This post is written solely from my perspective as a photographer. My thoughts and opinions are my own and not necessarily a reflection of all photographers.
If you've gotten married or are currently wedding planning, you're probably familiar with the lists.
10 Ways to Entertain Your Guests at Your Wedding
100 Things to Do Before You Walk Down the Aisle (And That's Just on the Morning of Your Wedding!)
500 Things to Do While Planning Your Wedding - THE ULTIMATE CHECKLIST
50 Cute Sayings to Include in Your Invitations, Vows, Guest Seating and Thank You Cards
10 Bridesmaid Looks to Flatter Any Body
I normally love lists. My desk is covered in notepads and sticky notes and my Evernote app is pretty impressive, too. My husband often jokes that for me, though, these lists are pointless, because I don't stick to them. They're nice in theory, but when it comes down to it, I know what I need to do and no number of bullet points is going to make a difference in how I go about getting stuff done.
See where I'm going with this?
When I was starting out in weddings, I used to sit down with my couples and go over the "must take photo list" one bullet at a time. It was absurd, looking back on it, and a waste of time. It was a list of 100 or so photos to take throughout the day and it was mostly stuff like "Wedding dress hanging in window", "Bride and her mom", "Groom putting ring on bride's finger", "Wedding cake".
I mean, obviously. Of course.
I get it, because I've been there and I remember all the lists when I was wedding planning. At first, I loved the lists! They seemed like such a great idea and I felt a sense of accomplishment checking off things like "Send gigantic deposit check to venue right after Christmas but before you get your tax return and weep real tears and eat ramen until March". I remember that very well. The first month or so was all about checking off lists and it felt great.
But then I started getting anxiety. What if I don't check all of these things off? What if I'm missing something I didn't even know I'm missing? At some point, you have to take a deep breath and trust your vendors to do the job you're hiring them to do. If you need reasons as to why you should do this, here are 4:
Why are you choosing this person/company in the first place? You've probably researched a ton of photographers, priced out who or what type of package is in your budget, but ultimately, you're choosing professionals who you connect with. You like their style, their personality, you can tell from their website and social media channels that they know what they're doing (hence the word professional), and you're excited to work with them. Nothing makes me happier than meeting a client, getting to know each other, and developing a relationship that goes deeper than "I signed a contract and paid you to take pictures today."
By the time the wedding rolls around, it's like witnessing a marriage of friends. There's mutual care and respect for your relationship and for what I love to do - photograph your union and celebration.
I'm not saying the wedding day is a complete photographic free for all, but communication should be open and clear. Discuss your vision for the day. Talk about what's important to you. For some, it's details and gorgeous portraits. For others, it's ensuring that there are photos of grandparents or relatives who flew in from overseas or a special tradition that'll take place.
The area that I do encourage a list is for family portraits, to ensure that no one is missed, and to discuss any relationship dynamics that I should be aware of.
When I got married, I didn't have Pinterest. There were a couple popular wedding blogs, but for the most part, my expectations were set by what I saw in my photographers portfolio and what I ultimately fell in love with, her ability to beautifully photograph emotional moments.
Now if you do a quick search for "Wedding Photo Ideas" you'll be bombarded with list after list and blog post after blog post of what's pretty, what's popular, don't miss this, make sure you do that. It's a lot of pressure all around, and if I'm being honest, it's going to detract from enjoying your wedding day as it unfolds. A pre-determined checklist can't be a cookie cutter guideline for a wedding day because every wedding is different. Trust me, you'd rather be enjoying yourself than worrying about if your father shed a lone tear when he first saw you, if there was a gorgeous flare of sunlight behind you as you entered the church, or if your bridal party really committed to that running-away-from-the-T-rex shot.
You need to hire a person that you trust to do their job. You've made a great connection, you're excited for them to capture your day and to be there with you from start to finish, so let them work their magic. A professional doesn't need that Top 100 Wedding Photos checklist because they have the experience, they know the general flow for the day and what to look out for. You've communicated what is really important to you when it comes to the photos you want, and they're going to use that knowledge to navigate the day.
The last thing you want is your photographer spending their time checking a list on their phone to make sure they didn't miss anything (while they are ironically missing stuff by checking their phone).
So that's my take on it all. Work with who you feel a strong connection to. Communicate openly before the wedding day about what's important to you. Let go of internet-crazy Pinterest-inspired expectations. Trust your photographer to know what they're doing.
When it comes down to it, your wedding day is going to be unpredictable. Things will happen you didn't plan for. You may find yourself reacting to things you thought would be no big deal. A photographer worth their weight in gold will navigate all of that with ease and grace. Because you and your photographer know that when it comes down to it, your love story and your wedding day are unique and no list can possibly dictate how to best capture it all with care, artistry and authenticity.
Shannon Sorensen is a Connecticut-based wedding and family life photographer available for commissions throughout New England, the US and abroad. Contact her for more information about photographing your beautiful story.