One of the things I help my clients out with is styling their engagement shoot. Every couple has their unique style, and while most of the guidelines in this post are general, I still want to remind everyone that you should style your clothing to reflect your personalities and wear something that you feel comfortable looking back on in 20, 30 years. With that being said, I’ve gathered some friends of mine to bring you a plethora of inspiration!
First off, the ladies! Wear your favorite colors, but I like brighter colors – especially if we are shooting in cities such as Boston, New York, or Chicago, we are working with a lot of concrete and mono-tone backgrounds, so you want to POP from the scene. If you are shooting in locations with lots of greenery, you obviously don’t want to wear green. If you’re going to be near blues like the ocean, don’t wear blues.
Pending the weather, either wear a casual dress with a knit cardigan or layer jeans, a nice shirt or top that has details. Avoid all white and all black ensembles, it won’t show up with enough contrast on film. Patterns? They can look great! However, also keep in mind that patterns may look dated after a couple of decades, so mix it up with some solids. If you are doing solid colors – think about the texture – thick and classic textures such as knits, sweaters, linen, cotton photograph quite well. Accessorize for more fun – think about your jewelry, belts, and any relevant hair pieces.
These are some great looks I’ve seen on my clients in the past
Kimberly, one of my brides last year, her engagement shoot was very popular for her yellow dress and super-fab heels as we walked around Beacon Hill – click on the picture to see more from that session
Kimberly writes: “For my engagement photo session, I wanted to make sure that I stuck to a simple, classic look that was also firmly my style. I knew for sure that I didn’t want to look back on my photos and cringe at the pattern of my dress, hairstyle or makeup choices, so sticking to an understated style was very important to me. Shang had recommended bright, complimentary colors for my (now) husband and me, so I chose yellow– a color that people often said was ‘my’ color. My dress had a classic silhouette which I hoped would stand the test of time, and, likewise, I chose simple pearl earrings and a silver drop necklace. I felt confident that my wardrobe choices reflected who I was at that time in my life and that I wouldn’t look back and wonder why I tried to wear something that fit into that moment’s fad.
The most important thing to remember is to be yourself. I’m never one to be on the forefront of clothing trends (I’m usually the last one to try everything!), so it wouldn’t have made sense for me to go outside of my comfort zone for my engagement photos. I like looking back at my photos and seeing the real me shine through in clothes that I truly loved!”
This is Kimberly’s inspiration board
Cardigan – Nordstrom. Earrings – David Yurman. Dress – Nanette Lepore. Sandals – Nordstrom. Necklace – Tiffany & Co
How about the guys? Depending on how formal the girl is, match that. If the girl wears jeans then the guy can wear jeans but otherwise, khaki, formal pants, and dark slacks work just as well. Please avoid sneakers if you can but dark shoes are okay. Contrast the pants with a shirt of a different color. The shirt should not be the same color as the girl’s so that you guys don’t look too matchy-matchy. Avoid all white and all black ensembles. Think color tones – if the girl is wearing primary colors, you wear primary. If girl is pastel, you wear pastel. I love seeing mixes of vests and jackets on a guy because we can remove them for different looks.
Dan was one of the other really popular engagement sessions from last year. He and Moah dressed in classic fall ensemble to go with their foliage-filled engagement session on the University of Chicago campus – click on the picture to see more
Dan writes: “In selecting an outfit for my engagement photo shoot, I really wanted to wear what would be considered a classic look. If I wore something too trendy or that wound up being a fad, five years down the road I’d look at my photos and wonder what I was thinking (think bell bottoms [1970’s] or neon [1980s]). There seemed to be little risk wearing a button down shirt, sweater and blazer with jeans. My photo shoot was in the fall and beyond consideration of recent fads, I wanted to pick colors that were consistent with the colors of the season. In terms of the outfit selected for the inspiration board, I realize the tie might be on the trendy side, but under a sweater only a small portion will be seen and could be the perfect amount of ‘flair.'”
Shang’s tip: Make sure your clothing is properly ironed / steamed prior to the engagement shoot. Wrinkle removal is not part of my normal retouching process!
This is the inspiration board that Dan created for this post
A makeup artist and good hair makes ALL the difference in photos – so I recommend having your trials timed for your engagement session if possible. I’d love to spend most of the shoot having fun and photographing you, and not worrying about your hair or makeup. If you choose to do makeup yourself, that is fine. If you normally don’t wear makeup, I still recommend foundation and eyeliner. It’s all about feeling most like you, so I would say, book a MUA if you normally wear heavier makeup. If your shoot falls in a windy location such as the ocean side, please, please consider having your hair up rather than loose.
And now, a topic near and near to my heart – SHOES! For those who missed my post on shoes last year, check it out. However, my friend Sarah, co-founder of Snapette, is even greater an expert than I am. She writes: “As for shoes, you should go all out for your engagement shoot. A photo shoot is THE perfect opportunity to show off your great shoes. Everyday photos are usually from the waist up, and awesome shoes often go unnoticed at crowded events and dark bars. Plus given there’s pretty limited walking during the shoot, this is also a nice opportunity to wear your highest heels, which are also super flattering for your legs and proportions. If you’re wearing neutral or dark colors, I’d recommend wearing brightly colored shoes that pop, complemented with a brightly colored belt, necklace or hairpiece. Brightly colored shoes also go great with colorful outfits – don’t be shy! If you want to go with more neutral colored shoes, however, then consider ones that have rhinestones, bold patterns or distinctive shapes.”
Shang’s tip: Bring comfortable flip flops or flats with you to wear in between walking!
Today’s inspiration board uses all images taken with Snapette, which is a cool new mobile app available for iOS devices
First row: Bakers, Giuseppe Zanotti, Kurt Gieger
Second row: Enzo Angiolini, Gucci, Miu Miu
Third row: Giuseppe Zanotti, H by Halston, Wild Pair
I have a number of South Asian brides, and for you guys, I have invited my friend Ridaa of RMCCouture to write her thoughts
“To stand the test of time, stay true to your personal style, and wear minimal pattern and accessories to help reduce any outside “noise,” that you may incur and that will take away from you as a couple. To ensure that you and your significant other are the focal point of the shoot, wear one or two pieces of jewelry or a feathered headband at most, but stick with the cliche, that less is truly more, and classic and timeless will always be the better choice, and not necessarily just safer. What I recommend for someone with olive tones and rich heritage is to wear one piece of jewelry or an accessory that distinguishes you and reflect’s your culture. For example, choosing a traditional naurattan necklace, or South Asian jewel piece (even a bangle) may really be all you need to differentiate your look. Wear a a bold colored top or dress with an intricately crafted necklace or pair of earrings and bangle, and let your chemistry with your significant other be the other accent pieces you need. Selecting a simple and classic outfit for your future spouse will allow him to not blend in with you, but compliment what may be a bolder look on you. Ever thought of wearing a modern outfit and having henna done? That would offset a truly “western,” engagement shoot look with a hint of tradition that is unexpected. Another great idea: what about pairing a flowy, chiffon shalwar kameez with peep toe shoes and the perfect pedicured feet? Details will add-value and thought into your shoot, and keeping your make up natural and yet cohesive will help the photographer in making statement images for life.”
A big thank you to all my friends for providing such great advice, but more importantly, thank you to all my clients for being super fabulous as always!
I also have a Pinterest Board for more engagement session style inspiration!
Shang Chen Photography has rebranded to Saavedra Photography
Based in NYC | Open for select photography commissions on Sundays only