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Why Creating Your Own Wedding Photo Shot List is Important

Teenage me did not like to hear the life lessons my mom was trying to teach me while growing up. It was the “I knew it all” stage of my life. So I didn’t want to listen to her advice because I knew better.

In looking back –I wish I had. Selective hearing was a bad habit growing up that taught me some important life and business lessons. For instance, I could have avoided or uncovered some difficult or hidden moments.

So what does that have to do with your wedding photo shot list? I’m glad you asked!

Discover the photos you didn't know to add to your wedding photo shot list.

In this blog, I’m explaining…

  • the Purpose of having a wedding photo shot list
  • why you should Pass on adopting someone else’s shot list
  • the Process to create your own custom wedding photo shot list

Alrighty, let’s get right into it!

Guide for 5 photos to consider adding to your wedding photo shot list.

What is the purpose to having a wedding photo shot list?

Tell me if you agree or can relate. “I want to make sure that the photos that are important to me are captured. While at the same time, I don’t want to be stressed out/thinking about making sure that what I want is actually captured on the day of . Not trying to be a bridezilla over here, but weddings have no do overs and I want to get it right.”

Good News: You don’t have to become a bridezilla to make sure you get the wedding photographs you want. The solution is to create a personalized wedding photo shot list of the must-have images. So that you can communicate with your wedding photographer about what to have captured, beforehand.

Before we get to the process of creating that shot list. Let’s look at two important purposes on why creating a photo shot list for your wedding day is vital.

Purpose #1: Understanding What is Important

Firstly, creating a shot list should not be about listing every single possible thing you can think of. Or from a random list you found on Pinterest (more about this in the process section). 

Mostly importantly, the purpose of creating a shot list forces you and your fiancé to communicate (practice ’em marriage skills!) about what is actually important to the two of you.

While weddings generally have the same structure, it’s the details and little things that makes your wedding day story different and unique. What may be important to one couple, may not apply to the two of you.

One Moment, Many Options

There is a lot that goes on in one moment at a wedding. For example, walking down the aisle during the ceremony. There are so many parts and pieces that the photographer could choose to focus on:

  • Bride walking down
  • Groom’s Reaction
  • Parent’s Reaction
  • Wedding Party’s Reaction
  • Guests’ Reaction
Walking down the aisle has different moments for the photographer to choose to capture.

The most common assumption is that the Bride wants to be able to see the Groom’s reaction to her walking down. But what if your siblings was in the wedding party, and you knew that they were going to be emotional. Would that be a priority photo for you?

Its moments like these where the photographer can make assumptions on what’s the priority. What may be obvious to you, may not be obvious to the photographer. A photographer might only be focused on the bride walking down and the groom’s reaction.

It’s difficult in such a short moment to capture everything. Especially if we aren’t aware, or have been told what’s priority for you as the bride and groom.

Purpose #2: Communication with Your Wedding Photographer

Gif of a bride communicating with her wedding photographer on the big day

This one might seem like a no-brainer to you. But unless your wedding photographer can read minds (if yours can, please give me their info so I can learn their secret!)– how are they to know what is important to the two of you?

If you have chosen a wedding photographer based off my guide, then you are already on the right path. I won’t say that every photographer will ask for a photo shot list or have the same structure as we do.  That is to say that as a wedding photography specialist company, we have our standard shot list of details, formals, and signature images that we photograph for each one of our couples.

RELATED: How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer Guide

However, it is a value of ours that we never want to cookie-cutter our couples. We want our couples to have the freedom to pick and choose photos they want captured based on what each one of them values.

Why it is Important to Choose the Right Wedding Photographer

This is where my story about selective hearing comes in. We as wedding photographers could choose to have selective hearing about what your wants and needs are. And we can decide that we are going to do our own thing or pick only the parts that we like.

But because we believe so strongly that these photos will affect your marriage and your children’s view on marriage. It’s important to hear out each photo shot list item you communicate to us about.

Deeper than that –we want to know why those particular shots are important to you. 
Your wedding photographs are your tangible memories.
They are not for us photographers –they are for you: the couple.

It is important to find a photographer who values what your wedding photographs will mean for you. Rather than a photographer who is concerned about getting published or creating pretty pictures.

Purpose #3: To be Present on the Wedding Day

One of the secret keys to unlocking a stress free wedding day is to plan as much as you can (weeks) before the wedding. Anything that can be decided before the wedding day– should be decided, so you don’t have to on the big day. Doesn’t matter if it’s big or small.

Don’t wait until the last minute (or worse –the day before or the day of) to tell any of your wedding vendors what you want. Not only will this put you in a stressful mindset. But the last minute curveballs will either freak out your wedding vendor, or they won’t be able to accommodate your last minute request!

Putting together a personalized wedding photo shot list and sharing that list with your photographer, will allow you to entrust your wedding photographer with the knowledge that they know what you want captured. There’s no need for you to tell them on the day, because all that communication with them already happened.

Bride and groom sharing a moment after the ceremony as the Groom sheds a tear.

