The List : Dealing with wedding day photo requests

© Jasmine Star. This post cannot be republished without permission. Stealing makes me sad.
t happened my first year of shooting weddings on my own. 2007. A couple weeks before the wedding, I received an email from a bride and she attached a photo list. And not just any photo list, it was a five-page, single-spaced, font 11, document itemizing every photograph I should take. As I reviewed it, my heart sank. I was in deep.

The list included requests like:
    Photo of the wedding dress in front of a window.
     Father walking daughter down the aisle.
     The first kiss.
     The happy couple walking down the aisle.

I felt like she was holding my hand and walking me through the wedding. And she was...because she didn't trust me.

At the end of five pages, I felt so overwhelmed and sad...and I hadn't even photographed the wedding. By the time the big day came around, I was so nervous and clung to that list like it was it a meal ticket during the Depression. At random moments throughout the day, I'd stop and review the list to ensure I hadn't missed anything. But therein lies the irony: I missed real moments because I was so consumed looking at that list. I was petrified that I'd miss the "dad looking lovingly on daughter from afar" photo request that I missed many of those actual memories.

When I reviewed the wedding images, I checked off everything on the list, but I stared at a gallery of safe, uncreative, and lackluster photos. Sure, I met her requests, but I lost myself in the process.

Which leads me to now. And that great lesson I learned five years ago. How do I deal with The List today? I try to get in front of it. I don't mind lists, I just tell my clients to create lists around things I may be unaware of. In fact, my contract states that I'm to receive all photo requests two weeks before the wedding for my review...but I also tell brides that the list does not need to include photos I'll get naturally during the day (like, the first kiss). The list, I say, should be comprised of things I need to be aware of.
Here are a few examples:
    Parents are divorced (which leads me to ask who can stand with whom and reconfiguration of family photos)
     Napkins were made of bride's grandmother's lace dress.
     There's a total of six chandeliers, all different from each other.
     The groom's sister is in a wheelchair.
2007 was the last time I ever received a list I wasn't proud of. Yes, proud. I'm proud of my brides, proud of their trust in my ability to document their wedding, and proud they chose me as their wedding photographer. Duh. ;)

I hope this helps and Happy Monday!
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Jill - Thank you for sharing, Jasmine! This exact thing just happened to me and I've lost a lot of sleep over it.  07.20.15 - 6:09pm
Lisa D Photography - I just followed your blog post from today over here and I wish I'd seen this yesterday. I received a list from a bride for a tiny wedding in Sedona that could've been for a 9 hour wedding with 300 guests! I've been an anxious mess since. I wrote her a kind email saying that the list needed refinement based on time and haven't heard back. I'm glad I"m not alone. Thanks for this.  10.03.14 - 9:35am
photographers01 - Such a lovely wedding, I love all the pictures !I really appreciate this post.  05.02.12 - 5:36am
Calder Clark - You know we see it all . . . my fave of all time was "bride's hand on groom's hand on groom's shoulder" - wait, topped only by, "dad tearing up as daughter joins him for processional walk". rilly?!?!?   11.10.11 - 5:59pm
adita - So happy I read this prior to my most recent wedding, grandfather being wheeled in a dancing mode captured! And brides #1 patient (she is a nurse) a young boy with lots of medical issues captured as bride danced with him in wheelchair as well...priceless when she sees these I know she will be overwhelmed with joy! Thank you!  11.09.11 - 6:45pm
Brooke Summer Photography - Oh wow... "dad looking lovingly on daughter from afar" REALLY? I was super tempted to do this for my own wedding but backed off, because I trusted the person I hired. If someone doesn't trust their photographer, why hire them to begin with?  10.14.11 - 1:05pm
sbphotography - Great advice, I must admit I fear some lists, it's nice to know how you deal with them.  10.10.11 - 5:12pm
Hannes Uys - So so so true!   09.29.11 - 9:58am
David Ferguson | Brisbane wedding photographer - Only ever had the one wedding shots list given to me, a whopping 5 page document with check boxes. Was furious at receiving it! "Bride walking down the aisle with father". Cooled down and simply said the list would stop me from getting the shots that drew them to me in the first place. The list was no more....  09.27.11 - 6:42am
