The Shot List: Who's Who

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The shot list is the list of all the photos you will be expected to produce on your clients’ wedding day, including portraits of individuals and groups. It will determine the equipment you need, the number of assistants—in short, everything required to carry out your assignment, and allow you to keep track of your progress. You should consult with the bride and groom to produce this list. They may well want your opinion on which photos are necessary and which are extraneous. They should also designate an official spotter—someone who not only knows everyone on the list, but can pick them out in a crowd and help corral them for the photos.

Before, during, and after the wedding ceremony, it will be your job to photograph the bride and groom, along with their respective parents, grandparents, best man, groomsmen and bridesmaids, in any number of combinations. There will also probably be a short (or long) list of other people the newlyweds will want to have photographed during the course of the day. You’ll need to be familiar with this list before the day arrives.

You should also make a point of capturing spontaneous moments that occur between guests, which will serve to balance out the formality of the traditional portraits, and more often than not, sometimes these turn out to be the best pictures of the day. Consider bringing an assistant—or more than one, contingent on the size of the guest roster. A sample shot list can be found here.

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If you need a shot list then your not much of a wedding photo person.  List take you away from being creative, and spontanoius. Avoid them at all cost...

300 weddings shot

I don't agree with you... especially with todays blended familys, how are you to know who mom, dad, stepmom, stepdad, grandpa, step grandpa, honorary aunt etc.    

There will always be people with whom the bride and groom want pictures.  Also, it depends on the size of the bridal party.  I did a wedding last year, that after counting bride, groom, attendants, and candle kids, counted to 40 people.  The master list was a great help.  Obviously things like the Kiss, etc should be obvious, but if the bride and groom want family portraits, it can definitly help things flow easily.

It is not a list that in most cases changes your creative choices but it helps avoid any awkward moments with a family who may not be a tradional family.  I am so happy I used mine the day that the bride's father and his partner did not want to be in photo with the bride's mother...I was able to take the photo when the bride's mother was distracted and when the photos were done the bride thanked me for handling it so well.  So a list is to hinder your creativity but to help prepare you for what the bride wants.

I have to agree with Joy. Giving the bride a list and finding out what she wants is the most important thing. You may be the best photographer in the world, but if you don't get the shots the bride wants, you FAILED. It is the bride's day, give her what she wants.

I disagree; I find (and as the article stated) lists are helpful for the client to help you find the people you need to photograph. I do not often shoot weddings; I find them especially helpful so I do not miss a shot. They are just another tool some photographers use help keep themselves organized. 

3 weddings shot

I completely disagree with your statement.  Everyone has their own style.  If you can effectively photograph your weddings, without a shot list, and never receive any complaints for things being chaotic, going awry, or missing a requested photo... then that doens't make you any better of a photographer than the photographers that use a shot list.  I've been a full-time professional photographer, specializing in weddings, for twelve years, with over 600 under weddings under my belt.  We've shot each one with a shot list.  We are constantly complimented on being efficient, organized, and running the wedding like a well-oil machine.  It's great to have all the spontaneous creative photographs, which we get, but 9 times out of 10, our brides choose the posed "shot list" images for their albums.  We've never had any complaints.  A shot list allows us to call each family member by name up for the formals.  We don't forget a soul.  The shot list doesn't hinder our creativity.  It ensures that we capture any special requests but we also shoot many creative images that are not on the shot list.  Julie E. Hedges, JE Hedges Photography

I agree with your statement. I have done it both ways. I find that any professional will have some sort of referance to use. If i had a "photographic memory," i wouldn't need a list. But i know of a friends wedding i got invited to and the photographer was using film in one of her cameras and forgot to load the film. She lost over 50% of the wedding ceremony. Such a simple thing we may take for granted. To "forget to check" something as well as a "low battery in the aux flash. So, i know for my own professionalism, I will always have the list just to make sure i do the work i was paid for.

I have been shooting weddings on & off since 1974. (Sometimes I need a rest from the hassles) A shot list helps the bride realize what shots are important to her and hence the photographer! I use a shot list and still find I have time to get plenty of other creative & spontaneous shots all day long. The problem without a shot list, I can get too creative and forget to get an important photo until after the wedding - too late! I use it, have an assistant checking and enlist a family member to find & corral people in for shots too! Dan Zeis, Zeis Photography LLC, Ohio

Dan I totally agree with you.  I've been shooting weddings since I was a teenager with my father.  Well, now in my 40's, I'm still using a wedding shots list.  Like most seasoned photographers we can shoot without a list but we all forget things at times during a wedding event. When I'm taking a break cause I'm exhausted, I'll scan through the wedding shots list filled out by the bride and groom to see if I missed anything.  There's been several times I've looked through the list and realized that I've missed something as simple as grabbing a ring shot and I can go to the bride and groom recreate it quickly.  Plus a wedding shots list limits some of your liability for missing a pose or shot that wasnt included on the wedding shots list.  I'll also have my second shooter scan through the list periodically to make sure were on track.   I wouldnt shoot a wedding without one

Such a list would have prevented a problem with the photography for my daughter's wedding.  The photographer was highly skilled and produced marvelous photographs.  However, he neglected to get ANY photos of the bride by herself--unthinkable!

I have been photographing weddings for many many years! I ALWAYS carry a list. You can get caught up in the creative shooting and need to just take a minute and check your list and make sure you have not forgotten anything! I feel sorry for anyone who had photos missed because the photographer was too proud to carry a list with them no matter how long we have been doing this!

I wouldn't describe that photographer as very 'professional'.

