As a wedding photographer, I lean more toward portrait photography opposed to the journalistic documentary wedding photographer, which is why I could spend all day photographing my couple. If you fall in a similar category or stance where you thrive in posing and portrait situations, you’re probably pushing your bride and grooms to do a first look.
If you aren't familiar with this, "doing a first look" is when you take the bride and groom away from the wedding, before the ceremony. Instead of the groom first seeing the bride at the alter, they see each other in a space that you can control and plan for. First look is the new tradition, at least that’s what I try convincing my clients.
If you are just as passionate about a first look and wanting your clients to do one, here are a few suggestions on what you need in order to help explain and convince your clients that a first look is not to benefit you, but really in their best interest.
Verbalize It at the Initial Meeting
Similar to the elevator pitch, you should have a quick speech prepared on how you would describe what a first look is, and why it would be beneficial. You should be able to easily describe it and sell it to your client.
I went into a client meeting and met with a couple who already decided they wouldn’t see each other before the ceremony. I told them just to hear me out for a few minutes as I explained the set up in a slow, sweet and calm voice to set the tone.
“I will find a private location at the venue and the will have his back turned. You will walk up behind him. My second shooter and I will be at a far distance as he turns around to see you in your dress for the first time, just the two of you. This will be one of the only short moments you will have together to laugh, exchange words, pray, and take a moment before the guests arrive and before the day gets carried away.”
The bride’s eyes flooded with tears. She was sold, and the groom was in. I do an additional closer.
“Nine out of ten of my couples do a first look and I find that they get double the amount of portraits than couples who don’t. Post-ceremony, I only need you for 30 minutes or less and then you can go off and join cocktail reception with your guests. This is a great schedule, so you can visit with friends and family that may live out of town that you don’t get to visit with often.”
Letting them know that they not only get a very relaxed wedding schedule, but also double the portrait shots together with afternoon and sunset light, and more time with their family and friends, it’s not too difficult to sell the first look moment.
During this meeting, bring images to show a first look, emotional and fun moments. Also bring a sample schedule and PDF document which will be described later in this article.
Promote a First Look with a Blog Post
A written blog post is an easy way for brides who are shopping for a photographer to read and get educated on what your typical wedding procedure is. If they like what they have seen you do with past clients on your blog, they might already be sold on the first look before you even tell them about it.
You can title the post, “Benefits of a First Look,” and explain what the moment is about and also why it helps with the flow of the wedding day itself. It will include the most emotional first look images you can capture as well as testimonials from past couples that decided to do a first look. Bride and groom testimonials are great to have so the couple can read it together.
I always include a first look shot within my weddings, so it’s apparent most of my clients choose to do it. The more it’s seen, the more regular and less untraditional it looks. The first look is slowly becoming the new tradition.
If they still aren’t sure about this first look, having a direct link to your post will be easy reference. You can easily send it to your clients without seeming pushy because you had already written it.
If you are already married and you did a first look yourself, you can also use your reasoning why you decided to do one. If you are single, then tell them you will do a first look when you get married and explain why. You should be able to sell what you believe in.
Create a Pamphlet or PDF Document that Explains the First Look
Along with verbalizing it, have a professional document that you can present to your clients that also goes over it as you explain it.
In mine I discuss, “considering a first look,” “endless benefits” with bullet points on the benefits, and “what happens” which is similar to my verbal elevator pitch.
I also share some of my favorite images that show smiles, laughter and tears.
Share the Two Comparative Schedules
When I meet with my clients, I have two blank wedding day schedules printed, one with a first look and one without. The first blank off to the side, I fill in is their sunset time, which is discovered by looking it up on an app or online.
As I fill in when I believe their ideal ceremony time is, I begin to fill in the blanks on the schedule. For fall and winter weddings, the schedule will typically show that their ceremony time would need to be bumped up in order to get enough portraits in without losing the light. Sometimes having an early ceremony is not beneficial since they don’t want to start an early dinner, therefore a first look is great to get portraits done in daylight.
By looking at both schedules, the one without the first look can seem very rushed without having to point it out as I verbally go through the day. In comparison, the couple should be able to easily understand that a first look schedule utilizes the time more effectively, even if something were to be delayed, portraits will be secured.
I also explain if there isn’t enough light left in the day, I’ll have to use a flash and that won’t be giving my clients the portrait look they love which is seen in my portfolio.
Pass? Consider Adding Verbiage to Your Contract
If all else fails and your clients decide to pass on the first look, the last resort is to have it written and accepted in a contract the importance of having one (if you feel this is necessary) and the client understands that forgoing a first look may compromise their portrait image count.
This is more of a protecting for yourself, if you feel you need it. This tip was recommended by me from a wedding cinematography team who does this with their clients.
I have a star by the most important parts of the contract and it discusses my artistic style adding in regards to the first look: “clients who wish to concentrate on portraits must abide by the photographer’s suggested timeline and by electing to not do so, are willingly putting their portrait image amount at risk.”
I also share a story of a past client who unfortunately decided to opt out of a first look and wished they had more portraits together, but because their ceremony was delayed by 20 minutes, it cut into their portrait time.
In the end, as long as your clients understand what they are declining and they are happy with their decision and confident enough to sign off on it, you can rest easy as you take them on as a client. You’ll know that they want you to journalistically document more than they want portraits, and as long as expectations are given and you can feel confident about it, you can shoot away.