The modern wedding shot list: get the photos you REALLY want from your big day

wedding family photo

Tessa Barton Photography

When all is said and done, your wedding day is going to be an unforgettable event that you’re sure to remember forever. However, no matter how unforgettable the big day is, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got some gorgeous photos that capture all the special moments! That’s where your wedding photographer comes in — you’ve hired an amazing professional to document your day, from the earliest getting-ready moments to the final send-off. Chances are, your wedding photographer is working off some kind of wedding shot list to ensure that you get all the most important photos — think family portraits, the first look, your first dance, etc — so you don’t have to worry about building a specific shot list for them. After all, you hired them because you love their work and artistry — if they’ve done this before, you can rest assured knowing that they’ll take care of getting the must-have wedding shots!

However, there will need to be some degree of collaboration between you and your photographer so you can make sure that any special details personal to your big day (think family heirlooms, a photo with a relative who’s played a special role in your life, etc) aren’t missed. In addition to that, you’ll need to think about the family portraits — there are going to be a lot of different combinations for family pictures on both sides that will need to be taken; to preserve both sanity and time on the day of, it’s better to plan for those combinations beforehand.

As an expert, your photographer is going to have a good idea of the types of family combinations to capture, how to corral your family members together and how long the whole process will take — so make sure to ask their advice and what resources they’ll need from you in order to make that critical part of your big day successful!

Below, we’ve outlined a few tips on how to prepare a short and sweet modern wedding shot list for your photographer.

Special details:

Wearing a unique family heirloom? Really proud of your something blue? Is a photo with your beloved pup a MUST for your wedding day? Make sure to let your photographer know so that they can document it for you. The last thing you’d want is to realize you actually don’t have that close-up photo of your grandmother’s special, vintage necklace!

wedding dress something blue

Wonderful Life Photography via Romantic Country Living

Write out a quick list of all the must-have detail shots that you really, actually care about. Your photographer is sure to get everything else — the obligatory photos of your dress on the hanger, your shoes, centerpieces etc. — so no need to reiterate these on your shot list unless there’s something particular about them you’d like documented. Plus, how often are you going to look back on your photos of the things from your big day? Trust us, the real memories are going to be in the photos with the people who matter, so keep this list short and sweet. A few ideas to get you started:

  • Any special family heirlooms you’ll be wearing
  • Any decor or wedding details that you’re super proud of and you want to document
  • Any special details with your wedding outfit (your something blue, unique detailing on your dress) that you’ll want to remember

Family portraits:

This is the section of formal photography that can get a little bit tricky and time-consuming, especially if you’ve got big families. In order to maximize your time and be efficient, it’s best to have a list of a photos you’ll want with different family members planned and distributed to your photographer in advance.

wedding parent portrait

 Smitten Photography via Style Me Pretty

Additionally, you’ll want to tell your photographer the names and general appearance of any key players beforehand — think your parents, grandparents, siblings, and any close aunts/uncles/cousins. That way he or she won’t have to single your family members out in an awkward way (“hey, you in the yellow skirt!”).

An additional pointer — it doesn’t really make that much sense for the couple to take photos apart. Think about it, which of the photos are going to get framed in your house: the photo of just you and your family on the big day, or the photo of the both of you with your family? Yeah, we thought so. Some exceptions might be if you’re taking a photo with a relative or friend who’s played a special role in your life — but it’s up to you to figure out what makes sense for your personal situation.

Some recommended combinations of family members are as follows:

  • The couple and the bride’s parents
  • The couple and the groom’s parents
  • The couple with both sets of parents
  • The couple with their siblings
  • The couple with the bride’s nuclear family (that includes siblings and possibly grandparents)
  • The couple with the groom’s nuclear family
  • The couple with both nuclear families
  • The couple with the bride’s entire, extended family
  • The couple with the groom’s entire, extended family
  • The couple with both sets of families in their entirety
  • Any additional shots of the couple and meaningful family members in their life

This list can certainly be extended to include more combinations for family portraits, but try to cap the family portraits to between 10-12 different shots, otherwise you could take photos right up until the guests arrive (which is NOT what you want).

Wedding Party portraits:

This is is a little easier to coordinate, as wedding parties tend to be more similar across different weddings and your photographer probably already has an idea of the combinations that work.

wedding bridal party portrait

Logan Cole Photography via Green Wedding Shoes

Here are some common ideas for different types of wedding party combinations — however, definitely let your photographer know if there’s a special combination of people within the wedding party that you’ll want to capture!

  • The bride and each of her bridesmaids
  • The groom and each of his groomsmen
  • The bride with the groomsmen
  • The groom with the bridesmaids
  • The entire wedding party together

Don’t forget to send (or even print and frame!) the photos of your wedding party for your bridesmaids and groomsmen — too often members of a wedding party will spend hours taking photos with the professional photographer, only to never see the end results. Plus, they make for sweet and thoughtful thank-you gifts!

Final details to send to your photographer:

fun wedding photo bride groom

Logan Cole Photography via Green Wedding Shoes

Once you have an idea of the must-have photos you want captured on your big day, make sure to send them to your photographer along with:

  • A wedding day timeline
  • Contacts info for important wedding day people (your MOH, mother, etc)
  • Contact info of your wedding vendors (coordinator, caterer, makeup/hair artists, etc)
  • Any other important information they should know about (restrictions for your venue, divorced/separated/complicated parental or family situations, etc)

Want an easy guide to filling out and sending all this info to your photographer? Then don’t miss this wedding shot list and info sheet from A Practical Wedding

Couples and wedding photographers, are there any other tips I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments!