Talk It Out

When I first started shooting weddings in October 2017, at my first paid wedding ever (I shot three for free before that), something happened that I will never forget, which shaped the way I would shoot weddings for a long time. Some people would think of it as completely insignificant, but it was hard for this new little wedding photographer.

After the ceremony, the bride wanted a photo of her and her kids waving at the groom and his kids (the bride and groom were an older couple). The groom thought it was the most ridiculous idea, and because he thought that, so did everyone on his side of the family. Suddenly, I was the enemy, trying to give the bride what she wanted, but forcing this ridiculous thing on his side of the family, who really just wanted to go party. Both of them were right, of course, but if they had talked about this particular photo beforehand, it would have saved a little grief - if any one is ever not happy on a wedding day, it's just about the end of the world for me.

We did the photo and got through it, and I kept smiling the rest of the day while dying on the inside. I couldn't let that happen again. I was going to find out what couples wanted on their wedding day beforehand - and make sure they are on the same page, so everyone would be happy - so, when I got home, I went on Pinterest and found every single wedding photography shot list I could find, compiled it into one GIANT shot list (I wasn't leaving anything to chance).

I'm sure you've experienced problems with running to extremes. There I went from completely photo-journalistic, with no pre-planning whatsoever and focusing only on the moment as it occurs, to now trying to plan every single photo to the last detail, ad nauseum. Naturally, I was then focused so much on my 7-page shot list - and mostly on the shots my clients didn't check off, because I could never again force a photo on people that they didn't want - that I would miss some of the loving, authentic, real, heartfelt, organic moments that inspired me to become a wedding photographer in the first place.

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A Healthy Balance

Before too long, I found the right balance. Luckily, when I do things "wrong," I die a little on the inside; my job is to (literally) make sure people are happy and to deliver the most amazeballs wedding gallery possible, and I've worked harder and harder to get it right (and after 80 weddings, I'm starting to have it down).

So these days, in order to both capture those real, amazing moments photo-journalistally - which keeps me loving what I do - but also to capture what (both) clients want, instead of just emailing you this 7-page shot list for you to check off (or not check off), I now like to have a real conversation with you and your boo before the big day over coffee. We can still go over my shot list, but we'll mostly talk about your timeline and what's most important to you. We'll also be sure to talk about what you don't want to do. This keeps it super simple. You can give me your "must haves," and you can also give me your "don't do's." You can also create a small Pinterest board to share with me. Keep in mind that if you put something on the board, I will stop everything to get that photo for you guys, so only include those "must haves".

You can book your wedding photography planning session for any Monday, Tuesday or Thursday, here!

I'd also like to share that original shot list of mine, as well as the tips that followed it (some of which are also on my sample timeline in a previous post). While I won't shoot from this entire shot list any more, since I miss too many of the moments that I know you will appreciate looking back on (the moments you hire a photo-journalistic photographer to capture) when I'm starting at pages and pages all day, I think this is still a very helpful tool for planning your day, and it gives us a great starting point for your wedding photography planning session.

Most of the shots on the list below are ones I try to capture anyway. But - some clients on a budget have a smaller package with less hours, so this also gives us the opportunity to talk about what's realistically possible given your timeline, especially in pre-ceremony stage. So, check it out - but don't worry about checking it off. We'll get together (or if you're far away from me, we can FaceTime or Skype) and talk about it face-to-face!

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Wedding Photography Shot List

BRIDAL PREP & PORTRAITS ____Wedding rings, invitations, shoes, jewelry, perfume, veil, other accessories ____Wedding dress hanging up outside / inside / lying over a chair or the bed ____Flower girl / bridal party / Mom's dresses ____Bride putting on makeup / getting hair done ____Looking into mirror ____Hairstyle close-up ____Bride opening gifts ____Bridal party wearing robes ____Bridal party opening gifts ____Saying “cheers” with drinks ____Bride writing note for Groom ____Bride putting on garter / sexy photo for Groom ____Holding up the dress ____Dressing for the ceremony w/Mom's assistance / fastening Bride's dress / necklace / earrings / shoes / veil ____Bride putting on Mom's corsage ____Portrait with Mom ____Solo portraits w/bouquet ____First look w/Dad ____Portrait with Dad ____Gifts for Mom and Dad ____Portrait with Mom and Dad ____First look with bridal party ____Bridal party portraits (all together & with each bridesmaid individually, flower girls) ____Other bridal party portraits - Client’s Pinterest ideas 

GROOM PREP & PORTRAITS ____Shoes, watch, flask, cologne, tie, boutonniere, cuff links, other accessories ____Groom opening gifts ____Groomsmen opening gifts ____Saying “cheers” with drinks ____Groom tying shoes, fastening tie / cuff links, putting on suit jacket ____Groom looking into mirror / out window / Groom portrait ____First look w/Groom & Mom ____Mom fastening Groom's boutonniere ____Groom putting on Mom's corsage ____Portrait w/Mom, Dad ____Groomsmen portraits (all together & with each groomsmen individually, ring bearer) ____Other groomsmen portraits - Client’s Pinterest ideas 

