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!

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Comments on Offbeat guide to the wedding photo shot list

  1. on noes….

    i had no idea that photogs wanted a list..(sigh) one more thing to add to the list of things to do….

    though i can definitely see it coming in handy when doing group shots.

    • It’s definitely not necessary. Your photographer will pretty much already know what you want unless, like I said, there are some extra special weird parts to your wedding that they’re not expecting. I’d say skip making the entire list if they didn’t ask for one and JUST make the family/friends group shot list. It will help that time go by a LOT smoother.

      • My husband also just asks for a family/friends list. I like it as the “assistant” to avoid family drama. He likes it because of sensitivity reasons… he lost his Mom at a pretty young age, and he didn’t want to be reminded at our wedding that she wasn’t there by having some photography go, “Mother of the Groom, where are you???”

        Plus, a lot of people ask for photo-journalistic style with just a few posed shots of family. Most photo-journalists don’t want shot lists for the whole wedding.

        • That’s a good point. My dad passed away and I am finding it stressful to have to remind vendors in advance to not mention or ask where my dad is. I hadn’t thought of the photographer as a person I should warn in advance.

      • That’s what we’re doing. I trust our photographer to document the day well; that’s why I picked her. So we’ll give her just the list for posed photos. We’ll probably also talk her through key moments of the ceremony, but that’s just because she hasn’t been to a Jewish wedding before.

  2. My husband and I own a videography company. Everyone has a relative with a new digital camera who thinks he is a pro. If you are PAYING professionals to do your photos/video, please tell Uncle Dick to not get in the way. We want to do what you are paying us to do, but at the same time, we don’t want to cause drama with your family.

    • You know, I keep hearing this (and I personally am terrified of the idea of 20 different camera flashes blinding me during the most important parts of the day because for some reason everyone feels the need to get their own picture of everything) — but how does one graciously tell people (who IMO ought to have more common sense anyway) to put their cameras away or not interfere? I can’t exactly bark out “I’m not walking down this aisle until you all quit it with your freaking cameras” as I enter the chapel.

      • I’ve heard of (but haven’t seen used successfully) using signage at the entrance to the ceremony, reminding people to turn off their cell phones and put away cameras. You could also ask someone to make an announcement, but that may appear a little pushy. But you’re right–it’s hard to avoid.

      • My friend was adamant about this and had the celebrant remind the guests not to take pictures right before the ceremony started.

        Of course, a friend of her mother-in-law still took video of the whole thing surreptitiously, which she’s still pissed about and refuses to watch…

        • A friend had the celebrant tell guests not to use their cameras during the ceremony and it seemed to work. I was a little unsure of when I was then allowed take photos again though, so I don’t have many of their wedding. It might be a good idea to let people know when they can use their cameras again if you do tell them not to at any point. 🙂

          • We posted a notice about “Unplugged Weddings” on our wedsite, and I am putting a snippet about it in the program as well. In addition, we plan on having a small sign on the table where the programs will be placed. I think three “heads ups” about not taking pics should do it, and if not, then oh well!

    • I am guessing you want paid for prints. Myself and my husband are photographers. When we go to a family wedding you bet we are taking pics whenever we get a chance. Not during the ceremony necessarily.

  3. We just got married in June and opted out of any posed photos (although we ended up getting roped into a few!) It was more important to us to have the relatively short time filled with fun, instead of guests waiting around for us to finish with the photos after the ceremony(we did the whole he didn’t see me thing until the ceremony, so before shots were out!)

    One thing that worked well for us was that we had our photographer stick with us for the first half of the reception (we had also agreed to stick together for the first half.) That was our greeting time, as we didn’t do a receiving line. We made sure to talk to everyone there and with the photographer with us, we pretty much got a picture of both of us with everyone. For the second half of the reception, we had a list of details we wanted (you know, dog, garden, amazing cupcake table…) and then just asked her to take as many candids as struck her fancy. In addition, we asked friends to take as many shots of the crowd as they could – they weren’t the most beautifully framed photos, but we were so busy mingling, it was awesome to see who was hanging out with who throughout the night!!

