Great Engagement Portrait Tips

Here’s some great engagement portrait tips and ideas that will help you to get the most from your engagement portrait session!

A cute couple kissing behind a red lollipop during one of their fun engagement portraits in Stillwater, MN.

Michelle & Ben enjoy a “sweet” kiss!

Occasionally couples will tell us that they aren’t sure whether they really want to do engagement portraits. Or to save a little bit of money, some of them will ask us if we can give them a discount if we were to take it off their Wedding Collection. Since it’s included for free in all of our Wedding Collections, it doesn’t offer any savings by skipping it.

Some couples will ask me there is really any benefit to doing an engagement portrait session. My answer to that question is something that Ole & Lena would say: “you betcha!”

Asking me to photograph you and your fiancé before your wedding is one of the most important things we can do to help improve your wedding day photography. Simply stated, Joannie and I create better wedding photographs when one or both of us have photographed you before your wedding day.

There’s a reason why our wedding photography looks the way it does and much of that is because of the relationships that started during the couple’s engagement portrait session. Isn’t having beautiful wedding photographs the reason why you selected us as your wedding photographers in the first place?

A fun engagement portrait taken in a spring snowstorm at Anderson's Portrait Park in Mounds View, MN.

Jen & Ben play in the snow!

It’s only natural that you might feel a bit anxious about being photographed by a professional photographer. Because your wedding day is not the best time to experience any added pressure, one key benefit of an engagement portrait session is that afterwards you’ll feel much more comfortable in front of our cameras.

During your engagement photo shoot, we’ll also gain a better understanding of your personalities, your style and your best expressions. We’ll also discover if you have “good side” and might also find out that you’re a blinker too. I also want to show you how to appear “casually elegant” and how to “pose with attitude” in your photos so that your engagement images will have a candid feel that we know you’ll probably want to emulate on your wedding day too.

An engagement portrait session is also a great confidence builder. Being able to see how great you look in your engagement photographs will increase your personal confidence and your confidence in our skills as your wedding photographers. Plus it’s just fun to do!

Finally, there are only so many professional photographs you can give as gifts or display with you in your wedding attire. The photographs from an engagement session offer an opportunity to have photographs of you as a couple without the implications inherent in photos of you in tuxedos or wedding gowns.

Engagement Portrait Tips – But What Should I Wear?

We would like to see you both looking awesome for your engagement portrait session! With that in mind, we’ve put together several helpful tips about getting ready.

Lake Superior photography of an engagement portrait created by the famous Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge.

Engagement portrait of Patrick & Brittany by the famous Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge.

Engagement Portrait Tips – Wardrobe

When couples ask me what they should wear for their engagement portrait session, I typically recommend that they wear clothes that are solid colored whenever possible.

As a general rule, it’s usually best to avoid highly contrasting colors. Simply put, if you’re wearing light colors, then your fiancé should also wear light colors. If you’re wearing dark colors, then your fiancé should also wear dark colors. That being said, you should choose complementary colors and not necessarily matching colors. Please avoid solid white clothing.

You can go a variety of ways on the clothing style depending on the location where we are going to create your engagement portraits. Please choose attire appropriate to your engagement portrait location.

For example, if we’re at the Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis, I’d recommend clothing suitable for a somewhat fancy cocktail, garden, or beach party. For men, I’d recommend a collared button-down shirt with a sport jacket and slacks or dark jeans with closed-toe leather dress shoes or deck shoes. For women, I would recommend sundresses, cocktail dresses, or a skirt with blouse. And of course fancy shoes.

Engagement portrait in the fall colors taken at Lake Como in St. Paul, MN.

Fall colors.

  • Avoid selecting wardrobe items featuring strong patterns, busy prints, or logos.
  • The exception being if we’re at Target Field for example, each of you wearing Minnesota Twins jersey’s would be very appropriate in at least a few of the images.
Engagement portrait taken at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN..

A Twins fan & a Cubs fan. Must be love?

  • Dark, solid colors are highly recommended because they are both slimming and will make you look more tan. As mentioned earlier, avoid solid white clothing except when worn under jackets or sweaters.
  • Unless we’re at the beach (which we could be), don’t wear shorts, cargo pants, t-shirts, polo shirts, sweats, jogging suits, leggings, athletic shoes, flip-flops, crocs, or men’s sandals.
A cute couple standing in the St. Croix River during one of their engagement portraits in Stillwater, MN.

