The most wanted wedding photo

Everything you need to know about reveal wedding photos

Have you got one must-have wedding photo? One you’re really looking forward to seeing? When I asked this question on the ‘gram, 75% of couples replied with the same thing … a reveal shot. Yep, everyone loves a surprise!

There’s no denying it. Your loved ones’ first reactions to your wedding-ready self can make magical memories (and photos!). 

But hang on. 

There’s a sneaky word in that sentence … 


Reactions can make magical memories.

Want to know why they might not? Read on, lovebugs.

But first …

What are reveal wedding photos?

First, it’s not about the reveal. (That word just seems to have stuck as it’s used so much on Instagram, blogs and podcasts.)

It’s about the reaction

… Someone’s (hopefully expressive!) reaction to seeing your wedding-ready self for the first time.

Like your faves waiting at the bottom of the stairs to see you emerge in your wedding outfit. The moment you and your partner’s eyes meet across the aisle. Or a private first look with just the two of you before your ceremony (a topic for another blog post).

(Feeling butterflies right now? Totally normal. These moments are often when reality hits. It’s happening! You’re getting married!)

Any guesses why these reaction photos are in so much demand? 

I’ve wracked my wedding photographer brain – and asked Daisy and Poppy too. And here are our theories … 

Bring your snorkel. We’re about to dive deep.

My answer? 

It’s about capturing connection.

Your reveal marks the culmination of a lot of dreaming, planning, and preparing. It’s (maybe) the first moment when you put aside the minutiae of napkin colours, seating plans, and dancefloor flip flops … and focus purely on the people you love most. 

It’s a moment when you get to visibly see – and feel – the excitement, pride and love that people have for you. And when they see you in your finery; and you see their reaction to you in your finery? It’s one big love-in!

And having that love ‘saved’ in photos is even better. Because you’ll be able to feel like you did at that moment whenever you choose.

Daisy and Poppy’s answer? 

“Mum tries to train us not to react. ‘Cos she gets annoyed when we bark at the neighbourhood cats. But we all know her favourite thing about photographing weddings is the big reaction we give her when she gets home. We run to the door, jump into her arms, and cover her in fur and slobber – and that’s when we all know we love each other.”

So we’re agreed.

Reactions are all about love. And reveal photos are all about capturing love.

But there’s something else you need to know … 

The reality of photographing reveals and reactions

These moments are special. Very special. And as an outsider, they’re an honour for me to witness and photograph. It’s a gift to share in that love.

But it’s not all #instagoals

Take the moment your partner sees you walking down the aisle … 

It’s not always possible to capture. 

Because sometimes:

  1. You have an entourage behind you which blocks my view of your partner
  2. A photo or video is being taken from another angle and I’d be in the way
  3. You face different directions while you’re looking at each other – and I can only capture the face of one of you 

Even if it is possible?

Consider this …

I’ve photographed one or two weddings and more often than not, there isn’t much of a reaction. Or not the reaction that was imagined. (Now don’t worry; this doesn’t mean they don’t love you or think you look amazing. Some people are just naturally composed in any situation.) 

Plus, emotions run high on wedding days, and expecting a big reaction can put people under pressure to perform. Is that fair? Are you getting their true reaction? Questions to ponder.

And then there’s the outfit reveal …

… Which is often squished between the final manic moments of finishing getting ready and leaving for the ceremony. Bridesmaids are rushing to pack their bags, mum’s fussing about her hat, Dad’s trying to lock up the house, the car driver has just knocked at the door, the cat’s decided your veil makes a great sleeping spot  … And doing a reveal with all that going on can feel like trying to cram another sardine into an already full tin. Yep, it can get messy.

And hang on, what about your partner? Don’t they get to have a reveal too?

So what to do?

How to handle wedding reveal photos

My best piece of advice from my 15 years as a wedding photographer:

Don’t over-plan.

Instead …

Be open-minded 

Preconceived ideas of how a moment will happen or what a reaction will be, tend to lead to disappointment. Whatever happens naturally is ok. Because there’s meaning in spontaneity.

Book two photographers

This is for you if one of you is walking down the aisle to meet the other. Because it’s probably the best example of a moment where two angles will make an enormous difference. There’s no guarantee of capturing both of your reactions, but it’ll give you the best chance.

Think about how your outfit reveal will happen

Whatever you do, there will naturally be a reveal. But you can choose how it happens.

Do you want to let the moment unfold naturally, whenever, wherever, without any intervention? That’ll lead to 100% genuine reactions. But there’s no guarantee I’ll be there when it happens. And maybe Dad will be half-dressed and have one eye on Tipping Point, your makeup artist will be in the background, and a bridesmaid will be missing because she’s having her hair done.

So you might decide to control the situation. Getting a great shot that’s aesthetically pleasing is more guaranteed that way. But if people know you’re expecting a reaction, they may force it and stage their expressions. So it may not be as authentic as letting things happen organically. Plus, you need to allow more time.


Do what feels right for you. You know yourself and your VIPs best.

For some, a reveal may not even be possible. Maybe your parents can’t be there, maybe you’re getting ready together, maybe you’re not walking down the aisle …

Just know that whatever happens, your day will be amazing.

Which reminds me, my favourite wedding reveal photos are the ones where the reaction goes off-script …

The best wedding reveal photos

When I look back at all the weddings I’ve photographed, the most memorable reveals were the unexpected ones. Even the best wedding planner couldn’t have planned these special moments:

Harriett was stood waiting in the hallway for her dad to come and see her in her dress. Dad bursts around the corner, fumbling to tie his bow tie (tricky little blighters!) and cries out in frustration: “Do you know how to tie this?”. He completely missed that his daughter was in her dress! Harriett couldn’t help but laugh. (I can’t share the photo for privacy reasons but I still love the story!)

⌃⌃ The music started, the bride took her first steps up the aisle … and the man at the other end promptly burst into tears. Except, it wasn’t the groom crying. It was the best man! What a moment.

⌃⌃ And then there was the time Joe got something in his eye. His best man reached out to comfort him, whilst Izzy and the guests got the giggles. So many emotions!

Got a different must-have?

Tell me what it is, I’d love to know. You never know, I might even write a blog post for you with some handy tips!

Want to know what the other 25% said?

Look here for the big reveal (pun not intended).