Weddings & Life Podcast with Taylor Nicole, a podcast by Denver Wedding Photographer, Taylor Nicole Photography
With Spring and Summer right around the corner there is a good chance that if you were newly engaged around the holidays or new year that you’re getting ready to plan your engagement portraits. So at this point you’re excited, ready and completely nervous about getting your dream engagement portraits taken because you’re only engaged for a short season and there isn’t an easy all inclusive guide about how to really rock your portraits. What if you’re shy or awkward in front of the camera or what if the weather isn’t perfect or what if you can’t find the right outfits? So much to decide and there can be a lot of pressure riding on these portraits as they might be featured on a save the date or your wedding website. So this episode is going to explain how to set a vision for your engagement portraits, things to avoid or navigate towards and little things you can do to give yourself a better portrait experience and end up with higher quality portraits themselves. I hope you enjoy this episode!
Welcome back to another podcast episode, I have been thinking about engagement sessions a lot lately as I am planning them with my new 2023 and 2024 clients. Details like locations, timing, weather backup plans, outfits and more can be overwhelming. I hope that your photographer is providing great information and help to you while planning your session. These are a list of bonus tips that might help you simplify your vision and show up more prepared for your best portraits on your engagement session day.
Also side note- to preface anything on this list we are assuming that you have found your wedding and engagement photographer, and yes it is very helpful I you use the same photographer for both your engagement and wedding when possible. And that you trust your photographer, like we discussed before trust in your photographer gives them the creative freedom they need to do their best for your portraits. And that you love that photographer’s style and artwork.
Okay so with all of that being said let’s dive into the list-
1- Define your vision for your engagement session
Without a vision for your portraits between Pinterest, social media videos, and seeing your other friends portraits you might not know where to even begin when choosing outfits or locations ect. So think about you, your partner and your dream engagement portraits. Let yourself dream for a bit and see what you can envision. I also thought of a helpful formula for planning your engagement session- Here is the formula itself- style word(s) + location + engagement. It’s silly and simple and it came to my mind when I was starting this outline because this formula is often how I try to title blog posts about engagement sessions.
So here is a little list of style words to choose from, you can always add to the list too-
Elegant, classic, romantic, classy, whimsical, fun, joyful, carefree, timeless, ethereal, editorial, adventurous
Now I had to stick to a list that I could personally relate to. You could technically say grunge, punk, funky, trendy ect. Those just aren’t style words that my photography style works well with.
So back to the formula, choose one or two style words and then pair that with a location idea, probably a general location. So some examples-
An elegant, romantic mountain side engagement.
A classy and timeless downtown engagement
An elegant, ethereal studio engagement
A joyful and carefree mountain engagement
I hope those help you start to brainstorm. So essentially you are creating a vision statement for your engagement session. Then what you do next is run every decision by that vision statement- like do you want your session on top of a parking garage or on a mountain side, how does that relate to my vision statement words of elegant and romantic. There isn’t a completely wrong answer and your vision statement might evolve as you keep planning but I hope you can see how that might help you filter through outfit decisions and more. If you’re going for timeless portraits you probably don’t want to style yourselves in the very latest trends, but maybe take a more formal and classic attire route. And everyone’s opinions of what fits within your vision will differ but hopefully this gives you a good place to start.
2- When it comes to selecting your outfits lean toward timeless neutral attire choices instead of overly colorful and trendy
Now this is completely an opinion. I am a bright, classic and timeless style of photographer so I am absolutely going to lean this direction. If you have a dark and moody photographer booked and want to go grunge dark clothing an a downtown alley then absolutely go that direction, your style and coming across as yourselves is important. So my main goal for your engagement portraits is that nothing in the photo detracts from you, the subject. That doesn’t mean that you don’t want a mix of close ups and far away images that show your environment and tell the story, but we want you to have a balance of fitting in with your environment and at the end of it all getting images for you that you can love forever.
Your engagement portraits can give a small hint of your wedding day style, vision or aesthetic. I am the sort of person who loves a good reason to dress up so I like to look at engagement portraits from the angle of you could choose to represent the formality of your wedding dress code, it’s not required or an unspoken rule or anything. You could throw a black tie wedding and still have engagement portraits in flannels, but something about showing up to your session dressed your best can really set your photos apart. Also usually we tend to pay more attention to how clothing fits and falls when it is a more statement piece or a higher investment so going the formal route probably leads to overall better fitted attire.
Most photographers, myself included suggest bringing two outfits to an engagement session. I recommend couples start in the more casual outfit and then change into the formal. This allows for a lot of movement and to get over any awkward in front of the camera feelings in the casual outfit and then feel like absolute models in the second more formal outfit.
Now let’s talk about the neutrals. I love color and I love patterns. I love most colors except for neons. And if you asked me ‘Taylor what’s the only thing I shouldn’t do for my engagement portraits?’ I wouldn’t even hesitate and would say ‘just don’t wear neon colors’ everything else is fine, but neons are not forgiving in photos and it doesn’t turn out well.
