Engagement Session Style Guide

Picking what to wear for an engagement photo session can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.  We have so many couples that reach out prior to the engagement session with questions about this topic that we wanted to create a quick guide to help.  We will dive deeper into the specifics as we go along but the biggest things we want you to take away from this is to be yourself and be comfortable.  I know that you can have both of those and look incredible if you just follow this guide.  

Very few of our couples are professional models or stylists so it can feel foreign to dress for an engagement photo shoot.  It is incredibly normal for pretty much everyone to feel stressed about the session and what to wear.  You hired a professional for a reason, let us take care of you and relax.  We will walk you through the entire session and try to make you feel as natural and comfortable as possible.  First things first, let’s get you set up with what to wear and how to wear it.

Be Yourself and Be Comfortable

I totally understand the desire to go out and buy a fancy new outfit for your engagement photo session but that may not be totally necessary.  Would you be more comfortable in a stiff new outfit or something tried and true.  You know what moves and feels the way you want it to. 

Chances are you will still want a new outfit, something you have never been photographed in, and that’s okay.  If you want to shop around and find the perfect new engagement photo session outfit take stock of your current favorites first.  What colors do you typically wear? What fabrics feel and flow the best on you?  Do you have certain brand that you feel fits you better?  Knowing the answers to these questions can help narrow down the search from the very start and reduce some of the stress.  

Match Your Outfit to The Time and Place

Before you start diving into exactly what you want to wear you will hopefully know where you are having your photos taken.  If you don’t have an exact location yet, that is okay, just have a general idea of where.  Is it going to be in the city, forest area, beach, at your house, or any other number of places.  Knowing this information will help you with the vibe of your engagement session outfit choices.  

Engagement photos happen year round so make sure that you are matching your outfit to the season that is reflected in the photos.  It may seem obvious but you won’t want to wear summer clothes in the snow and vice versa.  If you have seen any of our session galleries you know we love to tell stories.  Part of your engagement session story is a cohesive feel and storyline.  Try to plan your outfit around the season, location, vibe, and your comfort.  By all means, you can be super fancy if that is the vibe and feel you want.  Just make sure to also be comfortable in that super fancy outfit.  

Add Movement and Texture

We all have different body types and looks.  The old family portraits are typically not what couples want from their engagement photo session.  This engagement photo style guide is trying to steer you away from everything that those old department store photo sessions embodied.  Static photos with dull backgrounds in uncomfortable clothes are not what you want or what we want for you.  You want fun and real.  What makes a photo look fun and real? It is a couple that is really having fun and loving what they are doing together!  Capturing movement in your photos shows that off the best.  The movement can be you physically moving or natural movement from the environment.  Textures that flow with your body and the wind can add movement to every photo.  You can also add some comfortable and cosy feels through texture or add to that sunset glow with clothes that filter the sun.  

Colors, Colors, and More Colors

So far we have been talking about some of the details that may not necessarily come to mind first when choosing your engagement session outfit.  Now we are ready to dive into colors and what makes sense.  Just understand that these are basic rules and that there are many other rules out there.  We can’t cover all of them but this should be a great start.  Also, know it is okay to break the rules form time to time.  

Most of the time it is best to stick with more neutral earth tones and metallics.  We are looking to compliment to environment and these do a great job with pretty much any outdoor spot.  It doesn’t need to be straight earth tones and nothing else, just a more earthy version of the colors.  Softening the colors a bit helps create that naturally beautiful look you are going for.  

Our main goal here is to compliment or contrast our natural environment.  For example mustard color dress in a dark green forest would look incredibly epic.  This probably isn’t the place for a bright pink patterned dress.  Compliment and/or contrast your environment.  On top of the environment we want to make sure you follow these same rules with each other.  

Color Theory

Now that we are ready to pick our colors let’s talk a little color theory.  Again, this isn’t every rule out there but should be a great basic overview.  I want to go over complementary colors and analogous colors as a start.

Complementary colors are what we all learned in grade school.  I never thought these would come back and be useful but here we are talking about your engagement photo session.  Complementary colors look great together because they create visual harmony and compliment each other.  If you look at the color wheel these colors sit across from each other.  Remember that there are various shades in between that also compliment one another.  Use those more earthy versions.

Here is a simple color wheel with the various shades. The closer you get towards the center the more earthy these colors tend to look. Colors across from each other would be considered complimentary. You can also look up other color theories including split complimentary.

Analogous colors are a better fit for those couples that don’t want the contrasty color pop.  Analogous colors sit next to each other on the color wheel and are more comforting and soothing to the eyes.  Varying hues of similar colors are the best example of this.  You can wear mustard as an analogous color to red or orange next to pink.  

