot List

One you can actually use

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As my sister kindly noted over drinks last month, my wedding was kind of a hot mess. (It was our hot mess, but still.) Not having any idea of how events are produced, I didn’t realize the importance of such documents as a timeline, a packing list, or a photography shot list. Which is how my poor photographers ended up photographing nearly an hour of family portraits after our ceremony, followed by approximately thirty seconds of formal portraits of Michael and me, snuck in just as the sun was going down. Whoops.

Not The Knot List

Despite my obvious lack of planning, the standard wedding industry shot list wouldn’t have helped me anyway. Most of the stuff you find on websites like The Knot list dozens of things you don’t have (don’t need photos of the ring bearer pillow if you don’t have one). Plus, the list is packed with shots your photographer will take pictures of without you asking. (If your photographers don’t understand that the first dance is important, you probably should look into hiring new photographers.) And just to keep it fun, they throw in a bunch of nonsense that you really don’t want, like this gem: “Wide shot of audience during ceremony, from bride and groom’s point of view.” While that sounds nice in theory, it means you get to enjoy your ceremony with your photographer standing directly in front of you, trying to take a picture from your perspective. More importantly, if you’re hiring a documentary-style wedding photographer, these exhaustive shot lists will ensure that your photographer spends the whole day looking down at a piece of paper instead of doing the job you hire them for.

The Info Sheet

All of this is why, when I shoot weddings, I send out an info sheet instead of a shot list. An info sheet helps me understand what parts of your wedding are important, from your perspective. Rather than having to supply an endless list of all the things at your wedding, you only have to think of the most important things. The more minimal info sheet lets your photographer to use their talent and skill to shoot your way the way you hired them to, while also making sure that they understand that your necklace isn’t just an average necklace, but is instead a family heirloom that you’d really like documented.

At the end of this post, you’ll find a link to download APW’s own shot list (which is an adaptation of the shot list shared with me by the super talented Justin & Mary, some of my earliest photography mentors). But before we get to that, here’s the basic rundown of the essential information your photographer needs in order to do the best job for you:

  • A timeline of wedding events, listing the major important moments like your ceremony, first dance, toasts, and when you plan on doing formal portraits. You can read APW’s series on crafting a timeline to get you started, as well as filling out our timeline spreadsheet. But beyond that, lots of photographers are happy to help you craft your timeline so that you don’t spend your whole day taking pictures. You just have to ask!
  • Contact information for you, your partner, and alternates for each of you. Deputize whoever will be closest to you to be keeper of your phones, because you’re not actually going to be taking those calls. (In fact, giving your photographers a copy of your Vendor and Important People Contact Lists isn’t a bad idea.)
  • The names of your wedding party (if applicable) and the members of your family who will be in formal portraits.
  • A list of 5–10 combinations of formal portraits, with each person you’d like in them.
  • A list (and this is important) of 5–10 of the most important things you want captured at your wedding. This can be things, people, or moments. We’ll talk more about this in a second.
  • Your general expectations from your wedding photography Do you want lots of photos of your guests? Do you expect multiple photos of all your details? Help your photographer understand you priorities so they can focus their energy on the stuff that’s most important to you.

A note on details

Most photographers will do their best to capture all the important parts of your wedding: the moments, the emotions, the space, the details, etc. But weddings are fast-paced events with a lot of moving parts. By giving your photographer a list of the most important parts of the day, it helps laser focus on the stuff that’s most important. If you worked really hard on all of your table decorations, but don’t really care about your programs, you’d rather that the photographer spend more time getting the best shots of your tables, and only grab one or two pictures of your program. Are the kids at your wedding really important? Do you really want a photo of your best man helping you put your cuff links on? That’s what those 5–10 spaces are for. That doesn’t mean you’re only going to get 5–10 detail shots from your day. What it does mean is that your photographer isn’t leaving until they have those shots.


The real issue with those pre-fabbed shot lists is that they list things you can’t really ask for, like, “Bride’s and groom’s parents whispering to each other during dinner.” I mean, if want your photographer to go up to your parents and say, “Excuse me, but could you please whisper for a minute? Your daughter requested it,” then I guess you can ask for it. But it’s better to keep things simple (and organic). Ask for photos of your parents interacting with people at the wedding, or shots of your partner’s parents during dinner.

As for the actual K-I-S-S, if the kiss shot is a must-have for you, I entreat you, please kiss for longer than a peck. Camera shutters move really fast, but you’d be amazed how frequently a quick kiss can slip right through them. So if you want that shot, make out a little. You don’t have to get all seventh-grade-dance-party with it, but make it count.

What’s The Point?

The point of providing your photographer with a shot list isn’t to come up with as many different shots as possible for your wedding (that’s the photographer’s job). But rather, the point of the shot list is to clue your photographer in on the parts of your wedding that are unique and specific to you and your partner, so that they show up to work armed with all the info they need to shoot the shit out of your wedding. Because that’s what you hired them for anyway, right?

