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First Look Examples

Lesson 37 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

First Look Examples

Lesson 37 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

37. First Look Examples


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info

First Look Examples

Let's talk about some examples from other weddings about first looks because first looks are interesting and showing just one video in just one perspective of just one first look, I would love to be able to show you a few more to see how they go down in slightly different scenarios, so the first one we're going to show you is sandra and michael and as the caption here says the video was graciously provided by my friends at gt modern creations they cut out the first look for me sent it over to me so that I could share it with you. Sandra and michael are everything that you want a first look to be they are kind they are loving, they are enamored and infatuated with each other they don't hold their emotions back it wass beautiful this is also a wonderful example of photographer and videographer working hand in hand so that we can both deliver a beautiful product to our clients so this will show you kind of exactly how it went down and then I'll show you the photographs that resulted from ...

the scene so that you can see there take and then you see my take so enjoy e e e e ware the crying already you beautiful oh my god finally so it's pretty obvious why that was one of my favorite first looks ever not only are they both gorgeous, they are both incredibly emotional and were extraordinarily delighted to see each other. If all first looks were like this, I would recommend it to everyone because it was really great. Wait, we were able to put them in a location where the light was really beautiful, but when he turned around to see her or if someone turned and put their face to the light, it wouldn't be too bright. It wouldn't be too harsh, it wouldn't be too strong, it would be just right. So what we have here talking about my settings? Very briefly, I know you will be totally surprised to know that I shot this at two hundred millimeters, it is my favorite focal length for something like this. I'm shooting at f four because I want my main subject to be completely and focus. I don't need to point eight, I don't need f nine, I don't eat that much focus, but I want to be it f or I'm it six hundred and fortieth of a second at s o five hundred. The reason why I went up to a much faster shutter speed is because I knew that it was so bright outside that my s o would stay low, and I knew that they were going to be moving really fast, so I didn't want to chance any camera shake, even with vibration reduction on if someone's moving fast if I'm moving fast this is something that I can't re stage so I don't want to miss it so I start off michael is here waiting for her to come I've crouched down, I'm shooting up at him putting him we've got rule of thirds the rest of the scene is also graphically interesting that the reason why I'm down and I'm shooting up is because when I shot directly on him you could see sandra standing sandra the bride not sandra my assistant standing way far in the background with the attendant from the venue helping lay her train out and I wanted this picture to be all about michael so I dropped down and I shot up and was able to strongly isolate him and then she's heading towards him. You can't see the ex if data because the ground is super bright sort of ate the ex if data but this is at two hundred millimeters you can see her coming and then you can see her coming closer and I switched from focusing on him to focusing on her and then she's even closer and then back from him to her she's now close enough to him that f four even while I'm focused on her is also picking up a lot of him in focus as well and this is my view of exactly how this happened so you could see the video very clearly and I let it play out if emotion is happening if the clients are emoting if they are together if the moment keeps on going, I'm going to keep photographing and I'm going to keep shooting it and at some point in time for some clients it's quicker and for some it's longer they're eventually going to turn around and look for me but I'm not going to stop them interacting between themselves until they stop themselves from doing it. Another example of a first look that was really just wonderful and lovely. Ashley and zack very recently at sweetwater farms and glen mills wonderfully wonderfully given to me by my friend alex at unique visions studio this was a little different ashley and zack are quieter they're more reserved they she was a little nervous there a little sweeter there wasn't a great running towards each other in the fields, but I wanted to include this to show that even with simplicity there really is great beauty and that there is emotion and that not all clients a moat by weeping and putting their hands to their mouth or visible displays of affection. But it is undeniable how much the two of them love each other in this video, we're gonna take a quick look at ashley and zack and then we're going to see my photographs of the same scene so you'll get to see what alex saw through his camera and then you'll see what I saw through mine so enjoy so a lot of times before photographing the actual first look happening I get a chance to take a few portrait's of the bride by herself alex and I the videographer and I had spoken about the location that we were going to do the first look in and we knew that this would be a really great place to put her the light was coming down a little bit in the day it was really beautiful oh I knew that I could put her in a slightly shadowed area where the light would still be falling on her but wouldn't be quite as bright or quite a cz distracting if I were to put her in the full force of the sun and as we have mentioned before if I do put her in the full force of the sun once the first look happens I lose all control off whether or not I can make it be something different so if she turns into the light in an unflattering way or if that did I can't stop in step in and fix that so I'm looking for a softer quality of light that I'm looking for during the actual portrait section of the day however she's out