COUPLE’S NOTE SESSION and/or FIRST LOOK & PORTRAITS ____Groom in position ____Bride walking up from behind Groom ____Couple holding hands / hands over eyes / backs together ____Pray / talk together ____Exchange notes / read notes ____First looks ____ First Looks - Client’s Pinterest ideas ____Couple’s portraits ____Couple’s portraits - Client’s Pinterest ideas 

WEDDING PARTY PHOTOS (if 1st Look) ____Wedding party walk ____Wedding party cheer ____Wedding party formal portrait ____Fun wedding party photos - Client’s Pinterest ideas 

CEREMONY ____Wide angle shot of the ceremony site / church / venue ____Decorations, ceremony program, floral arrangements, altar backdrop ____Guests arriving / signing guest book ____Seated guests ____Shot of the musicians / DJ ____Grandparents / parents being escorted down the aisle to their seats ____Wedding party members walking down the aisle ____Ring bearer / flower girls / sign holders walking down the aisle ____Groom’s face at his bride ____Bride walking down the aisle from front ____Bride walking down aisle from behind ____FOB “giving Bride away” ____Couple joining hands ____Officiant speaking ____Guest speech(es) / song(s) ____Unity ceremony (candle / knot / sand, etc) ____Couple exchanging vows ____Couple putting on each others’ rings ____Couple’s first kiss (standard view) ____Couple’s first kiss (with guests in background) ____Couple announced as husband and wife ____Newlyweds exiting down the aisle ____Throwing of confetti / rose petals / blowing bubbles etc. as newlyweds exit 

POST-CEREMONY ____Couple with Officiant ____Marriage certificate signing ____Family formals ____Wedding party portrait ____Couple’s portraits ____Additional portraits - Client’s Pinterest ideas (if time) ____Cocktail “hour” candid shots of guests, games ____Wide angle shot of the indoor reception site / venue ____Reception decorations, centerpieces, table setting, couple’s table, favors 

RECEPTION ____Couple’s Reception first look ____Guests entering reception / signing guest book / taking their seats 

GRAND ENTRANCE ____Wedding Party ____Couple 

____COUPLE’S FIRST DANCE 

____WELCOME MESSAGE / PRAYER / BLESSING

DINNER (Couple / photographers eat dinner) ____ Table guest photos 

TOASTS ____Maid of Honor ____Best Man ____Father of the Bride ____Other: ​_____________________________ ____Couple’s thank you's and toast 

FAMILY DANCES ____Bride and Father dance ____Groom and Mother dance 

CAKE-CUTTING ____Wedding cake display ____Cake-cutting ____Couple feeding cake to each other 

____OPEN DANCING 

COUPLE'S SNEAK-AWAY SUNSET SESSION ____Candid walk ____Portraits - Client’s Pinterest ideas 

BOUQUET / GARTER TOSSES ____Bouquet toss ____Garter toss 

____OPEN DANCING 

GRAND "EXIT" ____Guests lining up along exitway ____Lighting sparklers ____The newlyweds kiss half-way through sparkler line ____Getting into getaway car and driving away 

