Engagement Session Styling Tips

It can be hard to settle on a style for your engagement photographs.  It’s a chance to say so much about yourselves, and can quickly get overwhelming, especially if you start looking through lots of other engagement photographs!  I’ve put together a small list of tips, tricks, questions to ask yourself, and things to avoid when planning your engagement session outfits.

How can your outfit compliment the location you’ve chosen?

Think about your outfits in relation to the location you’ve chosen for your engagement photographs.  This will quickly help pare down your options.  If we’re going hiking, maybe put those summer dresses back in the closet, if we’re at the cottage then suddenly a bathing suit sequence could be part of the shoot, and if we’re going out to your favourite wine bar for a night on the town, consider opting for something a bit more dressy than your daily jeans and white T-shirt combo.  

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 Dress like yourselves

Don’t try to put on a persona for your engagement photographs.  This is an opportunity to document who you are in your lives together at this point in time.  If you’re feeling cool and want to ride your motorcycle around the neighborhood for your shoot, let’s do that in your favorite worn in leather jackets.   If you’re outdoorsy and live in your Patagonia half zip, then let’s go hiking in Tobermory and wear those fleece tops!  If you love hats, wear a hat, if you never put on dresses then why squeeze into one for your shoot? Above all, you want to look back on these photographs, sigh contentedly, and say ‘hot dam those photos are so US’.

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 Be comfortable

I always say ‘don’t be fidgety and don’t be freezing’.  This is pretty self explanatory, if you don’t feel comfortable in your clothing, you won’t look comfortable in your photographs!  If we’re taking winter engagement photographs, steer clear of shorts and summer rompers, wear your favorite cashmere turtleneck and camel coat instead.  If you really want to wear that new top you just bought, but feel like you have to keep tucking your boobs back in, maybe save it for a night out and not your engagement photographs.  If you have to keep worrying and fidgeting with your outfit you will have a hard time getting into the flow and relaxed movement of an engagement session.

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Lean towards lighter colours

If you’ve chosen me to be your photographer because you like the light and bright style of my photographs, then style your engagement session to play this up.  Choose clothing that is lighter coloured, and more pastel in hue.  If you’re deciding between black jeans or light wash, go for the light wash.  If you’re deciding between your fave LBD or and organic flowing linen number you love, go for the linen.  My work is very organic, soft, and light coloured, and if you love this we should make sure to style your engagement session appropriately.  The exception to this is of course if you prefer wearing dark colours, anything works to photograph in the right environment! 

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 Book your hair and makeup trial

Sometimes people book their hair and makeup trial for the same date as their engagement photographs.  This is a great idea IF the hair and makeup style you choose compliments your outfit and activity (glam buns and lashes out to there will look out of place at the park with your dog).  If you’re booking your hair and makeup trial just to get to know your stylist more, then opt for a look that will compliment your engagement photographs instead of serving as practice for your wedding day.

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Things to avoid

While I never want to tell people what not to do (there are always exceptions to every rule!) here are a few things I’ve found are usually best to avoid when styling your engagement session outfits.  We want to actually be able to see your face in your engagement photographs, so avoid covering up with something like a ball cap.  Hats are okay, and can play perfectly into your style, just make sure we’ll be able to see you easily and without too much dark shadow over your eyes.  Avoid neon colours.  Again, this might play up your style, in which case go wild, however I generally find that really bright and neon colours reflect light up onto your face and create strange skin tones that are difficult to normalize.  If you don’t absolutely love it, steer clear of that pylon orange t-shirt.  Finally, I recommend avoiding extremely large and graphic logos.  They look distracting in portrait photography, and could say something or represent a brand that you’re not going to love so much years from now.  Unless you’re high up on the Levi’s food chain and want to rep that company, maybe opt for the simple white T instead. 

8 Tips to Nail your Engagement Photos

Chances are, when you’re looking to hire a wedding photographer, you’ll also be deciding whether or not you want to have engagement photographs taken.  Aside from the obvious positives (you’ll have some nice new photographs for your guest book) and negatives (you/your fiancée hates having their photograph taken), one reason I advise couples to take advantage of the engagement session option is that it’s a great chance to spend some time getting to know your photographer.  As a wedding photographer I’ll likely be spending the full day with you on your wedding day, and am there throughout some of the most important, private, and intimate moments.  It’s important that everybody feel comfortable, and engagement sessions are a way to get to know who you are together, how you like to interact, what your sense of humour is like, and all the other little details that will help me do the best possible job on your actual wedding day.

After photographing countless engagement sessions, I can hopefully provide some tips and tricks to make the most of our time together and keep the session fun and pain-free! (I get t-rex arms when you try to take my photograph, anybody else?)

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1.    Pick an activity or location that’s comfortable to you.

