The most common question I get before an engagement session is, what do I wear? My best advice is to look like yourself, but with the volume turned up. But just how far should you dial it up? In today’s blog post I will share an exhaustive list of engagement portrait clothing tips to give you all the help you need to look your best in front of the camera. So get ready to raise the roof (of your wardrobe).
Engagement Portrait Clothing Tips – Planning Your Outfit
Your clothes should fit your personality. The clothes you choose for your engagement session should make you feel confident and ready to face the camera. Most importantly, your clothes should reflect the real ‘you,’ not someone you have seen on Instagram. If you are a jeans and t-shirt type of gal, then this is the best attire for your engagement session. If you want to dress up, then great! Just make sure you recognize yourself in your photos.
Look like you belong together. As a couple, you don’t want to look like twins in your engagement session. Avoid any attempts at being ‘matchy matchy.’ That said, you want to look like you belong together. Select the same degree of formality (or lack of formality) in your clothing choices. Most importantly, make sure you are dressed in complementary colors.
Try on many, many outfits a week prior to your session. There is nothing worse than having an hour to get ready and realizing that nothing in your closet fits. The time to figure this out is well ahead of your photo shoot so that you have time to go shopping.
Plan your outfit change with speed in mind. Some couples want to have a day/evening wardrobe change during their session. I’m all in favor, but keep in mind that bathrooms and changing areas are generally hard to come by if your photo shoot is outdoors. Also, the time you take to change clothes behind the camera is time taken away from you in front of the camera. Practice your outfit change ahead of your shoot so you know exactly how long it takes you to change clothes. If you can, wear undergarments or a shirt underneath so that you can simply change in public. Better yet, try mixing up an outfit by simply bringing a jacket and scarf for an easy wardrobe change.
Rent, don’t buy. Want to look fabulous for your photo shoot, but don’t have the budget? Try renting your outfit. I always recommend Rent the Runway, but there are other options including Armoire, Nuuly, and FashionPass. Check out this article for more details.
Engagement Portrait Clothing Tips – Basic Rules to Follow
Always opt for colored clothing, not white. I can understand wanting to choose a white outfit if you are soon to be the bride. However, white clothing (and any pastels) will make you look washed out. In addition, white clothing also runs the risk of blowing out the highlights in your photo on a bright, sunny day. Solid, vibrant colors that flatter your hair and skin tone are always the best choice.
If you have body parts you want to deemphasize, then make sure to cover them. I have had a few shoots recently with women who hate their arms, yet showed up wearing sleeveless outfits. If you want to hide something – be it your arms, upper thighs, or stomach – then find a flattering outfit that covers these areas. We all have parts of our bodies we aren’t fond of; the trick is knowing how to hide them from the camera.
Details matter. If you notice that an article of clothing is wrinkled, bunching up, or is missing a button, then it is guaranteed that this flaw will be magnified by the camera. Make sure your clothes are pressed and that you check your outfit for stray threads. If you notice your clothes attract lint, then either bring a lint brush with you or choose a different outfit. Velvet and dark sweaters are notorious lint attractors. Finally, shoes should be polished, and not scuffed.
Tailored, fitted clothes photograph best. It is true that the camera adds ten pounds, and baggy clothes can make you look heavier rather than hide anything. I would also avoid clothing with puffy sleeves as this will also make you look larger. Conversely, make sure that your t-shirts aren’t too tight and that your pants don’t resemble sausage casings so that you don’t look stuffed into your clothes.
Engagement Portrait Clothing Tips – The Details
In general, go with solid colors instead of prints. You can wear prints, just make sure that the pattern isn’t too busy or that the pattern is too small. Also, watch out for striped or checkered prints, since horizontal stripes make everyone look wider.
Pay attention to the neckline of your outfit. Different necklines will change the apparent shape of your face: if you want to elongate your neck, wear a V-neck; to show off your collarbones, wear a scoop-necked shirt.
Check your undergarments. Make sure you wear the proper undergarments for your clothing and that you check how you look in your clothing before you leave the house. Secure down your bra straps and the top of your bra with double-sided tape if necessary. Make sure that your clothing isn’t see through with light behind you. The idea is to avoid seeing any straps or seams.
Comfort is key when it comes to your feet. For your photo shoot, you will likely be doing a lot of walking. Make sure you can move easily and quickly in your shoes. Or, if you want to change shoes, then make sure it doesn’t take too long to switch between shoes.
Engagement Portrait Clothing Tips – Clothing to Avoid
Avoid ruffles or clothing with anything that moves. Ruffles look great when the wind isn’t kicking up. But if you are having a photo shoot outdoors, then I can guarantee that the ruffles will not lay straight. Do yourself a favor and avoid any outfit with ruffles so that you don’t have to be constantly attending to your clothing.
Don’t show a lot of skin. Ladies, this means no excessive cleavage; guys, keep your shirts on. Showing a little bit is a lot more enticing. Remember, your mother will likely be seeing these photos.
No logos or text. Whatever outfit you choose, make sure it does not have a recognizable company logo on it or lines of text. This includes t-shirts with a company brand or saying on it, or a jacket with a company name on the sleeves. Words in a photo are the first thing a viewer will notice, not your face.
Simplify your accessories and no hats. Accessories are what separate us from the animals. However, you want people to notice you, not your necklace when they first see your photo. You can certainly choose a statement accessory, just make sure it doesn’t make too much of a statement.
