Your engagement session is on the books! You’re excited and a little nervous (hopefully the good kind). It’s time for the fun to begin! Time to start thinking about what you’re going to wear.
Maybe you’re super into fashion, you love putting together outfits and are actually pretty darn good at it. If so, GREAT!
But it’s important to remember that while yes, you want to look stylish and look your best, there are some really photo-specific points that you want to consider.
It’s a fact: outfits can make or break a shoot. And since you only have one shot at this, it’s worth putting some thought into it.
All of the tips in this post center around the cardinal rule: faces should be the center of attention, not your outfit. But how do we actually do this? Read on for my top tips on how to look great, and keep the focus on where it belongs: on the two of you.
Choose one casual outfit and one dressier one. Two is the magic number here. Remember that our shoot will last about an hour, so we want to keep time changing outfits to a minimum.
For the casual one, think date night. Think about what would you wear to that cute new restaurant downtown on a Saturday night in autumn. Or a summer BYOB jazz concert at Longwood Gardens at dusk.
Keep it cute and casual. You really can’t go wrong with a great pair of jeans, leather boots and a cute sweater in the fall. Or a lightweight cotton skirt and sweet blouse combo with leather flats or sandals in the warmer months.
For him, maybe that’s a pair of khaki or olive shorts paired with a fitted button-down short sleeve button-down and a nicer pair of sneakers in the summer.
For the dressier outfit, kick it up a notch. What would you wear to your cousin’s afternoon garden wedding or an anniversary dinner with your fiance? Maybe for you that’s a pretty cotton sundress, lace shift or slim dark dress pants with a sequin top.
For him maybe that’s dark dress pants, leather belt and a black velvet or navy wool blazer for the fall. Or it could be crisp khakis and a beautiful linen blazer in the summer. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and like the best version of yourself. You do you!
COMPLIMENT EACH OTHER
We definitely want you to look like a couple but we don’t want you to look too ‘matchy’, either. We want the colors you wear to harmonize well between the two of you.
A great way to do this is to stay within the same color family. For example, if one of you is wearing navy blue top and jeans, then a nice compliment to that would be something in a shade of charcoal gray or even a dark muted green.
If he’s in dark colors, try to stick with dark colors for yourself. And vice versa.
CONSIDER THE SEASON AND SURROUNDINGS
Think about where and when your shoot with take place. What kinds of colors will we encounter there?
For example, an arboretum or historic house in the fall might have darker, richer, more earthy colors. Try to keep your color palette along those same lines.
In the springtime for example, you could lighten up with some pastels, a pop of color or floral prints and light wash jeans.
For a downtown shoot, a splash of color in one of your outfits certainly wouldn’t look too out of place.
WHEN IN DOUBT, CHOOSE SOFT, MUTED, SUBTLE COLORS
Soft, subtle, muted colors are easy on the eyes, not too attention-grabbing and keep the focus on your face.
For that reason, I always recommend sticking to softer colors instead of bright ones.
What is a soft, subtle, muted color? Let’s use blue as an example. Check out the bright blue, below. It’s eye-catching, electric and intense.
If we take that bright blue and then dial down the intensity, it becomes a muted, softer and more subtle shade of blue. It’s less attention-grabbing and therefore better for photos.
Now if we take that softer, dialed-down version of blue and then make it darker, we have dark blue or navy blue. Great for people with darker hair and/or eyes.
On the other hand, if we take the same softer, dialed down blue and make it lighter, then we have a pale blue or pastel blue. Great for people with light eyes & hair.
Examples of light muted colors include: light sage green, dove-gray, pale pink, gray-blue, khaki, light wash jeans, cream
Examples of dark muted colors include: pine green, aubergine (eggplant), navy, deep teal, burgundy, charcoal, chocolate brown, dark denim
If you do end up choosing a bright piece, make sure to bring a back-up piece to switch out if needed. Sometimes we won’t know how an item with photograph until we actually try it out!
DARKER COLORS ARE SLIMMING
Why? Because dark colors absorb light rather than reflect it. In the same way that when you paint a small room a dark color, the room seems to become smaller. While that same room painted a light color feels more spacious.
To be brutally honest here, it’s true that the camera sometimes creates the illusion of a little extra weight. It’s nothing too crazy, I promise, but it’s something to consider when deciding between a light or a dark ensemble.
Bottom line: just skip the white jeans if you are in the least bit self-conscious about your lower half.
KEEP IT LOW-CONTRAST
This is my mantra when it comes to helping my couples choose outfits.
