Family Wedding Photos | The Shot List You Actually Need

Family Wedding Photos | The Wedding Shot List You Actually Need | Stephen & Melissa Photography

TIPS FOR BRIDES | Family Wedding Photos | Phoenix Wedding Photographers

Ahhh the infamous ‘wedding shot list.” For some wedding photographers, this can be a awkward because some can take it as you are questioning their ability. You’ve put an incredible amount of time and energy into planning you wedding and naturally you want the resulting images to reflect your vision and hard work. Ensuring that your big day is masterfully documented begins with choosing the photographer that’s right for you. One theme runs true throughout: An experienced wedding photographer ultimately knows how to manipulate light, work a crowd for family wedding photos, and keep you comfortable and natural in front of the camera. Ideally, you shouldn’t even have to worry about the photos they’re taking or how they’re taking them—the bond between the couple and your photographer should always come down to trust.

We do, however, understand that you want to head into your big day prepared, with a clear picture (pun intended!) of which shots you can expect to see in your wedding albums hanging on your walls.  A wedding photographer typically has a natural flow for how they make sure they capture all images ‘expected’ along with the candid moments. For example, we have a wedding photo shot list questionnaire that we send to our couples before the wedding so we are sure not to miss anything! You will have great success asking your wedding photographer to walk you through their standard wedding day timeline and explaining what images they typically capture during each section of the day.

At the end of the day, though, you shouldn’t feel an ounce of stress over your wedding photos shot list. If you hired an experienced photographer, you should not be worrying about any of the photos—it’s the photographers job to worry about it and why you hired something experienced!

Family Wedding Photos | The Shot List You DO Need

One section of the day that does not play well WITHOUT a list is during Family Wedding Photos. Maybe you’ve been to a wedding where the family wedding photos ended up being a rushed, hectic, stressful period of time for everyone involved. Maybe you were always waiting for someone who snuck off to the bathroom, or the bar, or who knows where. Grandpa Bob was cranky because he’s hungry and just wants to go to cocktail hour… not stand around waiting for his turn for a photo with the couple.  And we swear, a groom’s patience for photos significantly dwindles after the ceremony. Everyone just want to go to cocktail hour too… and we don’t blame them!

That is why, one of our favorite things to collaborate with our couples on is the family wedding photos shot list. A big goal of ours as wedding photographers is to have documented all the group shots the bride and groom wanted for their day in a seamless and stress-free way! I want them to LOVE their photos and look back on them fondly.  No regrets. Weddings can be chaotic and the last thing any bride and groom should have on their mind is making sure they get photos with all their loved ones. While we will take a ton of photos throughout the day, it is impossible for us to know every single person a couple must have a photo with. That’s where the shot list comes in!

A shot list is simply a list of all the combination of family images you’d like captured on your wedding day. We like to think of it as one gigantic family session broken up throughout the day! We include questions about the shot list “must-haves” on our wedding questionnaire, and we ask our couples to include names and how they are related!

Tips for Couples as they prepare their Family Wedding photos shot list:


There are numerous moving pieces to a wedding day, it can be so hard to coordinate those extra large extended family photos photos during the time set aside for family formals. This includes those full wedding group photos, large family groupings, college friend groups, ect There is always at least one person missing and, let’s be real, everyone is ready to move onto the cocktail hour and you will lose all of your portrait time waiting. On average the large shots can take as long as 5 minutes to assemble when it includes 12+ people and we often included chairs if possible. It can really slow the process down and take away from capturing those must-have images! Leave your family formal time for just immediate family. Large group shots are most successful when done at the reception location. Everyone is in the same room and it is a much more relaxed environment.


Letting your immediate and extended family know ahead of time where to be for family portraits makes the process quick and painless. Better yet, utilize your MC/DJ to announce when your group shots are taking place to help corral everyone. No one listens quicker than when the DJ calls for attention!

Family Wedding Photos | The Shot List | Stephen & Melissa Photography


We have always found it extremely helpful when a bride assigns one person from each family that knows everyone and can gather family members for photos. That way while we are shooting one cluster of family members, they can be preparing the next group with Stephen. This could be a bridesmaid, cousin, aunt, ect. Again, it helps to keep things flowing, quick and painless. We anchor the bride and groom in one location and swap people in and out! We may be giving away all our secrets here, but our goal is to help make your wedding day stress free and no couple wants to hear “…okay who do you want pictures with?” as you are standing around all of your family and friends on your wedding day. Combinations get skipped, and images will be missed. These dedicated individuals really help keep family formals on time, and moving quickly. Often family formals take no longer than 30 minutes!

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We were taught from a young age that not addressing a person by their name was unbelievably rude. Countless years of customer service has also drilled home the need to be personable will each person we meet by simply using their name. We love to have the names of family members to go along with the list so we are not referring to everyone as the “Ma’am”, “Bride’s Mom” or “Groom’s grandmother” all day long. We just don’t feel very friendly in those instances!

With a little extra planning and communication, these tips can go a long way to making family formals run smooth and stress-free. That way you can have more time to enjoy the other aspects of your wedding day, like your brand new HUSBAND!! Because once that ceremony is over, everyone is ready to move onto the party!! 🥳

Family Wedding Photos | The Shot List | Stephen & Melissa Photography Family Wedding Photos | The Shot List | Stephen & Melissa Photography

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