So you’ve decided to book an engagement session, and came up with an awesome location or session idea. All done, right? Right?? Almost … because if you’re anything like me, I know you’ve pulled all the clothing out of your closet and broke a sweat changing approximately 65,000 times. And now your whole wardrobe is sitting in heaps on the bed and you have no idea what to wear. While I’m no fashion plate, I can point you in the direction of some basic guidelines for choosing engagement session outfits that will photograph well.
1. Play Off Each Other
Obviously your outfits shouldn’t be super matchy-matchy, but the two of you should look like you go together. Stick to the same basic type of outfit, whether it’s casual wear or dressed to the nines. Think about your color palette and try to select tones that are similar or complementary. Choose similar tones, whether they’re jewel tones, earth tones, pastels, or something else.Plus, it will be even easier to find light that flatters you both if you’re dressing in the same color family. The easiest way to do this is to choose one outfit or color first, and then coordinate the second one to match. Consider using a Color Palette Generator to see what colors play well together.
2. Choose Compelling Fabrics — Sparingly
Textures and patterns show up very well in portrait photos when they’re used correctly — it’s important not to overwhelm your outfits with patterns or complex clothing. Avoid tight patterns like houndstooth and paisley where possible. Choose one bold item and balance it with simple solids layered in the rest of your outfit — a delicate lace dress against your partner’s more simple, solid outfit, a patterned shirt peeking under a sweater, or patterned pants with a simple top. Together, make sure your outfits feature only a few textures and patterns, complemented by simpler pieces.
Stretchy fabrics you can move and pose in, or a dress that flows as you move (or flutters in the beachy breeze!) will keep you comfortable, and also add some extra visual interest to your photos.
4. Show Off Your Best Assets
We all have insecurities, make sure you choose an outfit that highlights your best assets. If you have killer legs but can’t stop looking at your arms in photos, throw on some heels and consider a dress with 3/4 length or full sleeves — or add a cardigan or blazer. Consider a boatneck top for your awesome clavicles. Whatever it is, embrace it!
5. Consider the Location and Season
Be sure to think about your outfits in relation to your surroundings. If your shoot involves being active or playful outdoors, let your clothes speak to that same easy vibe. Additionally, you’ll want to stand out against your backdrop, so pick colors that complement the environment. If the session is in a very lush, green park, you might consider wearing bold colors to contrast with the deep greens of the environment. If you’ll be at the beach, try to stay away from anything super dark — navy and black items will contrast a lot with skin tones and the bright sky/sand — neutrals like grays, pastels, and other muted tones will play better in that location.
While a pro photographer can work with whatever outfits you choose (I mean, duh, it’s likely you’ll be in either a white dress and/or a dark suit on your wedding day), avoiding highly contrasting colors helps to create a more balanced exposure. The camera processes a range of light and colors to create an exposure, and contrasting colors can create excessive highlights and shadows. Try to coordinate colors that have similar tones. For example, avoid mixing pastels with neon or saturated colors.
Who doesn’t love accessories? If you are a plain black dress type like me, think about adding a pop of color with an accessory or smaller clothing item. Shoes, scarves, necklaces, or bracelets might be something you can try to vamp up your look. If your outfit is simple, think about chunky jewelry to add some color and texture, or a patterned scarf. For men, something like a hat, tie, watch or belt can add some interest. Think about your outfit head to toe.
8. Be yourself!
It’s always fun to dress up, but it’s just as compelling to pick the pieces that you’re most comfortable in; the ones that make you feel like YOU. Stick with neat-but-you options — a blouse with jeans and flats or sandals if that’s your jam. Pull your favorite dress or top out of the closet, feature your go-to colors or favorite neckline. It is most important that you be relaxed and happy during your session, instead of fussing with an unfamiliar cut or a scratchy fabric you haven’t worn before. If you feel like yourself, you’ll look more natural on camera, too.