The beautiful St. Croix River.

  • Except during our cold Minnesota winters where layers are always “in fashion,” avoid multiple layers of clothing as layering can sometimes make you look bulky in photographs.
WInter engagement portrait taken in Anderson's Portrait Park in Mounds View, MN.

WInter engagement portrait taken in Anderson’s Portrait Park.

  • If you’re wearing thin clothing, ensure that undergarment straps aren’t visible through your blouse, shirt, or dress.
  • Even for slender female subjects, it’s often difficult to focus attention on one’s face if a bare arm is competing for attention in a photograph. Therefore, we recommend that you avoid sleeveless dresses, shirts, or blouses. The more skin you cover up, the more your faces will stand out in your engagement portraits.
  • Make sure your wardrobe is pressed and free from stains, pet hair, or dandruff. An insignificant wrinkle can sometimes detract from an otherwise great photo. For men especially, it’s typically best to hang your shirt in your car and only put it on when you arrive for your session. That measure prevents wrinkles from forming on your shirt while you’re driving.
  • If it’s going to be a hot day, guys should wear an undershirt. Retouching photographs featuring sweaty backs or armpits is an expensive proposition.
  • If you’re going to wear an undershirt, make sure that it isn’t visible at your neckline. My best advice is to wear a v-neck, scoop neck, or deep neck undershirt.
  • Bring along an alternative outfit. Although we typically don’t have time for too many wardrobe changes, you should be prepared for any contingency or wardrobe malfunction. During one warm summer engagement portrait session at Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop in downtown Stillwater, MN, our groom dribbled ice cream down the front of his shirt. In another instance, a bride spilled coffee on her skirt in the car. In both cases, we were saved by their back-up wardrobe.
  • Shoe selection is important. In a grassy setting, high heels can be prone to sinking into the grass so you might consider wedges instead. We’ll almost always be walking quite a bit so keep that in mind when you’re making shoe choices. You can always carry your fancy shoes and put them on when we arrive at our locations too.
  • When you clean your clothes, remember that fabrics fade. That fading might be very apparent in your photos. Consider buying something new to wear for your session. You might be glad you did. A side benefit of having your engagement portraits taken, it’s a reason to go shopping!

If you have any questions about your engagement portrait wardrobe, please e-mail or text us photos of what you plan to wear and we’d be happy to offer you some free advice.

Minnesota Harvest Apple Orchard engagement portraits in Jordan, Minnesota. Engagement image of a couple kissing by an old antique car under an umbrella in the rain.

Nolan & Amanda kissing by an old antique car in the rain.

Engagement Portrait Tips – Wardrobe Color Choices

It’s helpful if you choose wardrobe (and makeup) colors that complement your skin-tone, hair color, and eyes. These color schemes and their complementary colors are traditionally segmented into four groups, and named for the seasons Winter, Summer, Autumn, and Spring.

  • Winter complexions have dark or very light hair. Skin tones are often pale white, olive, or dark. Many Asians, African-American, Hispanic, and natural white-blondes fit within this coloring category. Intense colors like black, navy blue, red are ideal along with lighter colors including pastels in blues, pinks, and yellows. It’s always best to avoid brown earthy tones along with subdued colors like beige, orange, and gold.
  • Autumn complexions have golden skin undertones that can be described as pale peach, golden beige, or golden brown. Individuals with red and brown hair and golden or dark eyes fit in this category as well as some individuals with golden brown or black hair. Colors that are most complementary include rich warm colors like camel, beige, olive, orange, gold, dark brown, and warm gray. Colors like white, pastels, and blue tones should be avoided.
  • People with Summer complexions have very pale skin with pink undertones. Many individuals with natural blonde hair and sometimes brunettes with pale skin and eyes are often segmented to this category. Since there’s not much contrast between the skin, eyes, and hair of someone with a Summer complexion, clothing choices are particularly important. For best results, try to choose neutral colors and pastels. Some excellent color choices include powder blue, dusty pink, mauve, lavender, plum, and pale yellow. Vivid colors, earth tones and orange should be avoided.
  • People with Spring complexions have subtle golden skin tones that are usually creamy white or peach. Individuals with this coloring usually include natural golden blondes, auburn, or strawberry blonde redheads. Members of this group also often have light green or blue eyes as well as freckles and rosy cheeks. Colors that are most complementary include pale, soft colors like peach, camel, golden yellow, golden brown, aqua, ivory, bright greens, reds, blues, and coral. Colors like white, or dull colors should be avoided.

