What To Wear For Your Family or Engagement Photo Session | A Buffalo Photographer's Guide to Looking – and Feeling! – Your Best In Front of the Camera!

So you’ve booked a family or engagement session (hooray!!) and now you’re tasked with the difficult decision…. “what the heck are we going to wear?!” I am often asked for tips on what to wear for upcoming photo sessions – whether it’s a couple planning their engagement session or a family preparing for their first session with little one(s)! Having now been photographing couples and families throughout New York and Connecticut for the last decade, I am soooo happy to help guide you in the right direction when it comes to preparing for your portrait session – especially now as we head into fall, the busiest time of year for portrait sessions here in WNY! And today I’m sharing 5 things to think about when choosing what to wear for your upcoming portrait session.

Hornbuckle Mini Session 2018

5 Tips For Choosing What To Wear For Your Upcoming Family or Engagement Session

Post & Images by Dawn M Gibson Photography

1) Consider the season & location of your photo session

Aside from dressing appropriately for the temperature and weather conditions of the day, it’s also helpful to consider the color palette of the season and also the location you’ll be in for taking photos.

For example, I highly recommend choosing colors that will compliment and not compete too much with your surroundings. For this reason, moody, dark, earthy or rich colors work great for fall, especially when including colorful foliage (think emerald green, dark blues, dark reds, rusty orange, mustard yellow, etc). Winter is also a great time to mix in the moodier colors (like deep reds and those stunning greens!), especially in contrast with fresh fallen snow and lush pine trees. In spring, softer colors (like pastel pinks and blues) accentuate the romantic feeling given by soft cherry blossoms and blooming tulips. And in summer, pretty much everything goes – soft colors, rich colors, and even bold, vibrant & playful colors. And if you’re looking to keep things classic with a greater emphasis on what’s most important in the photos anyhow (your interactions of course!), then you can never, ever go wrong with dreamy neutral colors and tones of brown, beige, cream, black, white or grey.

Aside from season, I also suggest you think about the location of your session when choosing your outfit. For example, if you’re in the woods (mostly earthy greens and browns), this will be very different from a beach setting (mostly blue water and beige sand), which will be very different from an urban setting (which could be red brick, grey concrete, or any variety of colors in between). And in urban settings, since the backdrops are endless, I might even suggest we go somewhere that will compliment your attire, which will make for an even more appealing visual image. Win, win for all!

Witter Family 2018
Cleary Family
Flateau Family Summer 2019
Licata Family Spring 2019
Ashley + Rob's Engagement Session

2) Coordinate, but do not match exactly.

I, personally, am not a fan of everyone wearing the same thing in portraits and am always going to recommend people come coordinating but not wearing the same thing. This is because if everyone is wearing (for example) jeans and a white t-shirt, it may make it hard to distinguish one person’s body from another. But also, from a visual standpoint, it makes a rather flat looking image, without any subtle hints at each individual’s unique style and personality.

Instead, I always recommend couples and families select outfits that compliment and coordinate with one another. If you start by selecting one person’s definite outfit choice, and go off that for pulling everyone elses’ outfits, this will make things even easier for the decision making process. This is exactly what long-time client, Holly (owner/designer of handmade clothing of Nelly Lou), does when selecting the outfits for her and her family’s portrait sessions:

I’m normally all about being super matchy-matchy with my daughter. But when it comes to our family photos, I prefer for us to coordinate with each other, not match exactly. I usually start with one piece - whether it be for my outfit or my daughters, that I know that I definitely want in the photos. Then I pick out the rest of our outfits so that the colors compliment each other but not match exactly. I then like to tie it all together with little details. For example, this year we all wore shades of brown for our shoes, and my daughter and I each had ruffles on our outfit. – Holly

Darling Anniversary/Family Session 2019
 Waldron Family Mini Session 2018
Hornbuckle Mini Session 2018

3) Make sure you are comfortable in what you’re wearing.

This is a big one that many people over look. If you ran out to buy something new just for your session, and thought in the dressing room “this looks great when I stand just like this,” I know in your head you’re also thinking “I’ll just be sure to stand like this the whole time.” If either of the above are true, I’m going to suggest right now you scrap that outfit or item as an option. If you don’t feel confident in your outfit when you are sitting or standing or moving all around, then chances are you’re going to be self-conscious about how you look during the session and that is the last thing we want. Similarly, if you constantly have to fix a shirt or pull up your sleeves, or cover your bra straps, then you might want to scrap that option as well. I want your mind to be fully present and engaged with your love(d) ones, since our goal of your session always is to create beautiful photos that capture your connections and natural interactions. So choose something you can put on and forget about, so you can be 100% focused on each other!

