A Complete Guide to Summer Engagement Photo Shoots + Ideas

Warm colors, diverse outfit choices, and incredible lighting—what’s not to love about summer engagement photos? Make your photos shine with these tips.

By The Zola Team

Summer Engagement Photo Shoot Ideas
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

Popping the question is exciting, and what better season to start planning your wedding than summer? Summer is a time to be outside and go on adventures—there’s always a hint of magic in the air. One incredible way to kick off this sunny season? A summer engagement photo shoot.

In this guide, we break down everything you need to know about taking summer engagement photos, planning your engagement photo session, and nailing that perfect shot. We’ll review:

The 4-1-1 on Summer Engagement Photos

Not all seasons are created equal—especially if you’re planning a photo shoot. Changes in weather and daylight hours can lead to a few advantages and challenges when trying to capture a certain look. And summer is no different.

Before you head into your engagement photo shoot, it’s important to square away all the little details, from the creative elements to the scheduling. Some important things to consider when planning a summer photo shoot will include:

  • The style
  • The colors
  • The lighting
  • The outfits

Let’s take a look at each of these factors and how they can add a unique edge to your summer engagement photos.

Style

The style you choose for your wedding day is going to bring all the pieces together. Even your engagement photos can play an important role in your wedding’s theme—if you plan it out properly. For example, by tying the theme of your photo shoot into your wedding stationary, you’ll wind up with a more cohesive product that truly makes an impression on friends and family. Additionally, you can use these to populate the different pages of your wedding website.

For a style that perfectly embodies the summer months, consider matching your photos to one of Zola’s hand picked enclosure card designs. Popular options that will pair nicely with a summer photo shoot include:

  • Beach: If you live near the coast, using a beachy backdrop is a great way to amp up your photo shoot’s summer vibes. A beach setting can offer a variety of different backgrounds for your photos—from soft sand to rocky shores. If you’re not afraid of getting wet, try grabbing a few shots of you and your fiance embracing in the waves. Couples who opt for a beach themed engagement shoot can match their card designs with blue tones, aquatic details, and a little golden trim (if you’re feeling fancy).

  • Rustic: When some people picture long summer days, they imagine family trips to the farm—and what could be a better background for a rustic summer photo shoot than a homey barn? From the open rafters to the ample space, renovated barns have become a popular venue for summer weddings, and they also make a great location for a rustic style photo shoot. Pair these photos with a matching card design by incorporating wooden patterns, simple details, and earthy tones.

  • Modern: A modern wedding style is a safe bet for any season, including summer. Take advantage of the warm weather by setting your engagement photos on a city street. Cobblestone, brick, or stone elements will help create a sleek, elegant backdrop for that classic summer in the city vibe. For a complementary pairing, choose a card design with sharp lines, monochromatic colors, and thin typography.

Summer Wedding Decoration Ideas Photo Credit // Unsplash

Color

For couples who want a bright color palette, summer is the perfect time to play with different hues. From bold, sweeping shades to simple pops here and there, try some of these colorful ideas for your engagement session:

  • Warm colors: Just like the hot rays that we wait for all year, you can’t go wrong with adding warm tones to your summer engagement photos. If you’re going with bright, warm shades, try to keep it simple. Bold color blocks and basic patterns will allow each color to come alive. Try opting for a fiery red sundress or a burnt orange button down for a vivid look that isn’t too distracting.

  • Cool colors: On the flip side of the coin, summer is also a great time to bust out bright, cool tones. Embody the ocean waves with calm shades of aqua, or take a page from the lush grass with a pop of green. Cool shades are a great way to add contrast to your photos, while keeping the color palette fun and exciting.

  • Neutrals: For couples who want a more muted look, neutrals are a great option for a summer photo shoot. White clothing pops against sun-kissed skin, and shades of tan will add a modern twist that jives with high fashion. Stay cool with lighter toned clothing and accessories, and steer clear of anything too dark when you’re out in the sun.