    Our photos are mostly back to us – from the photographer, friends and family. There are a few shots we wish we had gotten, but the shots we DO have really show the story of the night, which I think we will like more in 20 years than the family photo, prom-like pictures!

  4. This list is just another reason why I’m so glad we’re doing the wedding the way we are. We’re not having a ceremony or a formal reception. In fact, we’re calling it our 0th Anniversary, haha! I’m not comfortable in front of cameras and in fact, we don’t have many photos of us at all (either of us!)

    I had no idea there were so many “shots” that most people wanted included in their wedding day, it’s insane! I mean, 90% of the stuff on that list we won’t be doing like the dancing, the speeches, the introducing of the couple, anything of the ceremony… yikes!

    My FH is a graphic designer and all his friends are designers and amateur photogs, so we were just going to tell people to bring their cameras and go crazy 🙂

    Kudos to all you photographers out there for (especially Megan for this list!) I’m in no way creative and would never have thought about any of this stuff.

  5. We have been married 38 years, and I also do wedding photography (friends and relations only). Now our own most valued wedding photos are the group shots, of friends and relations that are no longer with us. A wedding is one of the few times when a family will come together, and there is a photographer on the scene to record it.

    I see so many professional photographers spending hours doing the arty stuff with bride and groom, but who don’t then take any group shots at all. In years to come the lack of group shots will be keenly felt.

    I urge you to take group shots whilst you have the chance – tomorrow/ next week/ next year may be too late.

    • But what if you’re not comfortable with posed group shots and want to do something more candid (like just sitting with my parents enjoying the atmosphere or giving my in laws a little tour of the park where the wedding and reception will be held)? I found out when I first started taking pictures even a little bit seriously that the candid shots of groups turned out to be much more poignant and simply more beautiful to look at as time went by. I also think it’s a better way to spend time with your various family members, as opposed to everyone getting arranged a particular way. Anyone else considering this?

    • I think so much depends on the individual couple and their individual families.

      For example, one of my best friend and her husband have tons of family drama and getting everyone to stand around for a bunch of posed shots would have been a nightmare of infighting and pettiness. (You think people could set that stuff aside for one day, but no.) So they did a lot of artsy shots of the bride and groom and mostly candid shots from there. Because when they look back on their wedding they want to remember the beauty of the day and their love, not which family members weren’t speaking to each other or threatened not to attend or gave them backhanded compliments at their own reception.

      Anyway, that’s just one example. I think that every couple has different elements of their wedding that they want to remember. Those with close families will want lots of those types of pictures. Those with families they tolerate will not.

  6. What is pj style? I assume it wasn’t a sleep-over. Although that sounds kind of fun…

  7. I’m a rather odd person so my photos will probably end up including things like “Bridesmaids jumping as Bride pokes them in sides”, “Groom wrestling with Best man”, “Mother of the Bride making the Muppet face”, and “Groomsmen throwing dice at each other”.

  8. I once had a shot list given to me by the bride and the first one on the list was “Bride and Groom’…no kidding! 😀 Sorta goes without saying, I would have thought.

  9. This is on my mind because we just did a wedding where “Uncle Dick” invaded the family formal photos and started directing. “Oh, let’s do this shot, let’s do that, blah blah.” This WILL make your photo/video session go longer and delay your ability to be at the party with everyone else. In this particular case, it would have been nice if the bride/groom had said, “Oh, Uncle So and So, we have a list that we are following to make sure we get all the ones we want with our professional photags. We’ll be around later and can do some more shots with you then.” Maybe? I don’t know. Then do it later with Uncle Dick only if you REALLY want to. I mean it all comes down to family dynamics too. My main point is that as a vendor, we want to make you happy. Missing the party may not make you happy. Uncle Dick being in the shots, reducing the total number of good shots may not make you happy. Especially for video, which is totally different than still, it is a pain. In terms of the ceremony, it is inevitable that guests will be taking photos of you coming down the aisle. That’s not really a problem from my perspective.

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