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Darling Anniversary/Family Session 2019
Cleary Family
Danielle + Alex's Anniversary Session

4) Dress in a style that is true to you – in other words, be yourself!

I know often there is this feeling like “oh, I need to wear a fancy dress for our session,” or “wow, jumpsuits are so in right now I should really wear this for our session.” But the truth is, when you wear what you would usually wear or better yet, what you WANT to wear (and not just what “everyone” else is wearing or saying you should wear), you’re adding an extra special layer of authenticity to your photos. AND you’re going to feel so much more like yourself in front of the camera, too. So if you wear crazy floral prints all the time… girl, bring that in to your photos and wear a floral print. Or if you’re a jeans and a t-shirt type of couple, who’s to say you can’t just wear jeans and a t-shirt to your session? I’d rather have you both looking good and feeling most in your element than to see you all dolled up when neither of you dress that way. On the flipside, if you do dress up all the time and want to be dressy for your session, that's perfect, too! You do you all day long!

Danielle + Alex went dressy casual for their romantic anniversary session.

Danielle + Alex went dressy casual for their romantic anniversary session.

Carly + Phil rocked jeans, neutral t-shirts, and converse for their summer engagement session, allowing us to have a lot of fun in urban areas around Buffalo, NY for their summer engagement session.

Carly + Phil rocked jeans, neutral t-shirts, and converse for their summer engagement session, allowing us to have a lot of fun in urban areas around Buffalo, NY for their summer engagement session.

Layering up in what they’d normally wear added a perfect layer of authenticity (and warmth!) for the Molisani’s rainy day fall family session.

Layering up in what they’d normally wear added a perfect layer of authenticity (and warmth!) for the Molisani’s rainy day fall family session.

A warm leopard print coat paired with Zoe’s dad’s jean jacket on her man, Jon, added perfect personal touches all around to this wonderful winter engagement session.

A warm leopard print coat paired with Zoe’s dad’s jean jacket on her man, Jon, added perfect personal touches all around to this wonderful winter engagement session.

5) Consider the details from head to toe!

Little details do make a difference, too. Do your shoes somehow coordinate or match? Do you reaaaaaalllly need to wear the baseball hat for this photo session? Will the long necklace you’re wearing really add anything to the photo or will it just keep moving all around and potentially bug you later if it didn’t stay in the center of your chest? And do you really want to have that fitbit or watch in the photos later on? Whatever you decide, again: always do you. But be sure to think about them ahead of your session, too! And ladies, in case you do forget, don’t worry I’ll always be on the look-out to make sure hair ties are removed from your wrist! ;-)

Black boots with brown detail that not only match Natalie’s black leather coat, but also match her man, Dan’s, brown shoes. It’s those subtle details that make all the difference!

Black boots with brown detail that not only match Natalie’s black leather coat, but also match her man, Dan’s, brown shoes. It’s those subtle details that make all the difference!

Zoe and Jon nailed their winter engagement session outfits here – right down to Zoe’s red nailpolish to tie in with Jon’s plaid shirt and the brick wall in their backyard. Still swooning over this one.

Zoe and Jon nailed their winter engagement session outfits here – right down to Zoe’s red nailpolish to tie in with Jon’s plaid shirt and the brick wall in their backyard. Still swooning over this one.


Lastly, not so much an actual tip but a suggestion for all my clients: When in doubt – send it out!

I’m more than happy to give you my feedback on your outfit options/selections ahead of our session! It gives me an idea of what you’re thinking and may even inspire me to take you to an alternate location that would compliment your outfit selection even more! But most of all, getting feedback from me is guaranteed to put your mind at east having another persons’ opinion! So feel free to shoot me a text or email with your outfits and I will always be more than happy to give you my honest feedback!!

If you’re still with me, thank you soooo much for taking the time to review these tips and suggestions. I hope I’ve covered any questions you may have and look so forward to photographing you and your loved one(s) soon!!

