Are you thinking about making a first look a part of your marriage celebrations? There are a lot of reasons why it can be a great addition to your plans! (There are also a few why it might not be the right choice for you. Click here for a detailed discussion of first look pros and cons.) If you are definitely planning to do a first look with your future spouse, though, then you will want to make sure that the photos of that moment are spectacular. You will definitely want to remember every detail forever! So with that in mind, here are some tips for getting the best first look wedding photos imaginable.
Before we get into that advice, though, let us make one thing clear. It is NOT your job to make sure you get beautiful photos of your first look. That responsibility belongs to your wedding photographers. They are the professionals, after all! You hire them so that you do not have to worry about things like this.
At the same time, knowing more about what makes for the best first look wedding pictures will still help you in a couple of different ways. For starters, that knowledge will allow you to make a more informed choice when picking your wedding photographers. When you see the images they have created of first looks, for example, you will be better able to judge whether they have the ability to make those kinds of shots spectacular. In addition, if you know what makes first look images great, you can tweak your wedding plans to create the optimal conditions for getting them.
So without further ado, here are three things that first look wedding photos must be to be beautiful:
The whole point of having a first look before your ceremony is to create a scenario in which genuine emotions come pouring out. Couples who choose to make it a part of their wedding day typically want that shot of one person gasping with delight when they turn and see their partner in wedding clothes for the first time. They want utter disbelief at how beautiful they look. They want ear-to-ear smiles and tears flowing down cheeks.
So how do you help make sure that you get first look wedding pics that capture those kinds of emotional reactions? For starters, pick a location for that part of your day that offers you privacy. (Or better yet, insist that your wedding photographers find a site that gets you away from everyone else.) Why does this matter? Because having an audience present when your partner sees you for the first time can cause them to tense up. They can become aware of all the eyes on them and that can take them out of the moment. And then instead of tears, you just get photos of some nervous smiles. Privacy will help both of you relax and allow your real emotions to come out.
One of the hard things about what we call “set pieces” is ensuring that the photos of them capture genuine moments in the way that documentary wedding pictures should. (By set pieces, we mean the structured activities in a wedding day timeline. Think letter exchanges, first dances, cake cuttings and bouquet/garter tosses.) Because those events are prearranged, they can sometimes feel a little forced. The participants are sometimes very aware that they are “on stage” and being photographed. And that can lead to some really inauthentic pictures that will not be the kind that trigger an emotional reaction from you in 30 years.
The good news is that photos of set pieces can still look and feel spontaneous. The key is to not overplan them. Resist the temptation to overscript your first look. Do not plan every instant of it. Do not worry about exactly where your partner will stand or how many steps you should take or which hand you should tap their shoulder with. Just sketch out the overall scenario and then let yourself get caught up in the moment once you start. Or entrust the planning to your wedding photographers. Let them set up your first look and give you some general directions. Then you can just focus on the one thing that is going to give you unforgettable first look wedding photography: the reaction of your future spouse.
One thing that many couples do not realize prior to getting married is that they will have very little alone time on their wedding day. People will surround you from the instant you sit down in your makeup chair to the moment you bid your last guest goodbye. There is nothing wrong with this, of course! Your wedding is in part a celebration of all the people who made your love story possible. They are important to you and your future spouse, and your wedding-day interactions with them will be some of your most treasured memories. But the downside is that their presence will keep you and your future spouse from enjoying private, unguarded moments on your wedding day.
That is, of course, unless you are having a first look! If you take the advice we offered above and make sure that no bridesmaids, groomsmen, parents or other relatives are there, you will get a few precious moments to yourselves. And that will give you the chance to get pictures with an intimacy and romance. Things that will be hard to create with lots of people around you.
So in addition to making sure that you have privacy, what else can you do to get intimate first look wedding pictures? Savor the moment and pretend that no one is photographing you. Enjoy being in love with the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with. Let the significance of what your wedding day wash over you. And cuddle in close to your partner after they see you for the first time. Get lost in your feelings for them, and hug and kiss them like no one is watching.
If you can keep these things in mind while planning your wedding day, you are almost certain to get photos that will transport you back to those beautiful moments every time you look at them. Images like this one, for example, which checks every one of the boxes we mentioned above. We took this picture of a lovely couple enjoying their first look before their traditional Indian matrimonial ceremony. Their wedding was at the William F. Bolger Center in the Maryland portion of suburban Washington DC.
As you can see, there is a genuine emotional reaction from the bride in this photograph. It is understated, perhaps, but it tells you how happy she is to be with her groom at that moment. There is also nothing forced about the interaction. Both of them are clearly lost in their feelings and not performing for the camera. Finally, there is intimacy between the couple. They are holding each other tight and embracing as though they were the only two people in the universe.
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