The point of the engagement session is to spend some time getting to know each other, and capturing great photographs of you and your fiancée having fun together.  It’s basically a photographer date, and the images we create along the way should really resonate with who you are together at this point in your lives.  The activities you choose can be anything that you enjoy together, maybe this means starting the session off at your favourite Saturday morning café for lattes and croissants; or if a nice glass of wine is more your thing, let’s skip the coffee and head to the best wine bar in the neighbourhood where you had your first date together.  It can be as active as going surfing (any surfers out there looking for a wedding photographer?), or as quiet as making Sunday morning brunch together in your apartment and snuggling in with a book and your cats.  If you’re at all unsure about an activity or are having trouble coming up with ideas, feel free to ask your photographer for a quick engagement session brainstorm! 

2.    Get Creative

If you’re having trouble picturing your favourite activities together as ‘photo-shoot-worthy’, start making a list either together or with your photographer of ways you can jazz it up but still feel like you!  Perhaps nothing makes you happier than a Friday night movie or Netflix marathon; turn it into a drive-in movie date instead, complete with a sunset Frisbee game before the movie starts, a trip to the confectionary to load up on popcorn and twizzlers, and pyjamas and duvets in the back of your car with the hatch open.  Maybe Sunday brunch is your ritual but you’re not in love with the dark apartment you’re currently renting, let’s start the day with a trip to the farmers market to buy ingredients together, make an easy brunch on your biggest cutting board, and enjoy it out on your balcony or with candles lit around the table.  The goal is to tell the story of who you are, and everybody has a photo-worthy story. 

3.    Make it into a date.

Treat your engagement session like a date and put yourself into the mindset to relax, have fun, and feel more romantic than your average Tuesday.  Take the afternoon off together to do something fun before your engagement session, spend some time getting dressed up without the rush and stress of having to be somewhere quickly after work.  Maybe finish the evening off by making reservations for a later dinner post photo-shoot at that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try for ages.  Turning your shoot into an experience will make it something to look forward to, and something to remember as that great date night you actually made time to plan together.

4.     Dress to feel like yourself

‘What do I wear’ is one of the most common questions I'm asked before an engagement shoot.  There are so many options it’s hard to come up with an easy overall answer!  The best advice I can offer is to dress comfortably for yourself, while also keeping in mind your chosen engagement session activities.  If you’ve decided to go hiking in the fall, wear your favorite hiking outfit complete with big woolly sweaters and your well worn hiking boots with the red laces.  If cocktail hour at the classy bar downtown is your thing, maybe it’s a good chance to pull out that silky dress you bought for a Christmas party and haven’t worn yet.  If you’re at all unsure about a chosen outfit, pattern, or colour, you can always ask your photographer.  The final piece of outfit advice I can offer is to dress to the same level.  Try to style yourselves together as a couple, rather than picking your outfits separately and hoping they work together.  I don’t mean matching white turtlenecks 90’s style, but if you’re planning on dressing for a nice night out together, avoid the couple combo of high heels and hockey jerseys.  Unless that’s really your thing, you do you. 

5.    Let your photographer get to know you

Very few people come into their engagement sessions with hours of childhood modeling experience for the Sears catalogue in their back pocket, and having your photo taken together can be daunting.  It’s easiest to have something to do that you enjoy.  Talk, laugh, be weird when you’re feeling weird, high five if you’re high fivers, and throughout your session help your photographer get to know who you are as a couple.  If you’re set up to cuddle on the couch, but really you’re much more loving when making sarcastic jokes while sipping your coffee in separate chairs, then tell your photographer that you’re not really couch snugglers. This is a practice session for the wedding day, so if you never exchange forehead kisses, don’t let us take tonnes of forehead kissing photographs on your engagement session and wedding day, these will never be your favorite shots. 

6.    Don’t take it too seriously

Seriously.  We’ve already established that having your photo taken can feel awkward, so if you’re feeling weird then let it show!  Don’t be afraid to be silly, and trust that your photographer will capture the best photographs that represent you together.  If you think you’re trying to gaze lovingly at each other while the sun is setting, but are just barely stifling a laugh, let it out!  Snort if you have to.   Chances are you’ll appreciate the photo of you two howling with laughter together at your inside jokes more than any cinematic romantic sunset shot down the road anyways.  

7.    Make it seasonally appropriate

This might be a more location-specific suggestion, but make sure that the activity you’ve planned and the locations you’ve chosen fit well with the weather.  A little bit of rain never hurt anybody while taking photographs, but if you really want to wear that beautiful long dress you love, try to wait until it’s warm enough to wear it rather than dashing back and forth between putting your coat on to warm up.  If you’re keen on a winter engagement session, plan indoor breaks to warm up again so you don’t end up with a pink nose in all your photographs, wearing a miserable expression as you lose feeling in your fingers.  Remember, this is supposed to be fun!

8.    Communicate with your photographer

Keeping in touch with your photographer about your engagement session plans is key.  Ask for ideas if you’re having trouble thinking of something fun to do, talk about the best time of day to take photographs for what your planning, and toss ideas around to find the right outfits together.  It’s all about getting to know you, so the more conversations we get to have the better!  Also, keeping your photographer updated on the locations you want to visit is important to make sure you have the right permits, call ahead to make sure it’s okay to take photographs at that time of day, and generally make sure there are no unwanted photography surprises messing with your plans.