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Romantic, filled with tears of joy, butterflies in the stomach - a first look session involving the couple could pack in all these emotions into a brief moment! As a wedding photographer, every client you book will have unique timelines, ideas, and expectations for their big day. One of the differences your client may have in their timeline is whether or not they will take part in a first look wedding photography session. If your couple decides to go in for that first glimpse of each other and steal a moment for themselves before the rush of the wedding day takes over, as their wedding photographer, it is your job to ensure that you capture that fleeting moment into memories that last for a lifetime. And to help you master the first look, this blog offers you a few tips on some of the best ways to set up and shoot this magical moment for your clients.


Infographic stating the main purpose of a first look is to allow the couple to experience this special time in a more intimate way

A wedding first look is when the bride and groom decide to see each other before the ceremony in their wedding attire in a more intimate setting. The main purpose of a first look is to allow the couple to experience this special time privately and in a little more relaxed environment. Whether you shoot first looks or not for your wedding clients, it is important to understand that there are several advantages and disadvantages attached to this session. The more you know about first looks and the pros and cons your clients may think this session might have, the easier it will be to explain and discuss it with them.

Advantages Of Including The First Look In The Wedding Day Timeline


A groom waiting for the bride during a first look session Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @flavio_d_photography

As mentioned earlier, the main purpose of doing a first look is to make this a private, intimate, and more heartfelt time for the couple. A first look allows the couple to enjoy this time without the pressure of being in front of hundreds of guests. It allows for a more relaxed time in which the bride and groom can be themselves and really immerse each other in this special moment without the time constraints. This is one of the biggest advantages of doing a first look, and, therefore, you might want to make sure your clients understand how pivotal this could be in documenting their wedding day journey. When explaining this, consider telling your clients something along the lines of, “Feel free to cry your eyes out! Your photographer will be the only one there, who promises to not judge, in fact, might be crying their eyes out too!”


If you think about a traditional wedding that you have photographed before and there was no first look, you will likely realize you spent more time with the bride than she did with her groom. In fact, the bride and groom probably spent less than half of the day together.

This is because, with a traditional wedding, the couple usually spends the first half of the day getting ready in different rooms. They finally get to see each other during the wedding ceremony grand entrance, but right after the ceremony, a sea of family and friends come over to congratulate the couple. Then, the bridal party and family portraits take place. And after that, the cocktail hour and reception happen, leaving the couple with little time to themselves. This seems odd, considering that the whole purpose of a wedding is to unite the couple and celebrate their love. A great solution to suggest to your couple is to have a first look. The first look allows the bride and groom to spend most of their big day together. It also allows them to have time to take in the moment alone.


Raise your hand if you are a photographer who loves first looks. We’re willing to bet that if you have done a first look before, you loved it! There is no doubt that a first look gives photographers more flexibility when it comes to wedding photography timelines, giving you some great photo opportunities along the way.

Related Read: How To Create Your Ultimate Wedding Photography Timeline


This is your grand opportunity to capture the couple’s most important moment up close and uninterrupted. It is very difficult to get a great composition and have full control during the ceremony when the guests are also trying to capture photos with their phones or are possibly standing in the way. Or, when you have to capture the very best shots during wedding time-crunches.

Disadvantages Of Incorporating The First Look Into The Wedding Timeline

Before we move on, it is also important to be aware of the disadvantages of a first look. This ensures you can inform your clients about each side of the first look. That way, they can make a decision that will work best for them. Here are a few of the disadvantages of a first look.


The famous tradition of a couple not seeing each other before the ceremony started with arranged marriages. The bride and groom were not allowed to see each other beforehand to prevent them from trying to break off the wedding if they didn’t like each other. Interesting, huh! This tradition stuck and today, brides and grooms still opt to wait until the ceremony to see each other to build the excitement and honor this magical moment. For some of your couples, breaking this tradition may be one of the biggest disadvantages of a first look.


Infographic stating the couple often needs to start getting ready for the first look much earlier to fit it in the schedule

Another disadvantage of having a first look is that the bridal party has to get up earlier to start getting ready for the first look and accommodate it into the already packed schedule. Many brides and grooms opt to have their bachelor and bachelorette parties the night before the wedding. Or, they are putting together the last wedding details the night before, and having to get up earlier because of the first look could be a big turn-off to them. Therefore, make sure you communicate to your couple clearly when they can expect this session to take place and how long it might take.


Infographic stating the best time to have the “first look talk” is during the wedding photography initial consultation

Many couples have mixed feelings about first looks (if they even know about them), sometimes even without completely understanding the advantages and disadvantages. Because of this, the best time to have the “first look talk” is during the wedding photography initial consultation before they even bring it up. What you want to do is mention that a first look is an option to consider for their big day and take the time to explain the pros and cons of doing one. If possible, avoid asking their thoughts on first looks before you get a chance to explain it to them.