there she's in this gorgeous location we have beautiful sweetwater farms behind her we had the antique car in the distance I'm shooting at one hundred sixty millimeters which is pretty darn long of a lens you've got the beautiful compressed background it's a really wonderful opportunity for you to take a few bridal portrait of the bride especially if he's walking tow her and I always give my client the option do you want to walk to him or do you want himto walk to you and in this instance ashley one exacto walk to her so I was able to take that time and document these two really beautiful portrait's off her and then he started coming and all I'm doing is documenting it as it happens I'm not saying look this way I'm not saying turn that way the on ly direction that I'm going to give during a first look is to say don't turn around until someone touches you and enjoy and then I back off and I get out of their space and if I'm not talking to the bride if I'm not kind of keeping up a steady stream of chit chat with her then she's getting more charmingly, incredibly adorably nervous as she stands there waiting for his touch on her shoulder and vice versa if you put the groom out there and you say don't turn around until someone touches you and in the meantime I'm just going to take a couple quick shots of you you know, no big deal just look off into the distance look anywhere but at me or behind you then you're documenting him and he's becoming more nervous as he waits for her to come up behind him so it's kind of a nice way to set the scene without faking the moment for the client and again same scene same happening nice kind of bit of a lesson in linds compression which we've been talking about the entire time the image over here on the left is shot at seventy millimeters they're in the exact same spot nothing has changed nothing has moved except me the images on the right is the one hundred sixty millimetres the background comes up closer they're both still at f four but look at the subject to background relationship in the one shot at seventy millimeters and the subject to background relationship in the one shot at one hundred sixteen millimeters even though they're both shot at f for do with that what you will so a few other weddings just to show that not every first look goes down in exactly the same way there are all different in this really kind of fantastic first look the front door there is actually the front door to their apartment she got ready at home he came over to meet her she came down the steps to meet him literally on the street where they live so not only is the moment wonderful the moment is authentic the moment israel but the location is very meaningful to them as well, and you don't always get a chance to pick a location that's meaningful to the client, but when you do it's a really wonderful element to add into the photograph, here's another one same thing the subtle difference between one hundred sixty millimeters and two hundred millimeters lovely wedding, lovely emotion. I've set the scene, but the emotions are theirs here's an example of what I was talking about before were all put the group out in the location that I want him to be give him a few moments alone and bring the bride to him logistically. How this usually works is I go with the groom or the bride, whoever is going to the outside first I take them outside, I put them in the place that they need to be, and my assistant sandra goes and gets the person who's walking. So in this instance, if I've taken the groom, sandra has gone to get the bride and take care of her as she's coming sometimes she'll text me and text me, you know, are you ready? And I'll text back yes, sometimes it's a matter of poking her head around the side of the building or putting her head through the door and just kind of giving me a thumb's up and I'll give her a nod. We're always trying to, you know, coordinate back and forth to communicate back and forth so that when it does go down it's, nice and simple, it's maximum effect. So I've got him out here. This is the crystal plaza and livingston, new jersey and he's waiting for her to come, getting increasingly nervous as the moments tick by. And then she's there I documented her walking up to him. I documented all of that, but the real moment of power is the second that she touched him on the shoulders, and his face just lit up when he turned around to see her. My favorite first look ever is when she felt him coming down the hallway towards her and she couldn't control her face any more, and it just crumpled. She might hate this picture of herself because it's that split second before you burst into the ugly tears. I think this image is extraordinarily beautiful because it's an honest emotion, it's an honest moment, it's a beautiful expression of what's going on inside of her, and she allowed me to witness it and that's an incredibly powerful thing when a first look is beautiful it's an honor to be there to document it for them, it really, really is. Here's another one nice and outside you can see I put them in a location where I can control the light. Where it's nothing too crazy. It was a bit overcast, but we still had a little light coming through that I was able to work with in this instance, brian want tolia. So I put her in the location. She came with me, I took care of her, and sandra went to get the groom and bring him to her and it's another example of just letting the moment play out. If after they'd seen each other for the first time, and after they'd had those few moments of emotion, if I had stepped in and been like, okay, and now we're going to go off and do the portrait session, I would have lost out on this really, really sweet moment that followed and the multiple and many sweet moments that followed after that another great instance of a first look, the look on her face right before she saw him coming just like that, this is virtually the same image. The first one was in black and white, this one is in color. I included this one to show you the exit data at the bottom, I had to crop off part of the groom's face, which is not exactly my ideal but I do love that brief second, whether it's the groom walking to the bride or the bride walking to the groom where they can tell they can almost feel them kind of in their presence and it's it's