To Download APW’s Essential Photography Info Sheet, click here.

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  • Lawyerette510

    Oh how I wish I would have had this a month ago! But so happy for everyone who is going to be able to use it.

  • MisterEHolmes

    Bless you! This was my wish-list item, and as it happens, I have my final call with my photog TODAY for my wedding Saturday! Brb, last-minute homework to do.

  • ART

    this is really helpful – we have a friend doing our ceremony/portrait photography and the rest is crowdsourced, so I’ll be tailoring it to what our photog friend needs to know so she can get what we want and spend the rest of the time partying (i hope!) thanks!

    • ART

      Also, slightly off-topic, but does anyone have advice for what info your wedding party needs? I’m doing a big email to my wedding party/celebrant/dj/photog group about rehearsal and getting ready times and whatnot. Is there something you wish you had told your wedding party that you forgot? (ADDING PORTRAITS TO THE LIST NOW…)

      • ElisabethJoanne

        We gave our wedding party full weekend timelines and the full ceremony program a week to a few days before the wedding. They were individualized, showing who went in which car, if they were supposed to bring anything, etc. I’m not big on surprises, both being surprised myself or surprising elements/plans for others. I am big on spreadsheets.

        At the very least, I’d give them the whole day-of timeline and an approximate end time. That way they can inform any baby sitters or dates or significant others when they’ll be “released,” and you’re less likely to have to round them up for anything relatively late in the day like a bouquet toss.

      • Lawyerette510

        Contact info for each other; list of what (if anything) they are bringing and what (if anything) they are taking away/ putting away/ breaking down. Good luck!

  • Emily

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! We are having a good friend, and great photographer take our photos, but this is his first WEDDING (versus National Geographic style adventure/wildlife shots). This is excellent!

    • MisterEHolmes

      “Here we have the rare and beautiful White Bridal Creature. We shall try to document her in the customary mating ritual it undertakes with the Dashing Groom. It is quite the display. Let’s see if we can get a closer look.”

      • I read this in my best David Attenborough voice.

      • Sarah E

        You win the comment thread.

      • Emily

        So, all jokes aside, but that’s kind of how he keeps referring to the pictures…should I be concerned?

        • KC

          I think level of concern would depend on what you want and how much he’s on board with that; if you’re clear about what sort of pictures you specifically want, odds are he’ll be totally fine with getting those pictures, but if not, your expectations and his expectations for what this means might vary a bit more than is comfortable. (for instance, if he doesn’t realize you want photos of *the other people there* in addition to the specific pair focused on by the event)

          If you can find a couple of sequences of actual wedding photos that roughly correspond to the sort of things you’d like to get, that might be useful to go over with him, in addition to the short specific-shot-list things?

        • Jill

          We only hired a very inexpensive photographer (it was just a side business for him to pick up a little extra cash) to get the formal family shots right before the ceremony and some of the reception. For everything else we relied on the few friends we knew would attend with nice cameras. I couldn’t be happier with how the photos turned out, our friends got some absolutely gorgeous and spontaneous photos that are the ones we’ve since framed and I still enjoy looking at (5 years later). We set up a flickr pool to make it easy for everyone to share their photos. So I guess I’m saying, as long as your expectations are reasonable (and you clearly communicate them to your friend), you shouldn’t be worried. I think maybe because our friends were guests and part of the wedding and familiar with a lot of the people they were photographing they were able to get a little closer and get the photos that captured the day and our friends & family really well. (also, still giggling over the comment above.)

        • Lindsey d.

          I have a feeling he would appreciate some direction. For a photographer who is used to watching and reacting to what is happening, rather than directing, a shot list and a wrangler for those portraits will be vital. I bet his ceremony and reception action shots will be amazing, though.

        • Lawyerette510

          I don’t think you should be concerned, we had a photographer friend who does outdoor adventure (rock-climbing, mountaineering etc) shoots for his work mainly, and overall it went well. I think what would have made it better were
          1) specific images as examples of what I wanted to get/ liked and
          2) a specific list of exactly what details I wanted captured and what that meant i.e. instead of “escort cards” saying “the brown envelopes with stamps that will be attached to twine between the two trees by where we eat, taken before the ceremony so they are all there” or instead of “guest poster table” saying “poster that guests are signing on the table in X location with the explanatory sign” and instead of “mom putting my bracelet on me” adding “with our faces in it because it’s for my grandma who can’t be here.” Instead of “candid shots of people having dinner” saying “at least one shot from each table during dinner” (because we ended up with lots of shots of the two rowdiest/ prettiest people tables but none of others- out of 60 people total). It sounds really obvious to those of us planning the wedding and frequenting APW, and possibly other wedding blogs, but to a non-wedding professional photographer they are going to be thinking about what shots are most compelling from a journalistic point of view, not necessarily from a memories point of view. Also, they may not know what some of the stuff is or why it matters.

