First Look Wedding Photo Ideas

First look wedding photos are arguably the most prized moment to capture. Here are some creative ideas to keep your first look positively magical.

By The Zola Team

First Look Wedding Photo Ideas
Photo by Amy Smith Photography

The First Look ✨

  • First look photos capture the tender first moment a couple sees each other on their wedding day. To make that moment feel uniquely yours, try a few fun ideas with your photographer.
  • Use some props such as doorways, blindfolds, curtains, elevators, walls, or even hay bales to separate the two of you until the last moment.
  • Work with your venue to play up the beauty of the day. Descend down elegant stairs or share a few quiet moments in your venue alone.
  • Need help finding a photographer who will make your first look vision a reality? Zola’s handy vendor search tool can help you find the pre-screened pros in your area who fit your budget and personal style, and who are available on your wedding day.

First look wedding photos are some of the most memorable images that your photographer will capture on your big day. The happy tears and ear-to-ear smiles are always special, but certain staging elements can take these moments up a notch.

In this guide, we’ll detail 11 ideas for the best first look wedding photos, as well as things to consider when putting together your first look.

11 First Look Wedding Photo Ideas

From creating a scenic pathway to walk down to using a modest elevator for your big reveal, check out these 11 sweet and creative first look wedding photo ideas to discuss with your photographer.

#1 Unveiling the Look

Whether or not you’re wearing a veil, you can add a hint of drama with a curtain unveiling first look photo.

Framing the shot: Set up the curtain in a room (such as a hotel room or doorway in the prep room) by expanding an extendable rod threaded through a curtain above the door frame. You can also have the handier members of your wedding party create a faux door frame that you can easily assemble or disassemble, but an existing door frame will work fine. From there you can have your photographer:

  • Take pictures of the two of you waiting on either side of the curtain.

  • One of you pulling away from the curtain with the other’s face framed in view.

  • Have just one of you framed by the curtain.

#2 Create a Scenic Pathway

Pair first looks with first steps towards each other on your special day by creating a scenic pathway.

Framing the shot: Outdoor wedding venues provide ample opportunities for natural pathways, from a canopy of trees to a stone walkway. Your photographer can capture you and your partner making your way to each other down this makeshift aisle from every angle. If you’re throwing an indoor wedding ceremony, a long, elegant hallway can serve as a path. From there, your photographer can grab stunning profile shots of the happy couple.

#3 Tap on the Shoulder

Tapping your partner’s shoulder as they slowly turn is an adorable first look photo idea. Just be sure that they don’t peak too soon!

Framing the shot: First, decide which of you (you or your SO) will be the tapper. Then, have the photographer put the tapper in the background, walking towards the tapee (who will be facing forward). Your photographer can catch the tapper’s sly, excited look as he or she approaches, as well as the excitement on the tapee's face. The photographer can also get an intimate shot of the back of the two of you, with the tapper’s hand mid-air to capture the beautiful moment of anticipation.

#4 Back-to-Back

In the darkest moments, your partner will always have your back. Why not capture that sentiment with a back-to-back shot?

Framing the shot: With a little help from your photographer (and anyone you trust to be there for this intimate moment), position yourselves back-to-back. While your photographer is snapping profile-view pictures, here are a few things that you can do to sweeten up the pose.

  • Cover your eyes (but keep smiling in excitement).

  • Hold hands.

  • Have the shortest of you tip your head back as if trying to catch a sly peek.

  • Count down the moments until you spin around and see each other (spin towards the photographer).

Feeling the outline of your partner’s silhouette and what he or she is wearing against your own back before you get to stare longingly at him or her is an incredibly romantic way to capture your first look.

#5 Hands Touching, No Peeking

If you or your partner will have a hard time resisting the urge to turn around and sneak a peek, you may want to set up a decorative barrier that you can stand back-to-back through, with only your hands touching on one side.

Framing the shot: First, devise a barrier to divide the two of you. That can include:

  • Hay bales stacked on top of each other, if you’re having a rustic wedding

  • A free-standing wall

  • A vintage room divider

  • The doors of two neighboring rooms open to create a makeshift wall

  • A curtain

Stand back-to-back. Then, clasp each other’s hands seconds before you come together for the first look.

