Photography, Photography Tips and Tricks

March 2, 2018

All About the “First Look”

 Inquire with any wedding photographer nowadays and they’ll probably ask if you’re interested in doing a “First Look.”  While this idea of a First Look has been popular for a while now (probably 5-10 years), many people don’t know what it consists of or why it can be a good choice for a wedding day.  Today, I’ll answer those questions, as well as share some personal experience from having a First Look at my own wedding!

What is a First Look?

Simply put, a First Look is when the bride and groom see each other BEFORE the ceremony on their wedding day.  It is a private moment, shared just between the two of them.  There are no parents, bridesmaids, or groomsmen around.  Even the photographer and videographer are standing far back from the couple to give them space and privacy.  A First Look is meant to be an intimate moment, and with no posing instructions from the photographer, every interaction is genuine.  

As a photographer, when a couple decides to do a First Look, I scout out a location that will offer privacy.  Once the bride and groom are both done getting ready (dressed, hair, makeup), I set the groom up.  I give brief instructions on where to stand so that he won’t be able to see the bride until she gets to him.  When the bride is ready, she walks toward the groom and let’s him know when he can turn around and see her.  After that, I give them time to talk, hug, kiss, walk around, etc. completely uninterrupted.  Usually, after 10-15 minutes, the couple is ready to move on and start taking more formal photos of the two of them and the bridal party. 

Why should you consider doing one?

The biggest reason for doing a First Look is that it saves one of the most precious commodities on a wedding day: TIME.  By doing portraits before the ceremony, I don’t have to pull the couple and bridal party for formal shots after the ceremony.  This means the bride and groom can actually attend their cocktail hour if they want to.  It also allows me to be more creative with any images taken later in the day.  I know that I already have the standard album shots, so I can play with the light or posing.  I love it when couples also decide to do formal family portraits after the First Look.  This saves so much time after the ceremony!

First Looks also give the bride and groom time to themselves.  This is probably the only moment of the whole wedding day where it will just be the two of you!  The rest of the day you’ll be surrounded by friends and family or the bridal party.  A First Look is your chance to have a moment away together to savor what’s about to happen. 

Finally, a First Look can help calm your nerves!  I don’t enjoy being the center of attention, so on my wedding day, I was so nervous!  Once I saw Caleb at the First Look, I was able to refocus.  I remembered why I was so excited to be marrying him.  It calmed me down and helped me to enjoy the rest of the day.  It also helps the groom to relax so that when they do see you walk down the aisle, they are more excited than nervous!

This is different from the walk down the aisle.

One of the main hesitations over doing a First Look is that the couple is afraid it won’t be as magical when the groom sees the bride coming down the aisle.  While, from a photography stand point I love First Looks.  As a girl who dreamed of getting married and walking down the aisle her whole life, I totally get that!  Every bride wants to see emotion from their groom when those church doors open!  

As someone who has done a First Look, I can tell you the emotions are still there!  The two moments are just so different, that they don’t wind up competing at all.  The First Look is quiet and intimate (and maybe the only moment you’ll have to yourself all day).  When you walk down the aisle, you’re in front of hundreds of your favorite people, and at the front of the church is the person you love most in the whole world!  The moment of walking down the aisle to marry Caleb was easily my favorite part of the wedding day, and second only to the birth of our daughter in happiest moments of my life.  (I may be tearing up just remembering it.) It all happened after doing a First Look and taking pictures together for an hour and a half. 

The bottom line.

When it comes down to it, the decision of whether to do a First Look is completely up to you!  There is nothing wrong with waiting to see each other!  

However, the couples I recommend strongly consider doing a First Look are:

  • Those who are getting married in winter (or early spring/late fall) when there won’t be much daylight after the ceremony for portraits.
  • Those that want a large number of formal family portraits.
  • Those who want to be at the cocktail hour.
  • Those who want a ton of bride & groom portraits.
  • Those whose timeline is already tight or have long driving distances between locations.

One last thing to keep in mind!  There is a middle ground between First Looks and waiting to see each other.  Some couples opt to exchange notes, or pray together while on either side of a doorway before the ceremony.  They can’t see each other, but they can talk, hold hands, and enjoy a private moment before the ceremony. 

Samantha Ludlow Photography, First Look, Syracuse photographer, Syracuse wedding photographer, Syracuse wedding photography, CNY photographer, CNY wedding photographer, Rochester wedding photographer, wedding photography

These images are from a wedding I shot with my dear friend, Emily Netti, last summer! Jackie and Nick opted for a first look before their wedding. It was a sweet and intimate moment between just the two of them!

Samantha Ludlow Photography, First Look, Syracuse photographer, Syracuse wedding photographer, Syracuse wedding photography, CNY photographer, CNY wedding photographer, Rochester wedding photographer, wedding photography

After the first look, we took the couple to a few other locations at the venue and did more photos there. They also did all of their bridal party portraits at that time, as well as some family shots. This allowed them to be present for their entire reception and cocktail hour.


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