          Obviously, you don’t want to overwhelm the person, and I think the idea of having it as 5 to 10 things, they are going to get those for you, so long as they understand what it is you’re asking them to get and why.

          I think that’s the big difference between what the experience would have been like had we used a professional wedding photographer- the quality likely wouldn’t have been better, but there would have been a few things that would have made sense to them because I was using wedding-related terms that don’t make sense to someone who isn’t all up on it.

  • Man, a short peck was more than my seventh grade dance parties involved D:

    • Yeah, my 7th grade dance parties involved me singing off-key, awkwardly dancing, and falling down a lot. Sometimes if the party got really wild, like the time I dance-slid across an aquaintence’s kitchen floor and broke her mom’s wooden duck when I wiped out, parents asked me to kindly never come back to their home again.

      So no one was pecking this party animal back then is what I’m sayin.

      • KC

        A duck-break-dance is pretty impressive, if you ask me… :-)

  • Justin and Mary’s info sheet is the greatest!

  • TeaforTwo

    HAAAAAAAAAA. I forgot to print and bring our shot list, and so did my photographer. And then the family portraits were such a gong show anyway (27 people in our immediate families…lots of whom wandered away to greet guests or get wine during the photo shoot…one CRAZED bride who snapped “EVERYONE IS JUST GOING TO DO WHAT THE PHOTOGRAPHER SAYS FOR THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES”) that by the time we had the family shots I wanted, I said “that’s it, we’re done.”

    …and then my new husband sheepishly suggested it would be nice to get at least one picture of just the two of us. WHOOPS.

    Family portraits: worth having, but insane to get. There are several outtakes in which my teeth are clenched and I am clutching my bouquet like a baseball bat. Worst part of the day.

    • kris

      This will be my family, and me, exactly. I’m dreading it.

  • light0a0candle

    That info sheet is very very helpful, thank you!

  • Immediately forwarding this to my fiancé so that we can discuss what we want/don’t want. Also planning on asking his mother what photos she wants now as opposed to her accosting the photographer the day of (like she did at his cousin’s wedding…)

  • Pingback: Best The Essential Wedding Photography Shot List, DJ Prices, DJ Reviews()

  • Michelle M.

    Love the advice on the info sheet! That’s one thing I maybe would’ve provided if I could do it over again. Luckily, our photographer was amazing and captured so many great moments.
    One tip my wedding coordinator mentioned was that if you have one or two specific poses you want recreated on your wedding day when you’re doing portraits, then print that photo or two and give it to your photographer in advance. For example, I was in my best friend’s wedding last year, and she had the sweetest photo of us bridesmaids huddled up next to her, with the 2 on the end holding hands in front. I wanted to recreate that pose with my bridesmaids as well, but didn’t bring a picture for my photographer (oops) and kind of had a hard time articulating it on the wedding day. We still got a very cute photo that was pretty similar, but it would’ve been a little easier if I’d just given her that print before.

  • Anne

    I wish now that I had done this! My photographer was great and captured a lot of things I didn’t even think to ask her about (yay for professionals!), but there were a few things I wish we had photos of that she wouldn’t have known were important. We met before the wedding to talk about the style and general things we wanted, but I guess I felt like a shot list was too… high-maintenance? Micromanage-y? I also thought I’d have more time to make requests day-of if we saw something we wanted photographed, but it was a complete whirlwind and we didn’t have much verbal interaction with the photographer outside of the formal portraits.

    • Ark

      As someone 10 days out from her wedding who feels similarly disinclined to provide a shot list, do you mind sharing the few things you wish they had captured? This article has me thinking I need to be a little more specific…

      • sara g

        I would totally like to see it too… my wedding is farther out (less than 3 months now, ack), but I’m having trouble coming up with a “must have” list. I’ve seen a gazillion wedding pictures and yet now that it’s time to think about my own, I’m drawing a blank!

        • Rj

          My sister’s photographer asked for a family member wrangler who would corral people to set up shots – I took on the role and went with them to meet her.

          Highly recommended !

          I ended up as de facto day of coordinator with a 19 page run sheet which Ii loved and made it super easy for the rest of the family who had a grand old time. And we got all the photos! Except the cousin who took the kids away straight after the ceremony.

          And photo wrangler is a good role for a sympatico organised cousin or sibling who knows everyone. Like ushering part two – in fact it maybe a good job to allocate to ushers as they’ve already met everyone ?