#6 Descending the Stairs

If you want to star in your fairy tale, simply walk slowly down a gorgeous staircase toward your partner’s arms.

Framing the shot: This first look photo can include one partner situated at the bottom of the stairs, either with his or her back turned or facing forward, depending on the level of shock and awe you’re going for. Then, simply descend (feel free to use the banister to stay steady if you’re shaking with excitement).

#7 Elevator Love Story

Thanks to “Grey’s Anatomy,” elevators have acquired quite a romantic reputation. Use that to your advantage with this first look idea.

Framing the shot: The photographer will have one of you waiting in the lobby (or wherever this elevator leads) as the other half descends—or ascends. The person who waits will watch with excitement as the elevator numbers count towards the arrival of their SO. Then, the elevator doors will open, revealing the almost-newlywed within. Bonus? The reflective inner doors of an elevator offer an opportunity for a quick last-minute touch-up.

#8 Double Takes

Your partner will want to capture the look on your face during the first look just as much as you’ll want to capture the look on his or her.

Frame the shot: Your expert photographer probably has a second pair of hands (and an extra camera). Has one photographer assigned to capture the face of each partner as you wait to see your loved one? This approach is a beautiful way to get double the first looks.

#9 The Love Letter

Some couples choose to write letters to each other to be opened on the wedding day, hours or minutes before they get married. By opening the letters moments before your first look (and within sight of your photographer), you can heighten the emotion and the excitement of seeing your love for the first time all day.

Framing the shot: You can do this shot in two ways:

  • Solo – You can each take turns with the photographer as you open the letter and read it so that the photographer can capture your reaction. Then, rush to your first look.

  • Side-by-side – Find a barrier (like we mentioned in idea #5) and read the letters simultaneously, while facing the photographer. That way you can catch the frontal view of your faces as you read, as well as the profile view of your first look.

Setting up the scene with heartfelt love letters will be a meaningful one, and it will be perfect for your wedding album.

Haven’t thought about a wedding album yet? Don’t worry. Zola’s wedding albums offer premium paper stock, gorgeous covers, and stunning customization options for wedding albums that will turn your photos into treasured heirlooms. Plus, we take the stress out of organizing your pictures with our easy-to-use Wedding Album Wizard, which helps you create stylishly arranged chapters.

#10 The Blindfold

A blindfold can add extra drama to your first look photo (and help prevent peeking).

Framing the shot: Blindfolds leave your hands free to create a more dynamic shot. Try these pose ideas to make your first look stunning:

  • Hold each other’s hands, facing each other while blindfolded. Then, have a member of your wedding party untie the blindfolds at the same time.

  • Take off each other’s blindfolds as the photographer counts down.

  • Share a kiss before taking off the blindfold.

#11 Alone in the Ceremony Venue

In romantic movies, you’ll see stunning, dramatic shots of the two love interests in a room full of people. Then, the scene will cut to the same room with just the two of them. Recreate this sentimental scene by walking down the aisle in an empty ceremony venue.

Framing the shot: Have you or you are SO waiting at the altar while the other walks down the aisle. If you have two photographers on hand, have each one focus on either of you, so that both of your faces can be captured. You can also have each of you on either side of the aisle, faced away from each other. Count down to face each other for a beautiful, intimate reveal.

Why Choose a First Look Photo Session?

You may have dreamed of taking these particular photos since the day you got engaged, or you may have never really given them much thought. Here are just a few reasons to give the first look some consideration:

  • It’s practical – Wedding days can be hectic. By setting aside time before the ceremony begins to capture pictures of you and your partner, you can guarantee that you won't have to worry about the timeline later in the evening.

  • It’s a special moment that you’ll want to remember forever – Once you and your partner have successfully made it down the aisle and are standing at the altar, you most likely won’t be alone for the rest of the evening. First look photos offer an opportunity to slow things down and savor the moment.

