Shot Lists - must have wedding pictures and family formals

Day 3 of Royal Wedding Week on the blog. Today we're talking about shot lists and family formals. I'm wondering if the official photographer will have a list from William and Kate saying things like:
- Grammy isn't too keen on Camilla so make sure they're on opposite ends of the family pictures
- The tiara I'll be wearing has been in the family for 600 years so I'd really like a close up shot of it
- At some point during the wedding I'll be told whether I'll be a princess or a duchess and I'd love it if you can get my reaction when I find out
- Jay Z and Beyonce might be singing between courses and we'd like a picture with them after our first dance

Ha ha but there are usually some must-have shots for each wedding. Some of the crazier bridal magazines take it to extremes publishing lists they suggest printing and giving to your photographer "500 must-have pictures your photographer MUST get!"

To me, this is kind of like deciding to have dinner at an Italian restaurant but insisting the chef uses a French recipe that you've found online. Most couples do a lot of research into choosing their wedding photographer and although personality and budget must be considered, you usually choose a photographer because you love the images they make. And if you love their pictures and trust their vision, you probably don't want to make them spend the day hunting for and checking off moments that happened at someone elses wedding.

Now of course a good chef will want to know that you have an absolute passion for say...capers or that you can't abide...tarragon and they'll tailor your dinner accordingly. So by all means tell your photographer if the handkerchief wrapped around your bouquet belonged to your great grandmother or that you can't stand your cousin's new boyfriend and you want a family picture without him in it. But you probably don't need to email your photographer a list that reads:
- Bride walking down aisle
- Vows
- Rings
- Groom kissing bride
- Bride and Groom cutting cake
- And 495 other critical images
(or if you do , you should probably think about hiring another photographer!)

Thanks to my couples letting me know about truly personal and unique elements of their wedding I made sure to capture the wooden soldier and book of messages for Corey's brother who was serving in Iraq at her wedding:

And the moment when Lunda surprised Jonathan by having a watch delivered as a gift moments before their wedding ceremony:

I am sure I would have photographed these pictures anyway but if there's something very special/important to you then it's always a good idea to mention it to your photographer and I can make sure I'm in the right place at the right time. Likewise, if there's any kind of surprise happening at your wedding, it's also good to let me in on the secret! Usually when people sit down to their salads and appetizers this is a good time for me to change out memory cards, refresh batteries etc as not much happens. However I was forewarned that Rene Rancourt would be making a surprise appearance to sing the National Anthem at Danielle & Kevin's wedding so I was ready:

The other kind of shot list is a helpful reminder of family pictures that are important to you both. What you don't want to do is go crazy with this list and turn your wedding into a 4 hour portrait session. Luckily, in the world of Leah Haydock Photography, the family formal shot list is a brief but very important document that gives me important information I wouldn't ordinarily be aware of to make sure I get any critical pictures for you.

About 2-4 weeks before each wedding I send out a homework document to my clients, they confirm all of the times and locations, note any unusual moments planned/items of significance they'd like photographed and fill in those must-have family pictures.

When it comes to family pictures, as you start making your list you should ask yourself:
- Who actually wants this picture? Am I including this picture because I think I should?
- What will happen to it? Will it be framed? Be included in our album?
- How much time do we want to spend doing family pictures?

For example, you'll probably want a picture of the Bride & Groom with the Bride's Parents and then a picture of the Bride & Groom with the Groom's parents. There's a good chance they'll be framed on your parent's mantelpiece and in your wedding album. Therefore a good picture to take.

And then you might list out picture of bride and uncle, picture of bride and aunt, picture of bride and uncle and aunt, picture of bride and groom and uncle and aunt. This would be worth thinking about a little harder. If you wouldn't dream of putting all four images in your wedding album but you're close to your uncle and aunt and want to give them this picture for Christmas then maybe instead of four pictures we just do the last one of the four of you thus saving you 15-20 minutes.

Each family combination/group you add to your list can take 3-5 minutes. You have to call the people, get them all in position, make sure we have the guy's jackets buttoned or open, fix flowers that have fallen off, wait for your brother who ran to the bar to get a drink and wait for your sister to come back from the restroom!

My usual recommendation is something like this:
Bride & Groom with Grandparents (we take this one first so elderly/unsteady Grandparents aren't waiting for too long)
Bride & Groom with Bride's immediate family (parents, siblings, significant others of siblings)
Bride & Groom with Bride's parents and siblings
Bride & Groom with Bride's parents
Bride with Bride's parents
Bride with Mom, Bride with Dad
I then repeat this list with the Groom's family and in around 20-30 minutes we have documented the important family members in relaxed but totally frame-worthy images and everyone can go and relax at cocktail hour. Of course this list may be extended if we have divorced/remarried parents and couples might add in additional images of say Godparents or close nieces/nephews. Here's a screen shot of a couple of shot lists we just finalized for April/May upcoming weddings:

Once we have the family picture shot list finalized, the couple must give copies of the list to someone who actually knows who the people are! These family or wedding party members can then find the people quickly and check the group off the list. I remember one wedding I assisted at maybe 5 years ago where family pictures took 2 hours as no one knew where they should be, I was wondering through cocktail hour asking random guests to point out family relatives. Essentially, you want your photographer photographing not looking for people!

All of my couples get the high-res images after the wedding so it's helpful if family members don't stand behind me and try to take duplicate pictures. Your eyes can't help but move when they see movement and it's sad when I have family pictures with everyone looking in different directions due to the "paparazzi" behind me!

And of course it isn't a blog post without some examples of lovely relaxed family pictures. I always suggest finding a nice shady spot for images so people aren't squinting in the sun with a plain darker background as the focus is on the people!

Perfectly relaxed pictures of Alison & Matt with both sets of parents and individually with their siblings. We took these in the Public Gardens and you MUST get a permit if you're planning on pictures there!

At winter weddings sometimes you have to take family pictures indoors, I love these relaxed images with Becky's family:

Keeping it simple with Stephanie's parents at her wedding to Tim:

All of these pictures with Lori's family at her wedding to Kris ended up in the album or framed:

And if your schedule allows then it can be fun to put a note in your program asking ALL of your family and friends to join you after the ceremony for a giant group picture:

I try to learn names for family pictures but I'll often end up saying "OK, Mom, we'll have you here next to your daughter. And Dad, you're going to stand just here" I'm guessing you can't do that with the Queen is the Grandmother of the Bride & Groom ;) That's it for today! Useful? Informative? Too long?


  1. Have I mentioned that I wish I found you when I got married?! My photographer didn't get half of the 'details' I had at my wedding!

  2. Great advice, Leah. This is very timely! Talk to you soon and can't wait to see your hat on Friday!