If you are married and had a first look, this is a great time to share your personal experience! Couples will probably appreciate you sharing from first-hand experience what you liked and did not like so much about having your own first look and why it could benefit them. If you are not married and have not had a first look but plan on having one at your wedding, you can share why you are opting to have one. You can also share past experiences of first looks you have done before. If you had a couple, where, for instance, the bride wanted a first look but the groom was not on board, share their decision and how they felt about it afterward.

Once you finish explaining, let them know that they don’t have to make a decision right away. They can take the time to think about it and let you know their thoughts. The most important thing to keep in mind is to talk about first looks objectively, in a non-biased way, and ultimately respect what the couple eventually decides.


Your couple will likely look to you to take the lead in setting up their first look. This is one of the most important moments of a couple’s big day. Knowing this and doing your part to make it a great experience is crucial.


Communication and setting up expectations with your couple is possibly the most important success tip for setting up first looks. You can start by having a chat with them and asking them what their first look expectations are. You want this moment to be how they envisioned it. Use their expectations and desires as your guide as you set up the first look. For example, a couple might mention that they want their family and bridal party to be present during the first look. Another couple might mention that they imagine just the 2 of them (plus the photographer, videographer, or both) present.

Suggested Read: Managing Client Expectations: Wedding Photography Tips


While you scout the location for the wedding day shoot, keep an eye out for where the wedding first look can take place. The location for the first look should ideally be a private spot, preferably close to the ceremony site and outdoors during the daytime. This possibly makes it easy for you so that you don’t have to bring in a flash to the shoot, as it can be disturbing for the moment.


Explain how the first look photos will go ahead of time and try to give them as much privacy as possible even though you’re still present, capturing it. If you have a second shooter, have them use a long lens to get different angles so that it’s less invasive. After you get all your shots, we’d suggest you leave and allow some time for the couple to be completely on their own.


Discuss beforehand whether your clients want you to talk them through the first look or if they want you to simply be there to capture it. If your bride and groom are okay with you guiding them through the first look, you could even educate them on how they can make the most out of it. Remember that this is your chance to get your couple comfortable before the camera and gain their trust and confidence as their photographer. Once your couple senses that they can blindly put their trust in you in making them shine in their wedding images, the rest of the day will most likely be a cakewalk for both you and your couple as far as photography goes.

Suggested Read: Posing Your Couples


A monochrome image of a first look momentImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @jperrymanphotography

Encourage your wedding clients to build up the momentum and bring their personalities by doing things like starting with a first touch, having them close their eyes, or letting them share a love letter right before the first look. These actions could encourage them to be in the moment. This is not the time for posed wedding photos.


For camera settings, make sure to use a fast enough shutter speed to account for movement. Many photographers resort to using at least double their focal length to make sure their couple is in perfect focus. This is your chance to capture the glitter in your groom’s eye as he sets his gaze on his beautiful bride for the first time on the wedding day - or the big smile your bride wears upon setting her eyes on her dapper groom a little ahead of the ceremony. You wouldn’t want to miss out on capturing all the raw and pure emotions that the moment has to offer. So, be prepared and let your creativity shine through the photos you take.


Keep in mind your shooting style when photographing the first look. If you are up for it, you could even consider switching lenses to capture the moment in different ways. For instance, you could use a 24-70mm to get full-body and environmental shots of the moment and switch to a 50mm to get portraits and detail shots. If you are looking to allow more light to come in and create depth of field, could use a wide aperture to achieve that effect.

Related Read: Finding Your Photography Style: Develop & Evolve At Your Own Pace


Infographic stating avoid spots with harsh or changing light as it will create unflattering shadows on your couple

Lighting! That’s one of the most important things to keep in mind during a first look session. Because to have even light on your couple is crucial for a stellar image. Avoid spots with harsh or changing light as it will create unflattering shadows on your couple. Instead, place your couple in open shade for the best light - and let the magic unfold!


When you learn how to set up and shoot first look wedding photography, you will be equipped to create unforgettable images for your clients. You can capture genuine emotion in the first look wedding pictures your clients will fondly look back to for years to come. We hope that the tips we shared here get you on your way to a fantastic first look experience for both you and your clients. If you’ve done first look wedding photography sessions before, what has been your experience photographing them? Comment below. We’d love to know! In addition to first look photography, let us know what are some of the other crucial images to capture in your wedding day shot list?

At ShootDotEdit, we are passionate about helping you grow your wedding photography business with up-to-date industry knowledge and photography tips and tricks that you can bank on. What we also do is help you save time by reducing your post-production workload with our professional photo editing services. To learn more about our services and how we can help, check out our pricing plans.

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