Engagement Portrait Tips – Grooming

Before your engagement portrait session you may be thinking to yourself that you don’t need to check those eyebrows, visit a manicurist, or get a haircut. But please don’t think that way.

  • Getting a manicure a few days before the portrait session is a great idea—even for gentlemen. we don’t always feature close ups of hands in photos, but it may be nice to have that as an option.
  • Your haircut should be at least a week old.
  • Check your nose, ears, and eyebrow areas for stray hairs. Tweezers are your friend.
  • Unless you’re going for the “rugged man” look, men should shave no more than a few hours before the engagement portrait session. We’ll be taking several close-up photographs where facial hair shadows might be very evident.
  • Stray hairs are difficult to retouch. If hair spray doesn’t help, put light lotion on your hands and then apply that lotion to the offending flyaway hairs.
Close up portrait of Nolan about to kiss Amanda during their Minnesota Harvest Apple Orchard engagement portraits.

Fun little moment with Nolan about to kiss Amanda.

Additional Engagement Portrait Tips & Hints

There are many other things to consider, but here are just a few more to round out our long list of recommendations.

  • Avoid alcohol and get a good night’s sleep before your engagement session. Bags under your eyes detract from your photos.
  • Plan on leaving cell phones, purses, bags, makeup, and other accessories hidden safely in your car. If your keys are bulky, remove everything but your car key from your ring or put them in your back pocket. We don’t want bulky things in your front pockets.
Engagement portrait at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on Lake Superior.

Split Rock Lighthouse.

Engagement Portrait Tips – Props

I’m always willing to incorporate props into an engagement session. I typically recommend props that have some special meaning or significance to the couple. For example, if the bride is a tennis player and the groom is a baseball player, a tennis racquet and baseball glove might be considered.

  • Your prop choices are limited only by your imagination and any location restrictions.
  • Some trendy props have been used by so many couples in recent years that they frequently appear on thousands of Pinterest wedding boards. Examples of props include balloons, vintage luggage, vintage cameras, scrabble pieces, fruit, picnic baskets, period clothing, mustaches, picture frames, and ampersand signs.
  • If you want to bring a ton of props, you’ll probably need someone to manage those items during your engagement session and that’s certainly fine with us. We typically photograph you with your props during the first or last 15 minutes of the session.
  • If you’re bringing props, please run your prop ideas by us first as we may be able to offer unique insight that will perhaps save you time in your preparation.
  • In some cases, the props you may be considering could be problematic due to the location selected. Some locations don’t allow prop use by visitors.
Winter engagement portrait of Adam & Sherry in their back yard on their Arctic Cat snowmobile.

Adam and Sherry ready to ride in the winter snow.

Engagement Portrait Tips – Pets

If you and your fiancé have a pet and you would like to include him or her in your engagement portraits, we think that’s a great idea! We know first hand with our “grand dogs” Nala & Yogi, how easily pets become an important part of your family.

However, including your pet can be problematic of there’s no one else around to contain them and since most of the engagement photos will be just the two of you. And since we’re not big fans of leaving an animal alone in a car, especially in the summer heat, you’ll need to supply an animal sitter.

That person should be someone who is comfortable and capable of assuming the duties of “pet sitter” for the whole engagement portrait session; preferably some distance away to avoid distractions.

It’s also important to consider that not all areas that we visit during your session might allow pets in the first place. It’s best to check out the local ordinances to ensure that pets will be allowed in the locations you’ve selected.

Engagement portrait with a dog taken at Michael Anderson Photography's Portrait Park in Mounds View, MN.

Adam, Tawnya and Draco.

Engagement Portrait Tips – Best Time of the Day

The warmth, depth, texture, and contrast of photographs are dramatically affected by the angle of sunlight. We will have the best light when the sun is low on the horizon in the early morning and late afternoon. Photographers call this time of day—near sunrise and sunset—the “magic hour” or the “sweet light.” To take advantage of this great lighting, we should try and schedule your session near sunrise or sunset so we can achieve the best possible results.

In the morning hours, as the sun climbs across the sky, the quality of light becomes harsh—and harsh light sources aren’t very complementary for our style of photography. This “hard” light can cause deep, dark shadows on facial features. It also can cause you to sweat and squint in your photos. Although I can address some problems with harsh light, it’s certainly not an ideal situation and it usually limits the locations that we can use.

