First Looks. Traditional VS Modern and why you should always choose the latter.

Ahhh the ” Traditional VS Modern ” conversation. I cannot remember a day that I have not either talked about this, thought about it ( at least once during a normal day ) or joked about it. So before I even start writing about it I’ll say this, there really is no right way or wrong way…well let me take that back haha. The right way is to do what my bride wants HAHA. With that said however brides and grooms need to look deeper into their investment in photography and that’s where I’d like to come in and give my point of view on the subject. Which is why I give to you First Looks. Traditional VS Modern and why you should always choose the latter. 

Traditional First looks

A traditional first look is one that happens during the ceremony. The Groom will see his beautiful bride for the first time walking down the aisle ( usually ) being accompanied by her father or another loved one. The tension is high for the groom because he has an audience ( guests ) and the joy that overwhelms him will be on full display. This is the basic explanation of what a traditional first look is.

So lets look at the pros.

Firstly it’s the traditional way the day should be. The emotion that arises from the moment is not only from seeing your future partner for the first time but having that moment occur in front of those that you love, which makes it a little more intense ( there is a reason guys are fainting in the home video shows, they could have been drunk though LOL ). Honestly though that’s pretty much the only pro to it. It’s not a bad thing and the emotion is high but….that’s about it. Sorry traditionalists but there will be no second from me.

Lets look at some of the cons.

Firstly most venues do not set up with photography in mind. So we have no control how that first look will…well look hahaha. For example this past weekend my brides ceremony was at this beautiful country club in Glen Ivy. I’m at the front of the aisle shooting her being escorted by her mother and…………there is a parking lot directly behind them! So yeah no control. If we hadn’t already done their modern first look earlier this parking lot would have been the setting for a very powerful ( if not the most powerful ) moment of their day.

Secondly, photography. If you go traditional then you will be sacrificing the amount of time a photographer has with the bride/groom/wedding party. Why is this you may be asking yourself? This is because you can’t see each other before the ceremony you scheduled to occur 30 minutes before sunset! We will get plenty of Brides with her bridesmaids and Groom with his groomsmen but it is impossible to get everyone together before the ceremony if you decide to go traditional.

Third, time. Now that we had our kick ass ceremony it’s time to start getting those wedding party pictures…but wait what about creative pictures with just the bride and groom or family pictures? See the dilemma now? You’ve set yourself up to have roughly one hour to capture creatives, wedding party and family. Ideally ( me personally ) I want 1hr for creatives and 30-45min with wedding party. Family ( depending on how many ) can take anywhere from 20min – 1hr. So because of the decision to go traditional you are actually weakening your return on investment in photography and creating a situation for yourself to be rushed, stressed and pissed that ol’ uncle Henry can’t be found because he’s at the bar and we only have 2min left before party time.

Ventura Wedding Photographer

Modern First Looks – 

The modern first look is done before the ceremony typically right after the bride gets into her dress. In most cases the groom will be waiting for his bride somewhere awesome with his back to her, she will slowly approach behind him, tap him on the shoulder or cover his eyes and then he turns around seeing how beautiful you are!

Lets look at the cons –

Hmmm well there really isn’t any that I can think of that are actually relevant! I guess the one con would be that it’s not traditional.

How about the pros –

Here is where the modern first look really shines. I’ll list them real quick then try to break down each one : Time, Less Stress, Greater Return on Investment in Your Photographer and yes MORE TIME.

Time is of the upmost importance during your wedding day. You may only have 6hrs of coverage or you may have 10hrs of coverage…either way it plays out you must plan properly. The short and sweet of it is this, if you value photography and it is ranked at least a 6/10 on the 10 scale of whats most important than you owe it to yourself to do a modern first look. Easy.

Doing a modern first look allows us more TIME with the wedding party, more TIME with the family and most importantly more TIME to create kick ass images of the bride and groom. The return on investment speaks for itself, you allow us more TIME and you get a higher rate of killer moments. I mean that is why your hiring us right, because of what you have seen on our site or Insta or a previous brides images? I want to give you an awesome experience with the best f***ing possible images I can but if I only have a few minutes to get them….

Another pro is good light. By doing the modern first look we have a better chance at catching that light at its best moment.

Lastly will be this, we can decide on a kick ass location where as with traditional we are stuck with whats there. Sometimes that works ( like an open shade ceremony or a nice backlight ) and sometimes everyone will want to pull their hair out ( super dark churches and split exposure ceremonies Im looking at you ). By having a choice of where we want to do a first look we can find somewhere that offers the best possible light, best possible backdrop and have it be a private moment which in some aspects can be WAY more of a powerful moment between a bride and groom.

Oh and did I mention everyone has more time to not feel rushed? A bride and groom should NEVER feel rushed, I mean seriously, they just stressed out for how many months planning and investing and they can’t even enjoy the spoils??? That’s the wrong way. The right way is to make sure the bride and groom and wedding party are having a great time, aren’t rushed and having the best damn day of their life. The modern first look helps in this area.

With all that said above know I will never force, argue or tell a bride and groom they are wrong in their decision. It is all personal preference and these are simply my thoughts on the discussion. I write about these things because it is so often I get asked what they are but rather than simply tell you, I’d like you to have an understanding from our point of view.

I sincerely hope this helped with any questions you have about the differences between traditional / modern first looks. As always if you have any questions you can comment below or shoot me an email 🙂

Have a great weekend!

Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer

While you’re here feel free to check out some of the other incredible weddings I’ve been a part of as well as advice you’ll need when debating that First Look!

May + Mike | FCC Los Angeles Wedding

Leslie + Vlad | El Encanto Santa Barbara Wedding

Ryan + Trent | El Matador Malibu Engagement

Emily + Joseph | Hacienda Heights Country Club Wedding

Gail + Brian | Figueroa Mountain Wedding

I want to tell YOUR story and be you’re VENTURA COUNTY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER! Chat with me today to see if your date is still available!


  1. Brittany Williams says:

    Such good advise Bryan! And lovely photos 🙂

  2. Kevin says:

    Very well put Bryan!!!

  3. […] « First Looks. Traditional VS Modern and why you should always choose the latter. […]

  4. […] aspects of your wedding day then lets roll with the Modern First Look. I have an entire blog detailing the pros and cons of each but the short and sweet of it is this – More time for pictures of you and your wedding party VS […]

  5. […] and last, do a modern first look. I wrote extensively about it here. The amount of time this buys you allows you to push and pull MUCH easier during a wedding day AND […]


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