Stephane - Such a lovely wedding, I love all the pictures ! Can you let me know what kind of effect did you use on the fifth pictures where Natalie is using make up ? Thanks and again congratulations   09.23.11 - 1:23pm
Jamie Fisher - Perfect, thank you! Thank you for sharing so many of your experiences so that others can learn, and doing so in a light and many times comical way. Love it.   09.22.11 - 8:48am
Wedding Photographer Essex - The only lists I acept are for any formal group shots wanted - and even then it has to be a very short list.  09.22.11 - 5:19am
Adam - With your instincts, ability, creativity and overall brilliance, how how how could anyone not trust you implicitly to capture their wedding perfectly?!  09.21.11 - 12:01pm
Cathy - Thank you so much for posting this. Now I have the correct answer for why that shot list off the internet is not in the best interest of the bride & groom.  09.21.11 - 11:24am
Martins Kikulis - I so know how it feels when you have to follow some crazy list bride has made up... I don't take any lists any more. because that would mean the couple is not trusting me fully. and that wouldn't be right, would it..?  09.21.11 - 8:00am
Faith - Just when i was feeling this way..low and behold Jasmine Star comes to the rescue!!! Thank You Thank You, Thank You, ThankYou!!! Love from Fiji!!!  09.20.11 - 11:22pm
Christopher - I "retired" from wedding photography after the 2007 season to concentrate on my commercial work. (Best move ever!). But I remember a list that included: Dad whispering last minute advice to groom before the ceremony. I convinced the bride that if I were to concentrate on a shot list, she wouldn't get the type of images she hired me to capture. So, she dumped the list. And, a few years later, she dumped the groom.  09.20.11 - 9:54pm
Bradford - Ah, the list! We had a 4 page request come through just like that a few months ago. We just talked to them and assured them they hired us to tell their story in our way. They didn't even blink an eye before saying they trust us fully. In this case it was just a personality thing. They were used to being in charge of everything. :) It was quite a shocker to see that list in my inbox, though!  09.20.11 - 7:00pm
Ally - Thanks for sharing this. I just finished a wedding with a similar problem. Not a list--- but a very clear statement that I wasn't trusted, and very specific perimeters that I needed to stay within. Every time I went to take a photo I had this little voice in my head that questioned whether or not I fit into their guidelines. the result? I have a batch of wedding photos. technically they're fine, but in my opinion? there the worst I've ever taken. And that breaks my heart. Thanks for this reminder that there are ways to be true to who you are!  09.20.11 - 11:50am
Paula Franco - I understand and share that feeling you came across in 2007 with that list. It makes me so sad when I'm asked to don't miss one of those important photos. They mean only lack of trust, in that case the bride should choose another type of photograph!  09.20.11 - 7:36am
May - Like you said, it's not about the kiss, it's about the moment right before and right after! NO for Lists!  09.20.11 - 6:49am
Heather M - This was a really interesting read. You mentioned trust, and with that said, I would never hire a photographer without viewing his/her previous work and "knowing" they were the right fit for me. I absolutely would rather have the creative eye on my wedding than a planned out on paper one. Sometimes the outsider sees more than the insider in a new special light. Kudos to you and your magnificent work!  09.20.11 - 6:15am
Christina - As I started reading this post I realized that I am the person that you were talking about. I am getting married and have already started my list (although, much much smaller list than the one described)...then when you said it was bc of lack of trust, I felt like that was wrong. I don't not trust my photographer, I just have certain things I know I want a pic of....but as a wedding floral designer I do know that when a client comes to me and picks every single detail of a design it NEVER turns out as good as when a bride describes a vision and just let's me run with it. That being said...I will try to go easy on THE LIST.   09.20.11 - 5:57am
Di Holmes - As always... invaluable info. I've been second camera at a few weddings but have now had enquires to be no.1. I'm about to have a meeting with a bride... it would be great to have an idea of areas we need to discuss. I've made a list for myself but would love some pointers. Thank you... for everything! xxx  09.20.11 - 4:12am
