A bride in a white dress with a veil is listening to an older man in a suit with a pink tie and boutonniere, who appears to be giving a heartfelt speech in a tastefully decorated room.


What is a First Look? 

First look photos are an American tradition where a bride and groom see each other for the first time. In the US first looks typically happens before the ceremony and can feature just the bride or groom and/or their wider family.

Here in the UK first looks have becoming more popular, but some couples feel they would prefer the first moment their future spouse sees them to be in the aisle rather than before the ceremony. Either way, there are some very good reasons to consider having a first look on your wedding day.

Pros and cons of ‘First look wedding photos’.


Bridal dreams

Many brides, ever since childhood, dream about their wedding day. What it will look like? How will I feel? They may imagine what their future spouse will look like and how they will react when they see their bride for the first time at the altar. If this is you, then clearly you should have your first look photos at the altar as this is what you have dreamed of all your life. Anything else may seem like a compromise on your dreams.

However, let’s just take a moment to think about the pros of a first look prior to the service.


As you will see later, whilst a first look can save you time it may also cost you some time too. Let me explain. In America weddings tend to take place in the evening, so couples have all day to get ready. In the UK weddings generally take place between 11am and 4pm. Now first look photos can take up to two hours (when you include the bridal party and close family) so you need to ask yourself, where is that time going to come from? The inevitable answer, I believe, is the bride and groom getting ready time, which means you would have to start early in the day. On the other hand, you gain time with your friends and family during the cocktail hour as you no longer need to worry about having more photographs taken.


Calming nerves

If, like me on my wedding day, you get nervous in crowds (even though they are your friends and family) so seeing your best friend, your partner, before the service can help settle your nerves. After all, your wedding day is one of the biggest days of your life. Seeing your partner before the service can help relieve some of the anxiety and knowing that your best friend is there for you, and maybe feels the same as you, can be a great comfort.


If the emotions of your future spouse on seeing you for the first time is important to you, then first look photographs can accomplish this. By taking first look photos earlier in the day it will allow more time to get the best images of that initial emotion. We can then achieve that anticipation again by separating you both for a period of time allowing those feelings to rebuild.

Walking down the aisle then will feel new and different this time because it is for real, surrounded by the people you both love, which means it is filled with meaning and emotion.


A wedding day is wonderful, but it is also hectic. It can be refreshing to take time during first look photos to have a private and intimate moment without everyone being there as they would be when you are at the altar.

Quality of images

The quality of images will be considerably better with a first look and here is why.

During the first look time frame of approximately 2 hours, I can shoot the first look, couples session, wedding party and family. Then, after about an hour’s separation, it is time for the ceremony.

With the ceremony first the guests go straight into the cocktail hour. A usual wedding timeline gives the photographer approximately 60 to 90 minutes to take the same photographs. So as nothing is quite so rushed you will get better quality photographs from having a first look session.


A first look allows you both to enjoy your wedding more and here’s why.

After the ceremony we have the cocktail hour, this should ideally be a time when you can meet and great your guests, have fun and relax before you sit down for your wedding breakfast. But with a traditional timeline this doesn’t happen as being limited to one hour we need to start shooting the family photos straight away. A First look gives you that time back and allows me, as your photographer, to capture those candid moments that make up the special moments of your wedding day.

So I’ve highlighted the pros and cons of First Look photos, but if you still can’t bring yourself to have them that’s fine.

About Helen Chapman Photography 

Natural, romantic, fun. My philosophy for wedding photography is based on artistic, creative, story telling with lots of cute photos and captured moments that showcase your personalities as a couple. This alongside my desire to provide exceptional service makes me different from other wedding photographers.  Based in Devon, but serving the whole of the Southwest, I have been published in Wed magazine, won awards with the Guild of Photographers and been trained by international wedding photographers. I would love to have a chat with you about your plans for your wedding day. So if you’re ready why not check my availability for your day: Check my availability and get pricing details. 

The alternative, if you so desire, is to have first look photos with your parents. I have done first look photos with mothers and fathers when the bride is first dressed and have got exactly the same beautiful reactions from parents as we would from your future partner.

It’s up to you now. You know the pros and cons of First look photographs, you can consider them when planning your timeline.

About Helen Chapman Photography

My philosophy:

“To provide excellence by placing YOU, Your dreams, Your wants, Your needs in the heart of everything I do”.

“To create beautifully, naturally, authentic, fun, romantic heirloom photography, that YOU are guaranteed to love and that will be cherished by future generations to come”.

“To provide YOU with a truly exceptional service through following my core beliefs of honesty, fairness, integrity, determination and creativity.”

I have been helping couples plan their weddings in the stunning natural landscape of the Devon countryside, rugged moorland of Dartmoor and spectacular seascape of the coastline of Devon, Somerset, and Cornwall for years and I’m using that experience and relationship with a great network of wedding vendors to help you plan your special wedding day. Why not take a look at my Client resources pages & Check my availability for your wedding and book a call today.