I’m often asked by my couples about what they should wear for engagement photos! So I wanted to take a deep dive here and give you some pointers, tips and advice on what to wear your engagement session.
My specific tips in this post, as well as quick and easy recommendations for affordable choices, will guide you in the right direction when it comes to outfits for your engagement shoot!
On your engagement shoot, wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident – feel free to disregard any of this advice if it doesn’t fit with your vision, your vibe or what you have in mind. Ultimately, it’s all about you.
I can’t wait to share with you my tips and tricks! Choosing the perfect engagement outfit is definitely part of the fun of celebrating this time of your life and anticipating your photoshoot!
What you need to bear in mind about choosing engagement photo outfits
In this article, I will take you through a few options for engagement session fashion choices, with some examples. Most of the outfit ideas I’ll present here will be pretty intuitive, but I am sure you’ll also learn a lot about what’s flattering and suit your environment.
If you’re a little pushed for time and don’t want to trawl through every online store out there, check out my Amazon items that I’ve linked throughout this blog post.
There are many easy outfit options right there at your fingertips. Plus, you get the benefit of plenty of reviews, fast delivery and hassle-free returns when you order through Amazon.
Pay attention to your color choices
This may sound simple, but hear me out! The colors you wear will BE the colors of your engagement photos! If you wear dark colors, expect moodier tones. If you favor more of a neutral, muted look to your images, choose grays, browns, creams and pastel tones. If you love bright and colorful images, go for a bold color! Here are a few ideas for you:
Here are some simple color ideas for your engagement photography outfits:
Ensures that the focus is firmly on you. Never goes out of style! Examples of neutrals are brown, beige, black, gray and cream.
Ruby, sapphire or emerald give a very classy regal look that really pop. Typically gem tones might be present for a ballgown or flowy dress.
Soft and beautiful, gives an elegant fine art look. Examples include blush pink, sage, lavender, baby blue.
For those who LOVE color and aren’t afraid of it. You could combine prints too to add to the bold effect. Examples include red, yellow, blue, green and bright multi-colored patterns.
Zattcas Vintage style long-sleeved dress *Gem Tones*
Sarin Mathews Off-The-Shoulder Ruffle Dress *Pastel Tones*
POSESHE V-Neck 3/4 Sleeve Plus Size *Brights*
Dress according to what suits your skin tone (not the same as skin color)
To find out what suits you I recommend finding out your unique skin tone and wearing colors to suit it. There’s a whole science behind skin tone – and once you know what skin tone you are, you will never dress the same way again!
For a quick introduction, check out French fashion designer Justine Le Conte’s helpful video. If you have a warm/ yellow undertone to your skin (like I do), you will look best in warm colors like yellow, orange and warm pink. Shades such as blue, purple, bright red and cool greens do not suit.
For cool-toned people, it’s the other way around.
Pick an easy color scheme
OK but Zoe what is an ‘easy’ color scheme? If you are at a loss or just can’t decide, then I would say… definitely neutrals! Whatever your skin tone or color, I advise sticking to pale colors.
Dark colors absorb light, so the images will may lack the definition you would get from lighter colors. It’s easiest to go with neutrals because they don’t detract from the subject of the photos!
Let’s say you were both wearing yellow – that would be… a LOT! But if you both wear gray or other neutrals? That would look awesome!
Wear a long flowy dresses for engagement photos
This is a total cheat for having the MOST excellent engagement photos! But basically if you want something quick and easy and haven’t got a ton of time to make decisions, get a damn FLOWY DRESS!
A maxi dress with a pretty print is a real winner. Plus, it’s the kind of thing you will actually WANT to wear after the shoot’s done. Get your long, flowy dress in either a plain color or with a small, repeating pattern such as a floral print. It works really well in terms of style, comfort, timelessness, looking good on camera and suiting all body types.
Make sure you get one that’s fitted in the body and flares out below the waist as that tends to be most flattering. I say long or maxi dress, but shorter dresses are also cute!
Another quick tip is to avoid any pattern that is either too blocky or too fine. Blocky prints can be a little unflattering or awkward if the print really draws your eye to one area of your body where the print lies.
Fine prints can actually create the ‘moiré’ effect – basically when an interference pattern caused by lines that cross over and that doesn’t look good in photos.
Anyway, here are a few of my favorite flowy dresses for engagement shoots!
Jumpsuits are a new favorite. You can create a beautiful silhouette, look instantly put together and move even more freely than with a dress – and will definitely want to wear it again! Check out these awesome jumpsuits:
Incorporate a change of outfit
If you bring two outfits (or just can’t decide!) you can get a couple of distinctive looks. That’s also useful if you want more variety to your finished gallery, or want to use different photo sets for different purposes.
A common approach is to have one formal outfit and the other more casual. Just remember to map out where you will change outfits! Will you need to make a trip back to the car? If you need more privacy, do you know where the nearest restroom will be?
One idea is that you could wear the necessary layers underneath for decency so you can change discreetly in public! Like many other photographers, I advise keeping to a maximum of two outfits per session.
Choose a location that complements your colors
You may also want a location that reflects your color choices. An art museum or the steps of a historic building work wonderfully for something timeless and classic like a ballgown or long flowing dress.
If you’re that ‘big and bold’ person, more of an urban setting can work beautifully, perhaps even utilizing your city’s murals, storefronts or more colorful and modern architecture. Here are few thoughts off the top of my head for settings and the outfits that might work well:
Ice cream parlor: Colorful, fun, candy pastels. ‘Derelicte’ / Industrial: Bring out your edgier side with darker colors.
