Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Engagement Photo DOs and DON'Ts

I still don't get the point of engagement photos. Feel free to write an essay below -- in 100 words or less pls -- explaining to me WHAT THE FUCKING POINT IS.

But. Maddie's comment over on "Pleez help me dress myself for my engagement photos" was so bloody helpful -- not just for those of you preparing for engagement photos, but for any of us preparing to be photographed EVER -- that I thought I'd try to squeeze a little more advice out of her.

(Lady does know how to shoot an engagement photo, or a "love photo" if you'd prefer to call it that.)

Here. She. Goes.

I have a confession to make: The first engagement session I ever photographed was for a friend. She and her fiance let me "style" their shoot, and in all of my novice glory, I put the poor bastards in matching outfits. Red shirt for him. Printed red dress for her. Awww....so sweet. ::shakes head::

BUT - you don't have to repeat my mistakes! So, to make up for the evil done against my poor friends, I offer you the do's and don'ts of engagement outfits:

DON'T. Wear. Matching. Outfits. Coordinating a *little* bit is fine, but you're not a member of Destiny's Child. You and your partner are unique individuals (it's why you love each other!) If you don't dress like each other every other day of the week, don't dress like each other for your engagement shoot.

DO think of your surroundings when picking out colors for your outfit. For example, if your photos are in a park, know that a green dress is going to make you blend in with the bushes. Something on a red scale (like pink) will really pop against the green, or for a more subdued look, a cool color like blue will still differentiate from your surroundings. If you need help figuring out which colors will pop the most, look at a color wheel. The hues directly across from each other will stand out the most (red and green, purple and yellow, orange and blue). But basically anything other than the color you're standing in front of will work.

DO wear something patterned or a color-blocked outfit if you're worried about certain anatomy standing out more than others in your pictures. Because fabrics create shadows and highlights, and photography is all ABOUT shadow and highlight, solids one-piece outfits are going to make every bump show through your clothes. Patterns will still show off your fabulous figure, but will camouflage the bits and pieces you don't want to accentuate. Color-blocking breaks things up a bit - and the different colors, textures and fabrics will add interest to the outfit so it's not just about the silhouette.

DO wear fitted clothes that aren't super clingy if you want to flatter your body (I know this isn't some people's style. I get that. But if you want your body to look smokin' in your pics, it will get lost in shapeless clothing). If you're curvy like me, clothes that fit closer to the body are going to do you more favors than loose-fitting outfits. Also, draw attention to your favorite parts by adding interest there. (Great rack? Wear a v-neck. Sexy arms? Go sleeveless. You get the point).

[Editor's Note: I'm sorry Shannon, but YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A GREAT RACK.]

DON'T wear white. Wedding dresses are full of intricate detail that can photograph beautifully, but for the most part white doesn't really show up well in photos. There are exceptions of course, but color is your friend.

You DON'T need a new outfit. If you have something in your closet that makes you feel like a super star, wear it. You love it for a reason.

DO wear makeup. Even if you don't usually wear it, cameras have a tricky way of picking up every uneven tone on our faces. You don't have to go full-on musical theatre with it, but a little foundation and mascara will go a long way toward making your pictures reflect how you look in real life (and if you do normally wear makeup, wear just a tiny bit more).

DON'T forget accessories. If you are going to wear solids (which is totally cool by the way! You don't *have* to wear patterns) then I suggest a strong accessory like a statement necklace or earrings, or headband or WHATEVER makes you feel cool. The color rules for accessories are the same as above. A mustard necklace is really going to pop against an eggplant sweater.

Speaking of cool. DO wear something that makes you feel cool. Frankly, for all the rules and regulations above, wearing something you feel awesome in is going to make your pictures look fantastic. Nothing can substitute for confidence. Are you listening to me? Nothing.

DON'T play it safe. Nobody else is watching, so none of your friends on Facebook are going to see these if you don't want them too. Engagement photos shouldn't be a chore, so have a little fun with it.

DON'T treat any of the above like hard and fast rules. I'm not Stacy London. I won't come to your house and take all your clogs away from you. At the end of the day you just need to feel good about how you look.

So, those are the general do's and don'ts. The following are some personal beliefs:

You DON'T need a causal outfit. For some reason, everyone thinks they need a casual outfit. But unless you really want one, it's unnecessary.