          In addition to Day IOC Coordinator ideally.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    We were really happy with the whole photography experience with our wedding – from initial vendor research and meetings, to looking through our albums. That shot list is very like the information sheets our own photographer had, and all our favorites that we met with. It was so reassuring to meet with photographers who could talk knowledgeably about typical practices, good practices, etc. – especially because we started meeting with photographers early in the planning process. More thoughts:

    1. Don’t feel like you have to have all this info at your first meeting with photographers. A professional will be able to take in the info at any time up to a few days before the wedding.
    2. While names of everyone in the shot list might be helpful, we totally didn’t have it and couldn’t have it with my husband’s dysfunctional family. We just went from big groups to smaller groups and I called out the names (sometimes that was, “little Jonah, and Jonah’s parents, and Jonah’s big brother” because I had met these people 3 minutes before and couldn’t remember the names). If people were offended at a bride “ordering them around,” as opposed to a photographer, we haven’t heard. My family I know was cool with it.
    3. “specific details” may be bigger than jewelry or centerpieces. For us, it was architecture, so we asked for extra photos of the church and reception venue. For others, it could be a natural setting or courture dresses.

  • Imara

    Don’t know if it’s appropriate in all weddings and families, but I would suggest that there is a person close enough to bride and groom and their families/friends who can help to gather people for group shots. Such person may be more comfortable with addressing guests by name, insisting that they leave their cocktail for a while and thus making photographers job easier. (Actually, It’s common in my country that there is champagne toast and maybe some appetizers right after ceremony, and also group photos – drinks and appetizers make it easy to keep people around :))
    I had a list with all families/couples/individual guests, they were called for a photo shoot and then given wedding program, guest book questionnaires etc. – convenient for smallish weddings, you don’t miss anyone and other guests can start to recognize people by name. Photographer called me The Most Organized Bride of the Year because of this :)

    Also, I really suggest doing first look, because then you are quite fresh and enthusiastic to do everything your photographer comes up with – later in the day it becomes a little bit like task, not entertainment :)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      We asked an uncle on each side to direct people involved in post-ceremony photos. Everyone we wanted for post-ceremony photos got a special note in their invitation with special immediate post-ceremony directions, and that’s where we also asked the uncles to help. I think a hand-written note really got everyone’s attention, because we had no one wander off.

      FWIW, the directions were to go immediately to the downstairs of the church and wait for the majority of guests to leave the church and go to the reception venue. If you want some privacy for these photos, and have a somewhat-hidden place removed from the ceremony space to collect people, this was ideal.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Excellent point about getting a point person to help with formal portraits. I also have a rule that says, “No one in the pictures is allowed to go looking for anyone else.” Because inevitably that uncle that goes to find your cousin disappears just as the cousin shows up and now you’re still short a person for the photo you wanted.

    • Lawyerette510

      Yep, we had someone wrangling people for the group photos who had been briefed on who everyone was and who had met everyone at our informal Sunday thing and been shown their pictures before-hand. Similarly, I’ve been the person-wrangler at two other weddings. For a wrangler you want someone with a loud voice, who is not shy about politely but directly asking people they don’t know well to pay attention and hop-to-it.

  • macrain

    My photographer is one of the things I’m most stoked about! We decided from the beginning that photos would be important to us and we refused to skimp on them. I think the photographer was the first thing we booked, aside from the venue.
    This is awesome and so helpful, Maddie. Truly.

  • Sarah E

    That second photo is just right, Maddie- nice capture! Love to see bridal brigades smiling and laughing together organically.

  • CJ

    THANK YOU. I’ve been trying to figure out how to put a list together that says, “these are things I want” but doesn’t say “here is a laundry list of items that you neeeeeeeeddddd to take.”

    Thank you!

  • KC

    We had a large wedding. I wish-wish-wish that we had photos of the whole crowd who was there. I definitely wouldn’t say “get the photographer up on stage in front of the bride and groom during the wedding”, but getting a photo of everyone’s faces would have been *priceless*. (we had maybe 5-10% guest-book-signing compliance and didn’t have a receiving line, so there are some people we only know were there because we can see them incidentally and fuzzily in the background of a shot of, say, a bridesmaid heading down the aisle) If I were doing it over again, I’d have the post-wedding “info segment” [we invite you all to the reception, which is here, bathrooms are down that hall, thank you all for coming] after the bride-and-groom-recessional include an “Okay, everyone smile big now!” group shot (or set of group shots to try to get more or less everyone’s head), even if it wasn’t by the Official Photographer, just for awesome nostalgia purposes.

    Of course, for people who are going to be infuriated by RSVP non-compliance, it might be better to just let that data on who exactly was and was not there fade into oblivion, though… :-)

    • Katherine

      We had our photographer take a photo of the people at each table. My parents have photos like that from their wedding in the 70’s, and I think that in my head it was fairly typical. But maybe not.

      • KC

        I think that’s a great idea when you have non-migratory tables! Traditional genius!

      • scw

        funny, I just asked this question above! were you in the photos too, or just the guests? I’m trying to figure out how to maximize the amount of photos I get interacting with my guests.

      • I know a lot of photographers complain about them, but I LOVE table shots. It’s the easiest way for me to make sure I get as many photos as possible of as many guests as possible.

  • Lindsey d.

    Our photographer had a checklist where you marked the shots you DIDN’T want, as well as space to add those poignant details (for me, photos with my grandmother and mother, each holding photos of themselves wearing the dress I also wore).

