The 'first look' is something we get asked about a lot as wedding photographers. Can you make SURE to get the first look? It's so important to us that we get the first look. But what is it, why should you care about it, and how do we make sure we get it? This post will cover the two of those three questions, and we'll do the rest later. . . . because if you make these things too long, no one reads them.
First, what is is this look supposed to be?
The term 'first look' originally meant the groom's first look at his fully realized bride, resplendent in dress, updo and waterproof mascara. In this sense, it would be paired with the classic radiant/emotional bride walks down the aisle with stoic Dad photo in the wedding album. This patriarchal connotation has evolved in recent years to reference the couple's first look at each other, with the groom expected to be impressively cleaned up as well (side note - we say bride and groom, but obviously this applies to gay couples too).
OK, so what are we going for here? Some combination of elation and surprise seem to really hit the mark, and the photo of Steve at the top of the post is a nice example (the cute kid doesn't hurt). What it absolutely shouldn't be is faked - there've been a couple of occasions where we've gotten the 'say cheese for the camera' smile, and it's creepy and weird. Just be yourself and don't try to win an Oscar.
But why is the First Look so important to so many couples? Why do we, as, like, a society, man, care about this? We can think of three reasons:
'This is as good as it gets.' Some see the way you look walking down the aisle (or standing pensively at the end of it) as a once-in-a-lifetime zenith of physical attractiveness, and as such your spouse's reaction to this shocking new height of physical beauty needs to be documented for posterity.
Curiosity. Most grooms tend to think their fiancee looks pretty great most of the time, and so are understandably curious about what sort of insane super-beautifucaion must happen after an entire morning of primping. Also, let's not forget that rarely wear a tie/suit/tux etc., so she's interested in seeing what that's going to be all about too.
It's the beginning of the wedding ritual. The first look is the official 'we finally made it' moment. It's the end of the months of planning, paying and preparing, and the beginning of the actual wedding. This is the moment when each spouse sees the other as a participant in the wedding ritual, fully fitted in the costume we wear to tell those closest to us that I''m getting married today.' The first look makes the wedding REAL.
Remember, even if you're shooting by yourself, always swing around and grab a few shots of that first look.