Offbeat guide to the wedding photo shot list

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Offbeat Bride's managing editor Megan, who used to be a wedding photographer herself!
Offbeat Bride's managing editor Megan, who used to be a wedding photographer herself!

I know you used to be a wedding photographer, so I'm deferring to you.

Our photog is asking us for a shot list. I found a very *ahem* THOROUGH list in the Wedsite-That-Must-Knot-Be-Named.

What do YOU suggest for pictures to get us started on our own personal list?


One of my favorite things is when a bride sends me her personal shot list. One of my pet peeves is when brides send me a copied and pasted THOROUGH shot list.

Yeah, I get it: I know what all the traditional shots are… tell me what's special to YOU about this wedding.

Perhaps you DIYed your garter belt and want me to shoot it in all its glory before you fling it into the crowd, or maybe the groom made customized chucks for the wedding, or your wedding band was his great-grandmother's so those are must-have detail shots.

Or you and your bridal party are planning on shotgunning beers before the ceremony… These are all things you should include in your personal shot list.

But that being said, here is my list of all the shots that I personally like to make sure that I hit and some advice on how you can make sure these go off without a hitch…

Pre-wedding (or as I call it, pre-gaming):

Some brides like to have pics of them getting ready, like getting their hair did, make-up done, etc. It's not the most important thing to have documented, but the pics can be really pretty at times. And I'll be honest, it's my favorite part of wedding shoots. I love getting to know my bride and all her best friends. So if you want to have some bonding time with your photographer, definitely book them to come hang during the pre-game.

  • Bride getting her hair did.
  • Bride getting make-up done.
  • Bridesmaids getting ready.
  • Any pre-game activities like doing shots, mimosas or high-fiving.
  • Obligatory shots of the dress, shoes, and any special details that are around, etc.
  • The bride putting on the dress, shoes, etc.
  • That moment of OMG! I'm dressed and ready and a bride!
  • If they are at the same location, some shots of her groom and the groomsman pre-gaming.


I mean, I think these are all self-explanatory, pretty much anything that happens here. If there is going to be some great surprise like our groom is parachuting into the site, or instead of a first kiss you're going to do a first backflip, then you should let your photographer know to be looking out for that. Other than that, any photographer will know what to typically shoot…

  • The bride making her entrance/walking down the aisle.Just Married!
  • The awaiting partner's “holy shit I'm so lucky” face.
  • Any ceremony ritual, ie. sand ceremony, candle lighting, etc.
  • The wedding parties lined up all pretty.
  • A wide-angle shot of the whole shebang.
  • First kiss bitches!!!
  • The grand exit.

Oh, and let your photographer know if you want a little alone time right after the ceremony. Most times I feel strange about following the bride and groom all the way out of the ceremony, but if you guys really want them to document that very first moment of “alone” time, definitely give them a heads-up that it's okay to impose.

Post Ceremony (or pre-ceremony if you don't mind seeing each other before the wedding):

My first request for a family totem pole. I'm thinking of making this a mandatory shot.
  • Family photos, or as I like to call it, “pure torture.” But you gotta do it! Your mother really wants 'em. One way of making sure this time is less torturous is to come up with a detailed list of ALL of the photos of you want taken. Ex: bride and her family, bride and groom and her family, groom and his brothers, bride and groom and the cousins that flew from France, and on and on. I love when I get these because I have my second-shooter read through the list and we can speed through this without people wandering around lost and confused. ALSO, please, as much as possible, tell your guests to get lost during this time and tell your family to put away their cameras. I can't tell you how many times I haven't been able to get one photo where everyone is either a) all smiling, b) not blinking, or c) even looking at me because half of the crowd is smiling for aunt Edna because she asked to take just one picture.
  • Wedding party shots: the bridesmaids, the groomsmen and a shot of them all together.
  • Bride and groom portraits!!! Omg, I can't tell you how many times we've been putting together bride profiles only to find out that there are seriously NO photos of the bride and groom together — how does this happen!? Make sure you set aside time to do a fun portrait shoot together.


Some detail shots from a fancy-shmancy wedding.
  • Details like centerpieces, wedding cake, cake topper, wedding favors, etc.
  • The introduction of the couple to into the reception.
  • A lot of couples will ask me to shoot group photos of the guests at their tables — don't ask for this. The photos usually suck because of the odd groupings and everyone looks awkward.
  • Speeches — the person speaking and the couple getting all weepy.
  • First dance and any other special dances.
  • Cake cutting.
  • And then much much partying with lots of candids.
  • The grand exit/waving goodbye shot if you're doing that kind of thing.

Hope that helps you give you a better idea of how to trim down that crazy overly-thorough shot list. And be sure to let us know how it goes!