ala cortez - oy. lists are crazy and make me feel inadequate. glad the lists are slowly fading away. it's nice to know you once received lists too. thanks for sharing. ;)  09.20.11 - 1:35am
Amelia Rhea - I think every wedding photographer will encounter really controlling brides at one point of their career. Somehow, I feel that sometimes these brides perhaps do not know what to expect from a photographer and therefore take the advice from forums and other brides to tell them that they *must* come up with a list to make sure they get the photographer to document what they want him/her to document. Nothing wrong with that, but I find perhaps it's because they do not have a good understanding of the role of the photographer, and it's the photographer's role to manage expectations. From personal experience, the only people who became nitpickers are close friends and not clients that do not know me =P, thank God. But at the end of the day I can always look back with them and laugh at situations like these.   09.19.11 - 11:12pm
Mikaela - this is so, SO good! reminds me of a meeting i had recently with one of those brides...but along with a photo list, she had a 10 page stack of interview questions :)  09.19.11 - 10:50pm
Emily Heizer, Photography with Flair - I go over it in every meeting and it's even in my contract: I do NOT accept standard shot lists. We all know what the normal pictures are that you take at a wedding. You do it, you don't have to be asked. You just DO IT. I shouldn't have to ask you to tie your shoes before you leave your house in the morning and you don't have to ask me if you're going to get a pic of you and your new spouse together. That's my job! The only list I will accept, or want is something out of the ordinary- with your dog, jumping off a roof, or an unusual, specific pose-, holding hands, hanging upside from a tree, for instance ( did that shot on playground equipment once. :). Family issues go in a separate section, not on the shot list.   09.19.11 - 10:42pm
Wedding Snapper - Thank you Jasmine - I've always resented the long patronizing lists but have never come up with a good way of dealing with them. Until you did! Thanks for that - another little problem solved.  09.19.11 - 10:02pm
Lloyed Valenzuela Photography - I can relate. Im still on my first year on the Wedding Photography and ive been into the same scenario...the couple printed a hi-res pics of somebody else for me to take the same shot, im soooo depressed when they gave it to me. I was thinking they dont like my style. But thank God, they love the output of our shoot. JS, you are really a Star, im a big fan and visiting your blog daily makes me sane and makes me realized, what ive been through are just normal for a starting photographer like me. Thanks a lot!!!  09.19.11 - 9:16pm
Yuliya Callahan - I have a bride like this right now.... I've worked with her for over a year, shooting her engagement AND 2 other weddings in her family.... but she still truing to control every single step ( image ) I take....   09.19.11 - 8:58pm
Shannon Von Eschen - I swear your 2007 client got married again a few weeks ago. I saw that same list, I swear!! I was shocked and obviously couldn't get all those shots! "The happy couple laughing at each other" was actually one of them. "The happy couple?!" Lol. Thanks for awesome insight and a good laugh! Hugs.   09.19.11 - 8:53pm
Christy Miller - I have been worried over this very thing for every wedding. Thank you for sharing your insight on how to handle "the list" and how to be confident in your own work. Great post as always!  09.19.11 - 8:45pm
Bryan - That's like telling your waiter "be sure to bring my food when it's ready, oh, and make sure to get my order right!" C'mon, brides! Just let us do our job and rock your wedding, that's what you hired us for! :-)  09.19.11 - 8:31pm
Amanda Hagood - That's funny, I was just talking about one of these lists with a bride yesterday. She was laughing because her mom had printed one of those "300 shots your wedding photographer should be getting!" lists from a website and wanted to make sure I was using it. Pffft. The bride trusts me, and that's all that matters :)  09.19.11 - 8:27pm
Chicago Wedding Photography Studio Finch - Spot on Jasmine - brilliant post!  09.19.11 - 7:49pm
gladys jem - you have the best blog posts. this happened to me just a few months ago. I was given a list/told how to shoot :( it was the worst. after the wedding, I felt terrible, and I was SO stressed the entire day that I missed something on the list. glad that's over. lessons learned. happy monday, jasmine!   09.19.11 - 6:18pm
