Mistakes Make Magic

First Look: Pros and Cons for Wedding Photography

Should I do a first look? Thoughts from a wedding photographer

March 16, 2023

I’m Catherine.
A New Orleans based wedding photographer and educator. We are excited you are here and cannot wait to connect with you!.
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Should I do a first look? Thoughts from a wedding photographer

Many couples debate first look pros and cons before their wedding. And it makes sense; the first time they see each other is a BIG deal. 

If you’re not sure what a first look is, it’s when a couple opts to see each other for the first time prior to the wedding ceremony. This is a newer concept. I started photographing weddings in 2008, and photographed my FIRST first look in 2010. I was taken aback when they asked me – and now, in 2023, the majority of our clients do it! 
No matter what, the decision for a couple to do (or not do) a first look is an important one. It’s crucial that we as photographers approach that conversation with clients with care and understanding. Today, I’m sharing tips to lay the groundwork for that conversation, and how to help your clients make their decision in an informed way.

First Look Pros and Cons: Weather + Sunset Time

The first thing you’ll want to point out to your clients is the weather and sunset time in relation to their ceremony time. This has a huge impact on both their photography and their experience. 

You’ll want to carve out 1-1.5 hours for a first look, versus only 30-45 minutes for portraits after the ceremony, so you’ll need to do the math to see what time you would be taking first look photos, and if that conflicts with the sunset.

Example 1: An August wedding – which has a later sunset time and a higher temperature – is a situation where I wouldn’t push as hard for a first look. If the photos are outside, I might suggest we skip the first look and take portraits after the wedding. 

The only exception to this is if it’s an indoor location with a ton of natural light. In that case, we can definitely do all of the formal photos before the wedding, no problem!

Example 2: If it’s a December wedding where the sun is setting much earlier, the couple might want to consider doing a first look. This allows for the couple to take photos in gorgeous natural light before the sun sets. 🌅

As photographers, it’s great to bring this up and educate clients on the importance of natural light. You want to avoid the couple expecting a certain look in their photos that they don’t get because their portraits were taken after the sunset… So don’t be afraid to communicate this before the wedding!

Why I Love First Looks

I personally love when couples do a first look. And not just because it’s sweet!

  • First looks get rid of nerves. I can still remember photographing a wedding a decade ago where a bride was so nervous, she got sick! As soon as the couple saw each other in their first look, the nerves disappeared. They were then better able to relax and enjoy the rest of the day.
  • First looks allow couples to enjoy the reception. When couples do a first look, the large majority of their photos are taken before the wedding. That means once the ceremony ends, the couple is able to enjoy the food and dancing with friends and family. That also means more candid photos taken at the reception!
  • First looks eliminates the rush. My husband and I did not do a first look for our wedding. I’ll never forget after the wedding feeling like I wanted to rush through photos… just so I could get to the reception and see my guests! The rushed feeling is going to surpass the couple’s desire for good images in that moment, and getting everyone to stand still for 30-45 minutes after the ceremony can be challenging. 

First looks simplify logistics. Since the couple have already seen each other, everyone can ride together to the venue and/or reception.

Consider the Privacy of the Location

My final piece of advice: When you’re helping a couple decide on a location for their first look, don’t just think about what a location looks like. Think about what a location feels like for the couple. 

Meaning, is it very visible? Is it very populated? Is it central? I’ve found the most successful, meaningful, and intimate first looks have been the ones that are private. They’re in a location where the couple feel like they can truly let out their emotions and be present together.

And if you’re asking: “Will the couple have the same reaction as they would have at the altar?” I can tell you, without a doubt… yes. I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years, and I’m here to tell you the reactions are incredible. Actually, since the couple are usually in a more private place, they’re usually more able to be themselves and have a genuine reaction. 

I’ve seen couples completely break down at a first look. They’re usually more able to do this in a private space where they can be themselves.

Your Next Steps

When you photograph your next wedding and first look, you’ll want to have your poses planned out to keep your couple cool, calm, and collected for their big day!

Do you ever feel stuck or nervous trying to come up with poses on the spot? Or maybe you use the same poses over and over and need something new.

I’ve been there… and now I’m sharing what I’ve learned to help you! My Posing Guide below will allow you to:

  • Build confidence so your clients know EXACTLY what to do
  • Have “go-to” poses to create consistent, strong images
  • Never feel stuck or on-the-spot – you’ll have a posing flow!

Check out the Posing Guide below. ⤵️

Posing Guide
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