DO look like the most dressed up version of yourselves. Wear what you would normally wear to a really fun party (this is open to your interpretation of course). This is partly because it dresses up your photos and partly because party outfits put people in a mood to have fun.

DO understand that your photographers don't see your body the way you do. Of course we want to give you the most beautiful, flattering photos of yourself. But if I'm your photographer, then I automatically think you're drop dead gorgeous. I don't know that you hate your arms or that you think your ass is flat. If you look happy and in love in your photos, it's a total disservice to yourself to fixate on body parts (and I say this with love, because I'm guilty of it too).

DON'T be afraid to ask our opinion though! If you're between outfits, we can usually give you a good idea of what's going to photograph better. And if you do have certain hangups about how you might look, we can usually offer advice for how to play up your best assets. (I will, however, refuse to acknowledge anything you might call a flaw. You're fucking gorgeous, ok?)

Nearly all of this advice works for any occasion, amirite?

Photos by Maddie + Monica of Hart + Sol


  1. subclause of the whole look-like-a-dressed-up-version-of-yourself idea: DON'T stage your shoot in a neighborhood you wouldn't normally touch with a ten-foot pole because you want to borrow the look of its street art.

  2. @Lauren - FOR REALZ. Monica and I usually think that the best sessions take place in and around people's homes. YOUR HOMES ARE COOL, GUYS. So are your neighborhoods. You live there for a reason.

  3. My biggest "do" for engagement photos is wear something that's you. Look like yourself. If the point is to get nice photos of you and your significant other at this point in your lives, then both of you should look generally like you look at this point in your lives (plus a little spiffying up for the camera/posterity). Wear what makes you feel the most comfortable and confident. (For me, this involved jeans.)

  4. I want to hang out with maddie so baaddddd

  5. Keep your chin up. Literally. That's the best advise I can give you for looking good in photos.

  6. I keep my chin too far up - our photog kept telling me to put it down.

    I liked doing our engagement photos because it gave us a chance to get comfortable with our photographer.

  7. Oh, and ESB - the point is that everyone HATES having their picture taken. Like, more than they HATE getting shots. Engagement shoots are like the tiny one-bandaid shot that makes you feel better about your pain tolerance before they go in for the kill with the tetanus booster.

    And for photogs, engagement shoots are how we pregame.

  8. we didnt wanna do e-photos but our photographer said it was included in our price to book her. she calls them a 'getting to know you session' and the whole purpose was that! it made a better vibe between her and us for the big day.

  9. But you can still not totally understand them. It's ok. They *are* awfully weird from any other standpoint other than practice.

  10. Damn, I was hoping that this was more of a "DON'T take your photos holding balloons or standing in a field with a suitcase".

  11. Maddie pretty much covered what I was going to say about what the point of taking engagement photos is, but I still don't get why certain wedding blogs that are otherwise helpful/enjoyable insist on posting them constantly (in some cases more than actual wedding photos).

    I THINK that's where the frustration with engagement shoots comes from.

    1. For me that's the reason...engagement photos should be a *private* enjoyment!

  12. The main point of “professional pictures” (that’s all Engagement pictures are) is that you have some nice ass looking pictures of the two of you.

    Not many of us are gifted at taking awesome pics of each other or actually getting both of ourselves in the photograph.

  13. Could they also be an introduction to people who only know one half of the couple? My FMIL asked us for a photo because apparently whenever she told anyone we'd gotten engaged they asked her for a photo of us. Having no engagement shoot meant we sent out a bunch of grainy cell phone pictures.

  14. Lots of folks already said it but engagement shoots are great for feeling comfortable in front of the camera and someone ordering you to awkwardly make out in front of them so it doesn't look so awkward when you have to do it at the actual wedding. Plus it helps you get to know your photographer and their style of shooting...are they good at making you feel at ease, do you like how the photos turned out, is it a good fit, etc. A lot of times it's already too late for people to switch photographers after the e-session but I have seen it done when someone just doesn't gel with their photographer the way they thought they would.

  15. Great information1I'm lucky to have read this before doing our engagement photos.Thanks!

  16. Looking at people's engagement photos make me feel uncomfortable. Doesn't even matter if it's friends, best friends or people I don't know. They make me squirm. Never understood the point. I would LOVE to see any essays you were sent about why they matter.