7 First Look Photo Mistakes Not to Make

Make the most of the moment with these tips.
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
Former Associate Editor
  • Maddy is a Brand and Social Content Manager at Birdy Grey, and was a former associate editor at The Knot.
  • Maddy has written for several different publications, including HUM Nutrition, Insider, Bustle, Real Simple and Apartment Therapy.
  • Maddy has a Bachelor's degree in magazine journalism and a Master's degree in health, science and environmental reporting (both of which are from Northwestern's Medill School of Journa...
Updated Nov 11, 2020

While more couples are bucking tradition to make weddings their own, some traditions remain popular. Taking first look photos, for example, is an ever-popular ritual that half of of all couples choose to do on their wedding days. As with anything that's once-in-a-lifetime, you'll want to treasure your first look photos for years to come with these key tips.

These are the common mistakes couples make the most with first look photos, beginning with the blunder of not hiring a professional photographer. These pros, who've likely seen dozens if not hundreds of first looks, share the seven mistakes to avoid during your session.

1. Leaving Your Photographer Out of the Loop.

This is the most important rule for first look photos. Talk to your photographer about your first look vision (or, if you're not tied to a specific vision, ask for advice). You'll want to nail down all the logistics, like timing, positioning and any other particulars beforehand, so when the moment comes, you're as carefree as possible, and your photographer can take the reins.

2. Not Allotting Enough Time.

The last thing you want is to feel rushed on your wedding day. Doing a first look is supposed to calm your nerves and prompt happy feelings—not stress you out. Your photographer, who's likely shot many first looks before, will be able to help figure out a timeline that works for you. Once you've created a comfortable schedule, stick to it. That might mean you need to wake up a little earlier to eat and get ready, but it'll be worth it to avoid unnecessary stress. Plus, if you leave yourselves enough wiggle room, you'll have time to make hair, makeup or wardrobe touch-ups before the ceremony starts (think: fixing your mascara after a few happy tears).

3. Bringing Your Wedding Party With You (If You're Camera Shy).

If you're also planning to take photos with your wedding party before the ceremony, have your crew meet you a little later—especially if you think their presence will make you more nervous and uncomfortable during your first look. Take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a special moment with your partner before celebrating with those you love.

4. Choosing a Busy Spot.

Your first look is all about the two of you, so find a secluded spot where your guests can't see you (keep your wedding day looks a surprise for them too). Secure a location that allows you to truly enjoy each other's company, say what you really want to say, and react completely naturally—without feeling self-conscious about onlookers.

5. Getting Camera Shy.

While you're partly doing a first look to capture the amazing emotions on camera, your main focus should be on actually experiencing those emotions and sharing a personal moment with your partner. If being hyper aware of the camera might make you clam up and keep you from fully enjoying the moment, we have a solution: Have your photographer shoot your interaction from a distance using a long lens. They'll be able to snap those close, intimate shots without crowding your space or making you feel nervous.

6. Forgetting Tissues.

Trust us on this one: You may not be a big crier, but it's best to bring something just in case. Seeing your better half for the first time on the day of your wedding is enough to make even the most reserved person shed a tear.

7. Assuming Your First Look Has to be Like Everyone Else's.

Your first look can be anything you want it to be. Don't think you need to follow what you've seen in order to do it "right," because there's no right way. If you're not sold on doing first look photos, try a compromise. Combine the trend with tradition and do a first read or first touch. You and your partner can stand just out of sight of each other, say, on either side of a partition, hold hands and read each other love notes aloud or say a pre-ceremony prayer (your photographer can snap you both simultaneously, even if you can't see each other). You could also leave your veil or other accessories behind for the first look, then add them on for the ceremony as an extra, sweet surprise for your partner.

Still on the fence about whether or not to do a first look? Read these pros and cons to help you choose.

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