It’s been too long since I’ve written an advice piece. However, a few weeks ago I started working on a timeline guide for my wedding consulting clients and I had a photographer give me some feedback on my line item concerning “shot lists.”

She shared,

“… as a photographer, one of the biggest problems I have run into is couples that are really “in love” with their shot lists.  I think many of them get that idea from online wedding sites and magazines who recommend making a shot list for the photographer”

After getting that feedback I thought it would be useful to blog about this – the important difference between giving your wedding photographer a list of important portrait shots…. and giving your wedding photographer a detailed list of EVERY picture you want taken that day.

Our expert photographer continued:

I know each photographer is different, but I personally cringe when I see lists suggest making a “shot list” or “must-have” list because then I receive a list like “my mom’s hands as she zips up my dress” and “me putting my shoes on” and “a shot of our rings” – I work with each of my couples to get their list of “out of the ordinary” shots that aren’t standard shots that I am obviously going to get, and as I do that I explain to them why I don’t take a shot list.

Here is my advice:

1. First and foremost, make sure you have this conversation with your wedding photographer early on. Manage both yours and their expectations.

2. Do not become married to the idea of “shot lists” [like what i did there?]. While it’s OK to want certain groupings of your family in portraits, you should not expect a photographer, who is a talented, professional artist, to stick to a long list of the shots YOU want. You are not the photographer, they are!

3. Do not pin “pose shots” on Pinterest. This will only cause you to want your photos to look like other couples’ photos … and why would you? Don’t even tempt yourself here!

4. Realize that your photographer is the professional and most likely knows better than you.

I think in the end you will be 100% happier with your wedding pictures if you don’t create a shot list. You won’t be driven mad that your photographer didn’t get that carbon copy picture of a pose you saw on Pinterest and instead you will be enlightened by the amazing, UNIQUE, and personalized shots that the professional photographer captured of YOUR day.

I mean plus, you just can’t plan for pictures like THIS on a shot list:


  1. Definitely agree. It’s distracting looking at a shot list–and we can miss awesome moments like that crazy cool shot above!

  2. I believe it boils down to trust. You should hire someone you believe will capture the spirit of your wedding in the style you envision, and then let them go. If you are making a huge list of must-have shots, then maybe you don’t really trust the person you’ve hired to do their job.

    On the other hand, I don’t mind when my clients pin things and show them to me. I’m always frank that I’m going to work with the time, lighting, location, etc. at hand – but if there are certain things that really move my couples, I want to know. As with anything, it’s about balance.

    Additionally, it’s really important to let your photographer know *unusual* things that are important to you. Most photographers will ask, but if they don’t, you should make sure to let them know who you want in family groupings, if there are certain objects you would really like photographed, if there are unusual or distinctive parts of your ceremony/reception that would be helpful to know in advance.

  3. I agree with your post Bree. I only ask for a must have list for family groupings. That’s it. Everything else should be spontaneous! That’s the way I do it with my clients. I did have one bride who gave me a shot list of all the photos she absolutely needed to have, and it was impossible to do without a second shooter, lol. I just think that brides should know what they want, and trust their photographer to do a good job about it. I don’t mind when clients show me poses they like… when i take them, they don’t look exactly the same, only similar and they end up liking mine more :D

  4. Ahhh! I love this!! I actually don’t shoot with shot lists at all. One reason I always offer my couples for NOT giving me a shot list is “if I’ve got my face buried in a three-page list of ‘must-have’ shots, I’m going to miss those organic, GENUINE moments that happen in the in-between.” I would hate to miss the moment your dad sees you for the first time on your wedding day because I’m stressing out over checking off each bullet point on a shot list.

    Having a shot list can stress your photographer out unnecessarily- like Amber said, it all comes down to trust. If you’ve hired a photographer you trust, know that they have enough experience to know which shots are “must-haves.” I always caveat that with a little note about if the couple has something out of the ordinary that wouldn’t naturally occur to me (like a piece of Grandma’s lace sewn into the lining of their dress, an heirloom necklace wrapped around her bouquet, etc.) to note that in their pre-wedding questionnaire. Those are the kinds of things I do need to know about. But standard shots like “front of dress, back of dress, shoes, mom zipping up dress?” Don’t sweat it, brides! Those are part of a professional photographer’s standard repertoire!

  5. Abby really hits the nail on the head, if a photographer has their eyes on a shot list making sure they’re getting everything, they’re missing the other genuine moments that are happening around them.

    And I love that you said not to use Pinterest as your must-haves. It’ll never be exactly the same and you’ll likely be disappointed when there’s no need.

    Well said, Bree!

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