Nobody likes having to sift through the author’s life story to get to the info they’re looking for, so let’s get right into it:
1. Wear clothes you’re comfortable in.
Contrary to popular belief, your engagement shoot might not be the best occasion to try out a trendy new outfit that you just bought. Sure, you want to put some extra effort into your appearance, but consider wearing something that you know works for you. Do you have a go to outfit for attending weddings or other semi-formal events? That might be the way to go. Do you prefer how you look and feel when you’re more dressed down? Go with that! You don’t want to spend your whole session tugging at your clothes. If you feel uncomfortable, you’re going to look uncomfortable.
2. Avoid loose, flowy clothing.
Yes, I’m talking to everyone, no matter what your body type. One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking that wearing something flowy or loose will hide their “flaws.” What it really does is hide your entire shape and make you look like you’re poking your head out of the top of a tent, thus making you look bigger. The frame of your body is still the same size no matter how much fabric you drape around it and it is perfect just the way it is. Instead of focusing on hiding features you don’t like, wear something that highlights what you do like. This isn’t limited to the cut of your clothing either. Play with color and wear what flatters you most! Which leads me to my next tip…
3. Don’t match your partner too closely.
A lot of people think coordinating outfits is a must for their engagement shoot, and it is, but we need to define what coordinating means. It does not mean you have to wear the same outfit and it also doesn’t mean that you even have to wear the exact same colors. This can often look a little goofy, unnatural, and visually uninteresting. You’ll want to wear things that compliment each other. First, make sure that you’re both dressed for the same event. By this I mean that you don’t want to look like you’re going to the beach if your partner is dressed like they’re going to an award show. You should both fall in the same place on the casual to formal scale. After that, you’ll want to think about colors. There are a lot of ways to make sure your outfits tie together without matching exactly. You could agree on the temperature of your palette:
Cold: blues, greens, grays, purples
Warm: yellows, browns, reds, pinks
Neutral: whites, grays, blacks, browns ( I know denim is technically blue, but it also counts as a neutral in this case.)
Another way to make sure you look great next to each other is to think about complementary colors. Complementary colors are colors that are located opposite from each other on the color wheel and they typically look great together and really help make each other pop. Here’s an actual color wheel for those of you who didn’t take color theory in college, or even know that it’s an actual class that exists. (It’s crazy, I know.):
There are a ton of creative ways to approach choosing complimentary outfits, but if you’re still uncertain at the end of the day, consult your photographer!
4. Play off of each other to create candid moments.
One of the things I hear most is, “I don’t like how I look when I pose for photos. I prefer a more candid style.” and I agree across the board. I don’t like how I look when I pose either, and when I’m behind the camera, I usually prefer that people not look overly posed. This is the most obvious piece of advice I’m going to give you but: don’t pose. This probably seems weird and counterintuitive, but feel free to ignore the camera and just chat with each other, interact with your surroundings, look at each other, tell a joke or story, etc. If you focus on making your partner feel comfortable, you’ll also forget about the camera and feel more comfortable yourself.
5. Trust your photographer.
Notice how I said “feel free to ignore the camera.” Don’t, however, ignore your photographer. They’re here to guide you through the process of making the best images possible! Every single person who steps in front of my lens hears the same line : “Ok. I’m going to tell you to do some things that are going to make you feel stupid but I promise promise promise I’m not making you look stupid.” This always remains true and a lot of it has to do with posture. A large part of a photographer’s job is to keep an eye on how their subject is holding themselves, and I can say from experience that 99% of people do not have good posture, myself included. Being asked to stand with your shoulders back alone can feel super weird and unnatural, but it looks great! This idea applies to how you hold the rest of your body as well. People tend to position their bodies in ways that are comfortable rather than flattering. Your photographer might tell you to cross your legs or position your arms in a way that feels totally strange, but trust that they’re making you look your best.
You also shouldn’t feel like you have to come to your session “prepared.” You don’t need to have a list of ideas or have practiced your poses in the mirror. We know that most people have never done this before and we’re used to taking the lead. Your photographer will most likely give you some prompts in order to create the candid moments mentioned above. They will also likely put you in basic poses but ask you to chat with, look at each other, and/or kiss within that pose, and of course, they’ll have you look at the camera for a few once you’ve loosened up. This idea also applies to locations and backdrops. You should be free to choose a location that speaks to you, but trust your photographer to select specific backdrops within that location. What might look like an ugly, concrete wall to your eye, could be beautiful in camera. On the flip side, the most beautiful field of flowers, might look terrible in the wrong light.
6. Be honest with your photographer.
There are admittedly certain things that you shouldn’t try to control when working with a photographer. Most of them fall under the umbrella of aesthetic choices and techniques, but we’ll talk about that in another post. There are other things that you should definitely be vocal about prior to your shoot in order to make sure you receive images that you love. If you prefer one side of your face to the other, let them know. If you’d rather avoid being shot in profile or you don’t want too many full body shots, speak up. If PDA isn’t really your thing, that’s totally ok! It’s way better to make these things known up front. We want you to love your final product and are more than happy to work within what you’re comfortable with.
7. Get creative and personal
There are so many ways to do this, the most impactful being your location and concept. Think about places that are special to you and your relationship. Even if those places aren’t conventionally beautiful, they’re sure to make for some meaningful, visually interesting imagery. Also consider your common interests and hobbies. I love a beach and a gorgeous open field as much as the next guy, but I’ve also shot couples at arcades, rooftops, breweries, pizza places, stadiums, and bakeries, and it has resulted in some of my favorite photos!
Hope this helps to break down the process, ease your mind, and point you in the direction of some killer engagement photos. Have fun!