EMP White LogoErin Morrison Photography Logo
Trust a Professional Wedding Photographer and Say Goodby to Shot Lists

Trust a Professional Wedding Photographer and Say Goodbye to Shot Lists

I love being a wedding photographer. I love the spontaneity, the unplanned moments, and the aesthetic of being part of a day that will differ from each couple to the next. The life of a wedding photographer is never boring. And since photography involves creativity and spontaneity, you’ll find that many photographers don’t want to work off of a wedding photography shot list.  What is a “shot list?” A shot list is a specific checklist (or visual reference) of every photo a client or couple wants to be captured on a wedding day.

Every couple wants their wedding to be perfect. This means having beautiful photos that capture real, candid moments of the day. But using a rigid shot list can severely limit a photographer’s ability to take the best photos. Despite being a popular tool for couples looking for structured wedding day photos, there are many reasons why I, and many other photographers, recommend against relying on a shot list. A shot list isn’t always ideal, and photographers may prefer to have more freedom to find authentic moments of your wedding day.

Trust a Professional Wedding Photographer and Say Goodby to Shot Lists
Intimate Summer Wedding at Jackson Terminal

The Age of Pinterest

Pinterest is a visual discovery search engine. There are 433 million users are on its platform. These users search everything from recipes and home and style inspiration to color palettes and DIY projects. With billions of Pins on Pinterest, it is an excellent source of inspiration and may be a good starting point for planning your elopement or wedding.

But tread lightly on Pinterest. Wedding planning is stressful and overwhelming. Adding billions of pins into your mental space can cause several mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Frankly, it can just be overwhelming, and many couples find that it bogs them down in “should of’s” and “we need to’; we “need” this photo, and we “should have” taken that photo.

And this is what leads to the need (or want) for a shot list – the perpetual checklist of unending tasks of creating a “perfect” day. A day in which every detail is planned to the nines, coordinated effortlessly, and filled with curated and extravagant things for your guests to feast their eyes upon. Further, a day in which you will look and feel your best on this day more than on any date before or even after your wedding.

I’m here to tell you that your wedding day is not a checklist. It is not a task. It’s not a performance. At its core, your wedding is an intimate, deeply meaningful celebration of love between you and your partner. If you remember this as you plan your wedding, you will surely experience a day that lives well in your memories until death do you part.

Trust a Professional Wedding Photographer and Say Goodby to Shot Lists
Fun-Filled Wedding with a Dance Party at The Standard

What Should You Use Pinterest For?

The realities of wedding planning, from selecting a venue to creating exquisite details, can lead to comparison and disappointment. You don’t need to try to recreate what you see on Pinterest if you don’t want to. It is perfectly fine to use Pinterest for your wedding. But Pinterest should be used as inspiration for your wedding, not for imitation or comparison.

Don’t Get Bogged Down in Comparison

Comparison is the thief of joy. Pinterest can be an invaluable resource for finding ideas and streamlining a vision, but it can lead to unhealthy comparisons. Its sheer number of ideas on its platform would allow any bride or groom to create thousands of wedding theme ideas. And with wedding trends changing daily, this number will only increase. Relying on Pinterest to create an infinite wedding photography shot list may make you feel your wedding has to include some elements or measure up to other events. 

Your Wedding is Unique

Your wedding should reflect your personality, preferences, and style. Copying another couple’s wedding from Pinterest will result in photos that lack authenticity and originality. You will undoubtedly be left disappointed with your wedding photos. As a photographer, the idea of anyone being disappointed in their photos is truly heartbreaking.

You Don’t Need a Rigid List of Everything 

Pinterest and most wedding blogs suggest you must have a list of everything for your wedding or elopement. Examples include “Last Minute Wedding Day Checklist,” “Must Have Items on Your Wedding Day,” and “Common Things Brides Forget On Their Wedding Day.” Sure, many of these blogs are helpful, but they should not be used as an end-all-be-all wedding-day bible.

Even a planned wedding can have its glitches. Be ready for the unexpected. But that is not a bad thing. No two weddings are alike; a professional photographer can embrace the challenge of making each wedding unique and special. The attention to detail and flexibility enables photographers to create a truly custom experience for each couple. A shot list is the antithesis of flexibility.  