Generally speaking, the farther away we are from sunrise or sunset, the less complementary the light becomes for photography. On cloudy days all bets are off and we generally can work just about anywhere.

Engagement portrait with a chocolate lab. Image created in brilliant Fall colors in downtown Minneapolis, MN near the Guthrie Theater.

You Color My World.

Engagement Portrait Tips – “Story Telling”

During a typical engagement session we’ll work together to create beautiful portraits of you and your fiancé. However, given the constraints and intent of most sessions, we’re taking individual photographs; we aren’t telling a story that has a beginning, middle, and end. That kind of photography is typically referred to among photographers as an editorial or a themed shoot. We call it “Story Telling.”

If you’re interested in kicking it up a notch and you want something very different from a typical engagement session, let me know and I’ll fill you in on what makes a “Story Telling” shoot with me that tells your story. It takes a bit more time to plan (sometimes a lot more time) and it costs a bit more (sometimes quite a bit more), but when we’re done, you’ll have engagement portraits that are more spectacular and unique than any you’ve ever seen.

I Love You!

I Love You!

Here’s what just a few of our wonderful clients have to say about working with us:

Monika said…

“Michael and Joannie are amazing photographers and do impeccable work, but more than that they are great people. They went above and beyond on our wedding day helping with flowers to hair, etc and they stayed late so we could get a beautiful night shot. You will regret it if you don’t choose them!”

Monika (& Joe) Maxey on Wedding Wire

 

David said…

“Michael and Joannie were absolutely amazing to work with on our engagement shoot as well as our wedding at the Profile Event Center on May 16, 2015.

When we first met them at the wedding fair a few years ago I was incredibly impressed by their knowledge and their flair for capturing unique images that no one else would think of. I was very picky when it came to picking the photographer for my wedding as I am an aspiring hobby photographer and knew firsthand how easy it can be to pickup a camera and how hard creating memories can be. They proved through their work that they are very knowledgeable and managed to capture our event perfectly. They did a great job working with the surrounding area to create unique compositions, working with our family to capture portraits, and engaging the kids at our wedding to capture some really fun memories.

You won’t find a better pair of photographers who are down to earth, like one of the family, and very talented artistically and technically.”

Dave (& Gina) Carlson on Wedding Wire

 

“We’re very pleased with the results, a wide variety of photos and he even recorded some brief video. Michael is very easy to work with, he is really laid back, and has a good sense of humor. We were asked a number of questions about what we like and he handled the planning from there. His wife helped out during the wedding and snapped candid shots along the way.

The flexibility to adapt as lighting conditions and the schedule changed was impressive. Michael even went out of his way to incorporate our bicycle theme into a number of the photos.

We can’t say enough about how delighted we are with having chosen them to capture those important wedding moments.”

Stephanie & John Fagnant on The Knot

 

“Great wedding photographers, very professional. Mike is always willing to take the extra time to make it perfect.

Our wedding went off with out a hitch and they were able to capture our story from start to finish. You could not ask for anything better, a huge thank you to Mike and Joannie love you both!!”

Buddy (& Diana) Waldbillig on The Knot

 

Steve & Dee Dee Larson (upon having their album cover become “sticky” after 26 years)

“Michael,

Thanks so much for replacing (our defective wedding) album. We are grateful to have worked with a photographer that after 26 years stands behind the product!

The album is beautiful and we are thankful.

God Bless,

Dee Dee & Steve” – hand written note

 

Max said…
“Michael and Joannie were awesome. I’m not particularly comfortable around cameras, and a big event like this can be pretty stressful. Our photographers made me feel right at home, and our pictures came out great. Thanks again!”

Max (and Laura) on Wedding Wire

 

Amazing! They make your day so special and have great ideas for photography! They capture all the special moments and we wouldn’t recommend anyone else!

Sarah & Andrew on The Knot

 

“You could not possibly be in better hands. They took pictures at my sister in laws wedding and it was spectacular.  I don’t have enough hours in the day to tell you how much everyone loved the photos and how lovely they are to work with.

We enjoyed them so much that we go back and see them for easter pictures and now we are doing a family picture with them in a couple of weeks…check out their blog on their website when you have time to just sit and enjoy all their beautiful creations.”

Maria Armstrong

“Great Engagement Portrait Tips ©2017 Michael Anderson Photography.