    My photog also set up a shared Pinterest board for me to pin inspiration images. I made sure to use it for those images that caught the feeling of what I was going for on our day, from photos of people interacting, to details that were important, like a specific nearby building as a first look backdrop.

    • Lindsey d.

      Oh, and since we did a first look, it was easy to transition right to small family photos (parents, siblings, grandparents, nieces/nephews). Following the ceremony we did photos with the two extended families (first group + aunts, uncles, cousins). Made family photos not cut nearly so into the reception time.

  • Perfect timing! I was just thinking back to an article that was linked here awhile back about the ways in which guests taking photos can ruin professional shots. Anybody have it bookmarked or could help me find it? I just had a bridal shower thrown for me that involved LOTS of paparazzi-style photographing from L’s family members. I’m not sure if they’ll obey a request to not take pictures during the ceremony, but I’d like to at least show the article to his parents and see what they think.

    • Lindsey d.

      This may be what you are looking for — A friend just re-posted it to FB today.

    • Lawyerette510

      I really wish we would have asked my husband’s aunt not to take photos during the ceremony. She really wanted to and even asked my husband about it before hand, and at the time my thought was “what will it hurt” and husband felt it would mean a lot to her, and we love her. Well the answer to “what will it hurt” is, we have a woman wearing a frumpy outfit with a big DLSR camera in the background of nearly all of our wedding shots because she stood (we had everyone gather around us in a circle) right next to us. When I first saw the professional shots I was kinda bummed but then thought, well maybe Aunt X got some cool shots from another angle, so it’ll be worth it. No, Aunt X did not get any good shots, not a one.

    • Eh

      Our officiant requested that people be present in the moment and let the photographer capture the moment and worked well. I was worried about how people would take the request because I had been at weddings where ministers had told people not to take pictures during the ceremony and it didn’t go over well. My husband and I were very careful with the wording we approved for the officiant to use. Also, I did have to make sure that my husband’s mother and grandmother had pictures from our photographer in a timely fashion since both were upset they didn’t have any (his grandmother tried to take pictures but none of them turned out). My step-mum and sister were both told put their cameras away during the family pictures (though one of my favourite pictures is the pic my sis took with her phone of me standing around waiting for pictures to be taken).

      • swarmofbees

        would you mind sharing that wording? I want to convey this, but not as a command.

        • Eh

          Our officiant said:
          “I invite you now to be truly present at this special time.
          Please, turn off your cell phones and put down your cameras.
          The photographer will capture how this moment looks, I encourage you all to capture how it feels with your hearts, without the distraction of technology.”

    • ElisabethJoanne

      This wasn’t a big deal for us, but some observations:
      1. When it’s not interfering with the core of their work, I think professional photographers get a kick out of photographing amateurs using camera phones. We got several such shots from our reception. Maybe people can be sort of shamed against the practice.
      2. I think it helps to promise to be speedy and generous in sharing the professional’s photos. I’ve said it many times on APW…I’m constantly surprised by how interested mere acquaintances (distant relatives, parents’ co-workers) were/are in our wedding photos. If you can tell people “We expect our professional photographer to take hundreds of photos, and you’ll be able to review them all in an online gallery and order whatever prints you want” – I think that cuts down on the wrong kind of DIT photography. [If there isn’t an online gallery, or you don’t want to share all your photos, there are other work-arounds.]

      • Eh

        Our photographer took pictures with our guests’ cameras during the reception so our guests could get pictures with us. He was funny though when the guest had weird settings on their camera like having it set to black and white or having it print a date on the picture.

  • Katherine

    In addition to much of the above information (and a very detailed list of family portraits), we ended up given our photographer a family tree of each of our families. This probably wouldn’t be necessary for people with small families, but we had a total of 50 family members in the formal portraits. It helped our photographer a LOT to be able to organize people by relationship, not just name.

  • kris

    On the topic of photography, does anyone have any tips for relaxing and being comfortable in front of the camera? I’m a little nervous about my ability to “warm up”.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      FWIW, my favorite photos of just-the-two of us were taken at the very beginning and very end of our portrait session. I didn’t need to warm up, peak, then get tired. Mostly, maybe, I needed my mind on something else…

  • NicoleT

    This is SO helpful! I’m using a friend who is an absolutely amazing photographer (her pics of LA make my heart they’re so beautiful) and has started a photography business, but she hasn’t really done any wedding photos. I know it’s a gamble, but I’m hoping it will work out. And I know that this list will be incredibly useful for her (and reassuring for me)!

    • vegankitchendiaries

      We are doing the EXACT same thing. My best friend from my school days is doing our photography. She’s a crazy good photographer who specializes in birth photography. This is her wedding gift to us and we’re *really* honoured. Here she is being all famous and celebrated:

      • NicoleT

        That’s fantastic! What an amazing gift. Congratulations to her!

