Engagement Sessions: What to Wear

4 steps to actually choosing an outfit

I love engagement sessions. Engagement photos can be used for wedding invitations and save-the-dates, or just to document your time as a couple before getting married. Engagement sessions are also so valuable to me as a photographer because they’re an opportunity to get to know you and observe how you interact with each other so that I can capture your relationship most authentically on your wedding day.

My approach to engagement sessions is to keep them as laid-back as possible. The two of you should be comfortable so that I can see how you naturally act together, and I also want to build your confidence so that the camera feels like no big deal on your wedding day, because it really isn’t! Being comfortable and confident also extends to the outfits you wear during your engagement session. A lot of couples tell me how freaking stressed they get trying to choose their clothes, so I created this guide to help relieve some of that! Here are 4 actually real, thoughtful ways to plan the best outfits for your photoshoot:

Mood board featuring a warm color pallet and summer outfit inspiration for engagement sessions in beach locations such as Southern California.
Color pallet and mood board giving inspiration for outfits to wear for a desert engagement session.

1: Mood Board

This step is great for envisioning what you want your engagement session to look like, but I mostly recommend it to help choose a color palette for your outfits.

– The first piece of inspiration to start off your mood board should be some photos of your engagement session location or a similar landscape. Pull the most prominent colors from these photos to start your color palette. Here is a tool to help you pick and save color options!

– The next step is to add more colors to your palette. Choose colors that both compliment the colors of the landscape as well as your skin tone. Here is a great resource to find out if your skin tone is a spring, summer, autumn, or winter and which colors best suit you.

– Once you’ve curated your color palette, look for some outfit inspiration that fits both the landscape and vibe of your engagement session, as well as your personal style.

You can also look through my Pinterest board below for example outfits and mood boards!

Vintage mid-century inspired color pallet and outfits for engagement sessions.
Mood board featuring ideal colors and outfit ideas for a mountain top hiking engagement session among pine trees in locations like Sequoia or Yosemite National Parks.

2: Start with a foundation

There’s a couple philosophies that are a perfect fit for both outfit planning and home organization: working with what you have and asking yourself, “does this bring me joy?”. Much like my personal hero Marie Kondo, I’m going to tell you to first pull everything out into the open. Go to your closet and pull out anything and everything that you feel the most comfortable and confident in (because that’s what it’s all about!). Then separate anything that doesn’t fit in with your color palette or the type of landscape we’ll be in during your photoshoot.

Pick one or two items that you really, really love and want to include in your engagement session. These can be anything – a favorite band tee, a cool hat, your most flattering jeans, anything! Just pick these items and then build some outfit options around them. One of my favorite tricks is to take an item and then use the Pinterest search bar for outfit options including that item (i.e. do a search for “corduroy skirt outfit” or “autumn denim jacket outfit”).

3: Put your choices to the test

By this point you should have at least a few outfit ideas! Don’t get stressed if you’re still thinking of a lot of different options. Options are good, and you can easily narrow them down by asking yourself these questions:

Does every part of this fit the way it is supposed to?

Is it too tight? Will you have to keep adjusting or pulling up any part of it? Choose clothing you can put on, be comfortable in, and not have to worry about “how that one part looks” the whole time.

Is it interesting?

If you have a simple or single-color outfit, take a quick mirror selfie and make sure it doesn’t become a plain blob in front of a camera. Does it have any visually interesting features like a definite shape, pattern, texture (i.e. a chunky knit sweater or a dress with a cutout)? If not, add some texture with layers!

Is it distracting?

In your search for visual interest, don’t go overboard. In general, it’s a good idea to stay away from logos on clothing, multiple or very loud patterns, and overly bright colors.

Does this outfit make sense?

I prefer real, candid moments over stiff poses, so my engagement sessions include a lot of movement! Make sure you can move around comfortably and fairly easily in your outfit. If the location of your engagement session includes a walk through the desert or sandy beaches, save the heels for date night. Seriously.

Simple items (like your favorite clothes that you already know fit well) can easily be layered for the perfect outfit.
Here are 2 all-neutral outfits that are still visually interesting with the help of prints, layers, and textured accessories.
Best thing to wear on a hiking engagement session? Hiking boots make a lot of sense.

4: Ask Me!

If you still can’t narrow down your options, get a second set of eyes on them. Feel free to shoot me a message or even bring some of your choices with you! No one expects you to have as much experience with what looks good in front of the camera as me, your professional photographer, and I truly enjoy helping my couples get the best results from their engagement photos! Part of my expertise is knowing what will look best in photos and with the backdrop of your photoshoot. If you want more than one outfit, I can also help you coordinate them so you have a coherent look and feel for your gallery.

Some extra tips for matching your outfits:

DO stick to your color palette. You can choose one color for you both to include in your outfits, then layer it with neutral colors, or you can each wear different complimentary colors from your palette.

DON’T dress identically. If you just wear matching shirts with jeans, it’s going to be hard not to make it look like you’re siblings in a Sears family photo from the 90’s.

DO pick out your outfits together. This is an opportunity to not only make sure they are complimentary to each other, but that they really represent your individual styles as well.

DON’T be too stressed about it! In the long run, this is just a way to spend some time together as a couple and document your relationship.

This couple chose to include the same pop of color in their outfits. To keep it from looking too match-y, they used layers of different neutral colors and some simple patterns and textures.

See these engagement sessions for inspiration:

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