There is probably no type of photo shoot as fun as a photo shoot for couples, especially an engagement or other special occasion. Without small kids, there is little hassle – and nothing looks sweeter than two people in love! But sometimes, figuring out what to wear or bring to that photo shoot can be stressful and time-consuming, bringing the fun factor down big time.
Oftentimes, it is not easy for couples to pick out what to wear or what to bring to the photo shoot (if they even thought of bringing anything at all). It is difficult enough to figure out what one person wants to wear, let alone find a coordinating outfit for the “better half”!
The stress of it all is compounded by the fact that couples often use these photos for a lot of different purposes, including save-the-dates, wedding invitations, holiday cards, and thank you notes, as well as putting them up to decorate their new home. They want something that is going to look great and be useful for a number of purposes.
Sometimes photographers help with photo styling or prop styling, but many times they do not (or prefer not to anyways). Of course, most people do not have wardrobe stylists or prop stylists, like celebrities and big time magazines do (although, there is an exciting new and affordable alternative to that, which we hope you know about already!)
But overall, a little effort can make a big difference when it comes to “styling” your portrait session. Even if you want a more natural look, you can save a lot of stress by figuring out what to wear to the photo shoot early…and what to bring. And bringing some simple photo props that are unique and special to you can really bring your couples photos to life.
It only takes a little preparation to make a big difference. Below are a few highlights and lessons learned from a recent photo shoot styled on the Stylevise platform. We hope you will find these tips helpful as you prepare for your upcoming couples or engagement shoot – whether you choose to use a stylist or not!
Importantly, thank you to featured favorite photographer Ashlee Burke for so beautifully capturing this moment and talented stylist and Stylevisor Jessica Wilcox, as well as our lovely clients Jana and Sean. And without further ado, our very best style and styling ideas when it comes to expert styling of a couples photo shoot!
STEP ONE: GETTING IDEAS FOR YOUR PHOTO SHOOT
1) Think about the “look and feel.”
We think it is always a good idea to think about the look and feel you’re going for with the photos. Consider finding a few examples of photos online that may help communicate your vision and desired “look and feel” to your photographer.
Given the location of the photo shoot can sometimes play into the “look and feel” of your photos, your photographer may want to brainstorm some specific locations with you. Sometimes there is a special location that just speaks to the vibe you’re going better than others – like “Mountain Chic” or “Urban Cool.”
2) Consider a theme!
We also think it is fun when people get inspired to do something potentially new (or maybe a bit more unique from what they’ve done before) and look to more styled shoots in magazines and online for inspiration.
Jana and Sean, featured above and below, are already married – but a young married couple headed off for a new adventure to a new city, including grad school at Carnegie Mellon University and a new job! For their “theme,” they were excited to do a fun “bon voyage” shoot to capture this moment in their lives, before departing the city they’ve lived in for the past five years.
3) Choose a color palette!
This is sometimes the most challenging part, but can also be the most fun and exciting once decided. A specific color palette (usually 3-4 colors), chosen by you or with the help of a stylist, can be a really fun way to determine what to wear and bring to the shoot. It makes deciding what is in and what is out much easier. You can try and create a color palette yourself by using a tool like this color palette generator here. Above you can see the awesome color palette for Sean and Jana’s photo shoot, suggested by their stylist Jessica.
STEP TWO: SHOP SMART FOR YOUR PHOTO SHOOT
1) Start with comfortable classics.
Feel good in what you are wearing. No matter how styled the shoot is going to be, we love starting with a “base layer” of some comfortable but stylish basics. In this shoot, basic blue jeans on Sean and white jeans on Jana make the shoot relaxed and fun.
When it comes to classic pieces, we like to stick to stores that are tried and true like Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic. These stores have great return policies and very fast shipping. There are often sales and free shipping to take advantage of, with and without a Gap or Banana Republic card.
Don’t forget your own closet too! Often the best place to find basics you feel really comfortable in is at home. Start with the pieces you love, and find some fun, new, colorful pieces to then complement them.
2) Add a little “flair.”
The problem with most shoots is that people are so scared that their looks will “clash” they never move on from the comfortable classics and it leaves everything just looking a little boring. With a little help from stylist Jessica, you can see that Sean and Jana have no such problem. With the tricks here, you won’t either!