David Drufke - Good advice. We don't accept list, but have them let us know about things we might not normally photograph, or if something is really important.   09.19.11 - 5:52pm
Bobbie Brown - Wow... this post really hits home with me today. Just this afternoon I had a client request that we do pictures at a location where we could use a RR track, and honestly I cringed. While in the end it worked out and she ended up asking my opinion and then telling me she trusted me, it was a moment of groaning inside and already not looking forward to the shoot. But now, now that she 'trusts' me and is not requesting JUST RR tracks, I am excited about the shoot :) This is different than a wedding list, but yet it feels kind of the same simply b/c she wanted 'certain' shots instead of simply trusting me to find the best of our location at that time... Thanks for posting Jasmine!   09.19.11 - 5:41pm
Ansley Braverman - Good job Jasmine. Sounds like that bride should become a wedding photographer!  09.19.11 - 5:36pm
Kansas City Photography - I have never had a list that bad. In fact I use a questionnaire and we go over the questionnaire 1 month to 2 weeks before the wedding and I create a timeline of their day and arrange the photo requests into the day. This helps us out so much. I know what photos are the most important and I also know when I am taking them. My husband and I we have an infamous "Walking away shot" And now every bride wants it, so I schedule it in. It is usually when the bride or couple is walking from one portrait location to another or a moment durning the reception down a cool hallway. It depends on the couple but at the end of the day I have control and moments to be creative. As Photographic Artists we NEED those moments of rest where the peace falls on us and we see the couple, their friends, their family, their day for what it is... Beautiful Memorable moments.  09.19.11 - 4:43pm
naomi chokr - thank you thank you thank yoi for this post. this couldnt have come at a more perfect time. Im in the middle of working on this and i see your post. I love how your phrased it.... "things i need to be aware of" that is perfect!!! Thank you jasmine you are heaven sent as always!  09.19.11 - 3:08pm
Regina Chayer - I have begun asking what pics DON't you want me to take? As in, who should I not stand next to whom (Aunt Jo and Aunt Sue are mortal enemies) Families are so weird sometimes... and I don't want to be the cause of some uncomfortable moments so I always ask my brides this. I will adopt the "get in front of the list" approach going forward and let them know I need to know what will be different, special about your wedding that I might not normaly capture. My daughter in law was CRAZY about her cake design and wanted tons of pics of it. We obliged!  09.19.11 - 2:59pm
Tanya De Leeuw - As always, J*, outstanding tips for those of us just venturing into the field ... thank you!  09.19.11 - 2:33pm
Paula - I did trust my photog and got burned :(. He asked me for a list if photos I wanted taken and I assumed that meant outside of the expected ones! Nope, all I got was what was on that list. You would think the bride with her father was a given, huh? Now that I'm a photographer I SOOOO see how uninformed I was in choosing my photographer!   09.19.11 - 11:56am
Mia B - The only time I've ever had a wedding mishap was when I was in charge of a dreaded "list" as a second shooter. Between fumbling for that $%#@ paper and juggling my camera, I dropped a lens and pieces went flying all over the brides room. As I scrabbled around under the dress to grab the pieces, all I could do was curse that list. Ban The List!  09.19.11 - 11:04am
Lindsay Kaye - Oh this is SO perfectly written. I get 'the list' all the time. I will definitely take this into consideration. Thank you!  09.19.11 - 11:04am
Erin McDevitt - Sounds like deja vu. This happened to me 4 years ago and it was so bad that any creative pictures I tried to take were quickly dismisses from the bride. Needless to say I only captured 3 pictures of just the bride and groom. The pictures were as you described lackluster to say the least. It was the first and last time I made this mistake. I quess we learn from our mistakes. I just wish I had a bigger backbone at the time. I know better now. Great advice for someone just starting out. Thanks Erin   09.19.11 - 10:53am
Anda - AWESOME post. I want to steal it right off your blog and use it for my own :) I also got a similar list my first year. My fave requests: 'Cousin twice removed climbing a tree (you may have to stage this)' and 'Beer foaming over the top of a clear mug while my grandpa drinks it (try not to stage, but you might have to anyway).' LOL.   09.19.11 - 10:40am
