The Journal

What to wear for engagement photos

Outfits for your wedding day portraits are pretty straightforward. Engagement sessions are a little trickier, and lots of couples ask me for suggestions on what to wear for engagement photos.

Right off the bat, avoid logos, all black, bright white (if you want to wear a white dress, go for some texture!), conflicting colors, and not to be all matchy-matchy. Those are pretty basic rules-of-thumb that people know to avoid, more or less, but here are some additional suggestions for couples who are preparing to have their pictures taken.

Los Olivos engagement photos

Sydney + Mark in Los Olivos

Being comfortable will translate to the quality of your images! Feeling relaxed for your portrait session can be strongly linked to what you’re wearing — if you’re dressed up too much, you might feel stiff and awkward, and trust me, that will show in your photos!  It’s better to convey your true selves for optimal photographs (though you should probably generally avoid sweatpants and running shoes).

A great piece of advice from photographer Lexia Frank:

“The biggest myth I can bust here is that you do not need to match. Actually, please, don’t. It is so fake and contrived, and as a photojournalistic photographer I’m doing my best to keep it real — I just can’t with matching outfits. Coordinate, sure, but don’t match.”

Here are some examples of what works well.

Leo Carrillo beach engagement photos

Cat + Monte in Malibu

This first example looks good to me because it covers a couple of bases, one of which is avoiding “matchy-matchy.” The couple chose a palette of neutrals and navy and pulled from that color family. The colors are coordinated without being matched. They also dressed to their personalities, and a white dress is always a fun nod to the wedding itself.

It’s also worth mentioning that they chose the Malibu Pier for their engagement session, and their wardrobe reflects that. The J.Crew-inspired navy blues and neutrals fit well with their location.

Santa Ynez engagement photos

Nicole + Nathan in Santa Ynez

Lots of couples are also interested in doing an outfit change (this is especially true if the engagement session covers more than one location). If this is the case, sometimes the couple chooses one outfit that’s more “casual” and another that’s slightly more “formal.” The important thing to remember with this is to be consistent together — if one of you is casual and the other a little more dressed up, you’re going to look disjointed. So, just stay in the same style group.

The Line Hotel Los Angeles

Alyssa + Loess chose some killer footwear for their Los Angeles engagement

And a random note, but something that’s easy to forget: don’t overlook your shoes! They’ll be shown in photos, too.

Some additional tips for dressing for portraits:

  • Dress for the weather. There is no sense in having a well-planned outfit but then freezing (or sweating) and feeling uncomfortable and unhappy during the shoot. It will show through in the photographs. Have backup outfits ready for cold weather.
  • Texturespatterns, and layers give interest to your shoot just as those same elements give interest in interior design.
  • De-stress beforehand, even if that means having a glass of wine. Also keep in mind that having your photo taken care be an awkward experience and your session will likely begin that way, but if you have a great photographer, you’ll start to relax and enjoy yourselves.
  • Flowy dresses are always a big bonus; anything that shows movement will translate beautifully to photography.
  • Consider getting your hair and makeup professionally done; it makes such a huge difference in how you feel during the shoot and the final product afterward.
  • Trust your photographer. Remember, it’s all about the light, the connection between you all, and the location. A boring parking lot can be completely transformed once you step into the best light.
  • Only bring props that you feel are intrinsic to you as a couple and that are appropriate for the location. The main objective is to photograph the love and connections in your relationship, not the items in your life – unless they relate directly to your love.
  • Don’t put off shopping until the last minute and wear your clothes for the first time on your shoot. You want to know what you can and can not do in them. If you feel restricted, it might not be the best choice.
  • Sometimes less is more, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to clothing! The less skin exposed the more we focus on your faces and the connection between you all, and the more timeless your photos will be.
  • Don’t be late. When that sun sets, it’s all over.

Ready for more inspiration?