I am not sure how many weddings I have shot.. more than 300. I only used a full shot  list the first few weddings I ever shot, after that even if I brought one I never looked at it.. I do make notes on requested shots that are not in my normal routine, so I guess that is a list..

I use a shot list every time I do a wedding, and am always glad I do.  That being said, I'm discovering that the more opportunity I give the bride & groom to name people they want photos with, the longer the list gets, and my time gets swamped with taking what feels like 'boring photos' that people end up taking on their phones anyway.  I generally ask my couples to keep the list to immediate family only (parents, grandparents, siblings) to maximise my creative time.  If we have extra time, we'll fit in aunties and uncles and random step-cousins :)

Lists are essential to any photo shoot.  While spontanaity is great for those special one-off shots that you get known for, you will be equally recognised for those expected, but missed shots.  I have been a planner for a number of weddings, but when my daughter, who didn't live close and didn't want to "bother" her father, got married, she arranged for another studio to do the photo session.  The results were short of spectacular, leaving out a number of those expected shots.  There was no list!!  Behind every good session, there is a planner (with a list and a plan) , as well as a good photographer.

while I agree that a shot list takes away from Photographers.. For the person that ether can-not afford to hire a proffesional this would be good guide to the DIY person.  My neighbor asked me to photograph a wedding one time.

I photographed one wedding myself with my Canon 5D mark II and I will tell anyone that a wedding is a LOT of WORK to do right. My advise Hire a Proffessional.  After my first wedding shoot that was my last wedding shoot. the pressure to get the shot is great.  because they won't be doing it twice. Once my first wedding photos went online I can not count the number of time people have asked me to shoot a wedding but I do not want the pressure.  No more wedding for me. My hat is off to the proffessional photographers that choose to do weddings you earn every cent you make.

Wow that is pretty much what I said after doing my cousin's wedding. I have done 3 all together and that was enough. They are a full days work and you better not miss the important shots or you will always regret it. This is their day and they want to remember it. I loved doing it and I hated doing it. I'm sticking with wildlife!

I think a shot list is a good thing to have so you can take a moment to make sure you did not forget anything. with as much going on as is usual during this time it never hurts to double check:)

Every decent photographer that I've ever worked with has a list. I would never do a wedding, or for that matter any contracted shoot, without a list. Anyone that thinks their memory is so exceptional that they don't need one is a fool waiting for disaster to happen, & it will happen! If your memory is anything like your spelling, YOU REALLY NEED A LIST!

The point of the list is getting together with the bride ... and her mom ... working out the plan a week or two ahead of the wedding. Once they see the list and know all of the classic shots require planning, you can work out a schedule to be sure nothing is missed. The bride and her mom have a week or more to tell grandma and special uncles, aunts, neices and others that you wish to have them included in the photography. About two thirds of the weddings I've done in the past 20 years need to create a plan to include divorced parents, and that can be done in advance satisfactorily ... but leads to all kinds of problems if left to the wedding day.

Since computers have been available in recent years, it's easy to create a shot list schedule naming names, put them on 4x6 cards [printed in the 'photo tray' of your printer] and passed out to the proper guests as they arrive by a designated member of the bride's family who knows everyone.

"If you need a shot list then your not much of a wedding photo person."   That is about as ridiculous as saying that any professional pilot that uses a preflight, takeoff, cruise, before landing, and landing checklist isn't much of a pilot... which most intelligent adults know is utter ridiculous.

I totally agree you should have a list & have your asst. go thru & make sure you got every last picture that is needed. My daughter got married & we got this photographer that is very well known & has book published & has been flown over the country to do weddings. With that said neither his asst. or himself got a picture of my daughter & my son together! Of course I couldn't be the photographer, but I sure didn't expect that I would have to tell him his job.

SO MAKE A LIST ! you will never get those memories back for them.

You are correct at the last statment however if the person never got expose to doing a wedding event and they just started it help them to know what photo's to take and it backup for them becuase they will not miss shot for the client.

every one has to start out some where you must be perfect not a very good attitude

If your clients want specific shots of different people, then yes you do need a shot list.  If you market yourself as a photojournalist and do not take any formal shots, then that is fine not to have a list. But if your bride and groom or parents want certain group shots, etc.  Then you will look really bad when you do not get them. 

I'm an amateur, I won't lie. However, I disagree with those of you who say you do not need a list. Personally, at any shoot I do, I ask the "client" what they want. If they have a list of things they want and they are paying me, I'm sure as hell going to make a list of what they want so that I can do my best to give them what they pay for.

Now if they have no clue what they want, I'm just going to go with the flow. I actually kind of like that because I like candid moments and I like to shoot from afar so that everything doesn't look posed.

I've only done ONE wedding and I am NOT saying I am any kind of expert on anything in this field. However, I think that anyone who is getting paid to do work of any kind for someone else, should listen and MAKE LISTS and notes of what their client wants. At the same time the photog should come with their own ideas to present to the client.

You are so right a list may help a beginer. But if you need to refer to a list you should try another branch of photography.Most brides and grooms have no problem telling you who they want photos of. The rest of the shots you take should be up to you.

A wedding list completely kills any spontaneity and creative flow in a wedding photography day. I always suggest the bride/groom build a list with their parents, to help them keep organized in preplanning. I continue that if they want to bring the list to the wedding, give it to someone who knows the individuals on the list. They will be responsible for gathering the participants. I always say I will most likely not shoot in the order of their list. I used to subcontract for a studio that had the list imprinted on the back of the contract; a kiss of death scenario!!! The list being on the contract, made it part of the contract. You'd stand there with camera in one hand, list in the other, and a pen in your mouth to check off shots when completed, for fear of screwing with the contract. NEVER again.