Comments on Offbeat guide to the wedding photo shot list

  1. Great post. I also want to add something… There’s a couple little things that my fiance does when no one is looking (hell, sometimes he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it) that mean so much to me that I want a picture of if possible. So I’m going to warn my photographer that if he sees Justin kissing my hand or absentmindedly rubbing the back of my neck, to snap the picture! hehe

  2. Thank you for posting this! My husband does wedding photography as a hobby (as in, he never wanted to get into it but he is actually really awesome at it and people keep begging him to do their wedding – can you tell I am a proud wifey?) and when he asks them for a shot list just for the family part, they often say, “Well, you know, just the usual shots”.

    Let’s face it… there are no usual family shoots anymore, especially at weddings. There are stepdads and half-sisters, and the cousin that you grew up with, and the cousin you hate but tries to get in every picture, and the grandma that is totally ticked off with the wedding but you want in the pictures but the photog should be forewarned that she WON’T be smiling and the niece that the bride and groom raised for the first three years of her life due to family drama….

    I think we get the point. A family shot list can be soooo helpful.

  3. Working on a family list is a really good idea. And I’ll definitely need to come up with ideas for the special stuff that will really matter to my FH and me.

  4. Great Post. I never really thought about any of this. Although, to be honest I haven’t really started planning, but this was great information.

  5. I’d to make a “forbidden photos” list…starting with the “Charlie’s Angels” pose and definitely including the duck face, gang signs, peace signs, etc.

    *Just for my wedding. If anyone else wants to have those things, knock thyself out!

    • That is actually a great idea! I think everyone has a “type” of photo they don’t like… I personally hate photos of people holding beer bottles. I think it looks sooo bad. However, another bride I knew had her groomsmen holding beer bottles for a couple of the shots… she thought it looked more casual and fun.

  6. i like the idea of the forbidden photo list to. i DO NOT want the kissing under the veil, jumping in the air or posing in ridiculous unnatural poses.
    I’m meeting with my photographer at the weekend and i’ve got some inspiration photos from gorgeous shots i’ve found on the offbeat bride flickr pool that I’m taking to show her

  7. Eeep! Just what I was thinking! I am shooting my first wedding this weekend, and I can’t really get anything more detailed than one idea. So stressful!

    • I’m shooting my first this weekend too! Good luck to you 🙂 And this post was very helpful!

  8. Our photographer caught a few really fun shots without prompting, and the less posed ones turned out really well.

    Over a year later, my mother is still disappointed that the photographer didn’t go around to all the tables for pictures.

    • Ugh…this has been a constant argument with my parents. They really want table pictures so we have photos of everyone who was at the wedding. But when someone passes away later, looking at a picture of them standing awkwardly won’t look as good as a picture of them interacting, looking happy, tearful, etc. I hate table pictures.

      • I’m a few months behind on this, but I’m planning my photography list right now, and this exact thing came up. Well, not exact as in people dying, but the “every table” photos. I told my photographer to get a REAL picture of every single guest, a real NON-POSED photo. I want to see every person having fun so I can see it through their eyes for a moment, rather than seeing every person forcing a smile or feeling awkward.

        • As a wedding photographer, that request is really tough… just because there will be a lot of guests that just sit at their tables and watch everything else happen. They won’t be standing around laughing and dancing. Photojournalist style shots of those people will look like they aren’t having a good time. If you want your photographer to have to basically count all your guests to make sure they got a picture of each one, that’s cool.. but just know they will probably miss capturing real moments trying to fill this request. Not saying they shouldn’t try to do this anyway… But if you make it a must have, then other things have to call to the side to complete that.

    • We solved this in another way. At the entrance of our venue, we had a beautiful deep red wall with a big window next to it. Our photographer asked people to pose for a portrait in front of that wall as they arrived (before even greeting us).

      The results are amazing: I have a beautiful portrait of everyone at our wedding. Everyone looks at their best: already in a party mood, but still fresh. I’m very happy we did this.

  9. Two of my very best friends are wedding photographers (so fortunately they know us so well that I don’t really have to worry about this.) But they are always complaining about the ridiculous, long lists of obvious shots that people give them, probably downloaded from above mentioned site. They say find it to be very insulting when they have four page outlines of things written in bold, underlined and in some ridiculous font that says “Bride and Groom Cutting the Cake!!!” and “Bride and Groom’s First Dance!!!”
    But it is helpful for things that aren’t so by the book like “Bride and Groom enjoying snow cones.”

    Also, don’t be too hard core with specific shots and poses. You have picked your photographer for a reason. You like their style. Trust them, let them do their thing and you will be very happy with their artistry. If you chose them because you love the way their photo journalistic approach looks, you may not be as happy with your photos if you bog them down with a check list of super posed pictures. “Bride standing at alter with all 7 bridesmaids bouquets strategically placed on her train….”

    • Those kinds of detail shots are EXACTLY the kind of thing all the photogs I interviewed asked us to include in our list. A checklist of all posed pictures we want, including a list by name w/ titles of all the important people, and any candids we want them to catch if they can.

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