Why you shouldn’t have a wedding photography shot list and the five things that you should do instead —
Today, I’m discussing two words that put knots into every wedding photographer’s stomach without fail — shot lists. They’re something that I’ve dreaded since one of my very first weddings when I arrived in the morning and was given 28-page duotang complete with every single image that my bride was hoping to have photographed.
I’ve always looked back on this experience as something that was a defining moment for me as a business owner. Not because it made the day stressful for me as her wedding photographer, but because it could’ve been avoided. Not because I was frustrated with my bride for doing so because she was trying to make my life easier. Primarily because I should have taken the time to educate my bride on why this causes stress.
Learn from my experience
This instance was the first time I had ever been given such detailed information on what I should be shooting. I’ll be honest in saying that I was incredibly naive at the time. I never realized that when I was handed this list, it would distract me from photographing so many beautiful, natural moments that were occurring directly in front of me while I was staring down at a list, and studiously crossing them off one by one.
By taking the time to put this shot list together, my bride was unknowingly making my job harder. I’m here to tell every overly organized bride to put down the spreadsheets and word documents. Erase all of the notes saved from Pinterest on what photos you need for your wedding day. Instead, follow these five guidelines. I guarantee that by not making a shot list, you’ll be making your photographer’s life easier, and making your wedding photos way, way better!
Hire a professional —
I know this should be a no-brainer, but it still needs to be said. If you’re hiring someone who has limited wedding photography experience, it might be necessary to ask for photos that you’ll find on lists like “first kiss” and “bride walking down the aisle.” However, having these moments written down on a shot list doesn’t actually guarantee that they won’t be skipped over. The easiest way to avoid stress about your photographer on your wedding day is to hire a professional. Experienced photographers will have a mental shot list of what moments to capture, and know exactly what to expect.
Hire a photographer who compliments you —
Your ideal wedding photography experience starts even before hiring your photographer. I’m not saying to hire someone who says that you smell like pine needles and have a face like sunshine… Although that definitely doesn’t hurt! To ensure that you have the wedding photographs of your dreams, you should first establish what you are envisioning. Then, make sure to find a photographer who matches that vision.
I find it helpful throughout the hiring process to request full galleries from the photographer you’re potentially going to hire. Use this as an opportunity to make sure that the way they approach photographing weddings matches what you’re hoping for. For example, if one of your priorities is great bridal details, do you see examples of this in their work? A photographer who doesn’t show these types of images in galleries from their previous weddings likely isn’t as good of a fit as someone who really shines with those images.
By selecting the right photographer for your wedding to begin with, you will be far more trusting of their ability to do their job in a natural and fluent way. This means that on your day, you won’t be worrying about them completing their list and can trust them fully.
Opt for a family shot list instead —
I know that this may be conflicting information because technically a family shot list is still a shot list. In the case of formal family photographs, it actually does the opposite of stress us out. No matter how well you get to know your photographer throughout your planning process, there is no way that they will be capable of knowing your individual relationship with all of your family members. It is beyond important for you to send us a family shot list ahead of time. This way, we can ensure not to miss any specific group photographs of the family members you love and adore.
Communicate with your photographer —
In the same way that everyone always says “communication is key” when giving you and your fiancé long-lasting marriage advice, communication with your photographer is key as well. Whether it is sitting down and having a conversation with them over coffee, or even sending them a quick email prior to the wedding, it is incredibly important to communicate what is important to you when it comes to your wedding photography.
Point out unique aspects
Even if you hire the right photographer, you also need to set them up for success. The best way to do this is to let them know anything that is unique to your relationship and wedding day. Specifically, this includes anything of sentimental value that hasn’t been discussed. If you have your grandmother’s handkerchief sewn into your fiancé’s suit jacket that he is wearing the whole day, it’s impossible for your photographer to know that it is even there let alone the emotional significance to the two of you! Without knowing these things in advance, they will definitely be missed.
Don’t recreate, document —
I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. I love how simple it is to find inspiration for things like decor and design. However, I hate how simple it is to fall in love with images from wedding blogs. Some brides see these inspiration images and become fixated on having that exact shot. Sadly, this is easier said than done, and you often lose the “magic” when trying to remake a photograph.
Analyze your favourite photographs
When a bride sends me a Pinterest page full of images she wants to recreate on the day of her wedding, I always try to ask her what it is that she loves about those images. A lot of the time, there are decisions that she can make ahead of time that will allow for us to have photos that are similar without copying the exact photograph. If you find that you are drawn to morning images in window light with white getting ready spaces, for example, you can find a space ahead of time that will give your images the same tones and lighting style as the ones you admired.
Keep the day flowing
By analyzing what it is that draws you towards the photos you love in this way, you’re giving your wedding day the ability to flow without interrupting those beautiful emotional moments to pose the same way as a bride you found on Pinterest. This way, instead of having photographs that make you say “oh yeah, I loved that photo online!” you’ll have images that you’re more emotionally connected to, and make you say “my photographer captured that moment so beautifully!”