Updated: May 21, 2020
Your engagement photos are important! They will likely be on your save the dates, invitations, wedding website, programs, or even displayed at your wedding. After all of that, they are still a perfect representation of your personalities, and your love that last forever.
Don't let that scare you, I have lots of tips for making your engagement session easy, fun, and painless.
What to Wear:
Make sure you are not just comfortable in what you are wearing, but that you feel great in it. Whatever you wear, it should be totally your taste and make you feel confident as hell. Wearing anything that is too tight, too baggy, or way out of your comfort zone as far as clothing goes will make you uncomfortable and it will show in your photos. Make sure you can move, dip, twirl, maybe even run or jump without feeling like you are going to rip a seam, or have body parts flop out.
2. Be the best you you can be.
If you always wear jeans and a T-shirt, you probably won’t feel like yourself in a suit or fancy gown (Let’s save that for your wedding day), but we still don’t want to look like you just rolled out of bed. Make sure your outfits are wrinkle and pet hair free with no weird arm pit holes or stains. (Don’t just assume the photographer can edit things out. These things can be incredibly time consuming which in some cases can incur additional charges from your photographer.)
3. Keep it simple. Avoid wearing very bright colors or busy prints unless you want all of the focus on your shirt rather than the two of you and your love. Stick to solids, or simple stripes in muted or neutral tones. (Avoid clothing with writing or graphics).
4. Complement, Don’t Match. Matching perfectly can sometimes look cheesy. When choosing what colors to wear, try to find muted colors and neutrals that complement each other without matching. If you are both wearing jeans, maybe one of yours is lighter, or one is black and one is blue. If your partner’s shirt is dark green, think about burgundy, plum, or mustard yellow.
5. Try not to blend in with your surroundings. If your session is in the dark green/brown PNW forest, wear muted, light warm colors like mustard, mauve, or even burnt orange if you can pull it off, or light neutral colors like white, camel, or tan. If you will be in an open field of green/yellow grass, avoid wearing green or yellow. Instead try deep reds, denim, blues, and even black. On the beach, deep rich jewel tones, denim or light neutrals will look great.
If you aren’t sure about colors, just ask your photographer!
6. Think Timeless.
Trendy outfits will look amazing for a few years, but if you still want to be able to look at your engagement photos in 20 years without cringing, try for simple, classic looks. You can still be hip with trendy accessories you can add/remove throughout the session to mix it up a little while still having some photographs that are truly timeless. Everything Else:
I always ask my clients to plan for two outfits, a casual one, and a dressier one. There are lots of fun, silly things we can do with casual outfits, and more artsy, romantic things we can do in your dressier gear.
Depending on the amount of time you have booked, you can do a few simple, quick things that will give you a huge variety in your images. Accessories you can easily add or remove like a scarf, necklace, or hat (save for the end of your session) can add that extra little bit of fun to your outfit without changing entirely. Layering is also the perfect way to add variety and depth to your outfits. Bring a cute jacket or sweater to go with each of your outfits.
8. Flaunt it If you don’t already know, do research about your body shape and how to accentuate your favorite parts. Talk to your photographer about things you are self-conscious about, and the things you love about yourself. Knowing this will help them choose angles and poses that will minimize the things you want to minimize and accentuate the good bits.
9. Hair and Makeup
GUYS: Do your hair and get it cut a week or so before your session. (if you want to wear a hat at some point, bring it, but don’t wear it to the session!)
Shave, trim, or clean up facial hair (ask your partner to help you to make sure you got all of your stragglers, especially on the back of your neck) and don’t forget to check for crazy nose hairs!
LADIES: Wash and style your hair as you usually do, but add a little romance with some curl or added volume (if you so desire). If you wear makeup, I recommend using waterproof especially around the eyes, and using primer and make-up setting spray to make sure it stays put. Make sure your foundation matches your skin tone and is blended well so there isn’t a line where your makeup stops and your skin starts. Bring a touch-up kit with you so you can fix smudges or anything that has worn off.
If you suck at doing your own makeup, but want it done for your engagement session, try to set up your wedding makeup “trial run” for the same day, or find a friend or family member who totally knows what they are doing and have them do it (TIP: Make sure you have plenty of time in case you need to start over and be honest with them if you don’t like it. These photos will last forever and if you hate anything about your face in them, you will never be happy with your photos.)
10. Plan for rain
We are in Washington, I like to assume it will rain and be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t. I have no fear of rain as it can make for some really romantic, beautiful images. But it all depends on the clients’ attitude when it happens. My advice is to just roll with it. I tend to work with really down-to-earth, fun, awesome couples who are totally willing to run around and play in the rain, but not everyone reacts the same way to bad weather.
