Engagement Session Style Guide
Let the fun begin!
I’m so excited for your engagement session! Photographing engagement photos isn’t just about getting images for your save the date cards or a Guest Sign in Book. These photos will be timeless, because they will capture you and your fiancé in a more natural, relaxed setting. Plus, engagement sessions are a fantastic way for us to get to know each other a little better before your big day. We’ll test out some poses and I’ll get to know your personalities a little more, which will make your wedding day photos go a whole lot smoother. I’ve created this guide to help you get the most out of your photos, and by the time you’ve read through this, you'll have all your questions answered and feel more than ready and prepared for your session. Then I’ll take care of the rest! Your only job is to be yourself, laugh a lot and let me create photos you’ll love forever. I can’t wait to get you in front of my camera!
I most often photograph engagement sessions using only natural light. I do this because it's hard to beat the Southern California Golden Hour of perfect light. I begin all portrait sessions approximately 1.5 hours before the scheduled sunset during “the golden hour,” when the light is the best. To get the most out of your session, please plan a buffer when getting ready so you can arrive a few minutes early to your session and be ready to start on time. I’m only able to shoot when natural light is still in the sky, so I’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down. If you’re wearing two outfits, save your favorite one for the second half, and if you’re wearing one, arrive in that so that you are ready to go! It's also wise to discretely put the change of clothes in a small backpack or beach bag since we won't be purchasing a permit to shoot. (Most locations in So Cal,beach included, require a permit to do a photoshoot, but park rangers and cops usually turn a blind eye if we aren't bringing a crew with us. Regardless, I like us to keep a low profile)
STYLING FOR HER
Want your engagement images to look more editorial? Props are fun, so bring a little extra something with you! A freshly-picked bouquet for you to hold, or fresh flowers to put on something else, like a bicycle basket, tree swing, picnic basket, car bumper or rowboat, is a fun way bring a little extra romance to everyday objects Parasol, Champagne toast, Picnic Basket, etc.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO DRESS UP
Have you thought about rocking a romantic gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! You can always do one casual look and then change into a more glam outfit. Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your engagement session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your collection, a lot of my clients love Rent the Runway for their session because it’s such an affordable way to feel like a million bucks. Other clients love having a great excuse to bring a new permanent piece (or two) into their closet!
SAY YES TO THE DRESS
Long, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature. Cute, shorter-length dresses photograph beautifully as well. Dresses and skirts tend to look most stunning on camera because they really flatter the female body — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits! We recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two.
MAKE A STATEMENT
Pairing an accessory or two with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images. Big statement necklaces bring a lot of pop to the photos, while the smaller, delicate ones are not be as noticeable on camera. Belts, bracelets and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention. Fresh florals in a crown or bouquet can be a really romantic touch as well.
FLATTERING YOUR FEATURES
In my experience, every woman, regardless of her shape has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about, so recognizing what area that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos.
Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so I recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms.
Heels elongate women’s legs, making them look fabulous. Closed-toed heels in particular look great on camera because they carry out the line of your leg all the way down to your toe. If your toes are showing in a peep-toe heel, you might want to schedule a pedicure before your session so you don’t regret letting your feet show. These little tricks make all the difference!
Quick Tip: Bring a pair of easy-to-kick-off flats to wear when moving from place to place in between photos. Your feet will thank you later!
When choosing colors for your outfits, we recommend selecting lighter tones and more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on the way you feel about each other. The camera loves shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white. That softer color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments.
COORDINATING THE LOOKS
As you’re coordinating your outfit with your fiance’s, keep in mind that your outfits will look the most cohesive on camera when the color palettes coordinate, but don’t necessarily “match.” You should each aim to wear a different dominant color, but stay within a similar color palette family. So if you’re wearing a blush dress, soft blue earrings and nude heels (blush being your dominant color), then he could wear a navy coat with gray pants, paired with brown leather shoes and maybe even a blush pocket square. Now he has his own dominant color (navy) while still incorporating a few touches of your color palette. Most of our brides choose their dress first, and then put together their fiance’s outfit based on that. That’s why we have a section for each of you.
STYLING FOR HIM
A GOOD SUIT
Men look most striking in a well-tailored suit. If he doesn’t have one, now’s the perfect time to invest in something he’ll wear for the rest of his life! The best part? It’s a lot less expensive than you might think! While custom suits can cost thousands of dollars, some of the most well-known brands have off-the-rack suits in their stores for a fraction of the price. Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong complement to most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye.
Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera, so even when it’s hot outside, trust us when we say that it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you both a lifetime. Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, he could even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!
IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Long pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it where you want it: on the face you fell in love with. So, for your session, it’s best to leave the shorts, sandals and jeans at home, too. Suit pants, dress pants or colored pants work best. Brown leather dress shoes complement almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a blazer and colored pants. Ties, bowties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp complements to any suit. If you bring two suits to the session, you can start with a traditional necktie and belt, then switch to suspenders and a bow tie for your second look. If two suits are too stressful, no problem! One look will do the trick! You can still mix and match accessories to complement both of her dresses without doing a full change during the session. So, either way, you win.
HOW TO PREP YOUR MAN
Most men aren’t overly excited to take photos for one to two hours, because they don’t have an expectation of what’s to come and why it’s so important to you. Take fifteen minutes to educate and empower your guy. Tell him why you chose me and my style of photography. Show him your three favorite images that I’ve taken, explain why you love them and express to him how much it means to you. Trust me, once he knows it’s important, he’ll light up the camera for you! The most common thing I hear from guys before photo sessions is this: because of a bad experience in the past, they don’t like taking photos or don’t think they’ll be good at it. By the time I’m done, though, they can’t believe how fast it went and just how much fun they had!
after your session
Don’t forget to plan a dinner date. You’re already going to be all dressed up! Why not take advantage of it? We know the wedding planning process can feel all-consuming, so take some time after the session just for the two of you to relax and have some fun together.
ONE FINAL NOTE
We know we just gave you a lot to think about. We created this guide to help make your engagement session experience something you’ll look back fondly on for years and years to come. At the end of the day, though, the location you choose and the outfits you select won’t matter nearly as much as the memories you make together. Your future marriage is the most important thing to us, and we want your engagement session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Have fun together. Laugh a lot. And I’ll take care of the rest!
engagement session checklist
Set date, time and location with Chris
Get Plenty of sleep the night before
Review guide for style tips
Schedule hair and makeup appointments (remember hair at the beach is always challenging!)
Choose your outfits
Get your nails done
Clean your ring
Pick a fun post-session date night spot
Pack a bag with:
Flats or flip-flops for walking between photo spots
(Optional) Outfit two (including shoes and accessories)
Water bottle (for warmer sessions)
Coat or cover-up (for colder sessions)