Trust a Professional Wedding Photographer and Say Goodby to Shot Lists
Earthy Autumnal Wedding at The Quarry Venue

Wedding Photography Shot Lists Make A Photographer’s Job Harder

Wedding shot lists create unrealistic expectations, add stress and pressure to obtain the “perfect photo,” and limit creativity. In essence, a shot list can also make a photographer’s job harder in some ways. 

Create Unrealistic Expectations

Photography is complex. It requires the “right” lighting, posing, weather, angles, and composition. It is an unrealistic expectation to assume that a photographer can recreate another photograph without knowing the specific conditions the original photograph was taken. And, in the end, when your photograph “doesn’t look like the original,” it will lead to doubt and disappointment.

Add Stress and Pressure to a Photo

Working off a shot can add unnecessary stress and pressure that could harm their work. The photographer may not have access to the right equipment or the perfect natural lighting conditions. Furthermore, they may be limited in the kind of external lighting (flash or static lighting) they can use to manipulate the scene. As a result, many photographers are wary of working off a shot. Instead, they prefer to take their own photos based on the knowledge and expertise they have developed over their careers.

Further, there is pressure on the couple to recreate a photograph that may not “fit” them. Every wedding couple is different, and that not only goes for personalities but body types and external factors as well. Just remember, you are not a carbon copy of another couple. YOU ARE the original.

Limit Creativity

When you give the photographer a preconceived idea of what they should capture during the wedding, they will miss out on other opportunities. There is pressure to stick to the list without deviating, and that means missing out on other spontaneous shots. You hired the photographer to provide the freedom to balance their flexibility and creativity to capture unique moments as they happen. Therefore, you liked their work for a reason – embrace it on your wedding day.

Elopement at Lequire Overlook Cemetery

You Cannot Plan the Best Moments on a Wedding Day

The goal of a wedding photographer is to provide the couple with meaningful memories that will last a lifetime. Unexpected moments can be large or small, grand or understated, but they are always the most meaningful. The intimate conversations between a couple and their guests, the joyous laughter of family members during the first dance, and hugs and kisses given to friends on the dance floor. These are all examples of unplanned moments that can make wedding days special.

Professional Photographers Know What Can and Can’t be Photographed on a Wedding Day

Professional photographers have artistic talent and technical expertise to capture the unique moments of your wedding day. Since they are experienced in working under different conditions, they can adapt to any situation during the wedding. It’s, therefore, unnecessary to provide a wedding photography shot list for your event as they already know what shorts are essential to capture and how to creatively and effectively capture them. 

Family Portrait Photos are the Exception

While providing a shot list is unnecessary, family portrait photos are essential to the wedding day and require planning and organization. Using this shot list, in this case, ensures that all family members are included in the photos without leaving anyone out. It also helps the family photos section of your wedding day run smoothly and efficiently. This allows everyone to get back to the party faster!

Trust a Professional Wedding Photographer and Say Goodby to Shot Lists
Modern Champagne-Fueled Wedding at The Trillium Venue

Final Thoughts

It’s storytime. Early in my photography career, I had a couple that provided me with an extensive shot list. It was a very lovely wedding day, and I enjoyed photographing their day. However, at the end of the day, I felt like I had missed so much! My eyes constantly darted to the shot list, and I felt like I had missed multiple candid and personal moments of the couple. The final photos disappointed both the bride and me, and I vowed never to shoot that way again. That was over a decade ago.

When you work with Erin Morrison Photography, you will get a documentary-style photographer who understands that your big day is an opportunity to capture candid and spontaneous moments as they happen. If you feel like we are a fit, contact me today, and let’s create a long-lasting memory for your special day. 


Natural light + honest photographer for all humans.


Knoxville, Tennessee



Office Hours: M-F 8am-5pm | S-S 12pm-5pm

Er, um, I mean photography inspiration and promotions from Erin Morrison Photography!Subscribe for margarita recipes!SIGN UPArrow Icon Black