Put simply, summer is a time to embrace color. While warm shades are the classic route for this season, cool tones can add a touch of contrast and whimsy. Neutral colors will keep you feeling cool and looking stylish, particularly shades of white and tan. Try to choose colors that complement your background, rather than matching tones that make you blend in. (For example: beige may work better against a grassy background, rather than a sandy one.)

Lighting

With more sunlight per day, summer is the perfect time to plan an outdoor photo shoot. Depending on the look you’re going for, natural lighting is going to play a huge role in the colors, shadows, and overall tone of your engagement photos. From the brightest sunlight to the moodiest sunsets, here are some innovative ideas for summer photo shoot lighting:

  • High noon: High noon is when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. Taking outdoor photos at this time of day will provide ample amounts of fill and key lighting, making it easy to illuminate subjects and get a bright, clear shot. However, it’s important to note that shadows may be a bit harsher at this time of day. Midday is also going to be the hottest time for an outdoor shoot, so be sure to dress accordingly and drink plenty of water.

  • Golden hour: Golden hour occurs two times per day: right before sunset and right after sunrise. This is a time where the sun will provide the widest range of colors, the softest lighting, and the most dynamic shadows. While golden hour lighting will be similar at both sunrise and sunset, each option has its individual pros and cons.

  • Overcast: Depending on where you live, overcast skies may be a common occurrence during the summer season. That being said, a few clouds here and there are anything but a problem when it comes to an outdoor photo shoot. Not only will an overcast sky protect you from overheating, but this kind of lighting also provides a clean canvas with few shadows—creating a great starting point for photo edits.

If you want diverse lighting, look no further than a summer photo shoot. From golden sunrises to the magenta sunsets, summer offers long days of rich sunlight that will set the stage for effortless romance.

Outfits

The warm summer weather will give couples quite a few possibilities in terms of engagement outfits. You want to make sure that your fashion choices keep you feeling cool, confident, and comfortable, especially when you’re out in the sun all day.

Consider these style tips when selecting your summer photo shoot attire:

  • Stay cool: The last thing you want is sweat stains ruining your otherwise flawless engagement photos. This is why it's so important to dress cool when planning a summer photo shoot. This means that breathable fabrics—such as cotton, linen, or rayon—should take precedence over heavy, heat-trapping materials. Flowy silhouettes are also great for keeping the body cool, plus they add movement to your photos and work well with the wind.

  • Dress to your comfort level: Heat can be restricting for some people, especially those who prefer to dress in layers. When choosing engagement photo outfits for your summer photo shoot, remember to prioritize your comfort over anything else. If you feel confident showing some skin, then we say go for it. If more coverage makes you feel comfortable, then make it work for you. Lightweight fabrics and evening photo shoots will help you avoid overheating, without sacrificing your personal style.

  • Accessorize: Accessories are a great way to vamp up your photo shoot attire without adding extra heat. Opt for a sun hat or sunglasses for a pop of utilitarian style. Props can also make a great addition to your summer photo shoot, such as a colorful umbrella or a cute beach blanket.

  • Bring options: There are several reasons to pack more than one outfit for a summer photo shoot. First and foremost, accidents happen. From sweat marks to dirt and grass stains, taking photos outside can get a little messy—and an extra set of clothes never hurt in this case. Secondly, the temperature can drop quite a bit as the sun begins to set. Having a second outfit may come in handy when you begin to lose the daytime heat. Consider these factors when planning your wardrobe, and pack multiple outfits just in case.

Pro tip: Make sure to compliment your hair and makeup with your engagement session outfits.

what-to-wear-to-a-summer-wedding-hero Photo Credit // iStock

Summer Photo Shoot Dos and Don’ts

With the basics out of the way, it’s time for some much-needed dos and don’ts. Keep these tips and tricks in mind to avoid common pitfalls and make the most out of this sunny season.

