by Sheen Andola
In today’s blog post, we are talking about something many have strong opinions about – the wedding shot list. Many wedding websites will tell you that you need to provide your photographer a shot list. The list will usually include things like wedding rings, bouquets, family portraits, and so on. Some will even go as far as to suggest that you include photos of things you have pinned on your Pinterest board, that way, your photographer can recreate them on your wedding day.
Because brides and grooms-to-be sometimes go overboard with the shot list, many photographers cringe at hearing those words! A massive shot list can be limiting your photographer’s creativity, which, let us be honest, is why you hired him/her in the first place! The reality is that most professional photographers will capture 99% of your shot list by default. Your wedding photographer through your consultations, in addition to having been to countless weddings, should already know which elements and details of your big day are important to you.
Ultimately, what the shot list should contain is not every single thing that is going to happen in the wedding. What it should contain are the people and things that are significant to you and your partner. It should help you and your photographer prioritize what is important to you and spend more time documenting those aspects of your wedding. Without further ado, here are five reasons why you should have a shot list and how to keep it simple!
1. EFFICIENT PORTRAITS
To me, the part of the wedding that requires the most amount of coordination is the family pictures, usually done after the ceremony. For big weddings, not having a shot list can be a nightmare to everyone involved! I am sure you have been to a wedding where taking family photos took forever. Family portraits should be quick, not only for the sake of the dozens or hundreds of guests waiting for their turn to have their photos taken with the bride and groom but also for the bride and groom, who will have to stand there for all of it!
How to keep it simple: Titles are confusing to people; their names, however, they will recognize! So, write down their names beside their title so that your photographer or wedding coordinator can call them out loud. Include their last name if you have to! As an example, I would call out: Bride, Groom, Peter, Paul, and Maria Smith. Notice how it is not, “brother of the bride,” and “father of the groom.”
2. CONSIDERATION OF YOUR FAMILY DYNAMICS
Families come in different forms and sizes. Some families will have divorced parents, same-sex parents, step-siblings, and so on. Some family members will not get along with others, and some family members will have traveled half the globe to attend the wedding. Communicating these different family dynamics to your photographer is important both in your consultation and on your shot list. For me as a photographer, knowing the family dynamics and be reminded of it through the shot list, will help me consider how to compose, arrange, and take your family photos. It will also ensure that no one is left out of the family portrait, including stepparents and siblings, for example, or the distant uncle you only see every five years.
How to keep it simple: On your shot list, write a quick title beside their name. As an example: “Jim, stepdad” or “Joe, the uncle from Italy.” Notice how relatively short it is, but can communicate enough to your photographer to know that Jim should probably be close to mom and that I should probably make sure to take Uncle Joe’s photo before the wedding day is over.
3. UNIQUE WEDDING RITUALS AND TRADITIONS
Weddings can come in different forms. Some are modern and stripped down of the conventional trappings while other are more traditional, complete with a church mass. When coming up with things to include on your shot list, it is important to consider what aspects of your wedding are unique to you. For example, I had a backyard wedding where the groom and all the male guests were told to wear Hawaiin shirts. As the photographer, I made sure to showcase the different patterns of shirts in the photos. Similarly, a shot list is especially useful for weddings that have cultural elements to them. For instance, in South Asian weddings, you would include the Henna designs, the performances, and the entrance of the groom, among other things, on your list. For Chinese weddings, there is the Tea Ceremony and all that it entails.
How to keep it simple: Include in your shot list when and where these events are happening and how it will unfold. Let your photographer know the significance of the traditions to you and your partner and what aspects of the tradition you enjoy the most!
4. SPECIAL DETAILS
One of the things that my couples always express after the wedding was how fun or exciting the day was that they failed to notice all the decorations and details that they had spent hours planning and making. If there are DIY decorations that you have done or items that have significant meaning to you and your partner, make sure it makes it on the list. I have a wedding coming up where the flowers for the centerpieces were handmade from books the bride and groom love.
How to keep it simple: Your photographer will, by default, take photos of decorations, the venue, of the little details of your wedding. What should make it on your list are the details you want the photographer to spend a bit more time. Write “hand-made flowers” or “grandparents’ wedding rings.”
5. HELP WITH PRIORITIZATION
Weddings can be unpredictable! We have not had a Saturday this summer where we did not have the threat of rain. Having a shot list can help us prioritize photos if we run out of time, or we have to move somewhere for whatever reason. I had a wedding this summer where it was running significantly late, and the limo driver gave us 10 minutes to do the bridal party in one particular location. If I do not have a shot list, I will do the standard photos that I can squeeze in that 10 minutes: group photo with bride and groom; groom and the guys; the bride with her ladies; spend a lot more time on the couple.
Hope this has been helpful. Let me know what is going to be on your shot list! If you like this article, like and share it with your friends and family!
Sheen Andola is a wedding photographer based in Ottawa.