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Cardiff Wedding Photography: How to Photograph the Perfect First Look


There are many key moments on a wedding day that need to be captured perfectly and with precision if you are a wedding photographer and one of those moments is the first look. The first look is often between father and bride but can also be between bride and bridesmaids too. In this article I'll talk about how I achieve the best results on capturing the first look and use some examples whilst I've worked as a Cardiff wedding photographer. But before we do that lets take a look at some of my best first look photos.



A father and bride first look black and white wedding photography image taken at New house hotel Cardiff
Father of bride first look photo

A first look between bride and groom is usually done as the bride is walking down the aisle and usually these form part of the ceremony photos. It's not therefore a private moment between the bride and groom before the ceremony, where they get to see each other for the first time on their wedding day.


From a photographer's perspective, a first look provides an excellent opportunity to capture the genuine emotions of the couple in a private and controlled setting. The photographer can capture the reactions of the couple, the details of their attire, and the beauty of the location without any distractions or interruptions. Additionally, a first look allows the photographer to take advantage of the optimal lighting and location conditions. Typically, the ceremony is held during the day, and the reception may take place indoors or under artificial lighting. A first look can be scheduled at the most scenic and well-lit location on the wedding day, which can result in stunning and memorable photographs. Photographers can also capture candid and spontaneous moments between bride and dad or bridesmaids during the first look session, which may not be possible during the hectic and fast-paced events of the ceremony and reception. Overall, a first look is an essential and beneficial part of wedding photography that allows photographers to capture the couple's emotions, the beauty of the location, and the magic of the moment in a private and controlled setting.


Below is a first look from a Cardiff wedding at Llanerch vineyard between Sophie and her bridesmaids. The bridal suite at Llanerch vineyard has a wonderful white sliding door which allows me to get the perfect reveal shot.

A groom in tears at first look on his wedding day
A groom crying at seeing his bride for the first time on a wedding day in Cardiff

Which lens do I use ?


My favourite lens to shoot first look with is my 70-200mm Nikon zoom. This allows a soft foreground bokeh of the bride which can be made out in the wedding photo above on the left hand corner. I usually keep the wedding veil and dress in a part of the image to show its the bride and then can also get close ups in three quarter length of the bridesmaids or father of the bride in the distance. I've kept the photo in colour in the image above as I wanted to show the bridesmaid dress colours. This photo just wouldn't work in black and white.


What filter is best ?


There is a lot of opinion on what filter to use for this particluar moment but as a key photo of the day I prefer to offer a black and white version as it stands the test of time. These are such emotional wedding photographs for the bride that black and white is timeless and therefore its my perfered choice when posting these photos on social media as part of the story and timeline of the wedding day.


The use of light and shadow


Light and shadow play a crucial role in evoking emotions in wedding photography. Light is the primary element that photographers use to create their art. By manipulating light, wedding photographers can create a variety of moods and emotions in their images. Soft and diffused light creates a romantic and dreamy atmosphere, while harsh and direct light can create drama and tension. The direction of light also plays a significant role in creating mood and emotion. Side lighting can add depth and dimension to the image, while back-lighting can create a soft and ethereal effect. Shadow, on the other hand, is equally important in creating mood and emotion in wedding photography. Shadows can add depth and contrast to the image, which can create a sense of drama and mystery. They can also add a sense of intimacy and closeness by emphasizing the contours and shapes of the subjects which can be grat for any first look photos on a wedding day. Shadows can be used creatively to create interesting patterns and shapes, which can add a sense of visual interest to the image. When combined with light, shadows can create a dynamic interplay of contrasts that can evoke a range of emotions, from joy and happiness to romance and intimacy.