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Portrait and Wedding Photography Shot List: My Go-to Poses and Shots



Although I suggest going with the vibe of the couple and being a little spontaneous on photo shoots (that’s one way of keeping it fresh and fun!), I do also have a rough wedding photography shot list that I always run through and check off in my mind. Each couple deserves a good variety of photos, so having this shot list gives me the flexibility to be creative but also keeps me on track to make sure I get all my must-have shots.

I totally get it – photo shoots can be stressful and intimidating. As photographers, we put so much pressure on ourselves to provide the very best experience, the very best photos, find the very best light, adjust to the very best settings… and to top it all off, you have to remember poses and shots! So when you’re starting out, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a shot list on hand (download it below!) to act as a quick reminder of what photos to do next if you draw a blank. But once you get used to posing and taking portraits, most of it will become second nature to you and you gradually won’t need that shot list anymore!

Something I used to do when I started out, was actually take a picture of that shot list with my camera before the shoot. That way, if I wanted to refer back to it, I just had to scroll through my photos on the back of my camera. I was embarrassed and didn’t want my couple to think I wasn’t a professional, so this was a sneaky way of taking a peek at it! If you prefer something in your pocket, just be careful of what it may look like for your subjects. For example, if you saved the list on your smartphone, they might think you’re constantly texting or checking social media and this could come off as rude or unprofessional. Unless of course, you feel comfortable telling them what you’re doing! There’s nothing wrong with that, I think it just comes down to personal choice.

In this post, I’ll walk you through and show examples of photos that I always make sure to capture while on an engagement session or wedding day photo shoot. These shots work well basically anytime you are photographing a couple! In part two, I’ll also explain my why and how behind each photo and pose and how I structure the photo shoot!









The Classic Portrait

The classic portrait is the simple, “stand beside each other”, “look here” and “smile!” photos. Even though this kind of photo might not our favourite from a creative standpoint, I think every couple still needs one in their portfolio.

I make sure to capture it a few different ways:

  • full body portrait
  • waist up portrait
  • full body landscape
  • waist up landscape

Tip: I sometimes call this the “shot-for-grandma” because I feel like grandma would like the classic portraits (maybe it’s just my imagination but hear me out here!). This usually simply makes them laugh so I get to capture some natural smiles, which are always my favourite!



The Walking Shots

These walking shots are fun because they add movement to the photo and it’s an easy pose to start with because it’s a very natural action! You can get creative with these by asking your couple to look at each other, and then look at the camera. You can also have them hold hands, or place their arms around each other’s waist.

I make sure to capture it a few different ways:

  • both looking at each other
  • both looking at me
  • one looking at me, the other looking at their partner (and vice versa)
  • holding hands apart
  • hands around the waist or shoulders (It’s actually not easy to walk together like this, so they end up bumping into each other, and again, this gets them laughing.)

Tip: I always ask them to walk in slow motion and I show them how slow I want it. I say it’s for the camera (even though I know that with my fast shutter speed, I’m probably ok, but really it’s simply to make them laugh (did I tell you I was a sucker for natural smiles)! Trust me, it works every time!

Related: Shutter Speed 101: Shooting in Manual Mode



The Kissy Kissy Shots

These are expected, especially when you are photographing people in love. However, they aren’t as easy to capture as they might seem and still need a little instruction.

I don’t just tell my couple to kiss and snap the photo. Instead, I tell them to share a light kiss (key word here haha) and then to linger there with their noses touching or foreheads together. That moment after the kiss can sometimes be the most romantic. They have this look in their eyes that I just can’t recreate any other way!

I also love kisses on the cheeks, necks, forehead, temples, hands, etc. It may feel awkward at first to ask a couple to kiss while you’re taking a photo, but they expect it, and probably really look forward to those photos, so don’t be shy!




The Engagement Ring

If you’re photographing a newly engaged couple, I’m sure they’ll be happy to show off the new bling! I make sure to capture close-ups of the ring on the finger, but also off the finger.

Tip: Be very mindful when asking for the ring. Some couples don’t mind at all, but I’ve had some couples that seemed a little nervous to leave it with me. Just make sure not to run off with the ring – I don’t mean by stealing it haha, but if you have a spot in mind to place it, have them come with you so they don’t feel like they’ve left you alone with it. ;) Also, I’m sure this doesn’t need to be said, but take care of it! I always place the ring on my pinky finger and make a fist with my hand. That way, I’m sure it won’t slip off!

Related: Aperture 101: Shooting in Manual Mode




Single Photos

I think these are too often overlooked! Yes, we’ve been hired to photograph a couple, but it’s always nice to take a few single photos. These are great confidence boosters and help get the couple ready for the wedding day portraits as well!

Tip: I sometimes get their other half to stand just beside me and have them look at each other. They then make each other laugh and giggle!



Whispers in the Ear

These are often some of my favourite photos! I get them to hug or have one wrap their arms around the other’s shoulders and ask them to whisper something in the other’s ear. I make sure to tell them that I can’t hear what they’re saying so they don’t get shy! These end up being either super romantic and filled with laughter (it all depends on the couple!).

I also have a different variation where I’ll ask them to whisper their favourite fruit in their sexiest voice (you can come up with anything as equally silly). This ends up being super hilarious, and again, laughter and natural movement is captured.

I also sometimes have them face one another and list off their 3 favourite things about each other. If you’re looking for more romantic and soft photos, this is a great cue.




Fun Action Shots

These are also my favourites! I get my couples to do things like give each other a piggyback or run towards the camera. More often than not, these take a little convincing because they are sceptical that it will look good. I just say something like “Trust me! It might feel silly, but those usually end up being my couple’s favourite photos. And if they don’t turn out, there’s no problem! I would never share a photo where you don’t look your best.”. This assures them and they are usually up for the photo and rock it!

Here are some fun examples:

  • piggybacks
  • running towards the camera while holding hands
  • dancing and twirling
  • make silly faces at each other
  • recount an embarrassing story








As you can tell, there are so many possible variations to each pose. Once you get the hang of it, posing isn’t nearly as scary anymore. For me, instead of posing a couple, I see it as trying to get them to interact with each other. So by giving actions and cues, instead of setting up the shot and having them not move, I can capture much more natural-looking photos!

Do you have any other tips to share? Did this post help you with your next engagement session? If so, leave your comments down below and don’t forget to share it with all your photographer friends!!
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  • ChloeApril 4, 2018 - 18:31

    I love this!  So insightful and I love the little names you’ve given them to help you remember!ReplyCancel

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Emilie Smith is based in Edmonton, Alberta // Edmonton Wedding Photographers, Mountain Adventure Wedding Photographers and Edmonton Elopement Photographers

Serving: Alberta // British-Columbia // Canadian Rockies // National Parks // Okanagan // West Coast // Northern Canada

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