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. The only list I work off of is a formals list to make sure I get all the family/friends desired in the posed portraits. Otherwise, I work in a straight photojournalistic way. Having any ‘moments’ list in general will slow down your photographer and just encourage ‘staged’ moments, which to me.. always look staged. I do ask for timelines and details on things like the ceremony, reception, etc, so I know what to look for. This approach has always worked with me. To me, the key is open communication with your photographer.. not a list. You honestly never know exactly HOW the wedding day is going to go. It normally doesn’t go quite as you planned. The best thing is to have a photographer who uses their mad ninja skills to stay on top of what’s going on and uses their eyes and brains to catch the moments you don’t even KNOW should be on the list 😉

  2. I agree with someone else, my besties are shooting my wedding photos and they do A-M-A-Z-I-N-G work. They know us well enough that they know what we want. I do not have to make lists for her, or fear that she will not journal all of the important details. She also ALWAYS catches my husband-to-be doing something really stupid because she thinks he is funny for some reason unbeknownst to me. Anyway, I trust her to get it all done and let me just be the bride that day.

  3. I am a wedding photographer and for those clients that want pics of every guest I recommend our Photo Booth with Scrapbook option. We print two strips for each booth seating, and then help the guests place one copy in a Scrapbook specifically chosen by/for the bride and groom. Guests get to decorate their picture and leave a nice message to the bride and groom — kind of an interactive guest book. Be sure to have the DJ or host announce the guest book/photo book, and you’ll get every guest into the booth at lease once. My clients and their guests LOVE this option and it’s great reception entertainment!

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