It can be intimidating for some couples to pick outfits for their Engagement Session. But there are two simple rules you can follow that will make your job easier.
The first, which is ultimately the key for success, is to dress the way you would if you were attending a wedding as a guest. Formal wear and the camera are best friends! I officially give you permission to DRESS UP! Wear that fabulous black dress or fitted suit you’ve always wanted to take out on the town. Nothing is too dressy for photos, even if we’re shooting in a meadow - a classy dress and a tailored suit look great anywhere we go!
Secondly, what you wear does need to feel comfortable. If you are fighting a plunge neckline that keeps showing undergarments, or shoes that are too small, it will be hard to relax and have fun in front of the camera. Select clothes that fit your body well and allow you to move around a little bit.
While those two rules are the most fundamental, we are going to explore more specific tips and advice to take your outfit to the next level and help you dress your best for photos!
Clean & Pressed
Make sure to have your clothes dry cleaned and pressed to avoid wrinkles. These are nearly impossible to remove from images later.
Clean the Ring
During your Engagement Session, I'll snap a few close-up photos of the ring and we'll want to see that sparkle! So clean and polish the gems and metals. Also consider getting a manicure, to show off that ring on your hand.
Empty Your Pockets
Literally. You don't want phones, wallets or keys creating a bulge or showing through in the photos. I can carry a few small items for you in my camera bag - anything else should be left in your car or at home.
Get it Tailored
Pick outfits that fit and flatter your figure. Show off your best features (legs, arms, shoulders, abs, curves, etc.) and make sure that any dresses, jackets, slacks, or collared shirts have been tailored to fit both of you well. The better your clothes fit, the more gorgeous you’ll look!
Don't get a Fake Tan
Spray tans and fake tans use an unnatural orange/bronze base that may look great to the eye, but immediately shows up as a funky yellow/orange in the post-processing of your images. Your natural skin tone looks the absolute best in photographs (yes, even on legs) because it interacts with natural light perfectly. Besides, who wants to risk a patchy spray tan for your photos? So keep it natural!
One Outfit, or Two!
Most of my clients choose two outfits so that they can bring one “wow” outfit, and then another slightly more casual outfit that has a “date night” feel. But if you want to bring two “wow” outfits, give yourself permission to do it! The camera loves runway-esque apparel and so do I! Just make sure it’s something that can be easily changed into at our chosen location (think changing tent or back seat of a car…)
Patterns & Graphics
Graphics and overly large patterns can be distracting and should be avoided. Extremely small patterns (i.e. tiny plaid) also do not work well in camera, as they create an adverse effect called "Moire". However, medium to small patterns are fine for photos, and work well to coordinate the other person's outfit.
For men and women both, accessories add interest and personality to any outfit. It is hard to go wrong when adding watches, belts, jewelry, scarves and hats that complement your outfit
Black is always a great option for photos - it’s slimming, polished, and elegant! For a lighter feel, neutrals look wonderful as well as light pastels (pick colors that work well with your skin, hair, & eyes).
Bright colors offer bold impact, but should be used with intentionality and purpose.
Flattering Your Figure
In my experience, every woman, regardless of her shape, has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about, so recognizing what area that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos.
Dresses & Skirts. For starters, Dresses and skirts look most stunning because they really flatter every female body, especially on camera — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits! I recommend skipping the pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two instead. Long, full-length, flowy (i.e. chiffon or silk) dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos.
Sleeve Length. If arm workouts aren't your thing, and you're a little more conscious of their form, consider three-quarter length sleeves. This length creates an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so I recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms.
Choose Your Shoes. A great pair of heels makes anyone feel (and look) extra fabulous! (Yes, that means you get to go shopping!) Heels lengthen your legs and show off your calves. If your heels have a peep-toe, you might also consider a pedicure before your session. (Pro Tip: Bring a pair of easy-to-kick-off flats to wear when moving from place to place in between photos. Your feet will thank you later!)
Hair & Makeup Professional. This is also the perfect opportunity to get to know your hair and makeup artist before the wedding day, and hold a mini practice session the day of your Engagement Session. They will know exactly how to prep your skin and eyes for natural light photography. If you need recommendations for makeup artists in your area, let me know and I’ll help you out!
Self Styling. If you plan to do your own makeup, pay attention to your eyes. Your eyes will be the most important factor in many of your images, so spend extra time making them look beautiful! Wear more makeup than usual, use a good blush, and set your foundation with a loose powder. Also, natural color tones (browns, tans, pinks) tend to look flattering on most skin tones. If you're doing your own hair, avoid fly-aways with a good shine serum and bring along a brush for mid-shoot touch-ups.
Keep it Simple. If you're still not sure, just pick a great solid colored dress, add a fun accessory like a beautiful necklace or earrings, then pair with some great heels.
Dapper and Debonair
Layers. Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera, because adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, he could even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt underneath. Rolling the sleeves on a collared shirt can also add a more simple level of layering. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!
Dress Pants & Chinos. As mentioned in General Recommendations above, your Engagement Session is the ideal time to dress up. Rather than wearing jeans or shorts, opt for dress pants or chinos. Remember, they will be most flattering if they are well tailored rather than hanging loosely from the hips.
Dress Shoes. Brown leather dress shoes complement almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a blazer and colored pants. Belts, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp complements to any outfit for men as well. Just be sure to match any metals or leathers to those in the rest of the outfit (i.e a brown belt or watch should be worn with brown shoes).
Two Outfits. If you bring two outfits to the session, you can start with a traditional suit or blazer, then switch to a collard shirt and chinos (with sweater for cooler months) for your second look. If two looks are too stressful, no problem! One will do the trick! You can still mix and match layers and accessories to complement both of her dresses without doing a full change during the session. So, either way, it's a win.
Keep it Simple. Pick a suit that is tailored to fit you well (or a nice pair of dark chinos) and pair with a collared shirt in your favorite color and add a belt, watch, pair of shoes.
Shopping Recommendations for HER
Shopping Recommendations for HIM
Cover photo courtesy of Amy Carp, at my own photo session.