Before we begin, I want to make it clear that the most important thing to me when it comes to what to wear for your couples session is that you wear something that is "you". I am not trying to force you to be something you aren't or wear clothes you don't like. The purpose of this guide is to let you know what clothing will look best with the setting we will be shooting in and what colors and textures to gravitate towards.
know the setting
The first thing to think about when planning your outfits for your session is where we will be shooting. Your clothing choice should be in line with the location we will be in. For example, if we are going hiking or walking in the woods, a fitted dress and heels would look out of place in that setting. If you and your partner are avid hikers, maybe consider wearing a slightly elevated version of something you would normally wear hiking, like jeans, a flannel and hiking boots. Let's say you love nature and want your session in the woods among the trees but wouldn't consider yourself an overly outdoorsy person, maybe opt for a flowy dress with muted earth tones and boots or something similar that looks nice but still fits in with the setting.
Still not sure where to start? Think of what you would normally wear on a date with your partner in the setting we will be shooting (walking around town, at the park, hiking a trail, at home) and go from there. Remember, the goal is to have the photos be true to who you are as a couple.
Now that you know the general "vibe" of your outfit, let's talk colors and matching vs. complementing your partner. I typically like to have both partners either both in solid colors or one person wearing a pattern and one person in solid colors. I generally suggest picking neutral colors and colors with muted tones; every color has a "muted" version and if you are both wearing muted colors its almost impossible for it to look bad together!
See an example of standard colors vs the muted version below.
You can see that basically any combination on the muted colors works together, especially when mixed with other neutral colors in your outfit to tie it all together.
I find that wearing muted tones works in nearly every type of location, and I especially recommend wearing these colors if you are shooting primarily in a woodsy or "naturey" setting, however there are certain kinds of locations that allow for more colorful outfits. Urban settings and some parks (especially in spring when flowers or in full bloom) can provide backdrops that would be great for more colorful outfits. Fun murals downtown, an eclectic bar, or a picnic at the park are all examples of setting where more color is an option. If you have a statement outfit, I recommend wearing it in these settings. Conversely, if you want a more minimal look, you can match your outfit to your surrounding; if the downtown area has lots of black and grey tones, wearing an outfit that blends in is another option.
Patterns & Texture
I love patterns and the dimension it adds to photos. I recommend only having one of you wear a pattern at a time, as it can become too busy if you are both wearing a pattern. I prefer for my clients to stay away from logos and large patterns as they can become distracting. Smaller patterns are ideal as it adds interest to the photo without pulling the focus away from you two. However, stay away from thin stripes that are very close together as they can cause a mioré effect in the photos, which is basically a fancy way of saying the pattern will look distorted and weird.
Another way to incorporate pattern and texture into your photos is by wearing layers. A cozy cardigan, leather jacket, neck scarf, or a jean jacket are all examples of layers that not only add dimension to the photos, but also allow for more variety throughout the shoot.
Two big things when it comes to shoes: wear shoes that are comfortable (I tend to do a good amount of walking on my shoots), and wear shoes that are appropriate for the setting (i.e. probably don't wear heels if we are on a hiking trail or somewhere very outdoorsy). I recommend not wearing shoes at all if we are doing an in-home session or somewhere where you normally wouldn't wear shoes (beach, lake, boat, etc).
This is a big one! Wear clothes you are comfortable in not just physically, but emotionally/mentally as well. It is so important that you feel good in what you are wearing, if you aren't it will show in your photos. If you are worried about your strapless dress falling down, pants being too tight, or questioning "does this shirt make me look weird" the whole time, you likely will not be able to relax and enjoy yourself.
Hair & Makeup
While professional hair and makeup can be a plus when getting professional photos taken, it is not a requirement. In case I haven't stressed it enough, I want you to be most comfortable, so if you would feel best getting your hair and makeup done professionally, do it! If you are most comfortable with no makeup and your hair in a bun, do that! If you plan to have professional hair and makeup done for your wedding, you may consider having your trial run for your engagement session.
Let's talk props, and no I don't mean something corny like you have seen on Pinterest. Props are a fun way to bring the "you" into a photo. Some examples of props you could incorporate are: pets, your car, hats, making smores or having a drink by a fire pit, having a cigarette, a bouquet of flowers, a jacket, a blanket, a picnic basket, riding bikes or a motorcycle, sunglasses, a polaroid or film camera, whatever you want, I just encourage it to be true to you!
I encourage you to bring a few different clothing/shoe/accessory options to your shoot. When we meet up on the day of your session I can go through the options with you and help you select the best pieces based off the weather, lighting, and location. I may suggest outfit/accessory changes throughout the shoot depending on how these variables change.
The bottom line is this: these are all merely suggestions and not hard and fast rules. If you want to wear twelve patterns at once, highlighter yellow, pajamas, a ballgown, or whatever, I'm not stopping you! At the end of the day I want you to do what you are most comfortable with.