First look couple bride crying

Photo: Story & Rhythm

Years ago, the idea of the soon-to-be wed couple seeing each other on their wedding day before the ceremony was totally taboo. This is no longer the case with the rise of first look photo shoots, which capture the couple’s reactions to seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day. Not only do first look photo shoots provide couples with amazing images, they also are great time-savers—no need for the couple to miss their cocktail hour to take portraits!

Check out these top tips for staging the perfect first look.


Scout a location
You and your photographer should discuss the location for your first look photo shoot in advance of your wedding day. Your photographer can best determine which spots will have the best lighting and backdrop for your portraits.

Time it right
While you may be a bit restricted on time given the scheduling of your day, many photographers recommend taking portraits during what’s known as the “golden hour” which is the hour before the sun sets. You’ll also want to make sure you allot enough time for your photo session, particularly if you’re planning on tacking on family and wedding party portraits after your couple’s portrait session (most do). Usually you’ll need at least one hour or 90 minutes to take all of these portraits—and even more time if you’re traveling to different locations.

Coordinate with your photographer and videographer
Adding a video component to your first look session is a must—you’ll be able to capture your reactions with movement and sound as well. Make sure your photographer and videographer are aligned in terms of the timing and location of the shoot—and that they have enough time to get set up beforehand to capture the moment.

Stay away from social media
While getting ready, you’ll probably be tempted to check your texts, your Facebook, your Instagram, your Snapchat (the list goes on). Our advice? Hide that phone (and tell your future spouse to do the same). You want to feel genuine anticipation and surprise when you see your future spouse during the first look session, and seeing a snapshot of him/her on Facebook will ruin that. Tell your wedding party and family members to respect your wishes and avoid sharing photos of your getting ready process before the first look occurs.

Privacy is essential
Wherever your chosen first look location is, make sure that it’s kept private. Your first look should include only you, your almost-spouse, your photographer, and your videographer. If you have many others looking on during this intimate session, you may feel self-conscious and guarded, and it will show in the photos. Also, be sure that other vendors are aware of where and when the first look will be so that they’ll steer clear of the area (something one of our editors should have noted when a member of the waistaff unwittingly photobombed her first look session!).

Capture from all angles
The goal for your first look session is to capture both your and your future spouse’s reactions. If your photographer is able to bring an assistant to help capture each person’s reaction, all the better.

Forget the cameras
It may be difficult for you to ignore the fact that there are cameras snapping your every move during the first look, but by keeping your focus squarely on your almost-husband or wife, it’s possible. The less you think about the cameras, the more natural your reaction (and the resulting images) will be. Don’t go overboard with the posing, and remember to smile!

Have hair and makeup nearby
As we mentioned, the fewer people on hand for your first look, the better. However, if you are able to have your hair stylist and/or makeup artist nearby for touch-ups, it can help you look your best for the photo session. The pros don’t have to be standing right next to you during the first look, but they can perhaps stop by after the initial portraits are taken to help keep your look fresh.

Forget the stress
During the first look session, let all of the day’s drama and worries melt away. The first thing you say to your future spouse on your wedding day shouldn’t be the fact that it might rain or that your maid of honor’s dress has a hole in it. Be present in the moment and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

You can have it both ways
If you prefer to stick with tradition and not see each other before the ceremony, that’s totally okay. You can still take a few fun photos “together,” perhaps while standing on opposite sides of a door or back-to-back (no peeking!). Talk to your photographer about fun ways to “fake” a first look.