Succeeding at Wedding Photography, Whether Beginner or Experienced Pro
My Wedding Photo Shot List is Simple
Wedding Photography Shot List comes from my career of shooting exceptional weddings. “Tell me about your list” came up often. I remember people I met with to talk about their upcoming wedding. They had heard about lists, and they may even have a copy of one. They would mention it early.
I would talk them out of it without even trying. It was not intentional. Looking back, to interpret their feelings and their interest, it was quite clear. Their goal was to be sure they had good photography from a professional committed to completely covering this special day. Once they had confidence in me, as their photographer, there was no more need for the list.
Families, as formal groupings, were shot at two different times during the wedding day. Pieces of the family were usually the component that gave them concern in planning. Early, before the ceremony, is a time for mostly the immediate family.
Then, right after the wedding, larger more extended family can be photographed. When all went great, which was normally the case, we got to the reception surprisingly quick. I would explain how I shoot families starting with the larger group which may include cousins and others.
Working from large down to immediate family and parents one-on-one with the Bride or Groom. You’ll learn more soon about the Family Groups’ Module and will see it in the Wedding Shot List. So all the cousins, distant relatives and friends can be a part of the formal photos. Obviously, along with the immediate families. Some of your needed specifics will follow in the ‘Family Module’ technique.
The Wedding Photography Shot list is written with the underlying goal of giving you the ability to cultivate your own list. I’ve included both Excel and Numbers copies. It’s editable. It is the story of how my shooting grew and changed. That feature of growing and changing is key to the success of wedding photographers. So, learn what is given and adapt it to your clientele and traditions, grow and prosper.
The Family Helper
In addition to Family Modules, I would explain how the Family Helper would be a key member of my team. A new friend on staff, hahaha. This is my helper, who knows the family and can connect me with them at a more ideal time.
The Family Helper is a close friend of the Bride or her family. She is not in the wedding and not a parent to the Bride or Groom. This person serves as an organizer to help the photographer get those special photos. The Bride and others gather names and communicate them to the Helper, not you. The Helper has an honored position working with this small list of family members and friends that may not, for whatever reason, be part of the formal ‘at the church’ photos.
This person knows who Uncle Charlie is and who all the sorority buds are. Most of the folks I dealt with in this capacity enjoyed connecting with these folks and helping in a very unique way.
Those cousins from Houston and all the little groups left excluded from the altar return time can be done as the reception slows for photography. That is, time when the couple are visiting and dancing. Eating has tapered so folks can smile for your camera. You need to connect with this Helper early at the reception and keep them posted of your plan for completing her requests. You may be doing the cake cutting or first dance and take time to touch base with them about when would be best to shoot those groupings. When things slow a bit you go to her about the list of folks. She knows the people and knows if the bride and/or groom need to be a part of it.
Their List Disappeared
Once, I feel the Bride and Groom OR Bride and her mom was clear about my explanation of coverage, they were comfortable that everything would be covered. Don’t get me wrong. There is more, at that point, for you to do about organizing for the big day. Realize, you’re not eliminating the list totally. You are shifting from their preprinted list to a list you create that covers all the bases of the needed subjects of your photos. So, let’s move on to the list. Get the copy in three different formats. PDF, .xlxs for Excel, and .numbers are in a single download. Use what you can use. The Excel and Numbers formats allow you to tweak the list to be your own. They’re editable — to grow and change as you do the same.
The Wedding Shot List
Whose list is it. It needs to be yours.
The list you’re about to learn about is a step in the the right direction to gaining confidence. You need confidence with your situation. Attitudes change drastically when your new wedding client can have confidence in their photographer. They will feel good only after the results are viewed, but you need their confidence ahead of the wedding day. One way to accomplish this is to be and convey to them that you are organized and have spent time planning. When the shot list is discussed — you have the answers. As family information is gathered you have a form for keeping all the facts close. When some of the family detail requests get too deep —you have the answer in the Family Helper, your new team member.
Explain to your new client how Modules work (only if needed because you’re a newbie). The client will realize the planning going into their day and your focused efforts. They will realize you have the list in their minds covered. The modules are just ahead.
Explain how the organizing and the work before the wedding can be a key to minimal shooting between the ceremony and the arrival of the couple at the reception. It can be very fast.
“We get so much of the family groupings done before the ceremony and we’ve got formals with the Bride and Groom and many candids telling the story — We, after the ceremony will do the Bride’s family, the Groom’s family, now with the Bride and Groom together, the wedding party, the Bride and Groom as newlyweds, and we’re done.”
Many altar returns of mine ended with me, the Bride and the Groom at a beautiful church or synagogue. Things were all done to that point with me checking my list, mentally. The quiet sets in for a moment.
“We’re done, let’s go to the party.” They would look at each other with surprise. The surprise in them was based, probably, on the numerous weddings that they had attended or been a part of where the newlywed couple was uncomfortably late to the reception. When the bride and groom are late the folks waiting assume it’s cause of the photographer. When they show up quickly, yes folks will notice.