The comfortable classics they started with are smartly complemented by strong, exciting colors and some really awesome shoes (all within the color palette approved upfront). We love Jana’s coordinating pink necklace and pink loafers! Adding some complementary color and style to the shoot really makes the pictures pop.
When it comes to finding those “fast fashion” items, go outside your comfort zone and look at inexpensive retailers like H&M, Forever21 and even Zara (we especially love Zara Kids!) Just watch the shipping time and return policies – these can be a little longer and trickier than places like the Gap. (For example, H&M doesn’t have an express shipping option and also doesn’t allow online purchases to be returned in local stores.)
We also like the idea of going super glamour and fun by renting a designer look from RentTheRunway. Who wouldn’t want gorgeous pictures of yourself in couture to show your future children (and grandchildren!)?
3) Don’t forget accessories and props!
Most “normal” people don’t think too much about accessories or props when it comes to a photo shoot. But trust us, these small touches can make a big difference in the final photos.
Playful accessories and props add life, laughter and uniqueness to a shoot. They can be super functional, like a throw blanket that keeps you dry from the wet grass. But they can be really meaningful too, such as the vintage suitcases and “Bon Voyage” banner Jana and Sean used to commemorate their next big move to another city, embarking on life’s next new adventure, together.
For one-of-a-kind accessories and customized photo props, we can only think of one go-to place: Etsy. But there are many, many more. Etsy can be a little hard to shop if you don’t spend much time there, but with a little effort (or the help of a Stylevisor) you can find some really amazing things.
Depending on how much time you have before the photo shoot, it can be so much fun to hit up a vintage store or two or even your friends’ houses to find new and interesting pieces. This vintage book featured in one of Jana and Sean’s photos was borrowed from a friend who loves coffee table books and also helped throw a library-themed wedding for a friend.
Adding some personality does NOT have to be expensive!
STEP THREE: FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR YOUR PHOTO SHOOT
1) Keep track of your outfit and accessories.
After you order all those items, try to keep everything in one place until the day of the big photo shoot. We like the idea of writing out a list (or even creating and referring back to a Style Guide and checking off that you have all the items in place a few days before, and again the night before. No need to add to the stress on the day of! Also, think about laying out your clean clothes the night before. Please, don’t forget to iron. And don’t be scared to dry clean select items so they look extra crisp!
2) Allow time for hair and makeup.
Life can get so busy it is hard to remember to leave yourself time to do hair and makeup, or better yet, get your hair and makeup done. If you are in a bigger city, you might want to consider services like The Glam App or The Dry Bar (one of our personal faves). But even if you don’t go anywhere to get hair or makeup done, there are so many resources out there, including great videos on YouTube that walk you through the steps to take in order to get a specific look for hair and makeup perfect before the shoot.
3) Ask a friend or family member to be your “photo assistant” and schlep around the props and accessories.
It is super hard for the photographer to worry about the location, the lighting, and everything else. Having a spare set of hands to schlep around any props, to help adjust your collar or accessories, remind you if you’re smiling in a quirky way, or to just keep an eye on things while you pose, can be super helpful. And you can offer to do it for them next time!
TO STYLE OR NOT TO STYLE?
Honestly, we think your photos are going to be amazing, no matter what. But we know it can be stressful and time consuming to get everyone prepped for the photo shoot, and we hope these tips can help.
Plus, isn’t it a little bit fun to work actually style your photo shoot, with ideas, outfits and props that really express who you are?! And get photos that have you shouting from the rooftops you love them so much?
Here you can see a picture of Jana and Sean first without a “styled look,” and secondly with a more styled look (via Jessica and Stylevise). Both looks are absolutely gorgeous (and we love Sean’s jacket!), but you can see how stylist Jessica gave them a little more edge and “pop” in the second look – which makes for a fun and different style than they might have chosen themselves.
Thinking about booking a photo session? If we can help you with your photo styling needs, or any other styling needs, we’d love to hear from you. But no matter what, HAVE FUN on that photo shoot and remember that this time spent taking a moment out to enjoy the one you love – and recording it – is so important. You will cherish these photos of the two of you for a long time. So cheers to you!
PS – if you or someone you know is a talented photo stylist who would have interest in working with more clients on our platform, please send them to us! We always love meeting new, talented people.