Laura + Ricki's Classic and Traditional Buffalo Wedding at Corpus Christi Church and The Columns Banquets

Laura + Ricki's Wedding

Laura & Ricki had the most beautiful class and traditional wedding this July in Buffalo, New York. Making the trip back home from their current residence in Chicago, Laura spent the morning getting ready with her parents and bridesmaids at her childhood home. And Ricki and his groomsmen got ready at his brother-in-law’s house (who also happens to be a past wedding client of mine). The sun was shining and it was a perfect July morning as they headed off to exchange vows at a ceremony held in one of Buffalo’s historic churches, Corpus Christi. As we went to depart the church for their portrait locations, it started downpourring – but we took a chance and headed to the Albright Knox to attempt some non-rainy photos there. The weather gods were definitely in our favor, as we were able to get in all their wedding party photos – just missing the rain! – AND we ended up having the entire place to ourselves! I typically don’t recomend going to the Albright Knox for photos on a wedding day because usually there are lines of wedding parties waiting for photos. But it all worked out for us, and I was over-the-moon excited to be able to get them the portraits in locations we had planned out together!

After the wedding party photos, everyone hopped in the limo and headed off to The Columns Banquet, for a laid, black and classic reception. It was an evening to remember and I’m so excited to share highlights from their day with you today! Congratulations again, Laura & Ricki!

Jenna and Daniel's Rainy, Gold-Detailed, September Wedding at Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua, New York

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It's hard to believe we are already in the middle of September. Another fall season is beginning; another summer season soon to be behind us. Like many photographers, blogging for me always gets put on the back-burner to all the other business things – especially during the summer and fall months. But today I am taking a pause on everything else to reflect back on Jenna + Daniel’s September Wedding at Sonnenberg Gardens. Today they are celebrating the big FOUR, and while I’m a little embarased it’s taken me THIS long to share their amazing day, I’m even more excited that we can all relive this day together on their anniversary (which oddly enough, is another rainy September morning here in Buffalo, NY)!

In our time leading up to the wedding, I had the pleasure of getting to know Jenna and Daniel and was really excited about not only working with them, but photographing them because they are seriously the cutest and most playful couple. I am so drawn to personalities like theirs – fun-loving, a little quirky, and not afraid to be themselves or be silly, but yet also super affectionate.

Their wedding ceremony and reception were planned to be outdoors at the breathtakingly beautiful Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua, NY (which is a dream come true venue setting for anyone looking to have a wedding with a garden setting). But of course, mother nature didn't quite agree with their plans, so they ended up needing to get a tent up over the ceremony and sides to a tent for the reception. It was a really wet day, I'll be honest. I'm pretty sure it didn't stop raining once. But even more importantly, it was a really AMAZING day. From start to finish, the rain was a part of their story, and rather than let it get them down, Jenna and Daniel embraced it and enjoyed every minute of their once-in-a-lifetime wedding day despite all the rain. And I’m sure everyone who was there will agree – it was nothing short of perfect.

Special shout-out to all the vendors:

Ceremony & Reception Venue: Sonnenberg Gardens
Officiant: Beth Bouwens
Photographer: Dawn M Gibson Photography
Florist: Wegmans
Caterer: Creative Caterers
Cake/Bakery: Scratch Bakeshop
DJ/Band/Entertainment: Turner Music Productions
Invitations: Minted
Hair & Makeup: Michelle's Salon and Spa
Bride Attire: Dress: Lovely Bride, Shoes: Wallis, Accessories: Twigs & Honey
Groom Attire: Suit: Combatant Gentlemen, Shoes: Cole Haan
Wedding Party Attire: Bridesmaids: BHLDN, Groomsmen: Combatant Gentleman
Decorations/Decor Design or Rentals: McCarthy Tents & Events
Favors: Succulents
Late night food/snacks: Mini Pies

Additional thoughts from the Bride:

How would you describe your wedding vision/theme? My friends started joking that they were going to call me "Midas" – everything that I touched with this wedding turned to gold! I knew very early on that I didn't want a specific color to be the focal point of the vision, as I felt that might be a bit overwhelming when looking at the entire wedding as a whole. Instead, I focused on a softer vision of gold, ivory, and warm lighting. I also knew that I wouldn't be wearing a white ballgown down the aisle, it just wouldn't have felt like me. Why wear a white wedding dress when you can wear an incredible golden gown covered in pearls and sequins?! I felt like a radiant sun! To keep everything soft and light, I dressed my girls in ivory bridesmaid dresses with gold shoes. Since our wedding was in September, I still wanted to incorporate a little richness in color in small touches, which I did with berry-colored flowers, vivid green leaves, navy suits, and camel leather shoes/belts for the guys. The goal was to achieve an overall sense of warmth and welcome while set in an ethereal garden, and I couldn't be happier with how everything turned out!

