When it comes to styling your engagement session, making sure you feel comfortable while coordinated without looking too matchy-matchy is easier said than done. It can easily be one of the most agonizing parts of styling your engagement session.
Engagement sessions are meant to be fun! An opportunity to get to know your photographer & to get more comfortable moving in front of the camera before your big day. Sometimes stress and thinking how you’re looking throughout the session can take a beautiful session and tarnish the idea of it in your mind. All too often, I find myself as a photographer falling into almost more of a life coach position with my clients – and it’s no doubt why! As photographers, we are dealing directly with people’s own image & self-worth.
Now, a look into my mind behind the camera as a photographer… Sure, we all can take a bad photo every so often (some of us – LIKE MYSELF – more than others lol), but this is usually a result of an image taken while the subject is talking, mid-blink, or just not ready! These images are considered an instant reject in my field, & are tossed away as junk. This just isn’t deliverable. However, every other photo in a gallery I deliver. When I shoot it, edit it and deliver it from my perspective ALL I see is how genuinely beautiful you are in your own skin. However when we as individuals carry our own insecurities into our perspective (along with our hopes & misconceptions (thanks IG and social media) ) into their own gallery, people aren’t always happy with the image they see looking back at them because it distorts against that which we don’t like in ourselves. This just breaks my heart, because you are all so freaking beautiful it’s not even funny. Each and every single one of you. It is my job to do everything in my power to have the lighting, camera settings, pose and positioning within the image lined up and creatively just for you BUT my goal is always to capture the moment authentically true to who you are in that moment and in your connection. You are beautiful in that and in each & every moment. To help you feel more comfortable, we also must feel confident. I find if you feel good, you look good and vice versa.
Part of that is where styling comes into play. In my experience, everyone, regardless of their shape has an area of their body that they are self-conscious about, so recognizing what area that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colours that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos. This can go a long way in styling your engagement session looks.
While I don’t claim to be a stylist (you’ll find me in dog fur covered leggings and an old hoodie with a messy bun on my off days at best), I HAVE found a few areas of focus over the years for helping to create your best and more flattering silhouette for you. This works for ANY body type to keep in mind when styling your engagement session outfits.
3 Areas of Focus When Styling Your Engagement Session:
Ladies: Long, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature. Cute, shorter-length dresses photograph beautifully as well. Dresses and skirts tend to look most stunning on camera because they really flatter the female body — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits! I recommend avoiding shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress! It’s also important to find something that is comfortable and that you can move in – if that’s jeans then you’re just like me, I understand! Dressing in layers can also help to add texture and movement to your images!
Gents: Layers on men look great on camera, so even when it’s hot outside, trust me when I say it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you both a lifetime. Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, you could even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of colour from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!
- COLOUR PALETTE:
As someone who almost exclusively wears black & neutrals (with a big white cat & 75lb Golden Retriever, YES I do always look like I’m wearing my pets – don’t judge; and yes I own a lint roller 🙃) I still cannot stress this enough… I am in no way against certain colours – we ALL have our favourites, but when you’re photographing and editing a session, there are colours that just translate better into photos and are more flattering both to the eye but long term as styles change. Primary colours can absolutely take over an image. Colours such as bright green, royal blue, canary yellow, fire-engine red, & purple aren’t always ideal for portraits. My go-to’s are earthier or dark jewel tones. Colours such as charcoal, mocha, beige, tan, mustard, rust, navy, forest green and burgundy all top the list of recommendations. Not quite your look or feel? The camera also loves shades of soft pink and muted blues light neutrals like heather grey, creams, leather brown and white. Opting for this softer colour palette fits beautifully into almost most natural outdoor environments depending on the look you’re going for.
Layered necklaces, a nice wrist watch, a bowtie, a big oversized hat, jean jackets & booties, a scarf, stacked rings, & a lip ring. Any & every accessory can add depth and a story behind your images & your personality. I love when couples bring extra accessories they are wearing that can be played with during the session and can add a great element when styling your engagement session!
Extra Fun Tips:
Want your engagement images to have that extra something to them & look more put together & complete? Bring a little extra something with you – any accessory will do! A freshly-picked flower bouquet for you to hold or put on something else from a local flower stand, a blanket you picked up in your travels, a picnic basket or charcuterie board, or rowboat, is a fun way bring a little extra romance to everyday objects.
Make it Special:
Your engagement session should always be specially unique to you and who you & your fiancé are as a couple! Are you two both complete and utter Star Wars nerds? Bring all your Star Wars stuff and we’ll have a lightsaber duel to end the session. Did you guys find yourself at McDonalds for your first date, & almost every date after that? Let’s grab some McNuggets, fries & McFlurries to snack on throughout!
As you’re coordinating your outfit with your fiancé’s, keep in mind that your outfits will look the most cohesive on camera when the color palettes coordinate, but don’t necessarily “match.” You should each aim to wear a different dominant color, but stay within a similar color palette family. So if you’re wearing a blush dress, soft blue earrings and nude heels (blush being your dominant color), then he could wear a navy coat with gray pants, paired with brown leather shoes and maybe even a blush pocket square. Now he has his own dominant color (navy) while still incorporating a few touches of your colour palette. Most of my brides choose their dress first, and then put together their fiancé’s outfit based on that.
Let the Professionals Handle It: Hair & Make-Up Advice
Professional hair and makeup is on the top of most of my brides’ checklists because it looks amazing and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. I personally don’t trust myself to do my own hair usually let alone on my wedding day – I’m completely hopeless in the beauty industry which is why I happily sit back and let the professionals take care of it for me! Whether it’s lash extensions, brows or blown-out hair, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera, and photographs like a dream. This also serves as the perfect opportunity to have your trial with YOUR own make up artist for the wedding day. If you’re working with a makeup artist, have her apply your makeup in natural light, if possible, so that it looks fresh and not too heavy. Plus, that’s the type of light we’ll be shooting in, so it’ll give you the best expectation of how it will translate on camera. Most of my brides feel their makeup is “too much” at first, since it’s more than you would wear on a typical day! So if you feel that way at the beginning, don’t worry! Good makeup artists know how to get it just right for the camera — and brides love the final result.
Don’t Overthink It!
One of My Fav Reminders: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your engagement session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! Have you thought about rocking a romantic gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! You can always do one casual look and then change into a more glam outfit but most of my clients find their fancier look is the one that all their favourite images are of. At the end of the day, styling your engagement session can look however you want it to, as long as it’s genuinely authentic to you and you feel comfortable.
Finally, don’t overthink it! I always say the first 10-15 minutes of any session are WARM-UP and that goes for both yourself as well as myself as the photographer! It’s like stretching before a creative work out as a photographer, and this allows you time to warm up to the camera and forget it’s staring you down and the rest goes by in the blink of an eye. All the time you spent stressing over how to go about styling your engagement session will be long forgotten. Despite all that we mentioned, the biggest thing to remember is don’t sweat the small stuff, relax, live in the moment and enjoy your session! This time is meant to help you adjust to being in front of the camera so you’re able to be in the moment throughout each & every second of your upcoming big day. Making sure you’re comfortable is my top priority, and I promise you we’ll create some amazing moments for you along the way.
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