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“Shot list” is a buzzword you’ll likely hear at some point during the wedding planning process and refers to a list of photos you want your photographer to capture on the big day. Not sure what to include on your list? If you’re thinking about a shot list in the traditional sense, let us shift your perspective and show you how to give your photographer something *truly* helpful to them and beneficial for everyone involved in your wedding. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t actually include specific shots! Keep reading for all the deets.

bride and groom standing close together | tips on preparing a shot list for your photographer

Photo // Outland Weddings

How to Create a Shot List for Your Wedding Photographer: The Do’s and Don’ts

Simply put, when you hire a professional wedding photographer to capture your special day, you’re paying them (and trusting them) to do a professional job. However, there are some details you can and should send your photographer that will help them capture your day in a way that most accurately tells your story and reflects who YOU are as a couple.

DON’T:

  • Don’t instruct your photographer to capture standard wedding events (getting ready, walking down the aisle, the kiss, first dance, cutting the cake). They’re there to capture the day as it unfolds and these events are a given.
  • Don’t give your photographer descriptions or screenshots of specific poses or shot setups to emulate. What you see on Pinterest and Instagram is meant to serve as inspiration, not something for your photographer to try and recreate or copy.
  • Don’t expect your wedding photos to look exactly like any others you’ve seen. Lighting, location, weather, and endless other factors play into how your photos will turn out. It’s your unique day, after all!

DO:

  • Make sure your photographer knows both who and what are most important to you to capture, outside of you, your fiancé and your wedding party.
  • Make sure you have a photography timeline (typically created by the photographer with input from you and your main vendors) and that your vendors are on the same page, schedule-wise.
  • Work with your photographer to create a list of the family groupings you’d like photos of.
  • Do let your photographer know if you have a desire to have your wedding photos published. There are certain types of photos many publications look for, so your photographer will need to approach certain things with a keen eye.

Let your photographer know if there are any special moments you’d like to happen, like a first look with your bridesmaids or your dad, a letter or gift exchange, touching or talking to your S.O. prior to the ceremony without seeing them – it’s totally okay for you to tell your photographer about things like this you’d like included in your day. They’ll make sure these events get captured beautifully!

Your wedding photographer does need to be made aware of special personal details to which they may not otherwise pay special attention. Are you wearing any special jewelry? Including any family heirlooms in your ceremony? Highlighting something borrowed or blue? Let them know about these items so they can be sure to capture them!

Do you have any extra-special family members or friends you’d like to make sure to get a photo with? Definitely tell your photographer! Think about your VIPs and give your photographer a heads up so they’re sure not to miss those people.

How to Make a Family Shot List for Your Wedding

The one actual checklist your wedding photographer WILL need is a list of family groupings with first names listed out for each set. Your photographer should have a template or suggestions of groupings to help you get started, but if you’re stuck, we have a few pro tips!

The family groupings usually include three segments: your family, your fiancé’s family and both families combined. Depending on the timeline of your day and whether or not you choose to do a first look, some of these groups may be captured before the ceremony and some after. To make it easier to think about who should be included, start with the biggest group (i.e. extended family with aunts, uncles and cousins) and have your groupings get smaller from there.

IMPORTANT TIP: Be sure to let your photographer know about any potentially awkward family dynamics. Divorced parents, estranged relatives, someone recently passed away – knowing any details like this ahead of time can help your photographer avoid having to ask uncomfortable questions or say the wrong thing in front of your family on the actual wedding day. Remember: your photographer knows you, but they’ve most likely never met your family!

What to Give Your Photographer Instead of a Traditional Shot List

In sum, your wedding photographer doesn’t need a checklist or collection of shots for “inspiration”. But DO let your photographer know about special items, personal details and special people they’ll want to highlight. Get specific with your family groupings list and include as much helpful information as possible.


Trust your wedding photographer to capture your day’s events as they unfold in a way that reflects their creativity and style as an artist (remember, you hired them because you liked their work) and that also reflects you, your family and your story. Your love is like no one else’s, so your wedding photo album shouldn’t be, either. Cheers to beautiful photos of the most special day!

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