Ask the Experts – Should I Provide My Photographer with a List of Photographs I Would Like?

Planning & Advice

Lists can come in handy at various times on the lead up to the Big Day – a wedding checklist to keep you sane as you navigate your planning journey, a list of essentials for your bathroom baskets or even a packing checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten to bring anything important with you to the hotel. However, when it comes to the capturing all the moments from one of the most special days of your life, is a checklist of photos really necessary? Photo shot lists (a list of photos to capture on the day) often do the rounds on blogs and forums but does your professional photographer really need one? We put it to the experts themselves, the wedding photographers, to see what they thought. Check out some invaluable advice below…

From the Experts

Tara Donoghue Photography | View Profile

To answer your question simply, our answer would be no. The reasons for this is that it restricts the creativity of the photographer if they have to spend the day checking off a list of standard shots which have been copied from someone else’s wedding somewhere online. It also could mean that special moments are missed because time is spent concentrating on a ‘must have’ list. What we ask our couples to provide us with, is a small list of photographs that they require of family or friends which are not ‘the norm’. For example, if their aunt Mary or their best friend is flying from Australia to be at their wedding, then let us know as we want to make sure that she is in lots of photos! Or if one part of the couple have a surprise planned for the other, let us know so that we are in the right spot in advance to capture that moment.

What we don’t need is a list of “photographs of the dress, shoes” etc as these are all the standard photos that every couple will receive as part of documenting their special day.

Steve Rogers Photography | View Profile

Some clients want lots of group photos done. The bride and her friends, groom and his… the football team, college friends etc. Some couples don’t want that and want the photographer to just get what he/she can as the day goes through, with minimum interruption to the guests.

Clients really should make the time to meet up with the photographer and go through the timing of the day with them. If your photographer will do it, it is so worth doing a pre-wedding shoot. This will let the photographer know what you would like. If there are certain people who have made a huge effort to get to the wedding (i.e. flying in from New Zealand) then it’s worth noting them, but keep the list small. In summary, I would say there should be no need to give an experienced photographer a list. If you do want to give them a list, print it out for your best man and chief bridesmaid too. That way the really special people (your favourite Aunt, the special travellers) won’t be forgotten.

Darren Byrne Photography | View Profile

I would say it would depend what sort of list it is! There is no need to give your  photographer an exhaustive list of generic shots you would like – makeup being applied, flowers, rings, dress hanging up… we are well seasoned professional photographers who will know all the standard wedding photography shots that are needed.

Of course, I don’t know who your best friends are, or who your relatives are that have travelled from abroad, so of course, if you want a photo with them, I need to know! We meet couple the week before their big day to get the specific shot requests that they have. So trust your photographer, they know their stuff. What they can’t know, is the specific people you want shots with so by all means, tell them!!

Daniel from DKPHOTO | View Profile

For any wedding couple, choosing your wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions that you will make. For years to come, the photographs that hang on your walls will be the main reminder of your big day. Understandably, many brides think it is a great idea to send through the list of photographs that they want but it will not help me or any professional photographer to do our job well. In my experience, as a professional photographer, there are so many reasons why creating this list is a not a good idea.

Firstly, I’m prepared – When I meet a wedding couple I will go through their ideas and what they are looking for from their day. Making sure that we are on the same page is essential.

Creativity – Every bride should go through a photographer’s portfolio before they make a booking. That is the best possible example of a photographer’s work and what they were able to capture for another bride.

Forgot about the photos – You cannot fake excitement, emotion or joy. You cannot generate a special moment with your groom, your family or your friends. You are not an actress! Allowing yourself to enjoy and genuinely experience your day will make for an amazing photo shoot for the photographer.

Sample photos – It can be very difficult for a photographer when you find a photograph online or on social media that you want on your day. I always recommend that we create a WOW photograph that is unique to your day, rather than trying to re-create a special moment from someone else’s day.

The only list needed – There is only one list of photos that I always ask for. As a family man myself, I know how important your family is on your wedding day. I like to know how many family pictures you need taken and how the family dynamics work. That’s the only list I need!

Greg from IG Studio Photography | View Profile

My answer is no. Apart from a list of group pictures, I would not like to get that type of list from my couples. For me it’s simply impossible to watch what is going on at the wedding, to try to catch the best moments and keep looking at the list at the same time. Many of these shots from the list we take anyway. It’s not what weddings are about for me.

Couple Photography | View Profile

Like everything in life, a happy medium is welcome. Photographers are creatives and don’t want to run around ticking a shopping list saying got that… next on the list is… and then the bride and groom want to make sure they get what they want covered. So it’s all about the chat with the couple beforehand. We have a wedding coming up with lots of requests as the wedding has eight wedding cakes, two bands playing, Asian food as well as traditional. So in order to keep our style of photography and cover the wedding, we are adding another third photographer to capture more so we can concentrate on the atmosphere of the day.

It’s really all about communication. We want to keep our couples happy and get the photos they want and also be true to our style of photography which is why they booked in the first place.

Rose Gowan Photography | View Profile

It is always great to have a plan and always essential to chat about your day with your photographer. A list of photos is a great start to begin the conversation. But a list of photos isn’t a plan. Our style is to see the pictures that you want and then to try to work the pictures into the day so that there is the max emphasis on enjoying the day alongside capturing the memories. For example, a picture with your grandmother might be on the list, I am always then looking to see what the best context for that picture would be, for example sitting down getting ready with a cup of tea might be much more Granny to you than standing by a grand chandelier at the hotel – or both.

