what to wear?

Tips on how to dress for your engagement portraits | Jason & Melaina Photography | Texas Wedding Photographers

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!

Tips on how to dress for your engagement portraits, Jason & Melaina Photography, Texas Wedding Photographers

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.

Tips on how to dress for your engagement portraits, Jason & Melaina Photography, Texas Wedding Photographers

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.

Tips on how to dress for your engagement portraits, Jason & Melaina Photography, Texas Wedding Photographers

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!

Photo of Jason by the talented  Powley Photo

Photo of Jason by the talented Powley Photo

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.

The Salazar Family | Downtown Waco Family Photography

Whenever I'm having my initial discussion with a mom or bride about a photo shoot, I'll always ask her if she has a vision for what she'd like the shoot to be. Simply deciding to have portraits taken and choosing a photographer who matches with your style is already a lot of decisions made, so a majority of the time she'll respond with, "I"m not really sure." 

So we'll start providing options. Do you like portraits taken in an open field with a breath-taking sunset in the clear expanse of sky above? Or do you find yourself drawn more toward portraits with architecture and urban life providing the backdrop?  

In our experience, everyone divides into one of two camps - rural or urban portrait sessions. Once we know which camp a family or couple feels most at home in, then we can start tossing around some possible locations to see which ones resonate best with them.

So when I initially talked to Dawn about her family shoot, I asked her if she would prefer a natural landscape or urban cityscape as the setting for her family's portrait session. She said she liked both, but then shared a story with me that made the decision easy. She shared how she and her husband had raised their kids in Waco, but were now planning on moving away soon. I asked if they had any special places in Waco they wanted to remember.

And then Dawn shared how when her kids were little and the evening fussiness set in (as it often does for little ones), she and her husband would load the kids up in their car and go for a drive. They would roll windows down and play their music loud, and drive their babies through the streets of downtown Waco until they fell asleep in their car seats. It became a routine for their family, a fun way to entertain and calm the babies, as well as a cheap date night for Dawn and her sweet husband. So much of a routine, in fact, that Dawn shared they still drive through downtown with their windows down and music blaring, even though the kids are no longer babies. It was a family tradition now. 

After sharing her story, I told her, "Well, we have to take your portraits downtown then."

And so we did. They weren't in a car with music blaring, but they were walking and running hand-in-hand down the very streets they've driven all these years together as a family. They were walking together, hand-in-hand down the same Suspension Bridge they had driven past countless evenings. And for just a moment, we were able to stop time and immortalize their family's bond with this special place, providing a physical reminder of the fond memories they have of their life here in #Wacotown.

I can think of no better shoot location for this sweet family.

Thank you so much, Salazars, for trusting us with your memories. We hope they hold a special place in your memory as you move on to the next adventure in your story.

What to wear for your family portrait session in 5 easy steps

You have decided it's time to have family portraits taken. You've picked your photographer, set up the scheduled shoot...and now you find yourself wondering, "What should we wear?"

It's one of the top questions we get asked when we work with families. As a mom, I (Melaina) recognize it can seem daunting to pick out coordinating outfits for every member of the family. Whether buying all new outfits for everyone, or staring into open closets and full laundry baskets wondering what everyone is going to wear, coordinating multiple people without going the route of "Everyone wears a white shirt!" can be intimidating.

And the excitement and hopeful expectation of fun for the family portrait quickly dissolves into stress.

Let's not let that happen!

So, I wanted to share my advice of how to EASILY pick coordinating outfits for every member of the family and look AMAZING at your portrait session. (All those years working in retail and studying design in theater are finally paying off for me.)


Coordinating outfits for a family portrait session in 5 easy steps- 

1. Start with the most difficult-to-dress member of the family. (We all have one). Pick his/her outfit. (Exception to step #1 would be if a member of the family has a particular outfit he/she must wear for the shoot. Then start there.)

2. Determine the dominate color of first outfit.

3. Pick a complimentary/coordinating color to go with first color.

4. Pick a darker neutral color AND a lighter neutral color.

5. Now take your four color palette, and pick everyone else's outfit based off this palette. Note: not everyone has to wear all four colors, but everyone will coordinate if they all wear 2-3 of the colors in the palette.


Real life example using our family- 

1. I started with Jason because he only had a few shirts he wanted to wear for our shoot. We settled on his favorite forest green button-down and jeans.

2. The first color for our palette was now darker green.

3. His shirt actually had a tiny line of blue running through the pattern, and I happened to have a fun blue and green scarf I wanted to wear, so I picked blue as our second color of our palette.

4. Our girls had just received new black boots I knew they'd want to wear, so black became our darker neutral, and then I settled on cream white for our lighter neutral.

5. We now had a four color palette consisting of dark green, blue, black and cream. From that, I pulled together these outfits from our closets and we ended up looking like this.

Photo credit:  Powley Photo

Photo credit: Powley Photo

Boom, coordinated!

So no need to fret over what everyone should wear. Simply follow these 5 easy steps and your family will look great for your portraits...well, if everyone smiles and no one has a meltdown that is. (Speaking from experience.)