    • Lawyerette510

      It’s going to work out great! We had someone who had done one other wedding for another friend, and overall he did a great job, and where he didn’t it was because I hadn’t communicated sufficiently and made sure he had the knowledge.

      • NicoleT

        Good to know! Can I ask what you hadn’t communicated sufficiently about? Does this article cover it, or was it about something else? And is there anything I should watch out for (something my photographer possibly won’t know that a seasoned wedding photographer would know)?

        • Lawyerette510

          I think the article pretty much nails it, but the specifics for our wedding were that I wish I would have specifically explained what I meant when I listed escort cards as one of the details; that I wanted my mom and I’s face in the shot of her putting my grandma’s bracelet on me (to give to my grandma who couldn’t travel last minute); that I wanted candid shots from each table (instead of just the boisterous/ good looking tables); and I think giving them example photographs of some things I really loved would have helped too. The reason I say all of this is that while they are talented photographers, they aren’t wedding photographers or people that hang out on wedding blogs. Additionally, they are kind of stereotypical NorCal dudes– they love wine, food, people, but they aren’t in-tune with touchy-feely wedding photography tropes. I feel like if I would have had the worksheet it would have helped me take some of the things that I meant in the list I sent them, and articulate it in a way they could use, instead of in a way that was meaningful to someone who had been hyper-focused on weddings for the past 3 months and had been a bridesmaid over 15 times.

          PS- No idea why this is in italics. sorry about that

          • NicoleT

            Okay, I’ll make sure I keep those things in mind. Thanks!!

  • Kelly Prizel

    This is freakin awesome. It’s scary similar to what I give to my clients. One thing that made my group pictures at my own wedding easy was I only asked for 5 group shots because I wanted to not get stressed. But they were large-ish shots so my photographer was super busy calling out names…and what really helped was my day-of-planner assisting him. Key thing, she asked him, “Hey, do you want me to round people up?”. Then she started grabbing people’s drinks, purses, cameras, jackets; so they could go to the group shot quickly and it signaled to them there was no time to mess around. She helped my just out of the hospital grandma with her oxygen tank and had her ready for her shot and could quickly assist her to sit down. So it’s not just the photographer! Having a planner or DOC can play a critical role for making things easier with photos. Everyone should work as a team. I don’t see it often enough. Maddie- you outdid yourself. This is fab!

    • Ashley Reed

      Exactly! We had a DOC who was great – our main photographer and his wife/assistant worked on capturing the shots/arranging my train, using the diffuser, and our DOC yelled out “Jan, Jill, etc, etc” – and we had our ushers (who were our brothers) gather everyone so we were all within earshot.

  • joanna b.n.

    So caveat on this – we went super cheap and only paid for a few hours of photography and worked with someone who was an apprentice (i.e. learning the biz). But, these are the photos I wish I’d told our photographer to get: the laying on of hands that my sisters, mom, dad, and bridesmaids did before I saw my hubby; us walking in to the reception and getting announced; a shot of our guests at the ceremony DURING the ceremony (vs. the bored faces, pre ceremony shot); my grandma’s handkerchief that I wrapped around my bouquet; and a shot with us and all of the guests together.
    Now these live only in my memory, which is fine, but… yeah. It’d have been good to point them out.

    • Katherine

      I second the photos of guests during the ceremony. My photographer also took a lot of photos of us while other people were doing readings at the ceremony. And I LOVE those photos.

    • For those still in the planning stage, giving your photographers a copy of the ceremony if you have it will help a lot with getting those great reaction shots. If your photographer isn’t 100% sure when a can’t-miss moment will happen during the ceremony, they will be hesitant to turn away from you to shoot your guests.

  • sara g

    I really really want a group shot of everyone at the wedding, but I’m not sure how we’d pull it off. We won’t have a ton of guests (~70), but I can’t think of anywhere at the venue where the photographer could climb up to get an overhead shot or anything like that. Anyone have any ideas?

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I’ve done big group photos on hills before, or found bits of geography that allowed me to get a vantage point. If that fails, a chair can often work wonders. The key is staggering heights, and if you absolutely can’t get high up, you can always find a spot that allows you to move way, way back. I find the corralling to be much more labor intensive than location scouting. It’s helpful to try and do things when your guests are already all together (like just after the ceremony), otherwise, it can be like trying to herd (really well dressed) cats.

      • sara g

        This is great, thanks! Yeah, we would definitely do it right after the ceremony, otherwise I wouldn’t want to even try. I’ll talk to my photog and see if she has any ideas, too.

        • scw

          yeah, I’m hoping to get a shot like this directly after the ceremony, like before anyone has moved. we are getting married on the landing of a staircase and our guests will be gathered around us but on the ground floor so I’m thinking the photographer might be able to climb a few steps up the stairs and get the shot.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        My husband and I once “crashed” a wedding from a distance. When the ceremony concluded, everyone went outside for a big group photo. We timed how long it took to get everyone into position. I think it was about 10 minutes. They had some recalcitrant types (we imagine) who just went straight to the bar. I think the photographer took the photo from the roof. Getting on the roof was part of the 10 minutes.