If you are not interested in getting wet and cold for your photos, I have a few tips that will help you have a solid plan B:
1. Have an indoor option you and your photographer agree on. There is no shame in having your engagement session at your favorite bar, restaurant, coffee shop or some other fun place you love like an arcade or skating rink. I’m a firm believer that your engagement session should just be a fun date anyway, but plan ahead to make sure it’s allowed and possible.
2. Get a basic looking umbrella if you (or your photographer) don’t already have one. Either clear, white, light grey, or black will do. (I keep a clear one and two black ones in my car!
3. Ponchos or trash bags can be great to cover your heads and clothes while walking between shooting locations if the rain is intense. I always have at least 3 ponchos in my camera bag, I get them from the dollar store.
4. Keep towels and another change of warm, dry clothes, shoes, and socks in your car for afterward.
11. Bring your dog!
If it feels right and your photographer is down, I always recommend bringing your fur babies in for a few photos at your engagement session. However, It can get stressful if you are focused on your dog the whole time rather than feeling like you can relax and enjoy your session. The easiest way to make sure you involve your dog, but don’t get stressed, is to have a buddy that can take the dog away on a walk, or bring them back to your house after we have done some photos with them.
12. Make a Playlist
I bring a small Bluetooth speaker to my sessions just for this purpose. Before your session, sit down with your honey and make a playlist of all of the music that makes you feel things. It doesn’t have to all be mushy slow stuff (though I do like to have a few of those thrown in), but a mix of your and your partner’s favorite songs. If there are songs that you both love to blast in the car and sing along to – put them in there. If you like to headbang and scream to a certain song- put it in there. If you like to slow dance to some sweet, mushy, love song – put it in there. Basically, if it makes you feel positive things, it will help you feel happy, relaxed, and help you to have a ton of fun at your session.
13. Be ready to get mushy. When you have been together for years and years and years, sometimes that really raw, passionate love gets buried by conversations about bills, or laundry, or other mundane garbage. I tell my clients to spend the days before the session thinking hard about every single thing they love about their partner. Let all of the mundane junk go for a few days, and concentrate on this amazing person you are about to spend the rest of your life with. At your session, I may ask you to talk about the things you love about each other, or what first drew you together and when you have been focused on those things for days, it makes it really easy to get into that lovey state of mind.
Be prepared to snuggle, nuzzle, kiss all over, embrace, laugh, and have a great time together. For my clients, I ask that you interact with each other as I tell you what to do, and only look at me (while shooting) if I ask you to. There is no need to feel like you have to stand still, look at the camera, and smile – those days are long gone.
14. Have a drink.
If you are nervous about basically making out in front of a stranger while they take photos of you, I get it. No one is more uncomfortable in front of the camera than me. My best advice to loosen up, is to have a little drinky poo. Whether that means bringing a flask of booze, starting our session with a cold beer, popping some champagne together (always a good idea), or just having a calming tea concoction that you know will relax you – let’s do it! Just do it responsibly. Don’t get sloppy drunk, have just enough to calm your nerves and don’t drive if you are drinking.
15. Make it you.
Your wedding day is (usually) a modge-podge of your style, with lots of fancy, elaborate stuff mixed in, and a sprinkling of things your mother-in-law insisted you do because the family has always done it. Even though we take amazing photographs and capture priceless moments on your wedding day, when it’s all said and done, some people feel a little overdressed and out of place. This can make them less likely to share or display photos of them in their wedding gear all over the place. Your engagement session should be a representation of you. No pressure from moms, no stress or timelines, just you and your partner being yourselves and doing what you love to do together.
If you love camping, do a little camping session with a campfire and marshmallows. If you love to hike, let’s do your favorite trail, and have a picnic or pop some champagne at the top. That’s the beauty of the engagement session, there is no right or wrong way to do it.
16. Trust your photographer.
If you booked the right photographer, (which I know you did, because I told you how HERE) they know what they are doing. We may ask you to do weird things like pretend to be drunk and stumble, or bump your hips together while walking, that you can’t imagine looking good in a photograph, but when you see them, you will understand. A professional photographer knows how to create beautiful images, let you be yourselves, and make it really fun all at the same time. Even if it feels stupid, just do it. Sometimes we are trying to capture the moments in between, and not necessarily the stupid things we are making you do.
Hiring a professional is always worth it. Click here to read why.
Ready to do this thing? Click here to schedule your engagement session!
Are you getting married? Contact me to set up a free wedding consultation!
Cherish Shanell Harper is a professional photographer in Washington State. She specializes in wedding photography, but loves variety and often shoots families, high school seniors, lifestyle newborn sessions, maternity and couples sessions.
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