The Ultimate Guide To Creating First Look Images That Will Last A Lifetime

If you want to really blow your clients away, look no further than a first look photo shoot to kick things off in a super romantic way.

First look photos are when photographers capture the first time our couples see each other on their wedding days. The results are seriously beautiful and create the perfect memento of a moment that is all to fleeting.

It also gives your couples the chance to take a deep breath and prepare themselves for what’s to come, away from any prying eyes and external pressure.

All of this is why, today, we want to help you create the best first look images you possibly can. In this article, we’ll be breaking down everything you need to do to get your first look images spot on and wow your couples as a result.


Then let’s get started — here’s our ultimate guide to creating first look images to last a lifetime! 🙏

Finding the perfect spot

This will come as no surprise, but the location of your first look shoot is seriously important.

It’ll not only set the entire tone of the big reveal but will also have to match the theme of the wedding you’re shooting, as well as the personalities of the couple at the center of it.

Picking the right spot can be tricky, though.

For one, there’s a whole load of options to consider.

Whilst first looks would usually take place during a crowded wedding ceremony with limited visibility — a designated, first look shoot can take whatever form you and your clients want it to… wherever that might be.

This is great, creatively, but also requires a lot of thinking to get right.

You’ve got to make sure that your location is:

On theme 🎨

A first-time shoot is a separate but extended part of a couple’s main wedding shoot. This means that, while you’ll want to create something unique and special for the moment, you’ll still need to find a location that’s on theme and connects to the visual story you’re trying to tell. In a photo album, after all, first look images will pop quite early, so it’s important that they set the right tone.

It’s worth trying to find a nearby location that you know will match the setting of your main shoot and compliment the rest of your plans. None of this is particularly tricky, but it’s easily overlooked when you’re hunting for a private spot… which brings us to our next point.

As private as possible 🤫

We’ll be touching on the importance of privacy a little later, but it’s vital that the location of your first look photo session gives your couples the intimacy they need to react truthfully and comfortably around each other.

If people are nearby or if your location is filled with distractions, your couples won’t be able to focus on themselves and the moment. It’s your job, then, to scout out the most secluded spots possible for your clients… without missing out on beautiful surroundings.

To do that, we recommend reaching out to the wedding venue, and asking if it would be possible to shut off a specific area for a short period of time. This is especially important if you’re shooting in a public space but is also worth doing to restrict any over-eager guests accidentally getting in on the action.

Weatherproof ☔️

Come rain or shine, the location of your first-time shoot has gotta be fit for all weather types.

Whether it’s pouring down with rain or a boiling hot day, your couples won’t want to be exposed to any kind of weather that might take away from the moment. After all, although a first time shot in the rain might be quite romantic, we’re not sure the bride will be too happy with a soaking wet wedding dress!

So, seek out a shaded spot, and make sure your first look images aren’t dependent on the weather — and if you’re shooting a winter wedding, an indoor spot might be a better call all round.

Think about your posing and positioning

Framing a wedding shoot is usually quite a spontaneous and authentic process, but when you’re trying to hide your couples from one another… things can get a little tricky.

One accidental turn, and that ‘first look’ moment could be ruined.

That’s why it’s so important to set everything in stone before the big day.

To do that, you and your couples have got to get really specific about how to stage their first look shoot in terms of the poses and positions they want to create.

Typically, first look images see one partner standing behind the other, ready to turn round when the photographer gives their signal or when one partner taps the other on the shoulder.

There’s a lot more to this than first meets the eye, though.

  • How much distance should there be between your couples? 🤔
  • Should they be touching each other? 🙏
  • Should they turn round after being tapped on the back? ☝️
  • Or should it be more spontaneous? 🙌

Sure, none of this is rocket science (thankfully!) — but knowing what to do in advance will save your first look images from looking messy and potentially missing the mark.

There’s also no reason why you couldn’t try a different approach to the popular stand-and-turn pose, altogether.