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Additional Tips & Info

  • Be aware that each of your planned photographs will take 3-5 minutes to set up and capture - or longer, in the case of the wedding dress hanging up outside, for example, which can take 15 minutes - so be sure to account for each of these planned photos in your timeline when you are providing a shot list and Pinterest board of "must haves".
  • If you can, try to keep each “getting ready” location / hotel room clean and tidy, and keep window curtains open for good light. This will protect your photography investment so you get the most out of your photography time; I can start taking photos right away instead of cleaning up and setting up the scene first.
  • Have your details / accessories that you want photographed readily accessible in each of the rooms. If you want the wedding rings photographed together, have them in the bride’s suite at the start of the day for me to shoot them with the best camera and lens. 
  • If the bride, bridal party and mother of the bride are going to be wearing robes, fun socks, or matching outfits, etc. for the "getting ready" portion, be sure that they are wearing them before my arrival; it's a good idea to have just one person in charge of bringing all of the robes or bridesmaids' accessories to ensure that no one forgets theirs.
  • Designate someone to put boutonnieres on the groomsmen who has practiced or has learned how and where to attach them. For the groom's boutonniere, it can be a nice moment for the mother of the groom to attach his boutonniere after a first look with mom.
  • Speaking of first looks (parents, bridesmaids, other family members, etc), let me get into position before the moment begins. It also helps not to tell the person it is a "first look," which can make them feel like they are on stage. Photo-journalistic photographers are skilled in helping these moments occur organically, so we can help bring the people to you who will be seeing you for the first time and use gentle language that won't make them feel like they are being pressured for a reaction.
  • For the ceremony, remind or have your day-of coordinator remind your wedding party members to look up and smile as they walk down the aisle, as well as to take their time and not rush down the aisle too quickly, so that I can capture good photos of them for you. 
  • If you want the ceremony kiss captured with your guests in the background, have your officiant announce for them to please not hold their phones during that moment, and instead congratulate you with their clapping hands and smiling faces. You might also opt for an "unplugged ceremony," and have signs that encourage your guests to enjoy this moment with you and leave the photography to your professionally hired photographer. If you opt for this, be sure to also have your officiant announce it at the start of your ceremony as a reminder.
  • MOST IMPORTANT TIP ON THE LIST: For your after-ceremony family formals, this is where a shot list is a must. Give a list of your family portraits for both sides to two designated "family portraits coordinators," someone on each the Bride's and the Groom's side of the family, so they can help coordinate and gather family members for the next photo. Have your officiant announce for the family to stay at the ceremony site for photos after the ceremony. This is the one thing that many couples forget to do that throws the day into chaos. Remember that each photo takes about 1 - 3 minutes to set up and capture depending on the number of family members, so be sure keep your list to a size that can be accomplished in the allotted time, or extend your cocktail hour accordingly (you also may want wedding party and couple's portraits afterwards!). Remember, your photographer doesn't know who your family members are and doesn't know your family dynamics - so you can't expect your photographer to create your family photos list. But, here is a sample list, to at least get you started (which doesn't account for divorces, deaths, re-marriages, etc). This list starts with family members that can be finished after the first couple of photos so they can then go enjoy cocktail hour, and this list would take approximately 30 minutes if everyone stays together and is organized, with your family portraits coordinators assisting:
  • Couple with each of Groom's cousin's immediate families
  • Couple with Groom's grandparents, parents, siblings, siblings' spouses, siblings' children, aunts, uncles, and cousins (and their spouses / children)
  • Now cousins and their immediate families (including aunts and uncles) can be excused unless you want a parents, aunts and uncles photo
  • Couple with each of Groom's siblings' immediate families
  • Couple with Groom's grandparents
  • Couple with Groom's parents and grandparents
  • Now grandparents can be excused
  • Couple with Groom's parents, siblings, and siblings' immediate families
  • Now siblings' spouses and children can be excused unless you want a nieces and nephews photo
  • Couple with Groom's parents and siblings
  • Now siblings can be excused unless you want a photo with just Groom and siblings
  • Couple with Groom's parents
  • Now parents can be excused unless you want a photo with just Groom and parents and/or if you want a photo with both Bride's and Groom's parents
  • Couple with each of Bride's cousin's immediate families
  • Couple with Bride's grandparents, parents, siblings, siblings' spouses, siblings' children, aunts, uncles, and cousins (and their spouses / children)
  • Now cousins and their immediate families (including aunts and uncles) can be excused unless you want a parents, aunts and uncles photo
  • Couple with each of Bride's siblings' immediate families
  • Couple with Bride's grandparents
  • Couple with Bride's parents and grandparents
  • Now grandparents can be excused
  • Couple with Bride's parents, siblings, and siblings' immediate families
  • Now siblings' spouses and children can be excused unless you want a nieces and nephews photo
  • Couple with Bride's parents and siblings
  • Now siblings can be excused unless you want a photo with just Groom and siblings
  • Couple with Bride's parents
  • Now parents can be excused unless you want a photo with just Groom and parents and/or if you want a photo with both Bride's and Groom's parents
  • For the reception grand entrance, have the DJ/MC introduce your wedding party in a fun way and have them do a fun pose halfway or on the dance floor for fun photos! This goes for the couple, of course, too! 
  • If you want a sunset couple’s sneak-away portrait session (and I hope you do!), allow a slot in your reception timeline thirty minutes prior to sunset on your day (check Google), and be sure you inform your MC or DJ so he/she can keep your guests entertained during this time. 
  • If you would like to have a large photo with all of your guests, have your DJ announce it before open dancing begins, which will get everyone up on the dance floor! Allow 15 minutes for me to get every one into position and to set up any necessary lighting (as it may be dark by this time).
  • If you plan to visit with tables for a portrait with each table, or just to visit with your guests, be sure to allow 3-5 minutes per table and schedule your dinner time accordingly.
  • If you do a bouquet / garter toss: For the bouquet toss (bride), do a “fake-out” toss first for me to capture a good photo of you, then the real toss so I can focus on capturing the catch. For the garter toss (groom), hide a dinner napkin in your pocket and throw that first, so I can capture a good photo of you, then do the real garter toss so I can focus on capturing the catch. There are also ways to make your bouquet and garter tosses non-traditional - look online for alternative ideas if you wish! 
  • If you have or stage a sparkler grand exit, buy “wedding sparklers” rather than 4th of July or other sparklers that burn out too quickly and create too much fire and smoke. If your venue doesn't allow sparklers (as in El Dorado County where I live!), there are also light-up balloons or glow sticks that you can use as alternative grand exit options! Also, just a note: When your photography time ends before the end of the event, the grand exit may also be staged for photos - this is a common choice! And halfway through the exit - kiss!

When the Day Comes - Just Enjoy It

The purpose of planning every last detail of your wedding day is so that when it finally comes, you can let your vendors do the work and execute your plan so that you two can simply enjoy the day, with all the amazing emotions in brings. So above all else - have fun!!!