Wedding Photographers: Here’s Why You Don’t Need a Shot-List


April 16, 2023

follow @nikkidaskalakis
Forget everything but the way it feels to be here. No matter her subject, Nikki documents moments with an intuitive sense of their emotional relevance and inherent beauty. 
more categories
meet nikki

Do you ever get caught up in the photos you think you’re supposed to take on a wedding day, so much so that it distracts you from the photos you wish you were taking? Do you tend to look outward for direction when it comes to wedding photography? Comparing yourself to other photographers? Questioning…why didn’t I think of that? What made them take that photograph?

There’s a few things that might be going on here, and they’re important to talk about. Fixating on the question of “why not me” usually boils down to a lack of self trust. Here are a few things to think about in learning how to let your art and creativity flow when photographing a wedding. Today, I want to tackle the different categories of wedding photos that you,  as a photographer, might capture throughout a wedding day. Why is this important? Muscle memory. Once you understand what types of photos are important to take on a wedding day, your workflow will feel more natural…maybe even like second nature! Read on for a complete list of what I think are the most important categories of wedding photography…because a shot-list could never compete with trusting your gut.

Point of View “POV” Wedding Photos

These photos help the viewer see the many perspectives of a wedding day (see: how it looked to be there). Of course a beautiful shot of a tent entrance is one to feature in any wedding gallery, however, it’s just one way to see an entrance. What photos can you take that show how guests may have experienced the tent entrance. How did the glow of the tent escape the opening as the sunset and candles were lit? What did the blur of guests dancing just beyond the sailcloth look like? These are examples of how you can shift the POV and invoke memories or feelings just by capturing the same vignette at different angles throughout the day. As the day goes on, the photos will obviously look different and this is your chance to show how the mood has shifted.  You’ll ace POV photos if you ask yourself “how else can I shoot this” or “what’s another way to look at this?”

Examples to consider

  • How the bride/groom/partner looks from behind while entering the ceremony while all the guests look back at them
  • A peek into a room filled with people while a doorway or entrance is visible 
  • Guests moving from one location to another (cocktail hour to reception) in a group or line
  • A note written from one partner to another (in their hands) from the angle of their eyes
  • Guests looking for their name on an escort board

Anchor Imagery

The shots you take that serve as the baseline for the wedding day. The meat. The core and flow of the day.  If you were to look over the wedding timeline, there would be a photograph to correspond with every big milestone moment of the day. Your couple will be looking for these moments in their gallery.

Examples to consider 

  • A bride/partner getting into their dress or attire
  • A couple’s first look of the day
  • First look with a parent
  • Walking down the aisle
  • The first kiss and exit from the ceremony
  • Speeches
  • First Dance
  • Cake cutting

Editorial and Portrait Imagery

Chances are, these photos are one of the main reasons your clients hired you! Standard portrait and editorial images are the part of the wedding day that balances tradition and creativity based on your clients’ specific needs or comfortability. You may have clients that love portraits, and they’ve carved out chunks within the wedding timeline for just this, conversely, some clients hate the attention of portraits. Both can yield beautiful results, but your approach will be different. An engagement session is a great time to get a feel for what makes your clients comfortable ahead of their wedding. 

Pro Tip: invite your clients to move around or give them a task (like walking, telling a secret, cuddled on a chair) if they’re nervous. 

Candid and Photojournalistic Photos

Clients and guests often get excited about these photos for different reasons. Clients don’t typically get to absorb these wedding moments because wedding days are such a blur for them. They didn’t get to see Uncle Joe laugh so hard that he cried at the reception or what your mom looked like when you walked into the ceremony. These are your Vogue images to be honest. What was everyone doing when they weren’t trying to look like they were doing something? My tip for the best candid photos? Stand around awkwardly and keep your camera down while you wait for a moment so that people put their guard down…and get a fast camera.

Examples to consider 

  • A group of friends chatting during cocktail hour that didn’t notice you
  • Find the crying guest during the ceremony
  • Find the “class clown” making everyone laugh during dinner
  • Cheers moments
  • Dancing (I recommend playing with flash and shutter speed to invoke how energy changes as the night progresses)
  • The teenager, bored on their phone
  • Search for the couple that’s romanticizing their own future wedding day (you’ll find them and the photos will be adorable)

Family Formal and Group Photos

Weddings tend to be one of the few occasions family and friends congregate in one location. I can’t stress enough how stressed you will be if you don’t get a complete checklist from your couple with each group to photograph on the wedding day. Do yourself a favor and have your clients provide an approved list. These photos are extremely important and don’t require a ton of creativity, but they do require attention to detail and pre-planning.

Pro Tip: make an announcement to have guests remove cell phones and wallets from their pockets. 

The Details

These are the shots your vendors are looking for. Passed appetizers from the caterer, floral details, stationery moments, the escort board, etc. There are a few reasons these images are important. First and foremost, your client paid for them and they’ll likely want to remember the overall design aesthetic of their wedding day. Secondly, the vendors worked hard and will greatly appreciate photos of their work. To take it a step further, photographers are curators of wedding day imagery. Imagine taking photos throughout the day but never getting to actually see the images—the vendors we work with are at our mercy. Don’t be an asshole. Take the photos. Share the photos. While client focused images are a priority on a wedding day, detail images are part of that. You may find more meaning in the details than you thought.

Examples to consider 

  • The reception place setting (ask the planner to stage their favorite if they’re not too busy–they’ll appreciate it)
  • A flatlay or still life of the stationery
  • The bouquet (in hand and staged if there’s time)
  • Any floral arrangements or installations
  • A guest reaching for an appetizer
  • The signature cocktails 
  • Signage
  • Rentals

Of course I could go on and on here, but ultimately, knowing the categories of different types of wedding photos will allow you to free up some mental space for creativity and break out of the distraction of checking a shot-list throughout the day. Lean into the moments of a wedding day that feel significant in each category.

Comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *