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Do's and Don'ts For Picking the Perfect Outfits for Your Engagement Session

Your Ultimate Guide to dressing for timeless and drop-dead gorgeous engagement photos.


a perfect dip kiss in front of a Grecian style fountain

As a photographer, my goal for your engagement session and your wedding day is to create images that will age beautifully over the coming decades. Think timeless, elegant, passionate and stunning!


As we eagerly approach spring, engagement session season is upon us! The question I get asked most often is "what should we wear?!" This guide is meant to help direct you in what looks amazing in photos, as well as what does not...


When picking the perfect outfit for your engagement session, think about revisiting these images in twenty years. It is ok for the photos to feel like they were taken in the 2020s but consider the trends you want to memorialize as well as those you don't.


First things first, it is so important that you wear something comfortable! If you are uncomfortable in the attire you choose for your session it will be very difficult to make you look comfortable. If you feel good, you look good! BE YOURSELF! It’s tempting to wear something that we love on the hanger, but was never quite right for our body or style.  Avoid this urge and choose something that you would naturally wear and dress it up with accessories, a jacket, fun shoes etc.


Remember to stay on the same page with your significant other and dress like you belong together (because you do!). You know that feeling when you dress super nice to go on a date, then your partner comes out in jeans and a tee shirt - or vice versa? I’m not saying you have to make it a formal affair, but if either of you feel underdressed the camera will perceive it too.


Picking the perfect outfit can elevate your gallery from nice images of you and your sweetie to absolutely stunning swoon-worthy photographs.


I'm here to help you chose the perfect

Engagement Session Outfit!


Picking colors that are neutral, but stand out from your enviornment is a great place to start!


Step 1. Determine your Color Palette

Do's:

First and foremost, coordinate, Don’t Match! Pick a color palette of 2-3 colors. I would recommend starting with a fun article of clothing. Take the dominant color from this piece of clothing and pick a couple complimentary neutral shades that aren’t too dark (like grey, ivory or sand). Pick colors that complement your skin tone and speak to your personality, while limiting anything too bright and bold. Neutral colors will match easier and allow for a classic feeling that won’t feel dated in ten years. Solids are safe, but don’t be afraid to add texture and patterns.


Dress appropriately for the envoirnment and season your session will be in


a couple embrace in a secret garden
Look how great this floral print looks in this garden!

Patterns, Textures and Florals are so fun and can bring dynamic energy to your engaagement photos. Moderation is key here- choose one statement piece (think lace, fur, a floral dress etc) OR one pattern. If you are doing a wardrobe change it’s a nice opportunity to flip who’s wearing the more dynamic outfit!













a bride to be in a hot pink dress with her fiancé at an arboretum
While this hot pink dress looks awesome with these bright pink flowers it isn't appropriate for all settings

Don'ts:

There are a few things to avoid when picking your color palette.

The first is very saturated colors (especially avoid primary colors) or neons- these will not only be distracting, but can create bizarre color casts that will make your skin tone look unnatural.

The second is anything with logos or graphics. Your photos are forever, and while they should represent you at this time of your life this isn’t an ad campaign. Do you really want the t-shirt you bought at that punk show you went to last month memorialized in your photos?


sweethearts pressing their foreheads together in front of a fountain at Longwood Gardens
Black and white outfits can create a very classic look




Breaking the Rules:

I typically discourage all black, all white or anything pure white. It’s very easy to lose detail in both blacks and whites. However, I'm a huge fan of white dresses for engagement sessions, just make sure it fits the vibe you're going for and is very different from your wedding dress, you'll be happy to have the variety.












Step 2. Consider the Fit, Shape and Flow

Do's:

Wear fitted clothing:

a sharply dressed couple walk hand in hand
Look how sharp these two look!

It is important that your clothes fit correctly. If your outfit is too loose or too tight the camera will only make it appear looser or tighter.  Tailored or well fitting outfits look clean and put together. Ladies- consider ways to show the shapes you want to show. For example if you are self conscious about your midsection wear a flowy top with form fitting pants, like skinny jeans.  


I’m not saying you need to go out and have a suit custom tailored, but make sure you are wearing clothing that fits- too loose and you look sloppy, too tight and you look trashy.






Ladies- as far as skirts or dresses, something long and flowy is almost always a win! They photograph beautifully and elongate your form, whereas a short skirt or shorts will divide your body. Feel free to show some skin with a slitted dress or asymmetrical cut.

a man dips his fiancé in front of lake at sunset
This flowy dress is to die for and the color coordinates perfectly with the scene!


Going for a more casual look for your second outfit? Consider Jeans!

Jeans are the perfect second outfit staple. Everybody not only has them, but they have at least one pair that they look slammin in. Your favorite pair of jeans reflects your personality as well.  They’re comfortable, familiar and LOOK GOOD! Win!! But it doesn't stop there, oftentimes jeans are the answer for him- start with the perfect button down top and maybe a blazer, then he can change into a sweater or form fitting tee and he's good to go!






Don'ts:


Short Shorts, Booty Shorts and Super Short Dresses:

I cannot say this enough. Avoid short dresses. A short dress can significantly limit your ability to pose comfortably for your photos. I want you and your sweetie to have fun and get a little crazy during your session. If you two are more active I'll have him pick you up and swing you around. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, I totally understand, but that doesn't let you off the hook! Expect to still be twirling, dipping and skipping!


To confirm that you won’t just be tugging at and struggling with a dress, test it by sitting on the ground. If you cannot comfortably sit in it, I would recommend something longer.



couple pose for a photo with mountain views
This dress is super cute, but it really limits her movement


Oh and while we're at it, lets talk about low cut tops. When considering the neck line of your chose dress or top, have an impromptu dance party in the dressing room, if the girls are making a break for it then opt for something with a better fit. 


I'm all about showing skin, and there are a ton of alternatives to show off your body- my favorite is a high slit in a longer skirt (this looks SO good in dip photos!).



Unfitted T-Shirts:

This comes back to fitting clothing accentuating our form. While you're at it avoid any other formless garments such as hoodies or cargo pants. 



casually dressed couple kiss amongst the trees
The color pallate here is excellent, but if his shirt were cut sharper it would add a lot of class to this photo!

Vests:

Vests can break up a gentleman's look, but not always in a good way. Vests cut the arms off at a joint which can create a disjointed transition. Additionally, if the vest has a collar it could make your sweetie look like he doesn't have a neck!


couple kiss under umbrella alley





man picks up girlfriend and nuzzle noses


Breaking the Rules: Sleeves vs Sleeveless.

I love showing skin, and there is a time and a place to go sleeveless, but a photoshoot isn’t always it. Depending on the season you may find that tan lines are problematic or that your face is tanner than your arms- your shoulders are not the subject of these photographs!

Additionally many of us are self conscious of our arms and a sleeve is a problem solver. If you absolutly love your arms, by all means show them off! For the rest of us, if you do decide to go sleeveless consider bringing a jacket or scarf so we can capture a variety of vibes. Layers allow for versatility in your look! Even if your shoot includes a wardrobe change it’s nice to be able to bring variety to each individual look.


Step 3. Accessories & Final Touches

Do's:

Think Carefully About Your Shoes:

Choosing the right footware is key! You want to be able to move comfortably, confidently and without pain! I would skip the very high heels, but on the other extreme avoid footwear that is too casual, especially sneakers or casual sandals such as flip flops, birkenstocks or crocs. Think about a business casual lunch and opt for footwear that would be appropriate for it. Closed-toed shoes will bring a bit of polish and allow you more support and freedom of movement. I’m a huge advocate of boots if they’re appropriate with your outfit, but you should wear something comfortable that you would naturally gravitate to - dress shoes, boots, a wedge etc -  oh and, skip the 4” heels unless you are super duper comfortable in them.





Pro tip- make sure you’ve worn your shoes at least a couple of times before your session (this is especially true on your wedding day!) and if you’re wearing fun shoes bring a pair of sneakers for travel between locations


Consider the Items You Wear on the Daily:

To watch or not to watch? It's a hard question; especially in the summer when your tan lines are strong, but they can quickly become distracting especially in detail shots. I find apple watches to be the most offputting, for two reasons. First because they are so indicitive of this time they take away from my desire to create timeless images. Second, they aren't ornate, unique or beautiful at all.


If you wear glasses (like I do) I would never discourage you from wearing them during your shoot, but beware of glare- I'll find myself telling you over and over to "bring your chin down a little" If you normally wear transitional lenses, the camera will read them as sunglasses even on overcast days; I do reccomend seeking an alternative prior to your session.


When I’m on the other side of the camera I like to get a mix of photos with and without my spectacles.


Breaking the Rules:

Hats are tricky because sometimes they do compliment your look, but they can also cast a shadow on your face, leave marks on your forehead and generally serve as a distraction. 

If you have a hat you LOVE or if a hat is part of your identity, bring it along, but let's wait til your outfit change or towards the end of the session to break it out.



country couple lean against fence and barely touch fingertips at sunset

 

 

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