I’ve had lots of questions lately about first look wedding photos – most of them starting with ‘what on earth are they?’.
So, I thought it was time to explain. First look photos are getting more popular, particularly in the US, and for lots of reasons they really are a genius idea. But they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. Let’s see if they’re yours…
What are first look photos?
They’re all about capturing the moment you and your fiancé first set eyes on each other on your wedding day. But here’s the twist. They’re not taken as the bride walks down the aisle, or in front of your guests, they’re taken before all that, in private, somewhere special.
“But what about tradition?!” I hear you gasp. Well, yes, first-look photos do turn the usual big reveal on its head. And if you’re all about keeping things traditional, they’re probably not for you. But if you’d like to devote a bit more time to some really personal portraits, steady those wedding jitters and make sure your big day goes super smoothly, they might just be worth considering.
How do they work?
First look photos usually take an hour or so and happen just before your ceremony. We decide on a perfect spot, often outside where there’s lots of lovely light, well away from any early-bird guests. The two of you then arrive separately, looking gorgeous in your wedding get-up.
Usually, the groom will stand with me and the bride will walk towards him from behind. As he turns to see her for the first time, I’ll capture those great expressions on your faces. There might be tears, there’ll usually be laughter and there’s always kissing – but there’s never any pressure. It’s about genuine reactions, nothing forced.
After those first shots, I’ll give you a few moments, then we’ll take plenty of beautiful, natural portraits before the whirlwind of your wedding really gets underway. If you like, you can bring in your bridesmaids, best man or close family for some pre-wedding shots too. Then we’ll whisk the bride away, ready to make a big entrance once the guests arrive.
The best laid plans
Wedding days are busy. They go quickly and they don’t always go exactly to plan. Say someone important is running late – maybe even you – or there’s a delay getting started. Your food will probably be served at a set time, so if your main opportunity for taking photos is in between the ceremony and dinner, it’s going to get squeezed.
You’ll have less time to get those shots you’ll look back at forever – and less time to chat to the people you love. If it’s winter, or your ceremony’s later in the day, the time you’ve got before you lose the light might be even shorter. Planning and taking your most important photos earlier takes that pressure off, so you can relax knowing they’re beautiful – and in the bag.
Nerves and jitters
Wedding day nerves can be crazy and when you’re feeling jittery your fiancé is probably the one person who can calm you down. Spending that little bit of private time together will probably melt away a lot of your anxiety, so you can enjoy yourselves and feel like you’re in this together. Trust me, you’ll still feel the magic when you see each other again at opposite ends of the aisle.
It’s your party
One big advantage of taking your photos before the ceremony is that it frees you up to have more fun. Yes, I’ll still be there getting lots of great shots of the party, but your portraits will be out of the way and you’ll be able to chat, eat, drink and really be present.
About that cup of tea…
So, there are lots of great reasons to go for a first-look shoot. But like I said, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If tradition’s your thing, this probably isn’t, and that’s fine. First-look photos are getting more popular but most of my wedding shoots are still the more traditional, surprise-at-the-altar kind.
There are other things to think about too. While first-look shoots prioritise photo time, they can make your morning more of a rush. If you’ve slept badly (and most people do), you’ve got early-morning hair appointments and you’d like some time with your folks / bridesmaids / best blokes before the ceremony, a first-look session might feel like an extra pressure you don’t need.
Some brides also worry that their dresses might get dirty if they take outdoor photos before they walk down the aisle. I’ll always try my best to keep you looking lovely, but if that idea stresses you out, maybe don’t go for first look.
Finally, for lots of people there’s just nothing quite like the anticipation of waiting till you’re at the aisle to see your bride or groom to be. It’s pretty powerful stuff. If that matters hugely to you, go with your heart and forget first look. You’ll still have gorgeous wedding photos – and you’ll both be wearing your rings!