When I’m preparing to post images of couples on our social media or website, I’m looking for a lot of things. How does the lighting look in this image? What story is it telling? Do their reactions look natural and in love?
You know what I look for when it’s time to post an image of myself?
Do I look good in this picture?
So trust me when I say, “I get it.” It doesn’t matter how great the lighting is, the background is, how much love is showing on your fiance’s face, if you think you look “weird” in a picture you’re not going to like it. You’re not going to want to have it displayed in your custom wedding guest book we make you. You’re not going to want to frame it in your new home. And your grandkids are going to miss seeing young and in love grandma and grandpa in old, framed portraits.
Our mission as your photographers is not to just take pretty pictures, but to create lasting images you LOVE and want to look at over and over again. And we fail at that mission if everything is technically perfect but you don’t like how you look!
There’s a lot we can do on our end to help with this, including teaching you our posing techniques and walking you through looking natural for your engagement portraits session. But another element that ensures you love your engagement portraits is decided before you even arrive, and that’s what you wear. The outfits you and your sweetheart pick for your engagement portraits will go a long way in making you love the way you look in the finished product.
So in this post for our Bride’s Advice series, we’re going to tackle the topic of dressing for your engagement session so you LOVE your engagement portraits!
Being Dressy & Being You
When our Sweethearts ask me what to wear for their engagement photo session, my response up until now was “dress one level above what you consider natural for you.” I wanted to help our couples find the balance between dressing in outfits that felt like them and not out of character, while also helping them dress for the special occasion of once-in-a-lifetime engagement portraits. I wanted to help them feel dressy and beautiful, and also comfortable and like themselves.
But I’ve realized this response still doesn’t provide practical tips in picking out clothing options for your engagement session. So here are a few tricks we’ve learned as professional photographers that can help you nail your engagement portrait session outfits.
For the Ladies
Pick an outfit that will make you feel confident
My number one trick for helping brides-to-be love how they look in their engagement portraits? Wear what makes you feel confident! You know that feeling of putting on an outfit you love, or a new dress in your favorite color that makes your eyes pop, and suddenly you feel like you look amazing and can conquer the world? Find an outfit that makes you feel that! And avoid outfits that don’t, regardless of what’s cool and trendy right now.
If I’m being 100% honest (and I can do that with you, right, because we’re friends?), I’m a little bit self-conscious about my stomach. Having 2 kids has changed my waistline and I’m aware of that. So wearing a dress or top that is tight across my stomach does not make me feel confident at all. It makes me feel like maybe people are wondering if I’m pregnant again. I’m working on feeling more body-positive, but in the meantime, I’m always going to opt for more flowy dresses and tops for portraits because they make me feel more super model confident and less self-conscious.
So when you’re picking out your engagement portrait outfits, brides, think about how the outfits make you feel. Because your clothing choices are going to impact your emotions at your portrait session. If your outfit makes you feel uncomfortable, you’ll feel and look uncomfortable for the session. But if your outfit makes you feel confident, that’s going to show in your face and you’re going to kill it for your engagement portraits!
Dresses are my favorite go-to suggestion for our brides-to-be for two important reasons. First, dresses will make you look more feminine. Most brides-to-be want to look bride-like in their engagement portraits. They want to look beautiful and feminine, and a dress will help accomplish this much faster than jeans and a nice top. Second, dresses come in so many different styles you will definitely find one that makes you feel confident! Whether it’s a flowy skirt and matching top, a shorter cocktail dress, or the perfect sun dress, you are bound to find a dress that makes you feel beautiful and “dressy enough” for your engagement portraits while also feeling 100% you.
The power of heels
Can I let you in on a little secret? Wearing heels during your engagement session is a small thing you can do to make a huge impact on how you look in your engagement portraits. A good pair of heels can do so much! Heels will make your legs appear longer in portraits, tricking the eye into thinking you’ve gained a few inches in the length of your legs. Heels force you to stand on the balls of your feet, which in turn gives more definition to your calves. Try standing in front of a mirror wearing flip flops vs. heels and you can see how much more defined your calf muscles and legs will be in the heels! And finally, standing in heels forces you to have straighter posture to keep your center of gravity, which will help you not slouch in your back and/or shoulders during your portraits. Longer looking legs, defined calves, and looking taller with better posture can all easily be accomplished simply by choosing a pair of heels over sandals or flats. And if you’re worried about your feet hurting, I’ll let you in on another little secret. Bring a pair of comfy flats or flip flops to wear when your feet aren't in the picture.
For the Fellas
Dress up for her
Most guys are going to choose dressing for comfort over dressing up every time. But showing up to an engagement session in shorts and a shirt is not going to make you say “Wow!” when you see the portraits, and it’s probably going to frustrate your fiance as well. So my number one tip for guys here? Dress up for your fiance. She probably has a vision in her mind of how she wants you both to look for these once-in-a-lifetime portraits. So ask her! Humoring her by wearing some slacks and a button-up shirt for this one thing is going to help her vision come to life, and earn you some points with her too!
Dress to her level
A follow up to dressing up for her is to dress at the same level as your fiance for engagement portraits. If you wear jeans and a nice shirt which is dressing up for you, but she wears a floor-length gown, there’s going to be disunity between you, even if both of you are technically “dressed up.” However, if you dress at the same level as her, you will look like a unified, beautiful couple. And her beauty will be reflected well by you, which in turn will make you look handsome too.
The power of suit jackets
Here’s our little secret for our J&M Grooms-to-be. A blazer/suit jacket is going to do wonders at making you look masculine and handsome in your engagement images! Just like the heels for our ladies, a suit jacket is a small choice that makes a huge impact. And here’s why - the ideal masculine frame is a triangle, with broad shoulders narrowing in at the waistline.
Think of any superhero and all of them have costumes that help them appear broad shouldered and narrowed at their chiseled, rock-hard abs. Now think of Homer Simpson, who I think we can all agree is not held up as the ideal, attractive man. What is his body type? Round shoulders with a larger waistline/lower half, the exact opposite of our superheros. My guess is you’d rather look like Captain America than Homer Simpson in your portraits, right?
Well, a suit jacket makes that happen for you! A well-cut blazer gives the appearance of broad shoulders by squaring your shoulders. It will draw in more at the waistline. And the lapels literally highlight the desired triangle shape, drawing the eye from broad shoulders down at an angle to a slimmer waist. A superhero body all from simply putting on a jacket!
Love how you look = Love your engagement portraits
We hope these tips will give you confidence when you're trying to decide what to wear to your engagement portrait session. We think keeping them in mind when preparing for your session is going to go a long way in making you feel like a confident rock star in front of the camera. And feeling confident is going to ensure you love your engagement portraits for years to come!
To see more beautiful engagement portraits, head over to our gallery on our J&M Weddings page.