Snap Judgments

How to look great in your engagement portrait

What is black and white and read all over? Your newspaper wedding announcement. But the photo that accompanies it will probably look very different from the one that heralded your parents' nuptials. In fact, it may even appear in living color rather than black and white. And you probably won't be grinning sans groom—many newspapers are putting the brakes on the traditional portrait gallery of brides in white wedding gowns and instead printing shots of couples, sporting everything from their wedding formalwear to hiking clothes, in settings that vary from studios to sailboats.

Dress The Part

If you decide to go the informal route, bring a couple of wardrobe changes to your photo session. If you'll be photographed in a studio, check with your photographer about the backgrounds: In general, wear medium-to-dark tones (gray, navy) for a dark background, light colors (white, pastels) for a light background. Avoid vibrant prints and plaids. If you'll need your dress and headpiece for a formal pose, tell your bridal salon. Your fiancé should arrange for a day's tuxedo rental if he'll be shot in formalwear.

System Check

Before submitting a photo, check your paper's guidelines—they're usually printed with the weekly wedding announcements or posted on the paper's Web site. If photos only appear in black and white, confirm that a color print you submit can be converted. Some papers dictate a certain size or format: The Albany Herald, in Georgia, for example, asks for head-and-shoulders portraits only. The New York Times is even more specific about what's fit to print: It requests that couples arrange themselves with their eyebrows on exactly the same level.

Time It Right

Some papers may accept a photograph taken on your wedding day, but if your paper requires the photo in advance (usually a week to ten days before the announcement will appear in the paper), you'll need to arrange a separate portrait session, factoring in the four–six weeks that it will take to get proofs back. Some photography packages include a prewedding portrait session, but if yours doesn't, or if you decide to use a separate portraiture specialist, plan on spending at least a couple of hundred dollars for the sitting fee and the print—the cost can vary widely, depending on where you live and the popularity of the photographer.

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