really great people who don't normally a moat a moat a lot during this moment and it's just really interesting and really fascinating to see that reaction and to be present for it and to document it for your clients. This is one of my favorite images that I made in the entirety of two thousand and thirteen this is marisa and jessie's wedding in long island and she had always wanted to see him for the first time by walking down these stairs to him and my initial this aural reaction whenever anyone says we want to do something with the staircases to go because a lot of times the picture with the staircase is not a picture it's just a staircase doing nothing exciting in this instance, I was extraordinarily lucky that there was a beautiful window at the top and a beautiful window at the bottom it's working with one of my absolute favorite videographer friends of all time adam at penny lane out of new york who is an absolute genius he and I worked together to envision exactly how this was going to go down so that he could get what he needed. I could get what I needed and the clients could still have the moment that they wanted so what we did was we put jesse at the window downstairs we let marissa come down the stairs and I did a lot of very quiet running I started halfway up the staircase with my twenty four to seventy millimeter because I knew that there would be a split second that he would be in the window below and she would be in the window above and I would be able to capture that moment right as it happened then what I did you can see where marissa is cresting that corner of the staircase that's where I was in the photograph prior to this what I did from here is I stopped you know she started to come down, I hustled myself down the steps and then I placed myself in position with my twenty four to seventy it was a slightly small space I couldn't use anything longer than that and I made sure that I moved one time I didn't want to be running around a lot I didn't want to be hustling up and down the stairs I wanted my movements to be deliberate so I was going to be on the stairs and then I was going to come downstairs and I was going to stay so jesse is still in that window and now she's coming down the stairs and now he's turned around to see her and while when he does turn around it does put his head in the back of his head to the window the light is still coming over his shoulder and it's still hitting her faith and I'm staying with the minute and I'm letting it evolve if I stepped in and I stopped them when he turned around to see her for the first time if I had said ok that's great let's move on to the portrait session I would have lost this right here I was working two cameras during this situation because we were inside I knew that I was going to have to shoot the bulk of it with my twenty four to seventy millimeters so I was prepared for that but I also had my assistant standing by with my eighty five millimeter so that if I wanted to grab it and shoot the eighty five one eight at one eight I had the option available to me I'm very careful and I know I've mentioned this before with my cameras and how I handle them I don't wear them on my body I don't put them across my body I don't have them attached to my hips and I definitely don't hang them around my neck I've seen too many shooters end up with arthritis, end up with neck problems end up with back problems and the gear is heavy enough to begin with without waiting my body down with it so I have one camera in one hand, and I have my assistant nearby with the camera in her hand, and I know that some of you might might be like, wow, you're such a diva, you don't even carry your own cameras, but listen dies at fifty weddings a year carrying these heavy, heavy cameras, there's only so much that I can work out to prepare myself for it. And if I have a person there who's helping me out, why wouldn't I let her help me out? So when I'm ready to take that eighty five, I just hand her the one camera and she hands me the other one, and we keep on moving also because I am a little bit scatterbrained sometimes, and I'll put a camera down and walk away from it. It really helps to have somebody that follows around behind me and picks up my cameras when I get motivated to shoot something else and put it down and keep on moving. But I did have my eighty five one eight available being very careful that I did put ah, focal point directly on marisa's face, so that when I exposed for her, I knew that her face would be in focus, his faces in a shadow, so this moment is really about her. And sometimes when you're shooting a first look in a location that might be a little bit less than ideal are only spot here was to do it under the awning of where they park the cars at the hotel that she was at, they're literally was no other option, so I chose to shoot my seventy two, two hundred all the way at two hundred and focus very closely on the scene. Normally, I try to be wider. Normally, I try to show a wider point of view, but for an instant such as this, when you really do need to minimize the distracting background that's seventy two, two hundred at two hundred with a much tighter crop lets you eliminate the areas in the photograph that you don't necessarily need to help you tell your story. So that is what I think about first looks. Now you know how I approach them, the gear that I bring to them, the philosophy that I have behind them, the fact that you need to educate your clients about the pros and the cons of doing them, and then let them make their own decision. You've seen blair and jeremy's first look and their portrait session you've seen two other incredibly wonderful first looks that the clients really graciously let me share with you today. We've talked about a little bit more than that. We have so much more to come. The wedding day is only half over, and I haven't even started talking to you about workflow yet. So I hope you come back and enjoy some more and see us tomorrow, and we'll see you soon.

Class Materials

bonus material

Quicksheet Inside Guide (one large PDF file)
Quicksheet Inside Guide (zip file of individual PDF pages)
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Ratings and Reviews

Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.

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