  • You’ll end up with more photos – Again, practically speaking, by setting aside ample time for first look photos before you launch into the hurried timeline of the ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, first dances, and cake, you’ll inevitably end up with more photos you’ll love.

  • You’ll gain more family time – Even with the speediest shutterbug in the world on your team, taking wedding portraits is always going to be time-consuming, especially if you have a large wedding party. When you set up a separate time slot for first look and pre-ceremony wedding party photos, you’re setting yourself up to enjoy more quality family time later.

Hooked on the first look? When planning, keep the following in mind to ensure that everything is picture-perfect:

  • Be sure to budget plenty of time for the first look photos – This special moment deserves time to smile, tear up, kiss, and repeat. Then, you may need a few moments after that to touch up makeup or hair. Give you and your partner 40 minutes to an hour just to be safe.

  • Keep a backup plan in mind – If you were hoping for an outdoor first look but it’s looking more like rain, be prepared with a backup first look plan.

No matter how you decide to execute your first look, your photographer will be your advocate and will capture the moment you two lock eyes, rain or shine.

Want to be sure that you find the best photographer for your big day? Read on.

How to Hire the Best Wedding Photographer

Now that you have a better understanding of what a first look photo entails, it’s time to choose your wedding photographer who will help you achieve your first look photo dreams.

You’ll want to do some research, narrowing down the pros in your area who are available during your timeframe, who is affordable, and who utilize a photography style that falls in line with your aesthetic. Zola’s free, easy-to-use vendor database allows you to sift through all of the top pre-screened photographers in your area. You can search by:

  • Price
  • Availability
  • Photo style
  • Photo format
  • Location

From there, you can compare and contrast your favorites, peruse portfolios, and explore additional service offerings. Your first look is an important moment. Trust it with a photographer that you love (and trust Zola to help you find them).

Seeking Out Your Shutterbug

As you’re looking for your perfect photographer, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

To determine which photographer is best for you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s our budget? How much does a wedding photographer cost? The average cost is usually between $1,500-$3,000, though the number can certainly fall outside of this range. Keep in mind that there are typically up-and-coming photographers who will offer you a price on the lower end of the average range, and many photographers may offer a payment plan or package discounts.

  • What’s our style? Do you want your wedding photos to be more traditional, or do you prefer a strictly candid photo style? Be sure that you discuss what your preferences are with your partner before meeting with potential photographers.

  • When and where do we plan to get married? Are you getting married in your city, or are you going for a destination wedding on a tropical island? You’ll want to relay all travel details to your photographer so that he or she can give you an appropriate cost estimate.

  • What kind of personality do we want to work with? Are you a take-charge couple who knows exactly what they want and when they want it on their wedding day? If so, you may prefer to have a photographer who will follow all your instructions to a T. On the flip side, if you and your partner are more go-with-the-flow, you may prefer to have a lively and direct photographer to help you set up shots and herd all of your family and friends together.

As you speak to more and more photographers, consider asking them the following before signing any contracts:

  • Tell us about your experience.
  • What, if any, packages do you offer?
  • Do you offer payment plans?
  • Will you be shooting other events that weekend?
  • Are you familiar with my venue?
  • What seasons do you typically work in?
  • Do you have a second shooter on your team?
  • How will we receive our photos?
  • What is the process for ordering prints?
  • Will you share our photos on social media/ how would you like us to credit you on social media?
  • Can you give us a few recent references?

By answering your own set of questions and preparing a list of queries for your potential photographers, you’ll have done 90 percent of the work well in advance of pre-wedding crunch time.

The only photo-related factor that you should have to consider on the day of your wedding is, “What’s my best angle?”

Picture Seamless Wedding Planning at Zola

Zola wants you to look and feel your best on your wedding day, focusing only on the love before you, not on the mundane details. With Zola’s vendor search, you can easily seek out the top wedding experts in your area that fall in line with your vision and budget.

With Zola’s help, you can round up your favorite vendors and hire them far in advance of your wedding day. Ready to find the photographer who will capture the first look photos you’ve been dreaming of? Check out Zola today.

Find Your Wedding Vendors at Zola, All Pre-Screened for You