In short, your wedding photos should be the least of your worries. You should be focused on being completely present on your wedding day. Every little detail has already been planned. This is the moment you’ve waited for so long. You deserve to live in the moment.

Why You Should Pass on Adopting Someone Else’s Shot List

I’m just going to come right out and say this. Someone who is adopting someone else’s shot list is saying that their wedding memories are not a priority. Here are three things about adopting someone else’s list.

Remember The Reason

Your wedding is about you two. This wedding is not your best friend Sally’s wedding. Or even your mom’s wedding day. Yes, your mom is part of your day– but this day is about you two.

Bride and groom nuzzle their heads together on their wedding day.

The photo of your mom with your uncle may not be a priority for you as it will be for your mom. One hundred percent, I believe that marriage is about the joining of two families. I’m not saying that your mom shouldn’t be allowed to get a picture with her brother (your uncle).

But what I am saying –is that what you two should be thinking about is what is a priority for the two of you (more about that in the next section). These wedding photographs will be yours.

You will be the one to cherish them, print them, and showcase in your home.
And your kids will be the ones that will look at them and remember, as they grow older, the kind of marriage they want to have.

Have No Regrets

The photos added to your shot list should be the photos that mean the world to you two. The must-have photographs. The photographs that you would be devastated if your photographer was not aware of, if not captured.

Tom Holland cries as Iron man dies.

Adopting someone else’s list without the consideration for what matters to you two specifically, will leave you with room for doubt or regret. Why take that risk on your wedding day when you have the power to plan for it beforehand?

The Exception to the Rule

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when creating your wedding photo shot list. You totally can reference other people’s list as memory joggers or inspiration as conversation pieces with your fiancé about what matters to you both. But what’s important to use other’s lists as a reference and not something you should take as gospel.

Here are some recommendations of resources to look into:

The Process in Creating Your Own Custom Wedding Photo Shot List

Now that you understand the purpose of creating your own wedding photo shot list and why you should avoid adopting anyone else’s list. Moreover, it’s time to create your own.

Step 1: Schedule a coffee or lunch date with Your Fiancé

Schedule a coffee date with your fiance to discuss what photos are important to have on your wedding photo shot list.

“Preparation for tomorrow is hard work today.” – Bruce Lee

While this may or may not be necessarily “hard work.” During your short period of being engaged, it’s important to be intentional in allotting a specific time to discuss this topic.

Step 2: Talk about Wedding Photos

This is probably the first time either one of you have gotten married. Therefore the key is to just starting talking about wedding photographs.

Lost in where to start? Here are some questions to ask yourselves to get the ball rolling:

  • What are photos from your parent’s wedding album that you admire? Why?
  • What are you most excited for the wedding day?
  • What your are doing differently from everyone else?

RELATED: 5 Photos to Consider Adding to Your Wedding Photo Shot List

Lost? Feel like those questions didn’t trigger any or enough important ideas to add to your shot list? Now I would look to Google/Pinterest. Again, the idea is to find what’s important to you.

Step 3: Take notes of your ideas

“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.”

Linos Pauling, Nobel Prize Winner

After that would be to write your brainstormed ideas down on paper. Don’t be afraid to get that paper messy. You are going to re-write this list later.

For a little more organization, here’s a tip how I would section your notes:

  • Make a T-graph with one side having your name, and the other side having your fiancé’s name
  • Write down each person’s ideas on the appropriate side
  • Circle the ideas that are similar to each other
T graph example to brainstorm ideas for your wedding photo shot list.

Step 4: Consider Asking for Advice

Only after you’ve discussed with each other what’s important to you two, then I would consider asking for others’ advice. Write down their ideas on the back side of the same paper.

Instead of asking your parents, what photos they would like included on the shot list. Rather, I recommend asking them specific questions –like how you would ask a friend who has been married.

  • What is one photo they LOVE?
  • Is there a photo they wish they got?
  • What are photos they didn’t care for as much now but thought that they did before?
Bride laughs at groom as they show off their wedding rings.

Step 5: Sleep on it and Re-evaluate

Take some time away from the brainstorming session. Then come back together to look at everything that was written. With a different color, highlight the ones that still resonate with you as important. Taking note the ones circled on both sides of the front of the paper that are similar.

Step 6: Create a New List

Looking at the new markings, take a new sheet of paper, and this time write down the ideas that were highlighted.
Digitize that list and have it ready to send out to your wedding photographer when the time comes to put together your wedding photo timeline.

RELATED: How to Create a Stress Free Wedding Photo Timeline

This list is a living and breathing document. In addition, feel free to add, take away, or make notes to your ask for your photographer’s opinion in to make these shots happen.

In conclusion, creating a shot list isn’t about listing every single possible thing you can think of. Your professional wedding photographer already has that covered.

A custom wedding photo shot list are the photos you would be devastated if you didn’t have them.

As all wedding photographers are, we are human and can’t read your minds to know what is or isn’t as important to the two of you.  It’s your job to let your photographer know what needs to be prioritized on your wedding day.


Timeline and steps to creating your own custom wedding photo shot list.

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Fine art Film DC WEDDING & PORTRAIT Photographer

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