Despite the heat, humidity, and hang-ups, here’s how to capture the perfect summer engagement photos.

Do:

  • Wear sunscreen: The summer sun is perfect for illuminating photos, but the UV rays aren’t ideal for unprotected skin. Photo shoots can take hours in some cases, and you want to make sure that you’re using sunscreen while you’re out and about. For couples who plan to wear makeup for the shoot, invest in a spray or powder sunscreen that won’t disrupt foundation when reapplying.

  • Talk to your photographer beforehand: If you’re feeling nervous about your photo shoot, this is totally normal. The best way to prepare for your engagement photos and feel confident is to talk to your photographer. Having an open line of communication with your photographer is a great way to build trust, bounce around ideas, and feel more comfortable in front of the camera.

  • Bring toiletries: Okay, maybe you can’t fit your whole skincare routine into a travel bag—but bringing a few toiletries can save you from melting in the summer sun. Before the big day, take a trip to your local drug store and pick up some miniature toiletries for the shoot. This may include a travel-sized deodorant, a makeup compact, or a bottle of dry shampoo. Nobody is immune to sweat and humidity, so it’s better to be safe than sorry here.

Don’t:

  • Book your photographer too late: If you’re planning on using these photos for your save the dates, it’s important to book a photographer well in advance. Try to make an appointment within two months of getting engaged, and no later than nine months before the wedding. In some cases, the photographer you use can also double as your wedding photographer, which will knock off one more thing on your wedding planning checklist. Check out our list of pre-screened wedding photographers to help you find the perfect professional in your area.

  • Forget water: With summer heat comes dehydration, and dehydration is no friend to quality photos. In addition to the physical dangers of not drinking water, being dehydrated can also lead to dull skin and hair, which is the last thing you’ll want when taking engagement photos. Avoid overheating during your summer photo shoot, and remember to pack enough water for at least several hours.

  • Wear the wrong shoes: While a nice pair of dress shoes or heels may be perfect for your wedding day, engagement photos pose a unique set of problems in terms of footwear. Whether you’re headed to the beach, the park, or even a cobblestone street—fancy shoes aren’t always the best choice. Be wary of dirt, uneven ground, and sand when choosing the right footwear for the occasion. Sometimes a pair of comfortable shoes—or even no shoes at all—will work best for a long, outdoor photo shoot.

Creative Ideas for Summer Engagement Photos

We’re all about taking a unique approach to wedding planning, especially when it comes to your personal style. If you need some inspiration for your summer engagement photos, give some of these seasonal ideas a try:

  • Sail away: For a creative twist on the ocean theme, set your summer engagement photos near a local shipyard. Using a boat dock as a backdrop will add a classic, romantic touch. Seal the deal with a kiss in front of your favorite ship for a love that’s truly beyond the sea.

  • Cozy camping: Who doesn’t love getting cozy by the campfire? If you and your fiance enjoy spending summer in the great outdoors, try staging your engagement photos in a cute camping spot. Lush greenery, a crackling fire, and trickling water features are just a few of the stylistic elements that can be incorporated into this unique idea.

  • Go for a ride: Is it really summertime without the return of the county fair? Going to an amusement park or carnival is a great way to incorporate the childlike wonder of summer into your engagement photos. Bright neon lights will help illuminate an evening shoot, and props such as rides and fried dough will make a quirky addition to any photo.

As you can see, summer photo shoots are anything but boring. Since most people spend the season traveling, exploring, and having fun, this gives couples plenty of options for creative photo shoot ideas. Think about your favorite summertime activities, and see if there’s a way to incorporate them into your engagement photos.

Summer Loving: The Zola Way

Once your engagement shoot's in the books, you can start on other areas of wedding planning. Whether you’re looking for pre-screened vendors, stylish save the date templates, or even free wedding website designs—we’ve got you covered. And, if you're interested in booking other seasonal photoshoots, we also have spring, fall and winter engagement photo ideas, too.

What season should you get married in?