The First Look

We have a very special blog post today for all of you. Christie from JLM Creative Photography has put together a wonderful guest post about The First Look and thoughts on doing a first look for your wedding!

The First Look: why you may want to break with tradition on your wedding day

Who doesn’t love weddings? I know I do, so much in fact that I chose to build my business, at least a huge part of it, on serving couples by recording their wedding days in fine art photography. I adore every part of the wedding process, the planning, decor, all the little details, flowers, cake! Every couple that I have been blessed to work with since the first wedding I shot in 1998 (as an 18 year old novice) spent countless hours planning and preparing for their wedding day. When this type of dedication, time and effort is put into one day it is so important to record and preserve the details and events of that day, so you can return and remember for years to come. This is the reason I do what I do, and the reason that my couples hire me to be with them on their day.

I have dozens of weddings at this point in my career and there are so many lessons that I have learned through that experience. I could talk to you about any number of important topics related to wedding photography, but today I come to you to talk about the idea of the “First Look”. If there is one single piece of advise I could give every couple I work with that can make their wedding day so much more enjoyable and stress free it’s the “First Look”.

What I am talking about here is the idea of seeing each other and shooting the bulk of your portraits before the ceremony. I know this totally breaks with tradition and 10 years ago it was virtually unheard of. Everyone knows that the bride and groom are not supposed to see each other before the wedding, it’s bad luck or mojo or whatever. Well I call bull-spit on that notion. Of all the weddings I have photographed, many who did see each other and many who did not, I can tell you that it does not make one lick of difference in whether they had a happy marriage. It’s up to you how your marriage will turn out, not whether or not you follow every wedding tradition and superstition.

What I can tell you is that a first look will greatly reduce your stress and heighten your enjoyment of your wedding day. Here’s why. When you take care of the portrait session (or at least a large part of it) ahead of the ceremony you can actually attend your cocktail hour and mingle with your guests. You are able to get to the party that much sooner. You can begin your reception sooner and really enjoy the party that you spent so much time planning.

Another great reason to consider this options is the emotional factor. When you see each other for the first time it will be in a much more intimate setting, allowing you to really take in the moment and let your emotions show. The bride can be escorted to the groom by her father, if she chooses, and the onlookers are a much smaller crowd. Many couples are so worried about losing it at the alter in front of 100+ people that they try very hard to hold their emotions in, choking back tears, etc. When this happens before the ceremony you feel more free and can enjoy that first look so much more.

Reason three is the freshness factor. With the first look you are shooting portraits when your hair and makeup is as fresh as it will be all day. Tears, wind, kisses from aunt Betty, etc have not had a chance to ruin your perfect look. So often we have to take time after the ceremony to freshen up the hair and makeup, further delaying your entrance to your party and cutting in on your fun! In the fall and winter months and with evening weddings the first look is even more advantageous for another reason, light! You may have not thought about the timing of your ceremony in terms of the ideal light for photography but you can bet that it’s one of the first things on your photographers mind. Most photographers, myself included, prefer to shoot outdoors when the sun is not directly overhead. High midday sun results in ugly shadows under the eyes and nose, and skims across the face from above highlighting ever flaw. If I had my preference I would shoot all wedding portraits between one to one and a half hours before sunset and thirty minutes after sunset. I rarely get that chance and so of course I am skilled and equipped to handle any lighting situation, but I can tell you that idea light leads to more beautiful photos.

When you schedule your ceremony for close to sunset or after dark the first look allows for portraits to be done in ideal light. In the case of a nighttime ceremony the first look is really necessary for photographers like me who prefer to use natural and available light as much as possible.

And finally I can tell you this, every single one of my couples who decided to do a first look has been so glad that they did. I have never had anyone complain or regret it, and in fact most of the time they are ecstatic that they made that choice. Talk to your photographer and see what they say, you will most likely get the same answer, it’s a great idea and you will be so glad you did it!

And if you decide not to do a First Look (and it’s really okay to do that too, it’s all up to you) you may want to consider what I call an Unveiled Session, some call it a Day After or even a Trash The Dress session. I don’t like to say Trash the Dress that just sounds scary and a Day After implies that you have to do it the day after, when in fact you can do it any time, ever years later. This type of session allows you to get dressed up in your wedding attire, one more time, and get some of the more creative and fun shots that you may not have had time for on your wedding day.

The Unveiled session is so much fun, and it really brings back those wonderful warm and fuzzy feelings you had on your wedding day. The session can be as simple or complex and styled as you like, the possibilities are virtually unlimited. And on that note, how about a giveaway.