Stephanie Rose - Soooo true! Thanks for the helpful advice, like always! I've always felt the same way about those lists. : )  09.19.11 - 10:24am
Marissa Rodriguez - Great post! I receive all kinds of stuff in the list haha! But I'm looking forward to the day I'll be proud of the lists I get :)   09.19.11 - 10:23am
Katy Melling - Love this post Jasmine!!  09.19.11 - 10:20am
Cindy Fike - This was very helpful. Thank you Jasmine. I'm excited that my post made you giggle enough to respond. I thought that was a pretty funny list. I will learn to "get in front of the list". Thanks!!  09.19.11 - 10:20am
Mike Moore - Perfect timing for this post, Jasmine. I just got my list for my first wedding and one photo the bride wants is EVERYONE attending the wedding. Granted it's only 23 people, but really? Hmmmm, any advice? Anyone? Thanks for being you!  09.19.11 - 10:12am
Anne Navas - Thanks Jasmine! Booked my first Wedding this week (for strangers as opposed to the few i have done for friends so far) Don't think i would have got this far, this fast if it hadn't been for your advice. I am based in the south of Spain. Any idea when you will be back in Europe giving a course? X  09.19.11 - 10:08am
Shannon - Great tip! In my pre-wedding consults, I've gone over the "typical photo" list and I hear myself saying "duh" in my head. It will be a huge time saver to just focus on these non-typical requests!  09.19.11 - 10:01am
Justina M - You would think you don't need this list, especially when you hire someone who has been doing this for years. I was floored when a bride gave me one and then I got my wedding pictures. No pictures of my mom helping me get ready, the bridal party is not organized correctly at the front of the church... the list goes on and on. After my experience the "list" will never bother me again.  09.19.11 - 9:56am
Sacha - Oh so true - had a bride just this year send me a similar list and I sent her a similar email about making her own memories and me not getting so caught up in the list that I miss the real moments. She sent me pics of models in mad poses that were not natural and all over the place and wanted them all. I used them as a feel for her taste and style and that was it. She understood after we chatted and the day was lovely and she loved the pics in the end, but if I had followed her list, totally agree, she would never have been as happy. Such a good post - will send to brides to explain if ever comes up again! Thank you thank you! xx  09.19.11 - 9:54am
Sarah Kamolz - I adore your helpful hints! Thank you so much for sharing and your little "need to know" examples are exactly what I've been looking for as to how do I fix the problem before it starts! Thank you as always for sharing!  09.19.11 - 9:54am
Kimberly Anne - True! You are the wedding photographer and anyone who hires you has (hopefully) fallen in love with how you rock the wedding day. I like how you assure your brides that you've got the natural wedding components covered,unless there's something specific to her family or wedding that you need to be aware of. I love how you tactfully put this all into play :)  09.19.11 - 9:53am
Karisa Joy - I really appreciate this post. I know some people do not accept lists at all. And part of me wants to NOT accept them. But then part of me goes, it's THEIR wedding day. This seems like a good in-between. Thanks for sharing Jasmine. Love you girl!  09.19.11 - 9:51am
Dana - great post j*! i had a serious laugh out loud moment because one of my brides did the same thing to me just recently! i made sure to speak with her right away about it & educated her on what the list was for... and i reassured her that she had nothing to worry over because the special moments would be captured. :) i know she's a bit worried because i'm really new to shooting weddings solo, but i think having that dialogue really helped & i can't wait to photograph her wedding this coming weekend! :) xo  09.19.11 - 9:49am
Lisa Llarena - I remember the coordinator handing me a folder during the start of one of our earliest weddings back in 2008. It was a compilation of shots taken by other photographers (and some were even local) which the bride wanted us to take that day. It's funny now but it was quite the buzz killer then. It's a waste of a photographer's creativity to impose someone else's work on him. I still think I could've shot that way better if I wasn't handed that folder. Oh well. Thankfully, that has never happened again.  09.19.11 - 9:49am
Misty Minna Photography - Jasmine, you speak the truth! If a client doesn't trust you, they might make a list. Here's to no lists or boring posed shots.   09.19.11 - 9:44am