Favorite moments/memories from the wedding? Even though I was next-level devastated when our wedding day came with a forecast of rain all day, it actually ended up blessing us with some truly incredible moments. We had to move our wedding location so we could get all of our wedding guests under a tent, which meant that my girls and I had to make our entrance through a beautiful wooded area. When my girls stepped out to make their way down the aisle with their huge clear umbrellas, they looked like mystical woodland nymphs! As my turn came and I grabbed my dad's arm to walk towards Dan, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and had a true out of body experience. I was immediately brought back down to earth as I heard my dad start muttering, "What do I do with this umbrella? When do I drop it? I'm going to drop it now." And with 20 feet to go before reaching the safety of the tent, my dad tossed our umbrella! Even though I got quite wet, I was ecstatic to make my way to my grinning groom through the drizzling rain and the laughter of friends and family. Moments like that can't be planned!

Do you have any recommendations for future couples planning a wedding? Don't take on more than you can handle, and feel free to let some things slide. Your engagement is an incredibly important time in your life, and you shouldn't experience it as a big ball of stress. It is meant to be enjoyed and shared with all of the people in your life that you love! Figure out ways that you can create your vision without breaking the bank or your peace of mind. And whatever you do, don't stop planning and just elope like you surely want to a few months into the process! Even though planning can be overwhelming and frustrating, nothing can beat the experience of having your friends and family surround you as you join your life with the person you cherish. It will make all of the stress worth it a thousand times over.

Kate and Alex's Classic but Modern September Wedding with Whimsical, Floral Touches at Hotel Henry in Buffalo, NY

Kate + Alex's wedding day

I’ve been dying to share Kate and Alex’s wedding day since the day they exchanged vows – exactly 2 years ago today. It was the kind of day that I would wake up and relive over and over again if I needed. Kate and Alex themselves are two of the most incredibly kind and genuine people I’ve ever been fortunate enough to meet. I still remember the initial consult call that Kate and I shared, and remember thinking she’s the kind of person I’d love to be close friends with if we lived in the same city. Then I met them both in person on their wedding day, and they both blew me away with their love and kindness and overall freakin’ awesomeness. To top it off, their wedding party and families were all so stellar the entire day. I can’t help but think this entire group of family and friends is incredibly lucky to have one another in each others’ lives.

People aside, there were so many other things that I loved about their wedding day. For starters, I loved that the bridesmaids dresses and Alex’s tie were not your standard solid color, but floral prints that added a truly unique touch to the aesthetics of their wedding party. They incorporated unique vows to one another that had their guests roaring during a ceremony at Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo. And they actually danced together throughout the evening during their reception at Hotel Henry (which doesn’t always get to happen on account of mixing and mingling with so many guests)! It was a great day from start to finish and I am so, so excited to share a (albeit large) sampling of favorite images from their day.

Happy anniversary, you two!! I miss you. Please come back to Buffalo and let’s hang, like real soon, so I can hear all about your travel stories and post-wedding life adventures!

Special shout-out to all the vendors:

Ceremony Venue: Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo
Reception Venue: Hotel Henry
Wedding Planner/Coordinator: N/A (my mom!)
Officiant: Brian Marks (Alex's Godfather)
Photographer: Dawn M Gibson Photography
Florist: Brighton Eggert Florist (Amy)
Cake/Bakery: Sweet Jenny's (ice cream cake!)
DJ/Band/Entertainment: Steve Balesteri & the Uptown 7- Best band in Buffalo!!
Invitations: Yours Truly (Clarence Center)
Hair: Mia from Michael Salon
Makeup: Mia
Bride’s Dress: Rosa Clara,
Groom’s Suit: Hugo Boss
Shoes: Betsy Johnson (kept snagging the dress so went shoeless during the receptions!)
Favors: koozies, sponge candy from Watsons