David McAuley Photography | View Profile

I don’t require an image by image ‘standard’ shoot list from a bridal forum or a wedding site but I do want to hear any ideas or requests that the couple have so I advise them accordingly if required, sometimes a Pinterest California beach wedding or Seattle street scene doesn’t quite translate to a windy Irish churchyard in March. Every wedding has a structure but each is unique to that couple and that is my approach. At our pre-wedding conversation, I will run through the key members and important people for the family/group images and also ask if there any special items, locations, situations etc. they would like to have included. Very often we could be at the venue itself and suggestions and ideas will arise during the conversation. Lists and requests don’t dictate what I do on the day and I am interactive with the couple throughout the day and the day itself evolves and changes.

Kathy Silke Photography | View Profile

First of all I think it’s important to differentiate between a ‘Shot List’ and the request of some photos you would like. A Shot List is usually a long list detailing many photos a photographer ‘should’ get throughout the day such as “shoes, bride with father, bride in dress” etc. A request of photos that you would like is more personal to you the couple, I always ask my couples if they have any special request photos, maybe a granny who is important to them or sentimental jewellery. I don’t think it’s necessary to provide your photographer with a shot list. 95% of the ‘shots’ on it are pretty standard, if your photographer needs to be reminded to photographer the bouquet, or the bride and groom together then I would have second thoughts about hiring them.

On the other hand if you want to make sure your photographer gets loads of shots of your granny who travelled from overseas or your mother’s ring, tell them. Chances are we’ll capture these things anyway, but knowing they’re that bit extra important to you means we’ll focus on these people or items throughout the day. Communication is the key here, talk to your photographer, tell them if you have ideas, or ask them for ideas. We’re here to help and make your day go smoothly, we’re all professionals and pride ourselves on capturing your day in a creative and candid way. A shot list is rarely if ever needed to do this.

David from DMC Photography | View Profile

At a wedding I am there as a professional photographer, chosen by a couple to record the atmosphere, the emotions and the craic of their special day. Of course with years of experience, a professional wedding photographer will capture the day and probably all of the photos on some of the’must have photo lists’ in circulation, as it unfolds. The photographer should always be aware of what is going on around them and position themselves for those special little glances, the special moments that you know from experience will occur during the day. What I do like from each couple is a shorter list of photos that will be personal to them, photos with particular guests, perhaps guests that they went to school or college with.

The more experienced a photographer is the less need there is for a long detailed list of must have photos as the photographer will already have a mental list in their head to work from. Perhaps if you feel that your chosen photographer may not have a lot of previous experience, you may be more comfortable giving them a detailed photo list. However experienced your photographer is though, they should accept a list from you if that is your choice.

Each couple will spend months or perhaps years planning the perfect wedding and many will put a lot of personal touches into their special day. So it’s natural that they’ll want a photographic record of all of their hard work and effort and I believe that it is part of my work as a professional wedding photographer that I must do my best to try to photograph all of their special touches. I always make a point of asking each couple about the work they have put into their special day and make sure to capture all of these details so if they want to include these items in their personal photo list that is fine with me.

Zi Fernandes Photography | View Profile

I honestly don’t have a problem when the client sends a list. When couples choose me as a photographer they know my style. There are details in the marriage that we as photographers do not realise, because it is the story of the couple and I think this exchange of information is important so that the photos are perfect. But first and foremost, the couple needs 100% confidence in the work of the photographer, because if it is to photograph only things on the list, anyone with a camera can do it. Remember that photography is art and it depends on the moment to happen!

Deirdre Langan Photography AIPPA | View Profile

Yes, do by all means, but keep it short! If there are some compositions that you really would like, an image say of the sentimental blue heart sewn into the wedding dress then yes, do let your photographer know but I’d advise against a long list that may be more of a distraction and hindrance than an aid. I know for most couples, this is a new experience for them and they won’t necessarily know the set of shots that they can expect from their photographer but if they look through a few complete wedding image sets from any of their prospective photographers, they should get a good idea of how their day may unfolds in images.

For most couples, one reason they’ve hired their photographer is because they love their style and they trust them to do a great job. So let them do it! Photographers get inspiration from many sources on the day and it’s more likely to be from the venues/locations, the family, the bridal party and their energy rather than a list. And a good photographer will be able to maximise and bring out the best in all of these on any given day.

Mike from Dublin Wedding Photography | View Profile

We send out a form requesting a list of group family photos to be taken, and the individuals required for each one. We have a list of 10 standard family group photos that we supply and advise against doing much more than that. If there are any particular shots at specific locations required they can be added too but people generally only add one or two, like they’ll be stopping off at this park or for a pint.

I don’t like having a big list of must have shots, it takes the fun and spontaneity out of the day. All our clients would generally have a pretty good idea of what kind of shots we look for. When we meet them we explain our approach; we’re not big into filler detail shots, we prefer to capture people enjoying themselves and concentrate on candids of guests and informal fun pics. Letting the couple know how we work gets us away from the long list of ‘must have’ shots, most of which we would probably shoot anyway and having to check them off a list just kills interaction time with both the couple and guests.

Liam Kidney Photography | View Profile

I always meet my couples in advance. During that consultation I always discuss their photography likes and dislikes and together we both come up with a comprehensive plan for the day, so we are both singing from the same hymn sheet on the day. Sometimes a couple will want particular photos with relatives and friends and I will go through this in detail and set aside a time when we can take these photos. This is different than working from a list.

Professional photographers will know from experience what photos are required for the couple in order to cover their wedding. If they are working exactly from a list this may stifle their creativity. I would cover most of what is on the standard list at every wedding.  If I didn’t I wouldn’t be doing  my job. I would add though that if a couple want particular photos, don’t be afraid to ask for them. Most photographers are very understanding and will do what they can to accommodate the wedding couples wishes. As someone who got married recently my main suggestion is trust the person that you have booked to cover your day. They are the professional and you will enjoy your day more if you’re not worrying if the professionals are doing their jobs right.