Katelyn_John_First Look (37 of 63)

I’m loving summer. Why? Spring and Fall are prime wedding seasons here in AZ, and I love the fact that when summer winds around, it’s time for a slower schedule, taking time to get refreshed in vision, and finally being able to execute some of those projects that have been on the to-do list for too long. Today, I’m bringing you a blog post on a topic I’ve wanted to discuss for quite some time: the very debated “First Look”. I think this is one of the biggest decisions couples have to make when it comes to their wedding photography, and it’s a conversation I have with every single one of my couples. Let’s start with two of the most common concerns I hear:

1) Forsaking tradition. I have many couples tell me this is the hardest part for them (or their moms) when it comes to considering a First Look.

2) Undermining that precious moment when the groom first sees you as you walk down the aisle.

PTM Storyboard 3 Up

These are completely legitimate concerns, and absolutely things to consider and reconcile when trying to determine whether or not a First Look is right for you. The biggest thing I want to communicate to my couples is that their wedding day is theirs. While I believe it is 100% my job to help coordinate a timeline and order of events (as far as photos go) to promote a smooth-running experience (this is why I have my couples fill out a lengthy questionnaire form with all the specifics of their wedding day from how many members there are in the bridal party to how long you plan your ceremony to be), I also want your wedding day to be everything you’ve always dreamed of. With that said, nearly 100% of my couples eventually decide on a First Look experience, whether or not they originally desired to or not. Here’s why:

1) Timeline. Truly, for my own workflow as a photographer on your wedding day, there is no alternative more favorable for the timeline of your photos than with a first look. Having a first look simplifies the day by allowing most photos to be taken before your ceremony ever starts. This way, there is wayyy more time to capture your bridal party, romance portraits, and family photos than if you needed to fit all those in a one hour long cocktail hour. This is often the biggest reason my couples choose the first look.

2) More romance portraits. This is specific to my own workflow as a photographer, but doing a first look means you get 2 sets of romance portraits in two different light settings for a variety of images. These are often the most important images for my couples, so I want them to have the most of these! When I plan a timeline for a first look, I will shoot the couple first, right after getting ready images, often in afternoon light. Then, I will steal them away anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour during sunset to capture those truly glowing, romantic images that are often client favorites.

3) Realizing the emotion is still there, just in a different setting. I have never had a couple tell me that the moment they walked down the aisle to their groom was ever hindered by doing a First Look. That moment seems to remain incredibly special whether or not the groom has seen the bride beforehand or not. More importantly, and one major proponent I attempt to communicate when explaining first looks, is that you are getting the opportunity to see and experience your spouse for that first time all on your own and without the eyes of a large crowd. I have had many couples vouch for a first look because of this idea: having an intimate moment before the start of all the energy of the day, to soak in and share with each other without the pressure of anyone (other than two photographers capturing it for you). You will undoubtedly be surrounded by people your entire wedding day, so I love being able to set this time apart for couples, knowing it’s probably the only time all day they’ll get to be alone together.

4) The photos. Surely this is another huge reason couples decide to do the first look. First Look images are often filled with so much emotion. Couples have the opportunity to embrace, kiss, and shower each other with love uninhibitedly while we (the photographers) have the incredible opportunity to capture it all. My assistant and I will always take up two different angles, attempting to capture your face and the other’s. It’s truly a remarkable moment. Additionally, as a photographer, light is the most important component when it comes to the overall quality and beauty of an image. During ceremony, we don’t get the luxury of positioning you the best possible way in the best possible light, but during a First Look we do. I seek to provide a location that is both beautifully lit as well as private.

PTM Storyboard 3 Up First Look (47 of 127)

I love this perspective from my past bride Beth (pictured below), who, originally torn over whether or not to do a First Look with her husband Eli, shared her experience:

“Eli said the sweetest thing after the first look. He said that he had hardly slept and had been pacing and nervous all day up until the moment he turned around and saw me smiling. He said that all the nervous in his stomach went away and were replaced by excitement. For me it was worth it because, after all the build up to that day and people trying to keep you apart, it was so nice to be able to have a moment just to ourselves. It made seeing each other all dressed up and ready to make such a big commitment to each other much more special and private. I LOVED it.”


When I was married 4 years ago, I knew right away the First Look was the way I wanted to go.  I was just starting with photography but knew enough that it was important for the flow of my day, and, truly, as someone who is more reserved in a crowd, I couldn’t wait to experience my private moment with my soon-to-be husband. I treasure the photos: the way he was touching my dress, spinning me, looking me over, and remember just feeling so incredibly beautiful to him in that moment.

In closing, I want to reiterate that the most important thing I want my couple’s to know is that their wedding day is theirs. If a First Look experience would put a hindrance on your overall experience because of pre-determined expectations, you need to be true to that. Just know that it will indeed play a role in determining how long your guests may have to wait after your ceremony for you to join them at the reception and the amount of photos you may receive from the portrait portions of your day.

The First Look: Is it for You?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *