As a wedding photographer, you know that the wedding day can move at a million miles an hour! You’re so busy working to capture the perfect photos that you don’t often have time to stop and think or strategize. You’re working on someone else’s timeline, and you usually have to keep in mind that daylight will only last so long, too! This can be stressful, to say the least, especially because you want to make sure you don’t miss any great shots and important moments.
One of my favorite ways to simplify wedding photoshoots and ensure I take all of the essential photos couples want is to work from a wedding photography shot list. This kind of list is helpful for all wedding photographers to have, especially if you’re just starting out in wedding photography (Incidentally, if you’re new to wedding photography and you’re wondering what to wear to weddings, I got you! Check out my guide.)
What is a wedding photography shot list?
A wedding photography shot list is basically just a list of the kinds of photos you want to include for every wedding you shoot. Your shot list should include photos from throughout the entire day, starting with getting ready all the way to the end of the reception. The goal is that your photography captures all of the important moments of the day that the couple wants to remember.
Of course, you probably won’t be able to include every kind of photo in every wedding you photograph, and that’s okay. Every wedding is unique and will require slightly different photos with a slightly tailored wedding photography shot list, and that’s what makes each event so special.
Have a wedding photography plan
The beauty of a wedding photography shot list is that it takes out a lot of the planning and guesswork on your end. If you already have a list of standard shots you know you’re going to take, that takes care of a lot of the planning before the wedding! You can just refer to your list for the majority of your shots. Before you know it, your wedding photography shot list will be second nature to you, and you won’t even have to think about it.
That being said, I’m not saying that having a wedding photography shot list removes the need for all planning. Brainstorming ideas, communicating with your clients, and familiarizing yourself with the venue are all still important. Your wedding photography shot list will simply help you be more focused as you plan these aspects.
As you plan your individual wedding photography shot list for each wedding, don’t forget to…
- Ask the couple for any specific photos they really want on their wedding day
- Communicate with the couple about what kinds of family wedding photos they want
- Scope out the venue for good photo backdrops and other inspiration
- Find out a general gist of the wedding’s aesthetic, style, decor, theme, color scheme, and so on (so that you can keep in mind things to incorporate into your photos)
The ultimate wedding photography shot list for photographers
If you need to work on building out your own wedding photography shot list, I’m sharing mine with you today. Here are the essential photos that I recommend all wedding photographers capture…
Getting Ready Photos
- The bride enjoying girl talk and yummy drinks with her bridesmaids before and while getting ready
- The wedding dress hanging in front of a window or wardrobe door
- The bride getting her hair and makeup done
- The bridesmaids getting ready together
- The bride putting her dress on
- The bride’s mother helping her daughter fix her dress, put her veil on, etc.
- Full-length photo of the bride in her dress after finishing getting ready, maybe looking at herself in the mirror
- A father-daughter first look photo (cue all the tears!)
- The groom getting ready: buttoning his shirt, putting on cufflinks, etc.
- The groom laughing with and enjoying time with his groomsmen, such as the men toasting together
- The groomsmen getting ready together
- The groom and his father getting ready together (such as the dad tying his son’s tie)
- The groom and his parents sharing a moment together after he’s done getting ready
- Portrait style shots of the groom by himself after fully getting ready, maybe looking right at the camera or looking off in the distance
- Candid shots of emotional moments, such as the bride tearing up and hugging her maid of honor
- Individual shots of the bride and groom as they open each other’s gifts and cards
Photos of the First Look
Note: if the couple has opted not to do a first look, many of these shots can be portrait options to take after the ceremony.
