The first dance at a wedding is a moment that is cherished by every person in attendance. All eyes are on the bride and groom’s first dance as they walk into their wedding reception and share this moment as the first time as husband and wife.  There are so many beautiful moments that unfold during the first dance because the emotions are high and all eyes are on the couple. We wanted to round up some of our favorite tips and techniques for photographing the bride and groom first dance to help capture the emotion and beautiful memories.

Bride and Groom First Dance | Our 5 Favorite Tips

  1. Anticipate the Emotional Moments
  2. Choose the Right Lens for the Scene
  3. Tell a Powerful Story of the Bride and Groom’s First Dance
  4. Move Around the Scene
  5. Prepare for Any Scenario

1. Anticipate the Emotional Moments

During the bride and groom’s first dance there can be a variety of emotions on display. It’s important to focus on capturing this emotion between the bride and groom but you can also take a quick scan around the room and find family members and friends wrapped up in the moment. Most importantly, never take your eye off of your viewfinder during this brief 2-3 minute dance performance because there is a photograph waiting to be taken at any moment. You can anticipate the emotion by being diligent and staying focused during this first dance.

emotional wedding first dance jason vinson

Image by Jason Vinson

emotional first dance chad winstead

Image by Chad Winstead

first dance emotional wedding photos

Image by Jason Vinson

jos tree photographers

Image by Jos & Tree

2. Choose the Right Lens for the Scene

This choice is likely what will make or break your success in truly capturing the bride and groom’s first dance. For shorter first dances we recommend choosing a wide zoom lens, this way you have all of your bases covered and you won’t be scrambling trying to switch lenses and accidentally miss the moment. Consequently, If you are shooting a wedding with a second shooter, make sure that you’re both on different focal lengths to get varied shots in the scene from different angles in the room. If you know that the first dance might last a little longer, try using a telephoto lens to compress the background or find foreground elements like candles or fairy lights to create bokeh effects.

first dance wedding

Image by Party of Two Photography

fog first dance

Image by Chad Winstead | Website

platte river fort wedding jared gant photography

Image by Jared Gant | Website

reception dance wedding

Image by Jason Vinson | Website

rain wedding photos

Image by Rey Benasfre | Website

wedding reception couples photo

Image by Scott Josuweit | Website

bride and groom reception first dance

Image by Lyndah Wells | Website

3. Tell a Powerful Story of the Bride and Groom’s First Dance

At the end of the day, a photographer’s job is to tell a cohesive and beautiful story of a wedding day. One of our favorite techniques to use to ensure we’re telling a strong story is the use of wide, medium, and tight angles. This is a common Hollywood camera technique for movies and television that starts by setting the scene, moving in closer to provide the context of characters, and then punching in tight to show emotion. This translates perfectly when photographing the bride and groom’s first dance: start wide by showcasing the whole dance floor and scene, move in closer to block out the audience and showcase their full bodies, and then come in tight to zone in on their emotions.

fun wedding first dance bride and groom

Image by Jason Vinson | Website

creative wedding first dance elizabeth lloyd

Image by Elizabeth Lloyd | Website

bride and groom first dance wedding photography

Image by Jason Vinson

reception dance timothy

Image by Timothy Eyrich

Related Course: The Complete Wedding Photography Training System

4. Move Around the Scene

Above all, the biggest mistake photographers make while photographing the bride and groom’s first dance is standing still. The first dance isn’t like a wedding ceremony where the subjects stay stationary throughout, there are movements, actions, and reactions to capture. Find objects to shoot through for the bride and groom’s first dance. Pull all the way back to the corner of the room to capture the entire scene with the guests in attendance, or even try and get behind the couple to showcase the dance from their perspective.

wedding reception dave shay

Image by Dave Shay | Website

bride and groom wedding first dance photos

Image by Scott Josuweit

boettcher mansion jared gant photography

Image by Jared Gant

5. Prepare for Any Scenario

Hop on a call with the bride and groom to discuss their first dance, this way you’ll know what exactly will be happening during their first dance. This gives you the necessary intel to capture the perfect moments as they unfold. Ask if the dance will be choreographed so you know exactly what to expect. For instance, cold sparks, fog machines, sparklers, spotlights can be incorporated into the bride and groom first dance.

wedding reception dance fog

Image by Scott Josuweit | Website

wedding first dance bride and groom

Image by Lyndah Wells | Website

estes park resort wedding jared gant photography

Image by Jared Gant

bride and groom first dance

Image by Lin and Jirsa | Website