No hats. Seriously, no hats. Unless a hat is part of your character, the only thing the brim will add is shade over your eyes. Also, a hat brim means you can’t get close to another person’s face (or lips) because the hat is in the way.
Other things to avoid. Neon-colored anything, glitter or anything reflective, and hats…did I say hats?
Engagement Portrait Clothing Tips – A Few Words on Makeup
Do you have to wear makeup? While clean, clear skin is the foundation of a great photo, makeup can help you define and enhance your features. If you do not normally wear makeup, then you should not feel compelled to get all dolled up. That said, a photo shoot is a great opportunity to experiment. I always recommend clients make an appointment for a free makeup lesson at Sephora or at a local department store. You can also speak with a makeup artist at a salon to have your makeup done for your session. Again, the idea is to look like you, but with the volume turned up slightly.
Great makeup begins with great foundation. Make sure you apply your makeup in natural light to ensure it doesn’t look like a mask. Check that your face foundation color matches the color of your neck and that there is no line of demarcation between the two. Likewise, make sure your undereye concealer is blended in well. Powder or oil blotting tissues are a must to cut down on shine. To that end, use yellow-tinted powder over shimmery or translucent powders which will reflect the light, leaving you with a shine.
Choose matte over shiny. Wear matte foundation, eye shadow, and lipstick as it photographs best. Say no to any shiny eye shadow, lipstick or glitter.
If you have to choose one area to emphasize, then go for lips or eyes. The eyes and lips are the focal points in photos, so pump up the volume on your lipstick color and consider false eye lashes or at least mascara to make your eyes pop. Black eye liner and black mascara are the best for photos. A little white eye shadow in the inside corners of both eyes will make your eyes stand out.
Remember, you can always add more. As with all makeup, start out light and add more if necessary. If you think you have on too much makeup, have the photographer take a frame or two and take a look at what the camera sees. If you are advanced enough for contouring and highlights, then go for it. Now is the time to use makeup to trick the camera.
For engagement sessions, nails really matter. Image if you will: a close up of your hands showing your beautiful engagement ring…and your chipped nail polish. Take care of that manicure before you arrive to your photo shoot. Men, this means you too as your hands will also be photographed. Check for hang nails and put on a little lotion.
Haircuts and color should be scheduled at least two weeks prior to your photo shoot. If you need a haircut, get this done two weeks prior so that your hair ‘grows in’ to a natural style. Don’t dye your hair right before a shoot as the color will be too vibrant to read as natural. No one needs any stylist emergencies the day before your shoot.
Check your flyaways. Photoshopping out individual strands of hair is a photographer’s worst nightmare. Make sure to brush your hair, and try using an anti-frizz product. Bring a brush with you for any touch ups. For stubborn, individual hair strands, try a wand of brow gel or just bring extra hair gel.
Final things to avoid. Avoid frosts, garish colors, or anything that will cause your make up to appear ‘costumey’ or dated. Do not try or use any new product on your hair, face or body the day before or a few days before your shoot to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction.
Final grooming tips. Make sure your eyebrows are neat. Don’t forget about your teeth: use a whitener if necessary. Cover all blemishes and use eye drops to cancel out red eyes. For men, I recommend shaving early in the day to let any razor burn or nicks heal in time for the shoot. For best results, get lots of sleep and drink lots of water before your shoot.
Engagement Portrait Clothing Tips – Battling the Weather
Windy days. If you are going to be shooting anywhere near the NYC waterfront, then you can expect a bit of wind. I recommend bringing hairspray or any other hair product to take care of flyaways. Removing strands of hair is nearly impossible in Photoshop, so for the sake of my sanity (and yours), make sure that you look perfectly put together before I snap the shutter. Also, wind tends to aggravate allergies, so make sure you bring eye drops, tissues, and any eye makeup or concealer for touchups as necessary.
Hot, humid summer days. Bring lots of water to drink, along with baby wipes and a towel to take care of any sweat. To combat the inevitable heat and humidity of the subway, wear one outfit to handle the commute and simply change when you arrive. I can’t say enough how unfortunate sweat stains look in a photo. As with windy days, take special precautions with your hair to handle frizziness.
Winter cold. If you’re shivering and miserable, this will show in your photos. Find a coat that is both warm enough and fashionable enough to keep on the entire session. Long underwear and gloves are your friends. Layer your clothes until you are comfortable and warm. Likewise, pay attention to your makeup and add extra blush if necessary.
So that’s it for my list of tips. Anything else I have forgotten? Then by all means let me know.
Meet Angela and Dan
Accompanying this article are photos from the Gantry Plaza State Park engagement session of Angela and Dan. These two met online two years ago and they will be tying the knot next year at Deity. Theodore is their adorable Pomeranian who basically stole the show. But what can you do when you’re that cute? By the way, Theodore will be the official ring bearer during their wedding. He’s already a natural holding the ring on his precious head. (If you have similar plans to have your pet in your wedding, then check out this article.)
Enjoy the images, and I’ll have more photo adventures for you next week!
Interested in scheduling a Gantry Plaza State Park engagement photo shoot? First, check out this article to get all the tips you need before your portrait session. Next, drop me a line and let’s talk about your photography needs.
If you would like to view more images from my engagement photography portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com