    • Lawyerette510

      We had around 60. Here’s the shot that ended up working. There were hills, but the light didn’t work for him to stand on them, but our photographer stood on a chair and used a fish eye. It probably would have worked even better if 1) we had asked the venue for a step-stool/ ladder for him (which they would have happily provided I’m sure) and 2) we would have asked the person-wrangler to step out, check that people had staggered heights/ ask my in-laws to please either bend-down/ loosen up or let some short people get in front of them (our photographer was soft-spoken, and a friend who while a professional photog wasn’t a professional wedding photog, so wasn’t used to/ comfortable with directing that large of a group).

      • Lawyerette510

        Also, we’re missing a couple of people whose kiddos were there, because the kids just could not deal, and while I’m bummed those 4 adult and 5 kid faces are missing, I also knew that I was pushing my luck with having the kids in it.

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  • holly gardner

    This is the only comparable list I’ve ever agreed with. I give my clients very similar info and warn them ahead of time that exhaustive lists will keep me from doing my real job of documenting the day. Thanks for the post!

  • I think this is the only planning regret I have for our wedding–not being better prepped for our photographer. I mentioned to M once that drafting a list of shots we knew we wanted (namely group shots so we knew who needed to be rounded up) might be a good idea, but he sort of brushed it off and I had plenty of other things I was working on at the time so I went along with it. It didn’t help matters that the hotel decided to send the first shuttle *an hour* before we actually expected them so we had a group of people show up right in the middle of our photo time. It was the one moment of panic I experienced all day….ok that and realizing that my BM’s and I were standing in a small swarm of bees during some of our photos. We ended up missing a couple of shots we would have liked. Nothing heartbreaking, but more of a feeling of mild regret for not having a better game plan.

  • Eh

    Our photographer was awesome. He captured so many of the small details that our guests didn’t notice (my father said “did A actually wear Batman cufflinks?” and my nieces asked about the Hans Solo and Princess Leia Lego minifigs that were on the head table after seeing our photos). He even took a picture just as I knocked over and broke my bouquet’s vase on the head table (he even helped clean up the mess). We didn’t have a lot of shots that we really wanted. We didn’t have an extensive list of family pictures (just immediate family) and we didn’t have a wedding party (we did have pictures with our MOH and witness). We ended up having a very long couples shoot in multiple locations (inside and outside our ceremony site and a park on our way to the reception).

    One of the things that our photographer did that I really liked is that he “removed” us from the ceremony site quickly so our guests couldn’t be paparazzi during the family pictures. We were still technically at the ceremony site but it was a more secluded place. (I didn’t mind that I didn’t see most of our guests until the reception – it was nice just having that time with immediate family and my husband.)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I was surprised by how many guests wanted to watch post-ceremony photos rather than go to the reception with food and drink waiting. It wasn’t a majority, but it was enough to be a small distraction.

      • Eh

        We didn’t have a cocktail reception and our reception didn’t start for more than two hours later so if we weren’t “removed” our guests would have been a distraction since the photo session would have been entertainment for them. It would have been especially distracting for my young niece who had a hard enough time standing still (let alone smiling and looking in the right direction) for pictures. Plus it would have been awkward for my husband and I who are introverts. We got through the family pictures quickly and it was nice to just have minimal people around since we had to be “on” for so much of the day.

  • scw

    anyone know whether it’d be feasible to have the photographer take a photo of the bride and groom with each table? I know this would be difficult with a huge number of people, but we’re looking at probably 8-11ish tables with people that wouldn’t be in the formal family portraits. FH and I have been going back and forth on receiving line vs making the rounds during the reception, and I think I’d go for the latter if we could do photos this way. I definitely want pictures with FH, but we can do a shoot the two of us anytime! so I’m more concerned with getting photos of my guests.

    • I have done this before for weddings with smaller guest lists. If you do it right before you start eating (meaning your guests already have food in front of them and are actually at the tables), this is relatively simple. You can go from table to table, ask everyone at the table to huddle up together for a shot, and then they can go right back to eating.

  • Ashley Reed

    This reminds me of a conversation we had with our photographers a couple months out from the wedding, after the requested a shot list and I googled it. It went something like “do I have to tell you I want a picture of our first dance and our kiss?” and my photographer duo (a husband and wife team) looked at each, laughed, and said they felt bad because “those lists” online mean that at some time, somewhere, someone’s photographer didn’t get a picture of their first dance because the couple didn’t request it.

    Our photographers, instead, requested list of all family arrangments that we wanted formal pictures of (which was a pain to make, and felt REALLY silly, but on the day of (just this past Saturday!) was insanely helpful when our minds were anywhere but where our bodies physically were), and anything specific that we wanted pictures of (us using the photobooth, the charm made from my great grandma’s ring), and then group shots (not formal) that we wanted (my husband’s fraternity members, my old coworkers, etc).

