Stumped on what to wear for your engagement photos? You're not alone. As these sentimental snapshots will appear on everything from your save-the-dates and wedding website to the walls of your first home, it's important to put together looks that feel 100 percent you. Before you shop your closet or hit the mall, consider these 12 expert tips from stylists and photographers regarding what to wear (and what not to wear) for your upcoming engagement shoot.
1. Wear Clothes That Make You Feel Like You
If you're strictly a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, now's not the time to pull out a beaded ball gown. "The bride should feel comfortable in the outfit she chooses," says Jessica D'Onofrio of Jessica D'Onofrio Photography in Los Angeles. "She should still look like herself, but at her best. Wardrobe choices that are extremely outside a bride's level of comfort will make her look and feel awkward in photos."
2. Complement Each Other, But Don't Match
Complementing your partner's look is one thing, but "matching outfits and patterned prints aren't ideal for portrait sessions," says Michelle Cross of Michelle Cross Photography in Oregon. "When deciding how you and your partner will dress, look for complementary colors and solid prints. Try to stay away from anything too busy, as it can be an unnecessary distraction in photos."
3. Choose Pastels, Cool Colors, and Neutral Tones
You'll want to avoid anything neon, lest you'll end up looking like a hot, blinking sign, warns Jillian Requeima of Jillian Tree Photography in Miami. "I also find orange is the least photogenic color, while red is the color your eye is drawn to immediately—and you don't necessarily want your shirt or skirt to be the focus of your photograph. You want your faces and the love between you to stand out." Requeima suggests wearing pastels, cool hues, or neutral tones, then adding a bright fluorescent accent with your accessories.
4. Tie Everything Together With a Color Scheme
Once you have an idea of what colors you'll be wearing in your engagement shoot, consider how that color will translate throughout the entire album. You want to create synergy, rather than have the final result look like a jumbled collection of images. "For example, if you love light blue, you can wear this as a dress or a jumpsuit," says NYC-based celebrity fashion stylist Kimmie Smith. Then have your partner incorporate the same hue in a later look during the shoot to tie everything together without being overly matchy-matchy.
5. Incorporate at Least One Accessory
Accessories, such as a stylish scarf or chunky necklace, can lend oomph to any engagement look. Plus, they're easy to slip on and off, which means you'll be able to style a variety of looks. "Adding in at least one accessory per outfit for the ladies, and wearing layers of clothing for the guys, are two things that photograph well because it adds more visual interest to their looks and, as a result, to the images we create together," explains Kelsy McCartney of the McCartneys in Wausau, Wisconsin.
6. Opt for Classic Rather Than Trendy Looks
You may love that black-and-white maxi dress now, but next year you may only be reminded of a referee or jailbird when you see yourself in head-to-toe stripes. "I always recommend looks that will remain timeless, rather than outfits that could make your images feel dated a few years down the road," says D'Onofrio.
7. Stick With Two Outfits
Don't fall victim to treating your engagement session as a full-fledged fashion photoshoot. "You're going to have a million wedding photos where you're all dolled up and looking gorgeous," says Cross. "Two outfits are more than enough to reflect this in couples, and it ensures you won't spend your entire engagement session in a rush to change into the next set of clothes."
8. Flatter Your Body Type
Clothing looks best when it fits properly and accentuates your assets. "When selecting outfits for clients, I first and foremost pay attention to their body type," says Jenni Martini, a stylist at Bungalow Clothing. "Then I check their questionnaire to figure out what areas of their body they like to accentuate." Check out her go-to tips below:
Pear-Shaped: To show off your curves, focus on cinching the waist with an A-line silhouette that flares at the bottom.
Apple-Shaped: An A-line style with a gradual flow from the waist to the legs is always flattering. This shape is also great for a dress with texture and/or a deep V-neck.
Busty: Scoop and sweetheart necklines offer support and open up the décolletage so the focus is on the face rather than the bust.
Small Chest: Look for textured or ruched styles to create fullness in the chest area.
Plus Size: Engagement photos featuring an empire-waist dress are Martini's go-to. They're super flattering and emphasize the smallest portion under the bust, creating the effect of a slender silhouette from top to bottom.
9. Garner Inspiration from Throwback Photos
Browse through old photos of you and your partner together, as well as individually. Now pick out the absolute best aspects of those pictures (perhaps, it's a pose you love or a gorgeous backdrop), and create a mood board on Pinterest to start planning the direction of your engagement shoot, says Smith. "Seeing what makes sense and what you're into will help give you some guidance."
10. Create Visual Interest With Striking Fabrics and Unexpected Pairings
Smith loves incorporating striking fabrics (think: lace, fur, leather, etc.) into a couple's engagement shoot outfits. "These elements add a ton of visual texture, which in turn brings more warmth to your images," explains Smith. "Plus, they'll work well with whatever scenery you decide on."
11. Use a Rental Subscription for a Designer Wardrobe on a Budget
Ballin' on a budget, but want to snag a designer wardrobe? We get it. These photos are meant to last the test of time, and your engagement is deemed special enough of an occasion to warrant the purchase of a gorgeous designer piece. If you're really just buying the piece for the photoshoot, however, you might consider renting from a site/subscription service like Rent the Runway or Le Tote. Both options make it easy (and more affordable) to access high-end looks that you may only wear once.
12. Make Use of the Season
Bikinis won't work for a winter engagement, nor will a cowl neck scarf work in the summer. Take advantage of the season you're in by styling a look that's in tune with the climate and location.
Winter and Fall: Don't be afraid to bundle up. Living in Maine, photographer Emily Delamater knows this firsthand. "My favorite tip is to wear fleece-lined tights under jeans or pants!" she says. "Winter accessories can be really cute. Plus, it makes more sense visually to be dressed for winter if you're being photographed in the snow!" Not in the Rockies or Adirondacks? Winter sessions downtown can be just as stunning.
Summer and Spring: Wondering what to wear for engagement shoots that take place during warmer seasons? Channel summertime vibes by going barefoot on the beach or sharing a cone on the pier in sandals and shorts with your sweetie. Pair a maxi dress with a statement necklace or a sundress with a denim jacket for a sweet look. With flowers in bloom and love in the air, you can't go wrong with subtle floral prints and spring-approved pastel hues that speak to the season.