Engagement photography is a special tradition that commemorates the beginning of a life together as a couple. Choosing the right outfits for engagement photos can make them even more timeless and memorable, as they will help communicate the mood and atmosphere you want to express in the photos. Whether you’re a photographer advising your clients or an engaged couple seeking the best results, taking some time to carefully consider what clothing for the subjects to wear will allow you to create better photos. In this article, we’ll provide a guide to the common question of what to wear for engagement photos from the perspective of a professional wedding photographer.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Let’s start with a video tutorial from our Natural Light Couples Photography course in SLR Lounge Premium. While this video is intended for photographers, engaged couples will also find it interesting and informative.
What to Wear For Engagement Photos
Here are the few basic rules to follow when it comes to deciding what to wear for engagement photos. For photographers, consider placing this in a wardrobe and styling guide as a resource page on your website.
1) Avoid Clothing with Strong Patterns
When it comes to portraiture, your subjects need to be the focus of the photographs. Clothes with distracting colors or patterns can take attention away from them. Strong patterns can also cause moiré problems as well.
2) Coordinate Clothing With The Shooting Location
Next, we want to make sure our clients are wearing clothes that either match the shoot location or completely and intentionally stand out from the shoot location for juxtaposition.
Matching the Shoot Location
A sundress would look great at the beach, a suit would look great in the city, and cowboy boots would look great in a vineyard. But, each of these items might seem out of place were they used in an unfitting environment. In the image below, we are going for a very casual lifestyle photograph, as if we are shooting the couple doing something they would typically do. Hence they are dressed more casual which is a look that fits the style of the photograph very well.
Standing Out from the Shoot Location (Juxtaposition)
On the other hand, engagement photography clothing and wardrobe that stands out from the background with intent can also be powerful. This is especially true for a more editorial, fashion-centric style of shoot. Here are a couple of examples:
3) Dark colored clothing or dark hair can blend into background shadows
This is something both the couple and photographer should keep in mind. For photographers, dark hair and clothing can disappear into a dark background making it difficult to differentiate the subjects and the background. In these situations, a rim light or kicker will help separate the couple from the background.
4) Your subject’s clothes should fit their style and personality
Planning ahead also helps ensure that everyone involved feels relaxed and comfortable throughout the photoshoot, as clothing has an impact on how one feels during a session.
Comfortable but form fitting – The priority for the couple should be to dress in something comfortable and fitting to their style and personality. However, if you tell that to some guys, they might show up in baggy pants from the 90s and a t-shirt! Balance comfort with style, and remember that loose fitting clothing can add perceived mass to the subject. In general, stick to flattering, form fitting clothing.
Personal Style is Important – Engagement photos should be a celebration of the couple, and it’s difficult for a couple to fall in love with the photos if they don’t feel like themselves. This is why personal style is important when deciding what to wear for engagement photos.
Also, remind couples that it isn’t absolutely necessary to buy new clothes for their shoot. For a lifestyle approach, you may want to encourage a couple to do things they would normally do during your session. For the shot below, our couples dressed in clothing that was comfortable to them, and we went out to sort of recreate a typical date night. The results were adorable.
What to Bring for Engagement Photos
Directly related to the question of “what to wear for engagement photos” is “what to bring for engagement photos.” In the second half of this article, we’ll give you a few rules and guidelines.
The Bring the Basic Necessities for the Engagement Session
What to bring for engagement photos depends on the location, duration and timing of the engagement photo session. Here’s a list of items to consider:
- Hairspray and makeup for touchup
- Warm Jacket to stay warm in between shots
- Comfortable walking shoes or sandals to travel to and from the location
- Snacks and Water
- Backup outfit
- Props (see below)
Props should be easy to carry and match their personalities
Clients have the option to bring props that show their personalities. Like deciding what to wear for engagement photos, determining what props to bring can also be an important decision.
If they take a kickboxing class together, have them bring boxing gloves. If they like to race cars you can have them bring their racing helmets. This will open up opportunities for fun and unique shots that look great and are completely personal to the couple.
We had a couple where he was into Muay Thai and she was into fashion, so we had them bring some boxing gloves and incorporated that into their photos in a fun and unique way which you can see below. Of course we also did plenty of more traditional shots as well, but these photos were a very personalized piece of their session
You want your couples wardrobe and props to add personality and dimension to the photos, without being distractions or being disingenuous. For example, if someone doesn’t play the guitar, it would be strange for them to bring one out to the shoot just for the sake of having a guitar in the photos.
For engaged couples, whether you choose coordinating or complimentary colors, or decide to stick with a unified dress code, selecting outfits for your shot is an important yet fun part of creating beautiful engagement photography. For photographers, provide them with guidelines on what to wear for engagement photos, but also encourage your clients to have fun and be creative and unique.