While you’re super busy booking venues, deciding on color palettes, floral arrangements, cakes, party favors, and your wedding attire, it’s still important to devote some time to planning your engagement photo session. With that comes the bigger question, what should you do with your hair and makeup? Zola is here with expert advice to make sure your photo session is a memory that you’ll want to look at time and time again.
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If you plan to have your hair and makeup done for your wedding, it’s tempting to save by skipping hair and makeup for your engagement photos. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but these are photos you’ll have forever. “These photos showcase who the couple is and their love for one another, so hair and makeup should be effortless,” says stylist Megan Chase of Love Lane Salon.
Engagement photos are a rite of passage before sailing into the rest of the pre-wedding festivities. While the session isn’t a must do, the resulting photos are something you’ll cherish forever. So, if you’re on the fence, let these various styles and tips help you make up your mind.
These are the photos you’ll show your grandkids years from now, and most often, the look is closer to what you look like in your daily life versus how glammed up you’ll be for your wedding. “The style for the engagement photos should be a toned-down version of what you’re doing for the wedding,” says Ghanima Abdullah, cosmetologist and hair expert at The Right Hairstyles. It’s the opportunity to capture a special time in your life and the love you share, so go with the look that makes you most comfortable.
When deciding what hairstyle or makeup look to go with, consider what the weather will be like; consider the differences of taking spring engagement photos vs. a photoshoot in the summer. “Will it be humid? Do you sweat on your face or hairline? Waterproof makeup isn’t necessarily sweat-proof, because the water from the sweat is coming from inside of you not outside,” Megan Garmers, founder and director of MG Hair and Makeup. Abdullah says if it’s an inside shoot, then you should adjust your style to fit that. “If your engagement photos are indoors, you’re likely a very formal person. If that’s the case, a formal hairdo is fine, but if you’re outdoors, a formal updo may not be the look you need.”
It’s easy to want to pick a hairstyle that you’ve never tried before to showcase in your engagement photos, however you know your hair type. “If you know your hair doesn’t hold a style well, plan accordingly. Make your hair appointment, or do your own hair, as close to the shoot time as you can,” suggests Chase. It’s best to try out the style a few days beforehand to make sure your hair will hold the style for a long period of time. You don’t want it to fall right in the middle of your photo shoot.
You want your skin to look flawless in your photos, so you need to start with a great base to get your makeup to stand out. Experts say it’s important to get your skincare routine in check so you won’t have any problems the day of the photo shoot. That includes a good cleansing, exfoliating, and hydrating.
Knowing your skin type and tone will help you determine what type of makeup is best to use, says Garmers. “If the makeup you normally use is more for the summer when you have a tan versus in the winter or early spring, it won't look the same on you.” When deciding on the type of makeup, make sure it works for your skin. “If you have more oily skin, don’t do anything too glowy or dewy, that will happen naturally as the day wears on,” advises Chase.
It’s already stressful enough planning your hair and makeup for the engagement photo shoot with your sweetie, but you also have to consider what you’re going to wear. “Think about what makeup look will go well with all your outfits, so you don't have to change your makeup during the photo session,” suggests Garmers.
Whether taken inside or outside, you have to be aware of your background—especially when deciding on your makeup look for the shoot. Determine if your photos will be further away with a specific background or close up with the background in the distance, says Garmers. “ If [the photos are further away], your eyes and lips can easily fade and [won’t] be distinguishable in photos. You will want to go a bit darker for your eyes and lips for them to show up.”
You’ll feel most comfortable and beautiful by staying true to yourself and your relationship. Engagement photos are supposed to reflect the love you two share, so embrace it. It may be tempting to take it up several notches and try something completely different from the norm, but experts agree that sticking with what you know will make you feel more at ease. “Your hair and makeup should reflect the vibe of your photos. If you're going for a more casual or candid shoot, keep the hair and makeup more like your everyday look. If you’re going for a more glam vibe with the photos, then your hair and makeup can be a bit more formal,” says Chase.
No matter your style, we’ve got some looks that could work for your engagement photos.
Focus on blending to cover up imperfections and blemishes, but make sure your base makeup looks like it’s your natural skin. Don’t forget to add the blush. “Keep [the makeup] light and fresh. Having youthful makeup is the key to amazing engagement photography. Pick neutral or soft colors, such as peach or light pinks,” says Dawn Clemens, founder and CEO at Larwe Hair.
From loose updos and waves to fishtail braids, the beauty is this look can be whatever you want it to be. “Long or short waves are really going to pull off your boho look. If you have textured hair, you can even try locs,” says Abdullah.
If you’re looking to keep the styling to a minimum and still pull off a look that’s close to how you normally style your hair, Garmers suggests going for natural styles like a low bun. You can use your natural hair texture or use a curling iron to add curls. Gather the hair into a messy low bun, and secure it with elastic. Try a blowout, beach wave, or even a soft ponytail for a softer natural look. Abdullah says leaving your hair long or creating a loose updo will give you a natural, relaxed look. “Spend just a little more time on your everyday hair, and use a little more product to make sure it holds,” Chase adds.
Going glam for your engagement photos doesn’t have to mean you go all out like you would for your wedding. Instead, you can play up one feature to add a touch of glam, like focusing on the eyes with shimmering eyeshadow, lashes, and a smokey glow. “Make sure you don't add a lot of highlighter or glitter,” warns Garmers.
Deciding whether you’re going to do your own hair and makeup for your engagement photos or hire a pro is a decision you have to make depending upon your goals and budget.
For some brides, getting their hair and makeup done can make them feel more confident in front of the camera lens.
However, be aware that your hair and makeup styles will be different from the wedding. “Remember for the shoot, your friends and family won't see you in person—just the photos—so what your makeup looks like in person is less important than how it will look for the shoot. For the wedding day, they will see you in person and in photos, so you want to take that into consideration for your wedding day look,” advises Garmers.
To achieve the looks you love at home, Chase says practice makes perfect. “Search YouTube or Instagram for tutorial videos on how to achieve your desired look.” She also suggests talking with your regular hairstylist to get some tips to recreate your favorite styles.
In order to narrow down exactly what look will work best for your hair and face for your engagement photos, it’s important to find some inspiration to help you with your decision.
If you love a certain celebrity’s style, look up that celebrity’s page. “They usually tag their makeup and hair artists, and you can browse their Instagram pages for more inspiration,” says Chase.
Online: Pinterest is a popular site to look for inspiration. “Pinterest is fantastic, as they always provide beautifully curated images and many hashtags,” suggests Sébastien Tardif, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Veil Cosmetics.
Photographer Websites: “Engagement photographers are always going to display their best work on their website. This will give you a great idea of what the photographer is able to pull off. When you find something you like, communicate it clearly. Even if your photographer is a different person entirely from the one who did the shoot, they should still be able to recreate it,” says Abdullah.
Pro Tip: Use certain descriptive words when scouring the internet for inspiration. “For example, for a relaxed vibe, you’ll want to use words like, soft, natural, or casual while looking for hair and makeup styles. Keep a list of the adjectives you want to channel,” says Chase.
Remember the engagement photo shoot is all about the love you and your partner have. It’s the chance to share that with your loved ones, so it’s important that you feel comfortable with your hair and makeup. Go natural, boho, or even glam, but whether you hire a pro or do it yourself, it’s your day and ultimately you decide what makes you feel beautiful in front of the camera. Zola is here to help you every step of the way.