In my last article here on the Pictage blog, I walked everyone through The Youngrens perfect wedding day schedule, which is built on the couple seeing each other before the ceremony. Not surprisingly, there were questions about how we get our couples to do a First Look.

These days, most couples come to us already wanting to do a First Look, but it took a few years for that to be the case. In the meantime, I had to become pretty adept at educating couples about them. (Notice how I say ‘educating’ and not ‘convincing.’ BIG difference.)

first look wedding photo photographers the youngrens

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, I need to realize two more things before I go about educating our couples: (1) I can’t do anything about the second reason and (2) I need to be ok with whatever decision my couple makes. This is THEIR day and not mine, and no matter what, the decision is ultimately theirs. I still have to provide the best experience and the most beautiful photographs that I possibly can on their wedding day.

first look wedding photos photographers the youngrens

first look wedding photos photographers the youngrens

So how do I educate a couple about the First Look? First, I put together two different photography schedules for them. The first is based on their wishes – to wait until the ceremony to see each other – and the second is based on a First Look (our ideal schedule). Then I attach the schedules to 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. 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.

first look wedding photos photographer the youngrens

first look wedding photos photographer the youngrens

first look wedding photos photographer the youngrens

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 enjoy the cocktail hour if we do a First Look, and with their particular wedding day, the First Look makes the most sense. And that’s it. The First Look is an extremely emotional decision for a bride and groom to make, so you need to educate them on the emotional benefits that it will provide and not just 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.

first look wedding photos photographer the youngrens

first look wedding photos photographer the youngrens

However, 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!


Written by Erin Youngren

photographer erin youngren

Jeff and Erin Youngren are international wedding and lifestyle photographers running one of the fastest growing boutique studios in the competitive Southern California market. Although based in San Diego, their deeply emotional style and passionate partnership has taken them from the streets of San Francisco to the canals of Venice to the family suburbs of Chicago to photograph extraordinary weddings and incredible couples. As leaders in the photographic community, they are passionate about helping other photographers build viable, authentic businesses, while building a photography community built on integrity and honest leadership.


  • Great post! We always bring up the subject of a first look with the couple, but like you we respect their decision if they are set on not seeing each other until the ceremony. We are getting more and more couples to do a first look, and it is always such a great experience. It’s so much more intimate and emotional than the moment walking down the aisle. Walking down the aisle, I think a lot of brides are so aware of everyone watching them, not wanting to trip, not wanting to cry because the makeup will run, etc. My husband and I chose to do a first look also, so we always relate to the couple with our personal experience. Love love LOVE first looks!

  • Aliy says:

    I find a big selling point on the first look to be their reactions when they view the photos from another couples first look. If we are meeting and they are looking through an album, come across a first look picture, the couples (or at least the bride) almost always go “awe” and I take that opportunity to say
    “that picture was a first look” and unless they have their heart set on not seeing each other before hand, they are always sold.

  • Thanks for posting this Erin! Megan and I have been thinking a lot about how to best approach this subject with couples. While we realize that it can make for such a great experience, we respect the couple’s decision either way. The thing I like most about your process is that you give them a chance to hear all of your thoughts in a no pressure setting (reading an e-mail) before they make the decision.

    Looks like I have another ShootQ template e-mail to draft. =)

  • Great insight Erin. It’s always a challenge to me to figure out how to better shine light upon first looks. They couple always seems to think the walk down the aisle will lose the magic, and provide more emotion than a first look. Our experience has always been quite the opposite, but it’s still hard to explain to a couple how cool it can be.


  • Love all of the additional tips you guys have! And you’re so right to relate to personal experience as well. I tell them that we did a First Look and the ‘walk down the aisle’ moment is STILL extremely special, meaningful, and emotional – many times even more so because the jitters and anxiety are already out of the way. That always seems to convince the grooms! Ha!

  • Von DeVore says:

    Great post! I especially love it when couples come to the client consultation already prepared to agree to a First Look. That’s a sign that we’ve done our part to educate them on the benefits of that First Look.

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