Contrast is simply when you put two things side by side that are very different from each other. This draws the eye in and towards that specific area. Instead, let’s keep the elements of your outfit from competing with one another so that the focus is kept on your beautiful faces.
Examples of too much contrast:
-navy dress pants with a pale pink button-down
-burgundy sweater with a cream scarf on top
-her in a dark plum dress and him in a pale blue sweater
What to do instead:
-if it’s light on the top, stay lighter on the bottom
-pair khaki or light wash jeans with light-colored or pastel tops
-pair dark jeans with a darker top
-keep this consistent between the two of you as well
ADD PERSONALITY WITH TEXTURE & LAYERS
Now that we have all the color and contrast stuff out of the way, let’s have some fun. Here is where you can start getting creative.
For textures, think cable knit, velvet or corduroy in the fall/winter. Or lace, eyelet or seersucker in the spring/summer.
Ideas for her include:
-collared shirt peeking out from under a crew neck sweater
-a flash of silk lace camisole under a cashmere V- neck sweater
-cable-knit tights under a dress or skirt
Ideas for him include:
-a soft cotton or flannel button down (in a fun color or pattern) underneath a wool half-zip sweater.
-a steel gray t-shirt under a black zip-up cardigan.
-a tweed or linen blazer with jeans
Also consider adding some visual interest with teeny-tiny pattern: little checks, thin stripes, tiny polka-dots or itty-bitty florals. The operative word here for patterns is TINY.
Here are some ways to look your personal best:
Consider your unique coloring
There’s a whole ‘science of seasons’ when it comes to personal coloring, but we’re not going to get to in-depth here. The general idea -and I find this to be true in many cases- is this:
If you have dark hair AND eyes, you’ll tend to look your best in darker colors, Lighter colors may wash you out. Dark colors will bring out your features and make your eyes pop.
On the other hand…
If you have light hair AND eyes, you should favor lighter, softer pastel colors, since dark colors on you can look too heavy and overpower your features.
What if you’re somewhere in the middle?
Then I wouldn’t get too caught up in this. If you have dark eyes and light hair or vice versa, just go with what feels right.
What if one of you has dark hair/eyes and the other one has light hair/eyes?
Then I would design your outfits around the person who won the coin-toss! It’ll be OK. It’s better for the two of you to keep your outfits from competing with each other in the photos.
If you’re wearing a super fitted sweater on top, then don’t do super skinny jeans on the bottom. Conversely, don’t go loose on the top and bottom. Let there be some balance.
Highlight your strengths
Do you love your toned arms but your lower-half not so much? Then dark jeans or a flowy skirt with a cute sleeveless blouse might be the way to go.
A belt over a flowy dress is a nice way to accentuate an hourglass figure (just keep the belt subdued and low-contrast).
Peplum tops are amazing at camouflaging a tummy. So is a looser top or sweater paired with more tight-fitting pants.
When in doubt about an outfit, just ask yourself: does this compliment or highlight the parts of myself that I like? And does it lessen or detract from the areas that I don’t?
Pick one or two.
Scarves, earrings, necklaces. Your grandmother’s vintage broach. Have fun here, but remember, keep it low contrast and not too flashy. However, a bold red or hot pink lip is a great accessory because it will draw attention to your face.
Some other ideas include a fuzzy hat and/or cozy knit gloves for a winter session. Or a light-as-air gauzy cotton scarf in the spring. A string (or several) of pearls at the neckline.
Guys can have fun here, too, with perhaps a gorgeous tie, fun sneakers or an heirloom watch, cuff links or tie clip.
But don’t go crazy…
Coco Chanel was right when she famously said, ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.’
Too many accessories will compete for our attention in the photos. And at risk of sounding like a broken record, we want to keep the focus on the two of you (and maybe that fabulous engagement ring).
TO WRAP THINGS UP
OK, so now that you know the ‘rules’ feel free to break them as you see fit! This is your shoot and you should feel comfortable and look like yourself.
Do you have dark hair and eyes but love wearing lighter colors? Then by all means, do YOU. Are brights near and dear to your heart? I understand and will not judge if you show up in a hot pink cashmere sweater. I promise.
The truth is, you will love & treasure these photos no matter what you’re wearing because it’s a record of this fun and exciting time in your life.
In fifteen years you’ll look back and say, ‘look how cute we were’ and perhaps share a few laughs.
I really hope these tips are useful to you and help get excited about choosing outfits for your engagement shoot.
Stay tuned for a future post where I’ll cover some more fun stuff like hair, makeup and grooming tips for both of you.
Happy planning! See you at your session!