Other ideas include:

  • Couples looking at each other with their eyes closed, and then opening them 😌
  • Couples hugging each other from behind, and then turning round 🤗
  • Capturing your couples taking off blindfolds 😆
  • Putting one partner’s hands over the other’s eyes and removing them 😍

The bottom-line here is that, whatever you do, make sure it’s pre-planned and on track before the shoot itself. Your couples will be grateful for it, and so will you!

Photographer: Kassia J Photography

Get creative and think outside the box

As well as trying out different poses, it’s also a great idea to apply that creativity to the overall shoot itself. This means bending the rules a little and elevating what a first look shoot is all about.

Of course, this won’t be for everyone — many of your couples will love the traditional set-up of turned backs and shocked faces, but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for some creativity and shaking things up a little.

For example, why not position a physical barrier between the happy couple?

Anything from a tree to a one-way mirror could be a really creative way of separating your couple, before asking them to reveal themselves.

Some couples have even taken the idea one step further and installed fun things like a free-standing door for one of them to walk through.

Large bouquets of balloons can also be a really great and romantic way of hiding your couples from one another, until that first look moment.

And there’s no reason why you can’t break the rules entirely and invite others into your first look shoot if that’s what your couple wants to do.

Again, this won’t be for everyone.

But even just a little bit of creativity can go a very long way in putting together a first look shoot that’s unique and fit for who you’re working with.

Remember that, and your clients are bound to be impressed with your service.

Be discrete, and step aside when you can

Now, back to the importance of privacy.

As well as finding a secluded spot, it’s also important that, as their wedding photographer, you give your couples the space and time they need to treasure this special moment.

Of course, you’re going to have to be nearby to capture everything as closely as you can — but getting a variety of shots, including those from a distance after the immediate moment, will mean that you can step aside whenever you can.

You should also, once you’ve got the shots you need, give your couple some time alone to really let them take in and enjoy the moment.

This is another reason why pre-preparation is so important, as it’ll keep your involvement to a minimum. You won’t have to interject and experiment with different positions if everything is planned beforehand.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t be part of this moment (you should) — but it’s about finding a balance between doing your job, and not overstepping the mark and making the moment more about a pretty picture than a special memory.

Alongside your own discreteness, it’s also worth checking the area quickly before the couple arrive, and possibly telling the immediate guests that you’re going to be shooting a private moment in a particular spot and would appreciate it if they kept to one side for a few minutes.

This probably shouldn’t be a problem if you pick a private spot in the first place… but you never know who might stumble across it, not realizing what’s going on.

So, be vocal about what’s happening, and practice what you preach.

Privacy is everything when it comes to moments like these, and it’s your job to make that possible — even when needing to capture the perfect shots.

Make use of a second shooter

And finally… to capture every moment of your couple’s first moment together, it’s seriously worth bringing in a second shooter to cover what you can’t.

How, for example, are you going to capture — in full — the immediate reaction of both partners, at once?

And what if your couple wants to stage something a little more elaborate and creative?

Let’s say your couple wants to have their first look on a grand stairwell.

One of them wants to walk down the stairs to surprise the other.

In this scenario, a second shooter will be able to follow the partner on their journey down the stairwell, which will leave you free to capture the action on the ground.

There will be a whole host of scenarios like these — where an additional camera will be essential to capture every detail of your couples’ first look.

And what’s more, a first look shoot is a really great opportunity to train your second shooter, as they’re very intimate and stripped back affairs.

To really blow your couples away, then, tell them you’ll be bringing a spare set of hands along to capture their special moment. They’ll be super impressed — and prepared to pay the price for it, too!

Now, it’s over to you…

So, there we have it — our top tips for creating perfect first look images that’ll last a lifetime.

Follow them, and you’ll be onto something seriously special!

Good luck and remember to head over to our blog for more expert advice on how to ace it as a wedding photographer! 💪

Written by:
Dirty Boots & Messy Hair Team

Connection is what it’s all about. Feel free to reach out to us with any comments or questions you might have, even if it’s only to say hello. If it wasn’t for our beautiful community, this place just wouldn’t feel the same.

Photographer Tips
17 May 2021


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