Bride and groom share first look, perfectly captured by wedding photographer

First Look Wedding Photos: How to Make Them Epic Like a Complete Pro!

In the last 10 years or so, a wedding trend burst its way onto the scene. And unlike so many other trends that wore out their welcome in a matter of a couple of wedding seasons, this one stayed. 

We’re talking about the first look, here! 

And while they’re still a little bit controversial, this trend has shown us time and time again how awesome it is. 

Over the years, we’ve honed and perfected how we capture first look wedding photos for our couples so they look absolutely epic every single time. And now, we’re sharing those tips with you!

Bride and groom share first look, perfectly captured by wedding photographer

What Is a First Look at a Wedding? 

But first! Let’s talk about the basics. If you’re new to the industry as a wedding photographer, or you haven’t had a couple who wants to have a first look, then you might be curious about what it is to begin with. 

Traditionally, the groom waits to see the bride until the moment she starts walking down the aisle at the ceremony. 

But the first look builds time into the wedding day timeline so the bride and groom can see each other before the ceremony begins. 

Usually, the moment is private and intimate so they can express their genuine feelings when they first see each other in their wedding day attire. 

And we’ll be the first to say – those moments are unbelievable in a wedding photography gallery. They make for some of the photos your couple won’t be able to get enough of.

Why Should You Educate Your Couples About First Look Wedding Photos? 

Every single couple of yours gets to, ultimately, make their own decisions when it comes to how they want their wedding day to look. But! You’re the one with more experience in seeing weddings and being a part of the day. 

That makes you a fountain of knowledge – and you should share that with your couples! So, we recommend educating couples on what a first look at a wedding is and why they should seriously consider one. 

Speaking of which, this is why they should: 

  1. A wedding first look is an intimate moment they get to share with just the two of them. The wedding day goes by in a blur. So this is one moment in the day when they get to slow down and soak up the adventure of getting married. 
  1. It releases the tension. Even when two people are so completely in love with one another, there’s still a nervous tension before the ceremony. And that sometimes keeps the couple from expressing their genuine feelings toward one another. But a first look on their wedding day gives them the chance to get emotional. As you know, that means an incredible opportunity to capture unforgettable moments! 
  1. They’ll end up with more photos! Without a first look, you, as the photographer, can’t take any photos of the bride and groom together until they’ve seen each other. That means that wedding party photos and family and group photos have to be crammed in after the ceremony. 

If your couple opts for a first look, then you can potentially take wedding party photos and even family and group photos before the ceremony. Then, after the ceremony, you can take your couple out and take portraits to capture that elusive “just married” feeling! 

Plus, as a destination wedding photographer, this is the time when you and your couple can go and explore the location they’ve chosen for their wedding day. It’s the perfect way to capture those photos that really showcase the setting of their celebration.  

The Wedding Day Timeline: How Long Do First Look Photos Take?

If you’ve never taken first look wedding photos before, then you probably haven’t had to build it into your photographer’s timeline yet. 

This is a super important piece of the puzzle since you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to scout the location and allow your couple to have enough time to soak up the moment. 

When you build your photography timeline, you’ll want to allow yourself around 20 minutes to take the photos. 

You’ll also want to give yourself time at some point in the day to scout locations around the venue. Depending on how large the venue is, you might want to give yourself anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to find the best location for the couple to share their first look. 

It gets way easier to do if you have a second photographer! That way, they can continue capturing important moments, such as the wedding party members getting ready. While your second is doing that, you can take off and find the perfect spot to serve as the backdrop for this important moment (we’ll help you find that spot in just a minute – keep reading!)

Couple share first look in an epic villa at Lake Como

How to Take Epic First Look Wedding Photos, No Matter Where You’re Shooting! 

Whether you’ve taken first look wedding photos before or you’re gearing up for your first experience with it, these tips will help you create the epic photos that your couples will rave about! Yep – we’ve had plenty of texts and IG messages from our couples saying how much they love these photos. 

Here’s what to do:

1. Give Yourself Room 

Part of taking these epic first look wedding photos is making sure you can capture the full scene. Not only that, but you’ll want to take photos from multiple angles. 

So no matter which location you choose at the venue, be sure it gives you plenty of space to walk around. Visualize what it will look like as the bride walks up behind the groom. Can you see where you’ll stand? Can you imagine that photo in your mind and which lens will get you there?

2. Find an Epic Background! 

One of the biggest keys for epic first look wedding photos? Is finding an epic background! That might look like some of the scenery of the destination in the background – such as a mountainscape, a waterfront, or even rows of a vineyard. 

But it could also be something that showcases the venue, such as architecture. Or it might even be something architectural that creates an incredible composition. Think of the crisp angles of a building, the way the sun creates vivid streaks across the side of a building (like the photo below!), or a walkway that creates a lead line to the couple.

Groom shows genuine, emotional reaction during wedding first look

3. Make One Partner Wait

If you make one partner wait, you’ll build more anticipation between the two of them. 

Then, when they finally see each other for the first time, you’ll get a flood of emotions that create complete photography gold. All of those emotions are what your couple and their friends and family want to see in the wedding photo gallery! 

It’s a quick little trick to hold up your sleeve to make sure you get as much emotion as possible.

4. Have One Partner Walk to the Other

You can combine this tip with number 3! But having one partner wait in one spot while the other walks up behind them, you’ll have plenty of time to capture more photos. 

Plus, the photos you do take of them closing the distance between them creates an awesome “mini” story in the gallery!

Bride walks to groom for first look

5. Capture Alternative Perspectives

You’re going to need a second photographer to check this tip off your list. The two of you can focus on capturing alternative perspectives. One photographer can capture wide shots as one partner closes the gap to the other. Then the other photographer can focus on closeup reactions as each partner sees each other for the first time! 

In the wedding photo gallery, these will complement each other so well. The wide shots will show the couple what it looked like while those closeup reactions will remind them of how the moment felt.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative! 

You can also ask your couples how they would like to do their first look. But, don’t be afraid to get creative and offer suggestions on how to change it up! 

The first look at a wedding is already “non-traditional.” So, there aren’t any other rules you have to follow. So, work with your couple to plan out how everyone wants these first look wedding photos to be. 

That might be closing their eyes and then opening them at the same time. It might be a hug from behind before one partner turns around to see the other.

7. Don’t Just Do It With the Couple

Yes, first looks are usually seen between the couple getting married. But you can also propose doing a first look with other important people at the wedding! For example, if the bride or groom has close family members, they can have their own first look. You can also see if they’d want to do a first look with their wedding party or other friends! 

The big thing is to always make sure that your couple knows that if they want a first look with friends, wedding parties, or family, those will be separate from the ones they have with each other. 

The first look with each other is a private, intimate moment so they have the chance to express all of their feelings to one another.

Bride shares wedding first look with her bridesmaids

Epic first look wedding photos will have your clients sending you those messages that will make you feel like you’re a master as a destination wedding photographer! 

And if you’re wanting to really put emphasis on epic, then you need an incredible location as the background of these photos. 

So, why not get paid to travel to amazing destinations to photograph weddings? We’ve got a free 3-step itinerary to help you get started doing just that!