Tips on Styling an Engagement Shoot

When I was younger, I essentially fantasized about becoming a creative director of sorts. I loved music videos and huge editorial spreads in fashion magazines and would sketch, plan, and design my videos and the story, costume, scenes, and sets (for songs from my first studio album of course) and…. mark down photoshoot concepts. It was my daydream of choice and I may or may not have a big binder filled with sketches and notes from these creative brainstorms past.

So, of course, when it came time to take my engagement pictures, I knew I was going to have a lot of fun styling and coming up with different looks and concepts. Luckily I had two wickedly awesome teammates in the process—Clara from Clara Rice Photography and Liza from Studio DBI. We teamed up to create something fun, editorial, and awesome that I could use on all my wedding things and to share with other websites, like How He Asked.

I created three different looks. One was woodsy, romantic, and a little fairytale-esque in the Presidio at Lover’s Lane. The pop of my red dress really added a nice element to it. The other was more classic, all black, formal with a back drop of statuesque pillars at the Legion of Honor. It was sleek and classic and more masculine. The final look was casual with a picnic, warm colors, and a backdrop of one phenomenal sunset at Land’s End! Each offered a little bit of unique scenery and flavor, illustrating parts of our personalities together.

I have a couple favorites from each shot and was thrilled with the outcomes. But everything is different for everyone. Here’s the best advice I have when coming up with a photoshoot for your engagement pictures that is right for you.

Pick a Location That’s Special

…and find the beauty in it. Pick the best it has to offer and roll with that! Since we live—and the core of our relationship started—in San Francisco, I thought it was fitting to do shots here. Lover’s Lane is a very popular spot for engagement shots which is why we did solely focus on our shoot there—but I love the trees, even though they are tricky from a lighting and editing stand point.

However, not a lot of people that I have seen have picked the Legion of Honor as their main shooting spot so I thought that crisp, all black, classic dress up look would be fun there. I wanted to ensure that at least one thing was a little out of the ordinary and more dressy. And Land’s End… for a casual, dreamy vibe it was perfect—one of the best spots the city has to offer.

I have seen people do stunning “at home” shoots that I thought felt very personal and reflective of their everyday life.

Any place that means a little something will do, or one that you both find pretty—that’s a good idea too!

Pinterest for Inspo… and Visualize

Sometimes we can sort of see what we want but it’s hard to illustrate. This is where visualization boards and of course, PINTEREST come into play and can really help you see what you like, don’t like, and what poses and vibes you are going for. Crack into it and use it to show your photographer what you like. This might also help you find a photographer in general as you will start to see what your style in photos is.

For instance, in fashion and editorial photography, I usually like darker more dramatic overlays and romantic vibes but for my wedding pictures, I wanted happy, bright with a lot of natural light and sharp editing to match the emotion of the day!

Find the Types of Poses You Want

Some things might not feel natural for you and your boo (ha). Other couples are more “hammy”, some like PDA, some don’t, and other people opt for your traditional. And others… well they like down right funny and silly! Do a little research and write down what you like. Also, before hiring a photographer, talk to them about this. A good, experienced photographer will know what to do and be able to give you the direction you need. (Trust me, it makes like so much easier when they are a little bossy). But that being said, don’t be afraid to speak up either!

Pick a Mood/Theme

Happy, light, romantic, casual, dramatic, fancy, natural… what part of your relationship do you want to portray? I wanted something fun and natural but also to do a few that felt fancy and special (when else do you dress up and take pictures like that?). I’ve liked something from every mood of our own shoot and other people’s so you can’t really go wrong. Just remember that!

Note: Also, think about the kind of Save the Date you want since that is what you will likely be using these shoots the most for. What matches your wedding theme/venue/wedding website? It’s nice to think of it all on a macro level. Odds are though, your taste will align somewhat.

Add Props

Flowers, champagne bottles, blankets… whatever feels right, don’t be afraid to incorporate it into your shoot. These props usually make poses feel more organic and give you something to focus on other than how your body position looks. You instantly become more natural.

Shop Accordingly

I chose not to do white since the rest of this year–our wedding, my bachelorette party, my shower, etc.–I will be rocking the color and there will be a lot of pictures of us where I am in white so I decided to play it up.

For long, dramatic, romantic and flowy dresses, check out LuLu’s! They have some great, affordable options. My sweater was from Vici Dolls (they have amazing pieces) and my black dress was from Nordstrom (Rack no less I think!). I bought a few things online and then returned what didn’t work but I spent some time mapping out each outfit with each setting so sort things out before you shop and whip out the wallet!

Find a Photographer You Can Communicate With

I know I gave some advice above about photographer like making sure they can be the right amount of bossy… and making sure their editing is what you want it to be. Also, talk on the phone, FaceTime, or meet for coffee before you lock them in. Trust me, everyone communicates differently and you want to work with someone who communicates in your style.

Also remind yourself that you can be friends with them (I LOVE all our photographers!) but it is a business venture and you are paying so say your piece. Be upfront and honest, make suggestions and speak up if you don’t like something or what to try something they haven’t thought of. And find someone who makes it fun and comfortable for you to have this role in the process.

Think of an Activity (and what you like to do together).

We had a picnic because hey–we love food! But if you want to stray away from the quintessential poses, I would make one of your looks (if you are lucky enough to have more than one) to have an activity. Need some examples? Cooking, boating, surfing, reading, playing a game, playing a sport…. you get me. It’s up to you! The world is your oyster! Also, remember photographers LOVE opportunities to expand their resumes and offer something different to their portfolios. Anything out of the box they are usually game for. Just make sure you have your solids and foundation shots in first!

And there you have it! This is one of the first things you’ll do that will make the whole process really feel REAL and honestly, the outcome and pictures are so special and stay with you in your family when all the hoopla and madness of the wedding subsides.

Enjoy it, it’s your time to be creative and thing of what best fits you and your future spouse. Above all else —BE PREPARED. It doesn’t take much, a little planning goes a long way. And don’t forget hair and make up ;o) Schedule that in. (I did my own make up but went to Dry Bar for a blow out so don’t think you need to break the bank either).

Have fun!



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