Wedding Photography Tips: First Look

Wedding photography tips

If you missed our last Wedding Photography Tips post about Preperation, click here.  

First look!

This is one of my favorite things... Ever!!

I swear, I hadn't even heard about them until Brittany told me we were doing one for our wedding.  I thought it was strange... but I went along with it because as the groom, that's what you do!  We set up in the courtyard of our wedding venue and her cousin (Orlando wedding photographer) got me into position, and then Brittany told me to turn around.  Oh my goodness. I will NEVER forget how it felt turning around and seeing her! 

Photo Credit: Liane Stepien Photography

Photo Credit: Liane Stepien Photography

I look ridiculous in the picture, but every time I look at it I am immediately taken back to that moment, and I absolutely love it! 
While traditionally the groom sees the bride for the first time as she walks down the isle ( nothing wrong with that!), I realized as she was coming up behind me that it felt like we were the only people in the world.  I didn't have the anxiety of standing there in front of all of the guests, and I didn't have to look past anyone to see her. For that glorious moment, it was just us.

Needless to say, it was a good decision on her part, and we now love getting to capture other couple's first look!


So, how do you help them get the best out of this somewhat anxious/always awesome moment?

1.  Make sure they are in a good spot that will make them comfortable and that makes it easy for the groom to see her without too many distractions (other family or bridal party, random onlookers, etc.).

-Decide what you want to shoot and make sure that the space accommodates for it.  If you are shooting over the bride's shoulder and want to move to catch them from the side as they hug, then you need to make sure there is room for that.

2. Chat with the groom about her, and get him riled up and even more excited to see her!

-Let's face it, some grooms need a little reminding that they are actually about to see the love of their life all dolled up and ready to marry them!  I can tell when a groom is just kind of there waiting to do what he's told, and when this happens I just kind of let him know how gorgeous the woman walking toward him is, and that he gets to marry her today.  This usually gets the nerves and the excitement going, which will help get that little burst of emotion when he sees her!

3. If you need lights, make sure they aren't too distracting.  You want to make sure you capture it in the best way possible, but you don't want to blind the groom with a harsh video light sticking up above the bride's head.

-Although I'm always advocating for enhancing a scene with lighting, I prefer to use the ambient light only for the first look, but when that just won't cut it, I will use a flash or continuous video lights to enhance the light on the faces.  In order to make sure it isn't too distracting, we usually try to grab someone else and test it on them in the spot beforehand.

4. Direct them so that you get the shot, but don't over direct so that they are thinking about what they're supposed to do more so than them thinking about each other.  For instance, telling the groom to wait until the bride tells him to turn around is ok.  Telling the groom to, "Wait until she says turn around and then turn slowly to the right and remember to smile when you see her", is too much!

5.  And if it wasn't obvious already, shoot the groom! If you have 2 shooters, then of course shoot the bride, but the bride spent all that time getting ready and wearing things she never wears... so the bride's anticipation usually lies in the groom's reaction to seeing her. Of course, he probably looks sharp in his tux and maybe cut his hair and shaved, and she may be excited about that.  But what she really wants to see his reaction... she isn't really thinking about hers.  

So how do you shoot it?


Depends completely on the situation, but usually the best place to be is slightly to one side of the bride shooting over her shoulder towards the groom. Once he has made the faces and they start to move close to each other, move to the side so that they are both in view and snap away as they embrace!  Something that really helps out is knowing your bride and groom beforehand, or at least spending enough time with the groom to get an idea of how his reaction will be. I try to gauge the extent of what his reaction will be, show more or less of him, and change angles depending on what I need to show.  For instance, if he is someone who moves a lot and talks with his hands (like me), you probably want to start off more to the side to make sure you get all of him in focus.  If he seems pretty excited, then perhaps get into a position to show the upper half of his body.  

Remember: It's about them! You want the creative beautiful shot to post on Instagram and Pinterest of course, but don't sacrifice their moment for it.  You (and they) will be happier with their sincere reactions in a bland composition, than you would a perfectly executed shot with no facial expressions because they are fully aware of your presence.