Offbeat guide to the wedding photo shot list

Posted by
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!
Megan,

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?

-Lena

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.

Ceremony:

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.

Reception

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. @Jennifer: Perhaps you can put some wording in your program to the effect of “Please delay taking photos of Jennifer until she has reached the “altar” (or whatever you are calling the end of the aisle). She and “Name” want to see stars when they first see each other, but not from flashes. 😉 We promise that we will have our professional photographer’s pictures of her coming down the aisle available to you, mailed to you, etc.” Again, only you know if your family will appreciate the humor or will be offended.

  2. Thank you for highlighting the need to PLAN bride and groom together in a photo shots. Out of the hundreds of photos from our wedding, there was not one photo of just me and my husband together. We were so caught up in the day that we totally forgot to do this. Even our photographer who was extremely organised forgot. Luckily we were able to ‘cut out’ the best man from a shot of the three of us and now that’s our ‘couple shot’. Thanks you digital photo cropping!

  3. I wish I had this before our wedding a few weeks ago! I was so NOT into the preplanned photo thing, but now I’m missing a bunch of shots I wish I had. Great stuff!

  4. It never occurred to me to make a list of the shots I wanted, but in retrospect I really wish I had. It was so chaotic the day of my wedding that no one knew what was going on, and I somehow managed to not get a single picture of me with my family. There are pictures galore with me and my husband’s fam, but none of me with mine. It bothered me so much that a few months after the wedding, I had my parents and siblings put back on the clothes they wore to my wedding, and we took a family photo in the living room, using the timer on my dad’s digital!

    BTW, I love the idea of a Do Not Photo list – my photographer kept asking me to do all kinds of cliched poses that totally weren’t me (i.e., look dreamily at your bouquet) and it was kind of annoying after awhile.

    I appreciated that people wanted to take pictures at my wedding, but honestly, that’s why we hired a photographer. After the wedding I had all these people sending me pics they took of us, and it was really sweet, but every photo we got sent was of something our photographer had already taken of picture of, but in better quality!

  5. Great article! As a wedding officiant, I’m always kind of just lingering around after the wedding, not quite sure if I’m supposed to stay for pics or not. I like to get a shot or two with my own camera since I blog about my weddings and like to include a shot of me with the couple. I usually take a few other shots as the “official” wedding party poses for the photographer, but I’ll be more sensitive in the future.

    It’s a little awkward as the officiant to stand around waiting for the time or the opportunity for my photo with the newlyweds. Is this a standard shot? Am I expecting something that’s not typically included in a shot list?

    One other comment..you have a great set of shots concerning the bridal party, but I’d encourage you to have a male assistant who can take shots of the groom and groomsmen getting ready as well, even if they’re getting ready at a hotel or other location before coming to the wedding venue. Does that make sense? Not necessarily poses but candid shots that would balance all the bridal party shots.

  6. Megan, awesome post. I definitely look forward to your future advice!
    I am curious about shots that people who are already married say “I wish I had a picture of…” I have a ton of married friends, most with very traditional, posed shots, and I’m so nervous I’ll forget something. Like, I don’t have a high school grad photo of me with my grandparents. Or with just my Mom, etc. And I can’t even imagine the photo nightmare that is waiting to happen with my Mom’s family and my hated wicked-stepmother. *sigh* I’d love some advice on how to deal with those ‘awkward’ situations too. And your work is fabulous and has so much energy!

    • Hey Jen, wish I had more to say than this but… sometimes you will forget to take certain photos and it will always suck. And as far as awkward situations… welcome to weddings! I try to stay neutral as I shoot complicated family situations and it’s great when the couple warns me before-hand as to whether or not their families will be awful. 😉 GOOD LUCK!

    • We totally forgot to include my MIL’s boyfriend. He is known as a part of the family and when they called up his side the BF didn’t come up. I didn’t think of it that day but hadn’t I made a note beforehand I/he/photographer/someone might have realized it. I still feel really bad. If you have a non-traditional anything where someone isn’t sure if they are included – make a note.

  7. One point I think worth making is that when you think you need to schedule in ‘family’ photos they can be anything, really they’re just group shots! Our chosen family of friends is just as important to us, as are people from so many different groups in our life. So we had masses of group shots in a mingling time after the ceremony, we gave our photographer a crazy-detailed list, had a guest wrangler who knew who most people were, but also made photo lists that matched the seating plan (along with an index because we’re geeks). The list made an intimidating amount of group shots go really smoothly as people knew what was going on and roughly when, and they were really fun as we posed all over the venue, so it really created movement at the party.

    I also liked this approach because it’s so hard as a guest sometimes to know when to go up. If a photographer calls out ‘bride’s family!’ you think, I’m a cousin, should I go? Or I’m a partner of a cousin, does that mean me? Plus it was important to me that my extended family shots included my ‘life’ aunts, long term friends of my mum who had always been in my life, so I wanted to honour them as well and make sure they knew they were expected.

    Chosen family is the way forward!

  8. This is so helpful! I’m so glad I found this! I think my mom does want gobs of pictures! I’m thinking of organizing a picture treasure hunt for guests with cameras for some extra shots…

  9. My list have shot is me jumping on the he’s whilst getting ready because I’m So fucking excited to be getting married to the best guy ever. Aside from that, I’m going to have to make a list of family shots or I’ll forget to take them, and we will definitely need to tell people to keep the cameras away during the ceremony.

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