- The bride walking up to the groom while he can’t see her
- The groom individually waiting for the bride to arrive for their first look
- The expressions of the bride and groom when they see each other for the first time
- The groom admiring the bride’s wedding dress
- The couple holding hands
- The bride and groom embracing and kissing each other
- The couple walking or slow dancing
- Individual photos of the bride and groom (posed and candids)
- Wedding guests arriving
- The bridesmaids, groomsmen, ring bearer, and flower girl lining up
- The groom walking into the ceremony site
- The groom waiting at the altar
- The bride and groom’s parents entering the ceremony site
- The bridesmaids and groomsmen walking down the aisle
- The ring bearer and flower girl walking down the aisle
- The moment before the bride appears at the ceremony site
- The wedding guests looking back, waiting for the bride to appear
- The moment the bride appears at the ceremony site
- The moment the groom sees his bride for the first time at the ceremony
- Expressions in the crowd when the bride arrives
- The entire wedding party standing at the altar
- The bride and groom’s family members’ expressions throughout the ceremony
- View from the back of the ceremony site so you can see the entire ceremony: the seated guests, altar, wedding party, etc. (a wide shot)
- The bride and groom as they say their vows
- View of the bride as the groom is saying his vows (and vice versa)
- The couple exchanging rings
- The first kiss
- Any moments of laughter, tears, or other emotive expressions
- The bride and groom walking up the aisle together after the ceremony
- The happy faces in the crowd as the couple leave the ceremony
- The bride and groom celebrating (just the two of them) outside the ceremony site
- Family and friends congratulating the couple after their ceremony
- The couple leaving the ceremony site (walking away, getting into their limo, etc.)
Note: If the couple opts for a first look, you may take some or most of these photos before the ceremony.
- The bride and groom together
- The bride by herself
- The groom by himself
- The bride and each of her bridesmaids individually
- The bride and all of the bridesmaids together
- The groom and each of his groomsmen individually
- The groom and all of his groomsmen together
- The bride and groom with all members of the wedding party
- The newlyweds with the flower girl and ring bearer
- The bride and the flower girl
- The bride with her immediate family
- The newlyweds with the bride’s immediate family
- The groom with his immediate family
- The bride and groom with the groom’s immediate family
- The bride and her siblings
- The groom and his siblings
- The bride and groom with all parents
- The family members of the bride and groom
- The bride with her grandparents
- The groom with his grandparents
- The bride and groom with all grandparents
- Photo of outside the reception venue
- View of what it looks like to enter the reception venue
- Inside the reception venue when it’s all set up for the party, but before anyone else arrives
- Close up table shots: centerpieces, place settings, wedding favors, dessert tables, gift table, guest sign-in book, etc.
- Food and drinks: wedding cake, champagne glasses, signature cocktails, fancy hor devours, etc.
- The bride and groom entering the reception (do a series of photos from them arriving at the venue to them actually entering the party)
- Guests cheering for the bride and groom when they arrive
- Guests enjoying the party
- Bride and groom at their table
- Wedding party at their table(s)
- Parents, grandparents, and other immediate family members at their table(s)
- People toasting the couple
- The couple kissing while seated at their table
- The bride and groom sharing intimate moments during the reception, such as gazing at each other lovingly or whispering to each other
- The couple sipping champagne together
- The couple’s expressions while their loved ones toast them
- The bride and groom walking around and chatting with their guests
- Cutting the wedding cake
- The father-daughter dance and mother-son dance
- The bride and groom’s first dance
- Dance party photos: the parents dancing with each other, wedding party dancing, and other guests dancing, too
- Candids of the bride and groom enjoying themselves with their wedding party
- The bouquet and garter tosses
- The bride and groom getting ready to leave the reception
- The bride and groom leaving and getting into their getaway car
Miscellaneous Details to Capture Throughout the Day
- Wedding invitation suite photos
- Close up photos of the couple’s wedding bands and the bride’s engagement ring
- Wedding dress details, such as a close-up shot of the intricate lace on the dress
- Outfit accessories, such as cufflinks, snazzy shoes, and special hairdos
- Floral shots: the bridal bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, boutonnieres, and other floral arrangements
Now it’s time to use this wedding photography shot list!
Whew, that was a lot of photo ideas to get through! If this wedding photography shot list feels overwhelming to you, I want to encourage you: you’ve got this! You’re a wedding photographer for a reason… because you already have an eye for capturing these kinds of photos.
This wedding photography shot list isn’t meant to intimidate you. Rather, use this as a tool to simplify things for you. You can use it as a guide so you don’t have to spend as much time planning the logistical details of your shoots, and instead can focus on what you do best: capturing magical, romantic photos that your clients will love!
Happy photographing, my friends!
P.S. Do you have any essential wedding photos you’d add to this list? Let me know! I’d love to hear your ideas.