Here are some examples of the analogous colors. Again, you can look for the more muted, earthy tones for a natural look.

Now that we are talking colors I feel like I need to get this one out there.  Complimenting is very different than matching.  Wearing the same exact color or a very similar shade would not be a great example of complimenting each other.  If both of you wear a dark color it can be hard in those sunset photos to tell where one of you ends and the other begins.  Be sure to pick varying colors, textures, and tones while still complimenting one another.  Look great together but don’t look the same.

Patterns and Prints

Subtle and small patterns work the best if you want to add some pattern to your outfit.  The large bold patterns can take over the photo and take away from you two as the main focus.  We usually tell our couples to limit yourself to one pattern.  Trying to compliment patterns between two people can be super tricky.  I will count logos as patterns or prints.  They probably just don’t have a great place in your engagement photos.  One of the only times it looks good is if it a part of a theme of the day.  If we are going to U.S. Cellular Field then go ahead and wear that White Sox jersey.  Themes are great, free ads for clothing companies are not.  I wouldn’t even try it, just stick to one if needed.  If you have any questions just email or text us a photo and we can help out.  

Layering For the Weather

One of the trickiest parts about outdoor winter and spring engagement photo sessions is the weather.  You just never know what you are going to get.  If the weather turns cold I’m sure you don’t want to have every photo of you with a winter coat on.  Plan ahead for these sessions and have some layering options.  While we may not see you actually shivering in a photo you can definitely see the stiffness in the shoulders and face that come with it.  Wear clothes that will keep you as warm and comfortable as possible while still looking great for your photos.  Again, it doesn’t make sense to wear short sleeves when there is snow in the background.  

Extra Tip: Bring some hot chocolate in a thermos for after as well as some hand warmers.  We try to being these to every cold session for you too but it doesn’t hurt to have extra.

Accessories and Shoes

Accessories are a great way to take your outfit to the next level.  Unique hats and jackets are a great add-on for some fun photos but keep it simple and plan to just wear the themed pieces for portions of your shoot.  Sunglasses are another accessory that are great to have for certain portions but it should be everyone or no one.  It might look awkward is only one person has sunglasses on and the other doesn’t. 

A common question we get is should I or shouldn’t I wear my prescription glasses.  My view on that one is if you normally wear them then wear them.  If you normally only wear them driving or wear contacts then do that.  The only place we get into the weeds is with transition lenses.  Even if they are what you wear everyday your engagement photo session may not be the best place to wear them.  Seeing the emotion in your eyes is sometimes the entire photo.  

I feel like everyone is wearing a smart watch these days, including myself.  I know for me it leaves an incredibly sharp tan line on my wrist all year round.  Your engagement photo session may not be the best time for the beat up Apple Watch.  You probably don’t want to feature that incredible new ring on your finger with your everyday watch right next to it.  It will take away from the grandiosity.  If you want to wear a watch grab something simple and clean.  

Shoes, shoes, and more shoes.  I feel like this topic is either super important to you or you don’t care at all.  There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.  While I don’t want you to stress over any part of this process I do want you to take a little time to think about the shoes.  They matter more than some would think.  Shoes are a key part of your entire look and comfort.  They must compliment the rest of your outfit.  Pretty much the only time they don’t matter is during a sandy beach session when you take them off anyway.  Plan to walk around quite a bit fi you are doing an engagement session with us.  That takes us back to the very beginning of this article, be comfortable.  We will most likely be walking across many types of terrains including some soft ground so be mindful of the shoes you wear.  Make sure they fit the outfit and the environment.  Give them a quick cleaning before the session and make sure to remove any stickers on the bottom of the shoes.  While we don’t feature the bottom of your shoes often and big white sticker stands out on the bottom of your brown boots in photos.

Hair and Make-up

You know you better than I know you so I don’t feel like I have much to say here.  Wear your hair and makeup in a way that looks like you.  You need to feel confident and beautiful in every part of your engagement photo session look.  Simple and natural looks best on most people.  Keeping your hair down and loose will let it flow and move in the wind.  Sometimes those little movements make for the best photos.

Part of our storytelling process involves getting in nice and close on those important details.  What is detail is more important in an engagement session than the engagement ring?  It may not be a bad time to head out for a manicure to make sure every detail looks great.  This goes for both of you ring wearers and non ring wearers.  We love hand holding photos and when both people have incredibly manicured hands it really makes a difference.  

Quick Guide

Be yourself and comfortable

Dress for the location and the season

Complimentary or analogous colors

Avoid multiple patterns

Natural textures and earthy colors look great

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