Recently, a wedding photography forum featured a discussion sparked by a wedding shot list.
The “shot list” is a checklist of the people and events that need to be photographed on your wedding day. Your photographer uses this as a guide to make sure nothing gets missed.
A typical shot list will include things like the order of people to be photographed for the formals (bride and groom with bride’s parents; bride with groomsmen; groom with grandma, etc.). Sometimes it includes details, like the rings or table settings.
The list that inspired me to write this was not a list like that. It was a list sent to Earth from the planet Micromanageria.
To call this shot list “unusually specific” would be like calling King Kong an “unusually large” ape. This list even went so far as to outline desired candid shots, as though the meaning of the word “candid” was something it could redefine on a whim.
To be fair, I don’t think that the poor bride who authored this monster knew she was creating the “shot list from hell.” I doubt she intended to create nightmares and possible future therapy sessions for her photographer. Unfortunately, though, this sort of ultra-specific vendor management is becoming more common.
We now live in the so-called Information Age. This also means we live in the age of information overload.
Change your status on Facebook to “engaged” and watch how quickly your sidebar ads fill up with wedding related junk. Web pages and magazines inundate you with tips and advice about how to have the “perfect” wedding. Countless articles written by experts advise you not only about how to select your vendors, but how to take charge of them.
I’ve read a ton of articles about wedding photography. A lot of them tell you what you “must” look for in your photographer and what you “must” make sure they do (or don’t).
Almost all of these articles make a reference to, if not outright include, the Shot List.
Then, if you’re a newly engaged couple, you’ll probably be looking at a lot of wedding photos during your search for a photographer. You’ll see hundreds of beautiful images that you’d be delighted to have something similar to in your own album.
You’ll also hear the stories of wedding catastrophes. Many of these stories imply that it all could have been avoided if the “right” vendor had been hired, or if the bride and groom had taken more control.
How someone comes through all of that without turning into a micro-manager of every single second of their big day is beyond me. That sort of pressure would create a bridezilla out of anyone. Maybe “photo of the bride having a nervous breakdown” should be added to the shot list.
One issue with some of the helpful advice out there, and the micro managing mindset it creates, is that you might inadvertently end up treating the professionals you hire as though they don’t know their jobs. This might lead you to more disappointment than you’d think. If you’re not careful, you might strip away the very creative talents you hired your vendors for.
The thing about weddings is that they are dynamic and fluid. This is what makes every one of them unique and personal.
Maybe you know when things will start. You rehearse the ceremony so everyone knows how to come in and where to stand. You expect there will be toasts. And a first dance. And a bouquet and garter toss.
Your photographer knows these things, too.
Chances are this isn’t his or her first wedding.
What you can’t prepare for is Uncle Larry falling asleep and snoring like a helicopter during the ceremony. You can’t predict that the flower girl will unexpectedly sit down in the middle of the aisle and dump her basket of flowers over her head. You don’t know that mom and dad will become unexpectedly reminiscent of their own wedding all those years ago and snuggle up together on the dance floor.
These are the unscripted moments. These are the moments that make the day yours.
These are the moments that get lost if you’ve got your photographer scrambling to create “candid” moments on a shot list.
I’m not saying you should ignore creating a shot list. The list is actually very important. Your photographer won’t know how important it is that you get a photo of you and your great aunt (or even who she is) if you don’t make a note of it. (Hint: it’s helpful to make someone available to point people out to your photographer.) The list is also vital for making sure no one is missed during the formals session.
But resist all urges to get ridiculously specific. You don’t need to say that you need a shot of “the bride looking lovingly at the groom while he’s looking somewhere else.” Leave that moment, if it happens naturally, up to your photographer. Maybe some moment that you saw elsewhere just won’t happen at your wedding. That’s OK. As long as your photographer is free to be “in the day,” there’s a good chance that other special moments will happen and be captured.
And you’ll be happier because you won’t be trying to manage everyone. It’s your special day, after all. You shouldn’t be working.