This timely arrival that you orchestrate can also be a star to your credit. People will notice this about you.
Create a List For Your Style
There are details about how you shoot weddings that I in no way would want to diminish. Detail is to follow, that for some may be a ‘system’ to duplicate. You may see the Sections and the Modules that I explain and feel restricted. Don’t forget, there are plenty of places in the game plan of the day that opens up to your way of shooting. Make it your own.
Some special brides, your early clientele, will define your style by the way you photographed their special day.
There is traditional. Candid or freeform. Photojournalistic/documentary and mixes. When you finish the next wedding, review the collection of images and make adjustments to get to the place you’d want it to be.
My mix is very candid with a heavy dose of photojournalistic. I keep Formals to a minimum.
So take a look at the spreadsheet. Wedding Shot List PDF is more than just a preprinted list. You’ll find it available as a Numbers and Excel document. The idea is to look over the basic information and adjust, as needed. Consider making a copy so you can keep one as a reference and one that you can customize as your own.
To Each his Own.
I read somewhere in preparing for Wedding Photo Shot List about a list of must-have photos. As an example, one was to be sure to get the Groom escorting his mom. I’m sure it’s a great shot — But, I can tell you that, for me, I have only done this a few times in my career. The times I’ve shot this is on the occasion of the family making that a priority. Groom escorting mom was important so I captured it, as it happened.
I would never have staged the shot. That intrusion is not part of what you learn from me. The thing it shows and puts emphasis on is that the traditions, or what’s important, in different parts of the country; connecting to different religions; and different ethnic groups need to be considered and adjusted for as your business grows. Family priorities will take place, and you need to be there to capture the memories. If you feel that something needs to be a part of your list — it needs to be.
Think of the Sections
Let’s Start the Wedding Photo Shot List
Start with the Sections of the wedding, that is, larger groups or sections of photographs. The next step is to get the Modules nailed. The Sections include these (see it on the spreadsheet list): Pre-Wedding Bride, Pre-Wedding Groom, Pre-Ceremony, Ceremony, Altar-Returns, Reception and the special module of Scene-Setters & Non-People.
Pre-Wedding Bride – The Bride alone, with family (more immediate family), the bridal party. The locations would be the sanctuary and a more casual dressing or hidden area. The formals will become something almost second nature. Introducing the Family Module.
When you have a couple of cousins to include, start with the Family Module to include mom and dad beside the Bride, positioned so when you get to this pose in the sequence they are already in position. Brother and sister are next to them, and then, add the cousins. After orchestrating this largest group, your first shot is this together. Then, let the cousins go. The family was already positioned for this, so click. Got that. Then, let the siblings go. Now mom and dad with the Bride. Then, just dad with the bride. Next, mom with the bride.
Then, the sister and Bride and brother with the Bride. Now, brother and sister with the Bride. Then, the Bride alone in a variety of poses. Move to a similar variety with the bridesmaids. Start with the largest group and trim down to the Bride with each of the maids individually. More with Bride alone. Why? You may notice your Bride is kinda warming up or losing her nervousness as the time moves ahead. Doing more may get the more relaxed poses needed.
Pre-Wedding Groom – Groom alone, with family (Family Module), the groomsmen, The locations are the sanctuary and a more casual dressing or hidden area. I’ve done fun photos of groomsmen playing poker, singing fight songs from their college days, or just sitting around and enjoying their time together in the dressing/hidden area of the church. In both the Bride and Groom sections, be sure not to forget the kids. Ringbearers and flower girls are an important part of the wedding day and sometimes the plan may be to somewhat protect them from some of the excitement. Excitement can turn into nervousness and stage fright for the youngest players. Be sure you get them in a few important groupings and alone with the Bride or Groom.
Pre-ceremony – This is shifting in camera or photographer technique to being more photojournalistic. What’s the Bride doing? The Groom? The groomsmen or ushers will be escorting parents and grandparents. Get those shots in the lobby/foyer. Bridesmaids lining up, talking and looking at each other and the bride. Get that. Picture the photo made near the Bride when dad steals a glance at his little girl, maybe from a distance away. Get the shot. When Maid of Honor is looking and cutting up across the distance. Make lots of shots. Have the Bride in the foreground. More shots. Get all the storytelling emotion. End this section as the Bride and her dad start down the aisle. You can be to the left of the Bride and look past the bride at dad looking at his daughter.
Ceremony – During the ceremony, if possible, set up a tripod with your second camera all ready to go in the balcony. Set-up should happen before the ceremony. Basically, get photographs of each setting within the story of the ceremony. With dad; as dad gives his daughter away; the couple kneeling; moving closer in; after bridal party sits; Bride and Groom exchanging vows; facing one another; the rings being exchanged; the kiss; the newlyweds being presented. Be sure to get the kiss and the presenting of the new couple by the minister.
