Working From Shot Lists

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Today’s guest post comes to us from Open Aperture Photography (ECB/Web).

You’ve hired a photographer.  You’ve seen their work.  Now let them create.

Some brides like to provide their photographers with a shot list of pictures that they want, whether they’re a bunch of couples photos or a list of every ceremony picture that needs to be done.  Usually these lists are inspired by Pinterest, bridal sites like The Knot (or ECB!), or even that photographer’s portfolio.

If you’ve selected a skilled, educated, and experienced photographer, they won’t need to work from a shot list.  They’ll be able to make the most of the time they’re given and the setting you’ve chosen for your wedding.

We hear stories from our photographer friends and other photographers online about how their clients provide shot lists to them.  At best, they’re totally unnecessary and they just give the bride one more thing to do before the wedding.  At worst, the pictures on the shot list don’t remotely resemble anything that the photographer does.  Photographers have differing styles and that’s why you should always look at their portfolio before hiring them.  Asking them to do something that they don’t like to do or can’t do usually won’t end well.

We’re lucky that our clients don’t force shot lists on us.  They’ve taken a good look at our work, seen what we do, and hired us to do that.

However, sometimes they’ll point out a shot or two that they like and ask us if we can do something like that.  We’ll happily try to incorporate some of those concepts into what we do.  That way, they get something totally unique instead of a copy of the original source material that includes them instead of the original couple.

That’s what happened with Clint and Lindsey’s image at the top of this article.  Lindsey asked us for a sparkler writing picture, something we’d never done before.  We happily did the sparkler writing but, if you look at the lighting, background, and posing, otherwise it looks like our work.

Another example is Anna’s ceremony processional.  She asked us to get a shot of her and her father walking down the aisle from her venue’s balcony.  We’ve shot at her venue, Watson House, several times and it never occurred to us to try that.  We happily did it.  Since we have three photographers, we were able to put one photographer on the balcony, one photographer with the bride before she walked, and one photographer at the front of the aisle.  The first set of images below are the balcony ones that she requested and the second set below are the ones from the front of the aisle that show her face and her emotions.

mike-and-anna-wedding-351-1mike-and-anna-wedding-350-1There are a couple caveats to the skip-the-shot-list mantra.  If you select a newbie photographer for your wedding, providing a shot list could be helpful.  Weddings are very difficult to photograph and rookies usually get in over their head.  Also, this doesn’t apply to formal photos, a time when a shot list is very valuable.  If you’re unfamiliar with formals lists and why they’re helpful, they’ve been previously discussed here.

What do you think now that you’ve read this?  Are you going to provide your photographer with a shot list?

Bob Mackowski, CPP is an internationally published Certified Professional Photographer and the owner of Open Aperture Photography (ECB/Web).  He’s also the owner of East Carolina Bride.


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