Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Wedding Photographer a Shot List

It’s sort of reasonable to over-plan your wedding, but turns out, having an iron grip on every detail isn’t always a good thing. Veteran wedding photographer Ryan Browne of Forged in the North—the collective that captured all of the photos herein—provides an insider’s take on the wedding shot list.

Shot lists. For the most part, they suck. Didn’t expect that I’d say that? Of course there are exceptions, but its crucial to remember that picking the right photographer (i.e. a good photographer) is far more important than making sure they have a perfectly prescribed list of shots.

Wedding days are chaotic. Things go wrong. Emotions run high. When you give a photographer a shot list for the wedding, you are doing two things. First, you are forcing them to capture contrived shots / setups that aren’t naturally occurring. These photos never look good. They feel fake because they are fake. The second thing that shot lists do is force the photographer to be buried in a piece of paper, making sure they check all the boxes. What a photographer should be doing is staying present in every moment, ready to shoot and document things as they happen. These are the photographs you will cherish.

When I talk about “shot lists,” I’m specifically referring to sheets of paper that have bullet points like “shot of groom laughing with Uncle Mike,” and “shot of bride walking away from the camera showing back of dress.” Those tend to be unhelpful and counterproductive. There are other types of shot lists that are totally fine and necessary, like family group combinations. Photographers will always need these shots listed out since they have no idea who anyone is at a wedding. We recommend that the couple assigns a close friend or relative to help us get the right people into the shots. They can also remind us of other things that were important to the couple, such as getting a photo with grandparents.

To boil it all down to one sentence: After finding the right photographer, help them with lists of family photo combinations, then trust them with everything else. Every photographer works a little differently and may deviate from some of this advice, which is totally fine and to be expected. But please, avoid the hyper-detailed, redundant list of shots that the photographer already knows to get. It’s frustrating when we see the couple request “shot of bride and groom during the ceremony,” as if we wouldn’t get that shot unless they told us.

And yes, we’ve actually received that exact shot request before.



Forged in the North is a photography and cinema collective based out of Brooklyn, NY. They specialize in wedding photography, telling couples’ stories through timeless, honest imagery. For more, visit their site or follow them on Instagram.