Altar Returns – The formal group photos. Family Module again. Now with the Bride and Groom together do the Bride’s family with all the variations; the Groom’s family the same way. Then the wedding party, starting with all in position similar to during the ceremony. This start shot includes the minister, flower girl, ushers. This sequence moves from large to small. With the last photos being Bride and Groom alone.
Reception – The celebration begins. The couple being presented, dancing, visiting and being congratulated; throwing the bouquet and garter; cutting the cake; toasting; leaving and in the limo; and lots of candids of all the guests.
Scene Setters and non-people – This is the only out of sequence section. When you have a minute, you are scouting for shots that help the story.
The bouquets early, still in water; the outside of the church; the doors of the church; lots of flower shots both in and out of focus, for page layout backgrounds; The rings as still life; Bride’s shoes and dress, maybe before dressing; tux close-ups; centerpieces, cakes, food and anything that comes to mind special at each wedding.
There have been archways and special loaves of bread. Boxes of cigars and trays of champagne glasses help in the storytelling. Chairs and white aisle runners can be special mementos. Some of the things become more important when you think of the day as a book.
The page may have a close-up of the flowers with other photos positioned on top to form a well-composed page. It all tells the story. Just stay on the lookout for something you may not have noticed before.
The Pass-Thru Technique that Keeps Wedding Photo Shot List flowing
On the day of the wedding, your clients, their families and the wedding party have ideas about the photos, and they’ve all had experiences at the weddings of others that give them a base of credible information on the subject. There is always the little things that happen, never planned for, that we need to also be ready for on that beautiful day.
The Family Helper
Someone steps up out of the clear blue—-“Can you take my picture with Crystal?” Don’t hesitate and always start with a big smile. “Are you gonna be at the reception?” “Yes.” “Can I take your picture then?” —-“Thank you so much.”
You’ll learn to decide when this can be used and when you will do much better to make it when requested. Examples: when moving from Bride’s room to sanctuary and someone stops the Bride in the hall. No scheduling challenges—-shoot it—-go for it and make some people happy. Crunch time at the front of the church during alter returns make use of the Pass-Thru Technique and mention the Family Helper. “Can I make that at the reception?” Move it to a bit later.
So, the request is made, and you shift it to happening at the reception. It’s the Pass-Thru Technique, and it helps to be sure things all happen closer to the schedule or timeline for the day. Our most critical time is the Altar Return Section, and this module needs to be protected to get them, the Bride and Groom, to the party on time. So, whenever a threat arises (yes, I know that’s strong language), with a happy attitude Pass it Thru to the reception for shooting that grouping or whatever. Use the name of the Helper who will help to get all the requested shots.
How to Use the
Wedding Photography Shot List
See the tabs titled as the Sections, and that seems clear and understandable. It is basically the timeline of wedding photography. Then, move to the Modules row and once again fairly clear. BUT WAIT (you do things a bit different), you ALWAYS shoot the Bride dressing at home.
No problem. That is why the Wedding Photography Shot List is available in PDF, Excel and Numbers.
Both Excel and Numbers formats are editable. Maybe add Location/Dressing to your list as a Section. Then, what are the modules for that Section? Maybe indoors and out. Maybe clothes before they have people in them, get artsier as a still life. Once you have the Sections the way you like.
Get comfortable with the Modules. Add specific photos just as a reminder. By memorizing the Sections, then the Modules, then some of the key photos needed, you will quickly find less of a need to have the list on the wedding day. Consider using your assistant for keeping up with what’s done and if something may have been left out. On the wedding day, fix it as soon as possible. If the Groom’s brother did not show for the early Family Module then be sure to get the two of them during the reception.
In conclusion, I’ve simplified something that can be very intimidating, a list of hundreds of photographs. Wedding Photography Shot List allows for a small list of Sections/Modules to be, easily, committed to memory. We’ve reduced into a manageable collection of Sections of photos. Then Modules. Then a substantial listing of picture ideas. I needed this to be adaptable. So, starting with the given Modules in Wedding Photography Shot List, we can begin, then expand to a workable (personal) set of Modules that covers the needed norms and gives plenty of room for adapting personal ‘must haves’ as one grows in this very rewarding specialty of photography.
Did I fool you? Yes, my list was never a list. What you see today in Wedding Photography Shot List grew by experience. My Sections were learned from a very successful studio as how they organized the wedding day, I assisted and learned. The Modules were tweaked with my wedding-after-wedding experiences. Like the ‘Throwing Module’ at the reception when the garter sequence and the bouquet sequence combine with pictures of each that came together to become one Module. The Family Modules were a natural. All this took the place of working a list every weekend. My list is the way I decided to pass on to you a very fun way of capturing one of the most beautiful days in the lives of many.
I hope this has been helpful. Take a minute, and tell me about your interest and whatever gives you stress about wedding photography. Most of the challenges are cured with some planning. Like I hope we’ve done today with Wedding Shot List. Reach me at info@TEKeez.com..