Monday, 17 May 2010

HOW TO: Style an engagement shoot...

I have recently been styling a number of engagement shoots and thought it would be really helpful to give you some pointers on how to make your shoot unique to you and just as fabulous and wall-worthy as your wedding photographs.

Last Friday, Jen Huang of Jen Huang Photography posted the following question from another photographer on her Facebook page and I believe that it is really helpful for all of you brides and grooms who will be taking engagement shoots...

Q: How do you avoid shooting engagement sessions that look like every other engagement shoot you've done?

A: Figure out what's special to your bride and groom and style it in a way that brings out what is special about them. Photographers who are successful are usually expert stylists and directors as well. For example,... I just shot an engagement for a bride and groom who loved travel. Instead of just telling them to do "whatever" I showed them the recent Anthropologie catalogue which was shot in India, and pretty much dressed them and styled them to get that look. You have to find the balance between dictating the style and being too casual. Many of my brides and grooms look to me for guidance, and we talk extensively about their engagement before hand.

Now, this being said, do keep in mind that typically you will just set a date with your photographer for the shoot and decide on a location, whether it be your apartment or house, a park or somewhere else. It is really up to you to make the shoot amazing and original.

Here are some tips on how to style your shoot if you aren't already working with a professional wedding stylist:

1. Find your style.

Think about what story you want to tell. For example:

How did the two of you meet? What are your favorite pastimes?

Do you love to travel to Europe and love art? Maybe your shoot should be inspired by your favorite paintings.

Are you a food and wine lover? Maybe your story should be told through visiting vineyards or going to your local green market (preferable when it isn't so busy) and then cooking together.

Do you love to read and both love vintage everything? Then the library or second hand book shop combined with an antique look and feel would be perfect.

2. Pick a location.

What is your favorite spot in your city and town? Outdoor photos tend to look more amazing than indoors as the natural light looks think about what buildings, homes, parks, streets you love and tell your story with photographs from the outside.

Do you want photos on cobblestone streets or in front of brownstones? What about an old plantation home or a farm? A big lake in a park? The steps of your local museum? Select a location that fits with the look and feel you are going for.

3. What to wear?

What type of outfits work best with your overall style and theme? If you are going vintage like Mad Men, maybe a bigger skirt would do or a fitted dress. You could bring your fiance to Brooks Brothers for Mad Men inspired suits.

Or if you are looking for casual elegance and are shooting on a boat, think polo shirts for your man with linen trouser and a cute summer dress with a sweater for you.

4. It's all about the props...

Just like in the theater, props always help to tell the story. Having a cappucino in a cafe, riding bikes through the park, riding horses, reading a book, smelling a bouquet of flowers - these are just some of the many ideas that you could think of. Just make sure that it helps you to tell your own personal story...

5. Be colorful.

While the LBD (little black dress) is a staple part of every girl's wardrobe, I don't believe that it is the best choice for photographs since it keeps them dark and doesn't add much to the story.

Try to choose a color so that the photos have flavor. For example, if you and your fiance wear all light colors and are against a lighter backdrop with pastel colored props, then your photos will have a softer, more romantic, spring/summer feel whilst if you are both in deeper, jewel tones, your photographs will seem more dramatic fall/winter feel.

Photo above is by Jen Huang Photography.


  1. Great post! Perfect for a couple about to have engagements. I think I am going to send couple to this post before their shoot :). Thanks!