Wedding Shot Lists Need To Die
Let me paint a quick visual for you of a situation that happened to me a couple days ago. So I was standing in my office (yes I use a stand up desk and so should you) editing some photos while punk rock tunes were playing on Spotify. Basically, a normal day in the life of Ryan, and it would be something I would certainly classify as a good day. Heck let’s just call it a great day! That was when I received an email from a bride who sent me a photo shot list a couple days before her wedding. My mood instantly changed as I screamed to the heavens, “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!”. If you’re unfamiliar with what a wedding shot list is it is basically a list of photos the bride wants her wedding photographer to capture throughout the day. Essentially, it’s an Easter egg hunt for professional photographers without any of the fun or colorful baskets filled with chocolate bunnies. It’s a honey-do list without the prospect of sexual favors later in the evening. But really it’s a list designed to interrupt the photographer from capturing authentic, candid moments as they randomly occur throughout the day. Wedding shot lists are a death sentence for The Moment, and because of that reason I have to say that wedding shot lists f***ing suck and they need to go away forever.
Wedding shot lists f***ing suck
What Is “The Moment“?
The truthful answer is none of us really know because “The Moment” changes throughout a wedding day. It is the undefined, but as photographers it is something we continually seek to capture because The Moment is what turns a photograph into a emotion evoking memory. The Moment, whether captured on digital or film, has the power to make a person laugh, cry, or simply remember the good times of life. It could be when the tough as nails marine captain father sees his daughter in a wedding dress for the first time and has to rub his eyes to fight back tears. It could be when bride who is also a cancer survivor reacts to her mother/Maid of Honor giving a powerful speech during dinner. It could even be when grandma decides to turn up during a Lil Jon song at the reception and starts doing hand motions to, “Til the sweat drop down my balls”. As photographers we never know when The Moment is going to happen, but we do know that it shows up and disappears at lighting fast speed. The good news is that after years of being in the chaotic wedding environment, photographers have a good pulse on when The Moment might appear. This is because it is our job to pay attention to all the details on a wedding day from the still-life flower arrangements to the subtle social interactions between people. The bad news is that putting us on a wedding day scavenger hunt by giving us a photo list to capture things such as “Groomsmen all smoking cigars” or “Flower girls both kissing bride on the cheek” takes us away from that focus. The wedding shot list makes us take photos, not capture authentic moments that people truly cherish. And as a artist it is heartbreaking/frustrating that a bride would intentionally schedule so much time toward disconnection.
The wedding shot list makes us take photos, not capture authentic moments that people truly cherish
Trust Your Photographer
So this is some real talk for any brides and grooms who hired a wedding photographer and are thinking about making a shot list for them. Let me keep this as simple as possible:
If you feel the need to give your wedding photographer a shot list then you hired the wrong person for your wedding
I am not trying to be dick when I say that, but the reality is any good wedding photographer already knows to shoot table decor, the wedding dress, family photos and any details or interactions that help capture the essence of the wedding day. They understand the delicate balance of knowing when to be intrusive in situations and when to back away to let the natural flow of emotions occur without interruption. Letting those special fleeting moments occur organically, not because the photographer read line #27 on a photo shot list. Trust that the photographer will be Neo and navigate the wedding Matrix of drunk groomsmen, unrealistic timelines, and bitchy mother-in-laws.
What Really F**ing Matters
What is most beautiful about The Moment is it is the essence of timelessness. Whether it is captured on Portra 400 or a memory card, edited in black & white or color, The Moment shines through the medium in which it is immortalized on. The Moment even shines through the wedding style trends of tattoos, hair, and dresses. That is because authentic moments transcend the trends. In 50 years your grandchildren won’t be laughing at your man-bun (well maybe a little because that is not a real hairstyle), but rather they will be smiling at the joy on the faces of grandma & grandpa. This is because what really f**king matters on a wedding day are the real, candid, authentic, unfiltered moments in life. The pinnacle of joy that makes us truly appreciate the human experience.
Authentic moments transcend the trends
Communication Is Key
If you are a bride who is reading this and feels a little irritated because you already drafted a 4 page wedding shot list I have good news for you! If you have a couple photos that will be dear to your heart it is totally cool to tell your wedding photographer about those photos you want. Your photographer wants to help! If a close family member flew in from out of state or is sick or whatever the case may be, that is valuable information that the photographer would love to know. That way they can make sure to focus on that person or persons at the appropriate time. However, micromanaging them with a shot list is not going to help them get you rad wedding photos. It will only help them get staged photos that are void of any real feel. And if staged photos lacking emotion are your thing then you should probably save yourself some money by going to Wal-Mart and hiring Deb from “Photos By Deb”. After all, she specializes in that type of epic portraiture.
Your photographer wants to help
Once all the planning is complete, the vendors are booked and the day has arrived, the only thing a bride and groom should focus on is enjoying the day. Every minute of every hour of that day. Let the caterers cook, coordinators handle the hiccups, wedding guests party, and photographers worry about documenting the day. The only thing you should worry about is whether you should have another glass of champagne. And if you don’t already know the answer is YES!
I wish you the absolute best on your wedding day!