When we are taking pictures of a couple’s first dance as newlyweds, our best images generally come from photographing the moment in one of two ways. Sometimes, the best pictures come when we capture the new spouses on film with all their family, friends and invited guests in the background watching them dance for the first time as a married couple. Other times, we like first dance photos in which only the couple appears.
One reason we like the first approach to capturing the image is because including the guests highlights how many other people are invested in the newlyweds binding themselves to one another for a lifetime. The parents and siblings who have welcomed their son’s or daughter’s new spouse into their family. The friends who have supported the couple’s relationship and, in some cases, were even the ones who brought the two of them together in the first place. The extended family, other friends and coworkers who made the trip (sometimes from a great distance) just to wish the new spouses well on their wedding day. All of them feel joy witnessing two people about whom they care celebrating being married for the first time. If we are lucky, that shows up on film. We are sometimes able to capture images of the first dance in which the onlookers are smiling or shedding tears of happiness. This can amplify the power of the picture, because it echoes the emotions the couple is experiencing on the faces of their guests.
Other times, we like first dance photos in which only the couple appears. Those can also be very impactful pictures, because they keep the focus solely on the newlyweds. Even though most of the important people in their lives are watching on as they dance, many brides and grooms spend those moments lost in their own world and unaware that there is anyone else in the room. With the memories of exchanging their vows still fresh in their minds, they are all that matters to each other as they sway back and forth. The pictures of them alone on the dance tend to emphasize this.
This photo is an example of how well the latter approach can work. This bride and groom appear to be the only two people on earth, because at that moment when they kissed, it did not matter that there were hundreds of guests watching them.
One reason why the approach worked so well for this image is because of the venue. The Union League of Philadelphia, one of the most luxurious and elegant in the City of Brotherly Love, has a fantastic and opulent ballroom on its top floor. Lincoln Hall, which was dedicated in 1913 with President William Howard Taft in attendance, has beautiful hardwood floors, dazzling chandeliers and numerous portraits done by local Philadelphia artists handing on its walls. But its best feature, at least for wedding photographers, is the balcony that runs near the ceiling across one entire side of the room. This allowed us to get up above the newlyweds as they danced and to capture images without any distracting elements in them.