The Most Common Mistakes Couples Make When It Comes to First Look Photos

It’s the moment you’ve both been waiting for: the first look! You get to see your guy dressed to the nines on the happiest day of your lives and he finally gets a peek of you in that pretty wedding dress he better not have seen until now! It’s an emotional moment, to say the least, and one you’ll surely want captured on camera. To make the most of it, we recommend avoiding these all too common first look mistakes.


1. Allowing others to watch
The biggest mistake D.C. wedding photographer Hannah Bjorndal has seen couples make, which they immediately regret, is not keeping the first look a private moment between the two of them (and their photographer, of course). “Family, the wedding party and especially parents are going to want to watch the first look happen, thus communicating with them in advance that you’d like to be alone is super important.” You definitely don’t want to be arguing about this on your special day, she warns. “If you have a difficult family member or friend who is giving you a hard time about being alone, let your photographer be the bearer of bad news. A good photographer is always willing to (nicely) explain to the difficult party that this moment is happening outside of the ceremony for a reason: privacy!” And then you don’t have to deal with any unnecessary drama, wahoo!

2. Not taking any actual alone time away from your photographer
This is one thing you may not really think about in advance, but you should! If you’re like most couples, you’re going to want a few minutes to soak in that first look sans your photographer so make sure to give him or her the heads up beforehand. Bjorndal recommends having your photographer capture the initial moment you see one another, and after about 30 seconds, stepping away for 5-10 minutes to allow you some space to just be together. Another tip? Ask your photographer to capture your first look from a distance. “This way you can exchange words privately! If they’re using a telephoto lens, then they’ll still be able to get the close-up, emotional response on your faces without literally being right in your face!”

3. Just winging it
One of the most common mistakes couples make when they wish to have a first look captured on their wedding day is to not plan for it, notes wedding photographer Mike Busada of Mike B Photography. “We coach our couples on how to prepare for the first look and help them plan it into their wedding day timeline.” Unfortunately, just winging it doesn’t work well.

4. Not trusting your photographer
A good photographer will help you select the best time and location for your first look, and they’ll take a lot of things into consideration when doing so, informs Busada. For example, “Privacy, lighting and an uncluttered background are all issues that have to be taken into account to capture this intimate moment. We’ll occasionally have a couple that has an idea for a first look location that may seem great in theory, but we know that it won’t result in great photos,” he tells us. “When this happens we’ll explain to them that there may be a better option.” The point here being, always trust your photographer’s expertise. After all, that’s why you hired him or her.

5. Boozing too much beforehand
Yup, it definitely happens! A glass of Champagne, a beer or a single shot can sometimes help to loosen you up, however, taking it any further than that should be avoided, cautions Busada. “I’ve seen an intoxicated groom literally fall on the bride during the first look and drag her to the ground. As you can imagine, this is not the best way to start your wedding day photos.” Um, nope!

6. Forgoing a first look all together
If you’re considering skipping the first look, Philadelphia wedding photographer Benjamin Deibert urges you to reconsider. “As more and more weddings happen later in the day, I find couples who opt out of the first look find themselves in one of two predicaments: One, they miss cocktail hour and reception time because they’re trying to squeeze in photos, or two, they feel rushed through their photos with each other and friends and family, due to wanting to get back to the party, which doesn’t always make for the best possible outcome.” Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but please do weigh all the pros and cons prior to opting out!

Written by: Elizabeth Mitchell