I recommend starting with neutral colors and even having one person primarily in neutral colors, first this is very easy to coordinate a statement or stand out color with, instead of trying to mix a strong green and a strong pink into cohesive outfits in an environment having a mix of white with beige and navy can flow a bit more naturally. Also neutral colors, unlike neons, do not leave a color cast on your skin, but instead they compliment and enhance and even out each skin tone present. I don’t know if anyone can relate but when I wear more bold reds or pinks it brings out the red tones in my face, which I personally don’t love but that might be more of a flattering color choice preference than anything else.
I personally lean toward brighter outfits to help you stand out from the environment and the fact that white can symbolize a wedding is a fun hint too. But in certain settings like downtown or urban environments a darker outfit color scheme might work well too.
So last topic to cover in this section is to stay away from trends. Some of us have been lucky enough to be able to seamlessly adopt the middle part and more roomy legged pants and I am sure there are even newer trends out there I haven’t kept up with yet either. I am going to go back in time, which could end up being relevant again today because trends do cycle. Can you recall or think back to when converse were all the rage? I remember friends getting married in wedding converse where they had the normal wedding attire and then each of them had bright red converse. So that is a trend I am referring to. Other short lasting trends when it comes to photography – using vintage suitcases to represent a love for travel together, or headbands, or scarves. Anyways, our portraits will eventually age us, we can’t be immune to changing styles and trends completely. But I will say for portraits that you are excited about and enjoy longer I’d recommend selecting classic clothing options whether that is in color or style.
I have also toyed around with the idea of consulting a personal stylist about engagement outfits, I think that could be a really fun way to get great fitting clothing that coordinates together well.
And I want to end this section saying all of these are my opinions so feel free to disagree with me.
3- The next step to upleveling your engagement portraits is to have your hair and make up professionally styled, having your nails done, and for our grooms to be out there having a relatively fresh haircut and shave or trim of any facial hair.
So part of this is coming from the fact that makeup professionally applied tends to be a bit stronger than everyday makeup, but believe me when I saw something like false lashes can really make eyes pop in portraits. So the simple hack here is to try to schedule your hair and makeup trial on the day of your engagement session. Also you might not always been able to coordinate this so it’s not a bad idea to just hire separately for this too. I also know plenty of clients who have chosen to have just one or the other styled. For clients who choose to have makeup professionally applied they will sometimes go to a local drybar to have a blow out styled. Part of getting great portraits is your own confidence and I see major shifts in confidence when a client has hair and/or makeup styled for a session instead of stressing about doing it themselves.
Having nails manicured and painted is a great idea too, because you will probably be getting some closer detail images of your hands focused around your engagement ring too. So the best way to show off your ring is to have a fresh manicure, and probably to polish/clean the engagement ring too.
And I can’t leave out the guys. I’d recommend getting a hair cut or trim a little before the session. I leave the wiggle room so the haircut has a chance to blend/grow in a bit. Unless you have it really dialed in with your barber and you know they’ll have you picture ready the day of. I know that I cut my husband’s hair myself and I love it the most after it has had a good week to start softening the hard cut lines that can happen with a fresh cut. This could also be because I am far from a barber or hair professional. Also making the call to shave or trim facial hair is a good detail to be aware of before your session.
Like I mentioned earlier it’s all about you feeling your best so you can show up confident and yourselves in front of the camera for your portraits.
4- Next up are the small fixes. These little things you can do that will immediately and completely change your images in a good way
-Empty your pockets- this means no cell phones, no keys, no chapstick, anything. These will show up in your images and there’s just nothing good that will come of full pocket outlines in your portraits, your photographer can carry your keys and everything else should be fine tucked safely in the locked car
-Iron your outfits as needed. Speaking from the perspective of having tried to photoshop out wrinkle lines in images it’s extremely time consuming and rarely works perfectly. This is a simple step you can take before your session that will leave you with fresh, clean and great looking outfits. Also if your drive to your engagement session location is long, say in the mountains or a few towns away. Consider a comfortable outfit to make the drive in and then changing into your first outfit on location.
-Brush, floss and whiten your teeth. The whitening is totally optional but a good brush and floss can go a long way in making sure your smile looks great!
-Bring a bit of hairspray and a comb or brush. Fly away hairs can tend to catch the sunlight so a light hold hairspray that can catch and hold those down could help out in backlit situations
-Bring or use a lint roller for each outfit. Pet hair tends to multiply and depending on the color and your outfits that could stand out quite a bit on your clothing
-Get rid of any gum- yes it will show
5- Lastly and still most important – relax, have fun and trust your photographer
I am starting to convince myself that trusting your photographer might sneak its way into every podcast episode. It’s worth it to remember though. So relax, be yourselves, show up confident and ready to have fun. Be excited, and it’s okay to be a little bit nervous too, but mostly excited to work with your photographer and celebrate being in love with your fiancé and ready to make memories together.
Thank you so much for listening to the podcast. I hope this episode gave you some fun planning and even tangible advice on how to prepare for and uplevel your engagement portraits. If you take a minute to leave a 5 star rating and even a simple review that would mean the world to me. Also sharing these episodes with your friend is one of the best ways for new listeners and wedding planners to find this podcast. I will be back in 2 weeks with another wedding planning episode!
Thanks for listening / reading!