Dying to Shoot More First Looks?

POSTED IN : Business & Client Experience

What I love the most about writing this blog for photographers is that Jeff and I get to say we’ve been there.

Any frustration, roadblock, and disappointment you could throw at us, we probably have a story of our own to tell.

If you’ve walked around all day at a wedding with spinach in your teeth, I’ll tell you about the time I had a huge black mascara swipe straight across my face for most of the day and then fell backwards over a chair in front of the entire bridal party – in a dress.


Or what about the time I stepped into a pile of manure that went up to my knee?


Again, in front of the entire bridal party.

Yeah, that’s a fun story to tell.

Which makes me ask myself – why doesn’t anyone in the bridal party actually WARN ME when I’m about to completely embarrass myself??

Anyhoo, the same goes with the First Look.

One look at our wedding blog and it’s clear that Jeff and I shoot a LOT of First Looks with our couples, but that wasn’t always the case.

During our first few years of business, only a small handful of our couples would opt for First Looks, so we had to become pretty adept at educating couples about them until the tides began to turn in our favor.

So how can you begin shooting more weddings where the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony?

I’ll walk you through how we educate our couples (notice how I say ‘educating’ and not ‘convincing.’ BIG difference.), and how you can begin turning the tides in YOUR favor.

It’s easier than you may think.

In my experience, there are normally two reasons that a couple doesn’t want to do a First Look: (1) they don’t know what actually happens during a First Look, or (2) they know what a First Look is, but have their heart set on that ‘walk down the aisle’ moment.

In light of these two reasons, you need to realize two more things before you go about educating our couples: (1) you can’t do anything about the second reason and (2) you need to be ok with whatever decision your couple ultimately makes.

This is THEIR day and not yours, and no matter what you think is best, the decision is ultimately theirs.

You still have to provide the best experience and the most beautiful photographs that you possibly can on their wedding day.

So how do I educate a couple about the First Look?

First, we need to make sure that the couple is actually aware of how Jeff and I do a First Look.

Sometimes, couples don’t even know what a First Look is or aren’t sure if they trust us to make it a special experience.

So if you’re talking about it in-person, explain how you perform the First Look and what goes into it.

Otherwise, I use a template email that I have drafted and revised over the years that educates them on what First Looks are and how Jeff and I do them.

Here’s the gist of that email:

I explain that we’ll pick a beautiful private spot with perfect lighting, and we’ll set up the groom with his back turned to the bride.

We’ll get the bride set up so she looks stunning (dress and hair in the perfect spot, bouquet ready, makeup touched up), and then we’ll back away, shoot with long lenses to give them space, and the groom will get to turn around to see his beautiful bride for the first time.

Then I tell them that we’ll give them ten to fifteen minutes to just hang out – they get to laugh together, cry together, and just be together.

The groom will have the space and the freedom to feel his emotions, talk about the day, check out his bride and hold her close.

The bride has the time to check out her soon-to-be-hubby, show off her gorgeous dress, and laugh through her tears of joy.

It’s all completely private, and completely theirs. They then get to hang out together for the rest of their wedding day.

Who wouldn’t want to spend the best day of their lives with the one they love most?

I also have a handful of past blog posts about First Looks that I link to in that email so they can get a good idea of what kinds of images we typically get out of First Looks.

Make it About the Experience and Not Logistics

In the email, I don’t mention the scheduling benefits or the photography benefits of doing a First Look until the very end, and even then I only say that their families, wedding party, and even the two of them will be able to join the cocktail hour if we do a First Look.

And that’s it.

The First Look is an extremely emotional decision for a bride and groom to make.


You need to focus on the emotional benefits that a First Look will provide and not the logistical perks.


You need to help them feel that you are 110% on their side, and that you are going to take care of them no matter what.

Trust is the biggest component to changing a decision like a First Look.

If they trust you as a person and a friend, then they will be much more inclined to trust your expert advice.

What About the Walk Down the Aisle?

The number one argument about not seeing each other before the ceremony is to preserve the significance of the walk down the aisle.

It seems like a First Look will take away from that moment.

I respond by saying that they’re right – the walk down the aisle is crazy significant.

But what they don’t realize is that nothing can ever take away from that significance.


Nothing can ever change the fact that they are walking down the aisle to marry the man of their dreams. Nothing.


In talking to our brides, that moment is still powerful, emotional, and meaningful with a First Look, and (in my own experience) the moment is even MORE powerful because all of the nervous pretense has dissipated.

They have already laughed, cried, and hugged out their nervousness, so they are free to focus on the wedding ceremony instead of the anxiety of seeing each other.

This thought right here has influenced quite a few of our couples, particularly ones that are nervous about standing in front of a crowd.

Also, having once been a bride myself is a big advantage. If you’re not married, then a great idea could be asking a former bride to give their testimony about the First Look and how it affected the walk down the aisle.

A first hand story is always a great idea.

Remember, It’s Their Choice

Remember that no matter what, if a couple still wants to wait until the ceremony to see each other, you need to respect that decision and leave it alone from that point on.

You have educated them and made them aware of the photography constraints that kind of decision causes, so it’s you’re job to perform within those constraints.

However, it’s surprising how many couples I’ve come across that simply weren’t aware of what actually goes into a First Look and how special it can be.

So give this a try and let me know how it goes!

Does anyone else have any tips or tricks on educating couples about the First Look?

I’d love to hear them in our Photographer-Only Facebook Group!




We teach photographers to build life-giving businesses that they absolutely love.

About Us

We're Jeff & Erin

We’re Jeff and Erin Youngren – and it’s our mission to help you thrive not just as a wedding photographer, but as a business owner. It’s time to set aside the stress and comparison of a hustle mindset, and build a life-giving business instead.

We met in college, got married, and started corporate jobs before we discovered (and fell in love with) wedding photography. But like many creative entrepreneurs, we were booking anything we could, strapped to our laptops and living dangerously close to burnout.

So we dug in and learned how to build a thriving business that supports our dream life – instead of a joyless business that runs a stressed-out life.

Today, we photograph only 10 Dreamie weddings per year, but we also run two other wedding brands plus a commercial studio in San Diego, CA. And we do it by only working the hours that fit into our life. The other hours? We spend those living a joyful life raising our two beautiful sons, James and Samuel.


Jeff and Erin

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