  • Caroline

    Thanks! I was thinking of doing something like this. Not a shot list, but a short list of “hey, my mama made the cake so while I mostly don’t care about details too much, please get a shot of the cake” and a few other things.
    How much do you think it makes sense to add groups of people to the list? My mom’s real regret from her wedding is she doesn’t have a photo of her and her sister from it. My partner wants to make sure to get a shot of him an his friends who live far away. But I don’t want to bloat the portraits or the shot list. What are your thought on where the balance is?

    • Eh

      Get more causal pictures with the friends. More causal pictures are generally more true to these type of relationships anyways. For example, I have pictures with a few friends at our reception after supper (taken by our photographer) and I have pictures from our photobooth with some other friends (taken by a friend).

      • Jess

        On the other hand… I hate the way I look in 99.9999% of all candid/spontaneous “OMG LET’S ALL TAKE A PIC!!” photos. Sure that’s who I am, but I’d prefer not to memorialize it in picture. So, a list of groups of friends and family to corral and photograph in semi-formal portaits is kind of going to be my jam. Even if it’s at the reception rather than in the portrait segment of the pictures, these will be posed.

        I had a friend make some super cute (small poster board) signs of either family names or how you knew the couple – college friends, grade school, volunteer org, etc – that the officiant told us to go stand by after the ceremony and they just rotated through the groups during the portrait segment. Super efficient and easy to understand.

        Know yourself and know your people, I guess.

  • Maggie

    Imagine my surprise, as I scrolled down to the second photograph, to see a wedding party I (and a former co-worker) did the hair for. I KNEW Maddie looked familiar for some reason!

  • ”Wide shot of audience during ceremony, from bride and groom’s point of view.”

    Sorry to be a wet blanket, but that’s something that I actually would like. The wedding IS the ceremony, and the whole point of it IS our guests…otherwise we wouldn’t be having a wedding….

    • Eh

      This was something we didn’t even bother with asking for since our ceremony was in a theatre and we knew that the house lights would be down. That said, one of my favourite pictures (we had it enlarged and it hangs in our living room) is a picture from the back of the stage looking out toward the audience with us in profile and my bouquet on a table in the foreground. You can make out a few guests but mostly the guests and the theater lights make a great backdrop for us.
      That said, I have seen this shot work well in outdoor locations where the photographer does not need to stand between the bride/groom and the audience to get the picture.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        That was going to be my suggestion too! This is totally doable if you are getting married somewhere that has space behind the couple. But you should talk with your photographer first about what your ceremony set up looks like to make sure it’s feasible. Often I find myself obstructed by a gazebo, or an arch, or an altar, and I’m *personally* not willing to interrupt the flow of a ceremony for a shot, but I know some photographers who are! So it’s worth talking it over. I love those ceremony shots too, but in my experience, those can be some of the hardest ones to get, without getting all up in your grill like this:

        • Eh

          I should add, our officiant was between the stage and the audience (so below us – so we were always looking out towards the audience or at each other and we didn’t have our backs to our guests) and we didn’t have a wedding party or an arch or really any decorations (we had a cocktail table for signing which is where I put my bouquet).

    • kelly

      This is a late response, but I really want that, too! One of my favorite ceremony moments from a friend’s wedding a year ago involved a photo op. Somewhere towards the beginning of the ceremony, they handed the “stage” over to the photographer, who was a friend, and he gave the guests really fun prompts that got everyone smiling and cheering and looking excited. It was almost like he was warming up the crowd, but it wasn’t cheesy or forced or inappropriate, it was just capturing all the happy energy of that moment and the pictures are awesome.

  • Hannah B

    Does anyone have an opinion on when to put in a receiving line? I thought it should go right after the ceremony on the church steps, but it seems formal portraits usually happen then…don’t necessarily want to have a long receiving line and ask family to hang around for pictures after, and I also don’t want to interrupt the dance party to take photos, but I also don’t know when else we’d have a receiving line. I went to a wedding where they did the receiving line as people went to the buffet line, which means the food line was super slow! Ack. I have a lot of people and there is a gap of an hour and a half between ceremony and cocktail hour. How do you think I can do it all?

    • Hannah B

      I definitely want family portraits because, for both of us, our extended family is treating our wedding as a mini-reunion.

  • ypi

    Great post! I have a vendor etiquette question I really hope someone can help with. Our photog is my old friend, who is now a freelance photog with her partner. I’ve seen her work, so know it’s great. But also know on the spectrum of super business experienced to less so, she’s in the middle. She said she’d give us an info sheet, but that she’d just need to write it up.

    The question- is it ok to share this with her in the spirit of, hey isn’t this what you were talking about? I worry that the implication is I think she doesn’t know what she’s doing. And it honestly isn’t, I just thought she’d find it equally interesting and helpful.

    Any thoughts??

    Thanks! xx

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