A Comprehensive Guide to the Perfect Engagement Session Part 3 // Guest Blog by Taylor Abeel
Part 3: What to Wear for Your Engagement Session
By Taylor Abeel
Once you decide to have an engagement session and choose the perfect location and activity to tell your story, there is just one thing left to consider: “What should we wear for our photo shoot?” This is one of the most commonly asked questions by my clients as they prepare for their engagement session. It’s also one of the most difficult questions to answer, as styles and tastes vary widely, and I am no fashion expert. However, after more than a decade of shooting engagement sessions, I have discovered eight guidelines to follow when selecting your attire.
1. Choose timeless over trendy.
As a general rule, it is better to over-dress than under-dress in photos. All too often, casual ends up looking careless and sloppy. In order to create photos with a timeless quality, choose pieces which are classic and subtle, rather than bold or fashion-forward clothing you may be embarrassed to see yourself wearing five years from now.
I have found that natural, understated tones keep the focus on you instead of your clothing. Definitely avoid graphic images, busy patterns, and bold letters or words, which will steal the show. Instead, add variation through different textures and layers.
2. Wear clothes that fit.
Shop for your outfits well ahead of time, so you have time to exchange or alter anything that doesn’t fit right. Even clothes that fit relatively well will look sharper with a visit to the tailor or the help of a good seamstress. Splurge a little! You don’t do this every day.
3. Show off your best assets.
Let’s face it: we all have parts of our bodies we are less than proud of. Rather than feeling insecure and focusing on how to hide them during the shoot, choose clothing that showcases your good features. I have found that when people wear clothes they feel great in (rather than the latest runway style), they are much more comfortable, and look more comfortable in front of the camera.
4. Consider your setting.
Pick colors that naturally occur in the setting you have chosen for your shoot. For example, at a beach shoot, you might wear blues, grays, creams, or golden colors. In a forest setting, you might incorporate more earth tones or complementary muted reds. A city shoot would allow for more pops of bright color or contrasting neutrals. The goal is not to be camouflage and blend into your environment, but to compliment it and tastefully stand out within it.
Also, be sure to choose clothing that wears comfortably in the environment. If you plan a shoot up in the mountains on a trail, high heels are probably not your best choice (you can certainly pack them along, though). I have found that ease of movement keeps you from being distracted by your clothing or having to constantly fuss with or adjust it.
5. Get in the mood.
Do you want your photos to convey a playful, romantic, elegant, or sexy feeling? Depending on the mood you are trying to set, make sure you clothes align with it, both in style and color, but make sure to keep it classy (see #1).
6. Dress complementary but not “matchy”.
Choose colors which will complement each other and your environment (see #4), but don’t try to match each other. I have found that the best way to do this is to pick on or two shades within the same family of colors.
One way to help make your selection is to look at a picture of your setting (or someplace similar) taken at the same time of day as your shoot. Then, pick out some of the more subtle, or secondary, colors from that scene to incorporate into your outfits.
7. Details, details, details.
The details are where your personalities get to shine! You can very easily elevate the look of your entire outfit with a few, carefully chosen items. Ladies: the right makeup, one or two pieces of statement jewelry, and a pair of beautiful shoes will go a long way. Guys: a nice watch, shined shoes and a matching belt, unique socks (for the more creative types), and- if you are wearing a blazer or suit- a simple pocket square or colorful tie will sharpen your look. Pops of color are good!
8. When in doubt, leave it out.
It’s not necessary to have several sets of clothing, props, or other details for the photo shoot. In my experience, too many added details just look cluttered. If you would like to use a prop, choose one which complements both your story and the feeling you are trying to convey. If are indecisive and want to have options for clothing, limit yourself to one clothing change, perhaps something casual and something more “dressy”. Ultimately, the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery was right when he said, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
I hope these guidelines will be of help to you as you prepare for your engagement session. If you have any other questions or need further clarification, don’t hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Instagram @taylorabeel. Better yet, send me a picture; I’d love to see what you chose to wear!
This is the last installment in the three-part series, A Comprehensive Guide to the Perfect Engagement Session, by Taylor Abeel. To find out more, read:
Bonus: For a few great fashion tips, check out Ashley Weston’s blog for men’s styles and how to get a suit that fits or this post for women, “20 timeless fashion pieces you can’t live without”.
I would like to give a special thanks to Aimee May Wiley for her collaboration in editing this piece.