Not everyone does a First Look on their wedding day, but these days the majority of my couples are leaning towards choosing to participate in this new-ish tradition! I personally love First Looks because they add another special moment to the wedding day that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Another added bonus to doing a First Look is getting to spend more time with your significant other at the wedding! I always thought it was so strange when you think about the fact that you really don’t see your partner much at all on your wedding day of all days if you don’t get to see each other until the ceremony. And even then, you go from seeing each other for the first time in front of all of the guests, to then spending time greeting friends and family and not getting to enjoy one another much at all. Doing a first look ensures you’ll get a little bit of extra quality time with each other and that you’ll also have more time to spend with friends anf family who traveled to celebrate with you.
(Note: One thing to consider is whether or not it makes sense logistically to have the first look at the wedding venue or at the location where the bride and groom will be getting ready…this depends on transportation, timing of the rest of the days events, etc and is something I usually try to hash out ahead of time when we’re working on the timeline! This particular post will discuss what happens at most of my weddings, which have the first look at the venue!)
I typically run the first look in a very similar manner at the majority of my weddings. I usually organize this myself (or, if there’s a planner who prefers to take the lead on this, I’m fine with that as well) by first choosing the location that I’d like to shoot this in. Contrary to what a lot of people might expect, I generally don’t scout venues ahead of time…mainly because what I’m looking for primarily in a location is the light, which can be different based on the weather, the time of day, or even the time of year! I choose the spot I want to shoot at the day of the wedding, shortly after arrival
Lighting is at the root of everything I do, so it’s essential to choose a spot that’s lit perfectly. I generally choose something with a little bit more open shade (shade that’s still got a source of brightness or light near it so that it’s still going to produce lighter, airier photographs) because that’s also helpful for ensuring neither the bride or groom are squinting and can’t see the other! Since the whole point of a First Look is to see the other person for the first time, this is super important!
The second criteria is privacy. I prefer a spot that’s completely private, but that’s not always feasible at wedding venues or portrait locations…especially if the wedding is at a winery during the day or somewhere in the city. I consider privacy very important for a first look location because I want to protect the intimacy of this special moment and allow the couple a moment to be vulnerable with one another. It’s harder to do that when there are a ton of people around! Often bridal party and family members will want to come along and be a part of the first look, but in my experience it’s a better experience for the two of you if you ask them to give you a little space!
The third criteria for the location is based on background. I’m sure a lot of people would think it might be kind of funny that background isn’t the first thing I’m thinking about when I’m looking for places to shoot, but it’s actually not as important as the other two things because of the very wide open depth of field that I photograph at. Often parts of the background will kind of fade away depending on the way that I’m shooting, so I find this slightly less important than the other two factors.
When I’m looking at the background for the First Look (or really any other portion of the day), I’m looking for something that’s fairly clean of clutter (no garbage cans or ugly signage or anything where it can be seen) and fits with the feel of the wedding day. In my mind, I’m always shooting with the final product (the album) in mind, so I want the images to feel as cohesive as possible. Picking a space that meshes with the feel of the wedding day helps with this! For example, it wouldn’t really make sense to do the first look at a hotel ballroom if the wedding is a garden themed winery wedding, even if it would be slightly easier since the couple was getting ready at said hotel. I’d probably pick something else based on the other criteria and the feel of the day.
Once I’ve finished shooting Getting Ready, I will go and get the Groom and have him set up in place for the first look. Usually the second photographer will hang out with the groom and keep him company while I go back to escort the bride out to meet the groom. I give her some direction on how to greet him to set us up to get the best photos and then hang back a bit and photograph their moment together!
After the couple has had a little bit of time together, we’ll start shooting portraits of the two of them! I typically schedule around a half an hour for those portraits (bringing the first look up to a total time commitment of 40 minutes to an hour, depending on logistics) before bringing bridesmaids and groomsmen out for group photos!
Following Bride and Groom Portraits, the first look is a wrap! Next time, I’ll get into how I handle group photos…from bridesmaids and groomsmen to posed family formals!!
For the previous installment in this series, check out how I structure Getting Ready here!