Somewhere majestic: Elegant and timeless works best with a more formal vibe.
Around the neighborhood: Everyday wear – with a cute twist (maybe shades, a sunhat, high ponytail, strappy sandals or a bow tie and fedora!)
Lifestyle shoot at home: Casual, everyday wear, even PJ’s or sweats!
Coordinate without matching
Try to avoid you and your partner looking like you match. You want to complement each other without being ‘the same’. Kind of like marriage, right?!
A little knowledge of color theory can be a good thing. Do a little online searching to find out which colors (and importantly, which tones) go together.
Don’t overthink the whole ‘coordinating’ thing. It can be really simple. Like if one partner is in neutral gray and white, the other could be in neutrals like tan and black. The key is to create as much unity in the outfits as there is between the two of you!
Choose outfits that allow for movement
Your engagement photos are the time you’ll likely get a little more dynamism and movement. Wedding outfits tend to be pretty stiff! Conversely, you want something you can move freely in, including even (if applicable) being picked up or spun around by your partner!
Movement with your outfit makes for really awesome photos. I favor long flowing dresses over short or tight ones. I also like fringes and tassels that add more interest to the photos.
For engagement sessions, I like many other photographers have the opportunity to create a LOT more moving around than on your wedding day – twirling, dipping, piggybacks, sitting on the ground, running, fireman’s lifts, push-ups (OK… kidding)
Accessorize for your engagement shoot
There’ll be a lot of time on your engagement shoot (way more than the big day itself), so make the most of it by incorporating details that can give you a super well-rounded set of images!
A pretty hat can add interest in some photos and can also act as a prop or something to do with your hands for other shots. If there isn’t time for a full outfit change, at least vary up the accessories which can transform your look!
You can jazz up the simplest pieces with statement jewelry. Flowers or other, custom props also count as accessories! I love seeing florals being incorporated into a photo session.
Layering up is an instant way to transform your look!
In a similar vein, adding a simple layer can give you more variety in your final images. For spring & summer shoots, think more along the lines of an overshirt, kimono, shrug or gilet.
Unfortunately, that ‘sweaty look’ can’t be Photoshopped out, so if you feel yourself overheating just take a moment, remove a layer, and cool down. For winter engagement shoots, it’s worth investing in a pretty coat or fur stole, especially if you are of the complexion that gets red cheeks when cold.
Dress for the specific weather at your location
Here in San Francisco, many of the most popular photography locations are incredibly windy and cold year-round.
This includes the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts, Sutro Baths, Twin Peaks, and any location that’s on the coast. To avoid wind and harsh conditions, it’s recommended to have your photography session inland. There are plenty of ideas linked below.
This means that when shooting at a coastal location, you can expect your hair to get out of place. You may need a jacket either as part of your outfit that you want photographed, or something you can slip on between sets of photos to warm up.
Sometimes on the beach or at the Palace there may be no wind and it may be super warm – but this is not very frequent, and should be seen as a bonus if you luck out with the weather! 90% of the time, it’s not pleasant weather so you should aim to protect yourselves from the elements.
Fog can be a factor to contend with in coastal areas too, particularly during ‘Fogust’. Sometimes the fog completely obscures the Golden Gate Bridge, so a plan B may be required. However, a little fog adds a beautiful, ethereal glow to the photos – and bolder colors such as gem tones really pop and create a magical mood against Karl the Fog.
Use texture to add interest and intrigue to your photos
Rich textures look great on camera. Contrasting textures are also highly recommended for your engagement shoot! Whether you want to contrast textures or just introduce interesting textures to the shoot, I highly recommend this. Some examples:
- Velvet is gorgeous on camera. It looks incredibly luxurious!
- Contrasting a beautiful fur/ faux fur stole with a lace dress.
- Clothes that have panels of different materials can create visual interest.
If these aren’t items you’d wear again, you can keep things affordable with an Amazon purchase and then donate it to thrift afterwards. Check out these suggestions below!
Make sure you feel comfortable
Ultimately, feeling comfortable is what will lead to the most relaxed engagement photos. Whether you want to dress up to the nines, or wear what you wear when relaxing at home – the point is the same.
Make sure your outfit fits you well and you’re not tugging at it, makes you feel confident and ready to take over the world! That confidence is what will come across in the finished pictures.
The ‘perfect outfit’ is nice, but really what makes you feel good and feel comfortable is what will be the best outfit for you.
Non-binary clothing choices for engagement shoot
I couldn’t conclude this blog post without some amazing clothing options for my non-binary friends. Why wear a gendered items like a dress if that’s not who you are?
Be unique, be you on your engagement shoot! Take inspiration from tried and tested items you already own before trying out something new. Pay attention to color and also to fit!
Make sure your outfits mesh well with the locations you are hoping to shoot in – or if you’re deliberately subverting the norms then that’s cool too!
Take inspiration also from your own relationship – shared memories, experiences and the way you are with one another in your normal day-to-day life. Search for inspiration online and if there’s something you like, then go for it!
Looking for wedding dress ideas? Give yourself plenty of time and order a couple of options to try them out first. It may take a few tried to get it right, especially when ordering online. If you love the boho wedding dress style, I’ve just the post for you!
I really hope this has helped you figure out what to wear for your engagement shoot, together with some practical and affordable clothing choices!