All photos by the wonderful Gene Pease.
When it came to engagement photos it seemed like I planned, and planned, and made way too many lists. Here’s the thing though: if you’re paying money for engagement photos, you have to put some time in on your end to make them work. The “we’ll just wear what we always wear and look natural” thing can go wrong so easily. Looking natural or casual can definitely be done, but it still takes some planning.
1. Think of the mental image you have of your photos. Standing in the location where you met your fiance? Coffee in a quiet cafe? It doesn’t have to be specific – maybe it’s just a general tone of “we want a happy, casual, everyday look” or, “we want to do something really epic with sweeping landscapes and formal wear.”
2. Consider specific locations and outfits. These two things should complement each other, but they don’t have to match. Wearing Black tie to the baseball diamond you had your first date could look REALLY COOL.
3. Narrow down actual location options and talk with your photographer. Make sure photos are permitted in the location you’re considering, and that the hours of the location will work with everyone’s schedules. Think about the number of other people who will be in any given location. If you want oceanfront pictures, the best time is probably not noon on Saturday when 500 other people are there.
4. Gather/purchase your outfits. If you have something that you must wear, plan around that. Find colors that complement each other. Dress like you’re going to the same event, but do not show up both wearing the exact same outfit. Try your entire outfit on it to make sure that it highlights your favorite assets and doesn’t maximize any insecurities. Make sure you can move in the clothes, but remember fitted clothing is more flattering in photographs. Accessorize. Plan for the weather.
5. Appearance maintenance. Literally write this down on a calendar for the week leading up to your photos. You do not want to pluck your eyebrows 20 minutes before your photos. If your fiance wants two days of stubble, plan which day he will shave before the photos. Same thing for hair cuts, hair coloring, spray tans, manicures, and anything else you typically do.
6. Book any special help. A lot of people want to look a little better in professional photos than they do in real life. I know I do. Getting your hair, nails, or makeup done, or getting a spray tan can help. You shouldn’t look like a different person, but if you suck at putting on lipstick or hate the way your hair looks often looks flat, just pay someone else to fix it.
7. Props. I think they’re cute. Some people don’t. Talk it through with your fiance and decide, and then pack everything and put it in the car a day in advance. This is something that goes back to your mental image of the photos – will props help you create that atmosphere?
8. Talk about poses you like. If you love engagement photos where couples look pensively off into the distance, talk about it with your fiance in advance rather than hoping he will do it on his own or that the photographer will direct you to. Make sure you’re explicit about the photos you want to have so you don’t regret missing them later. Photos with natural behavior and actions are lovely, but why waste your time secretly wishing for a photo of a spur of the moment cheek kiss when you can plan it instead?
For our specific experience, I knew I wanted dressy outfits and a natural but interesting setting. I found this architectural element in the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and thought it would work well, and our photographer agreed. The dress I bought specifically for the photos because it had a fun pattern and texture, a fitted top, and a fuller skirt. After I had the dress, a black and white checked shirt for Joe made sense. We tried it on with a variety of pants and the dark wash jeans were the nicest combination.
For the photos we each had our one outfit, plus sweaters that could work over the outfits, Joe did the tie/no tie option, and I brought two pairs of shoes. It was nice not wasting daylight going back to a building to change or sneaking behind the bushes. I had debated about the neutral color versus bright color for an outfit – so a black and white dress with the poppy sweater was ideal. Our photos lasted from 6:00-8:00 pm which was convenient with work. And we actually had a ton of fun.
Where I went wrong? I paid to get my hair blown out before the photos and it wasn’t worth it. The curls fell out after 10 minutes outdoors and it reverted back to my normal hair. I wish I hadn’t wasted money on that, but with pictures like this I really can’t complain!