‘What should I wear for my engagement photos?’ This is a question I’m often asked by couples who take up my offer of a shoot to help them get comfortable in front of the camera. It’s an opportunity for you to dress up a bit, if you like, and get stylish photographs of you and your partner that will make your parents proud and your friends just a little bit envious!
Let me set the scene by telling you about the shoot itself. I always do them outdoors, for two reasons. First, you get interesting and varied backgrounds in your photos. Second, the engagement shoot is a dry run for the romantic portraits of you that I’ll photograph on your wedding day. Unless the weather makes it impossible, I will take these outdoors to take advantage of the pretty location you chose for your wedding reception. At the same time, it give you a chance to get away from the bustle of your wedding day for a few minutes and be alone together to enjoy each other’s company.
When you arrive for your engagement photo shoot, I’ll greet you warmly and encourage you to relax, especially if it’s been been a bit of a rush to get to the location. When you’re ready, I’ll take you through the basics of posing, then we’ll start off with some simple shots of the two of you arm-in-arm. You’ll soon get the hang of it – I promise – and as your nerves melt away, you’ll start to enjoy it. Our hour together will fly by!
1: Take your cue from the location you’ve chosen
I’m in the fortunate position of being able to offer you a range of locations all within just a few minutes of Romsey, where I’m based. We can go out to the New Forest, enabling me to photograph you against a backdrop of wild heathland, ancient forests and beautiful heather and ferns, with of course the famous ponies that roam free across the landscape. Jeans and similar country casuals will probably be the foundation of your wardrobe here.
In Southampton, I’ve found that Ocean Village is a superb backdrop for dramatic portraits of a summer evening. You can pretend it’s a Riviera marina, with expensive yachts and some of the tallest buildings in Southampton lit up for you against a gorgeous sunset as the backdrop to your photos. For photos here, why not to slip into your favourite cocktail dress and cajole your partner to climb into a dark suit over a crisp white shirt and a pair of smartly-polished dark shoes?
If you prefer a beachfront engagement shoot, there are beaches nearby at Calshot and Hillhead, But Bournemouth, with its miles of sandy beaches is probably a better bet if you’re thinking of images of you and your partner strolling hand-in-hand along a sunkissed shoreline. A strappy top or long, flowing sundress for you and maybe shorts and a T-shirt for your partner will be the order of the day.
2: Bear in mind the time of year
I always think that engagement photos, and wedding photos for that matter, look best when trees have leaves. Whatever the time of year, you want to feel comfortable – warm in winter and not so hot in summer that either of you starts to perspire, which doesn’t look great in photos. So in winter and early spring, think about layers and maybe even thermals, while in summer, lighter fabrics such as cotton, silk and linen will be the order of the day.
3: Think about what you’ll be walking on
You’re mostly going to be standing, one way or another, during your engagement shoot which, as I’ve mentioned, normally last about an hour, sometimes longer. So in general, settle on footwear that’s going to be comfortable walking around in. Bring the four-inch stilettos on a city shoot, by all means, but maybe also a pair of flats you can slip into during breaks in shooting. Boho sandals are of course perfect for beach shoots.
One small point to mention about shoots in the Forest: it’s best not to go barefoot during the summer months, tempting as it can be. I’d hate for you to get bitten by a midge or even a tick, both of which are common with ponies and sheep grazing nearby.
4: Choose the right colours for you
There are lots of articles available online about which colours suit your skin tone, so I’m not going to try to give any hard and fast rules here. What I would say though, is that solid colours are much less distracting than strong patterns, especially swirls, bold checks or stripes; you want the eye to be drawn to your faces, not your clothes – for the wrong reasons. Pastels work best for daytime, beach and room shoots, whereas you can be more dramatic for night-time shoots.
5: Coordinate, don’t clash or match
Chances are, you’re going to be picking outfits and your partner as well as yourself. He can’t go wrong in chinos and a blue or white shirt, whereas you might want to go for whichever pastel you feel suits you best. Feel free to accessorise this with a scarf, necklace or earrings in a more vivid colour.
6: Consider a change of outfit
If you wish, you’re welcome to go back to your car or slip behind a tree to change into a second outfit for variety in your photographs. You’ll probably want to keep things fairly simple in terms of fastenings if you want to do this.
7: Avoid bulging pockets
This is mainly one for your partner. Tell-tale bulges from big wallets and mobiles don’t make for great photos, so maybe he could pare things down to the essentials, like a credit card for petrol on the way home? Bear in mind, too, that I will need you to have both hands free during the shoot for holding your partner. While I’m happy to look after a purse or small clutch bag in my backpack, you’re best off leaving a bigger handbag in the car or at home.
8: Things to avoid
Images from your engagement shoot should be classic and timeless – in a word, chic. So unless streetwear really is core to your personal identity, I would avoid logos, ripped jeans, baseball caps and trainers.
9: Wear your heart on your sleeve
Even if you feel you’re really shy, I daresay you’re both affectionate in private. Well, as you’re planning to get married, I hope you are! It might feel weird to start with, you holding hands and embracing with me standing in front of you taking photos. To reduce the feeling of awkwardness, we can find somewhere that’s totally private and I can turn my camera to silent shutter mode and shoot from a distance, if that’s an issue. After just a few minutes, you’ll have got used to it and will be feeling pretty loved-up. Kissing is not just allowed but positively encouraged!
So I hope this helps to shape your ideas. There are no hard and fast rules: I thought it would be helpful to share what I know works well. Whatever your personal style, I want you to get photos you’ll love and want to share with everyone.