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Colors, accessories, shoes, oh my—there are endless things to consider when choosing your outfits for your adventure session, and it can be incredibly overwhelming to think through if you have no idea where to start. As a seasoned wedding, elopement, and couples photographer, I’ll never get tired of taking couples on epic adventures, be it in celebration of their recent engagement or just for fun. It’s truly insane that this is my job. So to help make your job easier, I put together this full guide to what to wear for your adventure session, including how to choose the right season for your session, what colors to avoid, how to layer your clothing, and so much more. Enjoy!
How to Choose Outfits for Your Adventure Session
We all love an easy-peasy step-by-step guide, right? Good thing I’ve broken down all my years of experience and advice into a few simple steps for you, then 😉 Without further ado, here’s a 10-step guide to choosing outfits for your adventure session!
1. Consider the vibe you’re going for
Before you do anything else to prepare for your adventure session, you’ll want to brainstorm, dream, and ultimately decide on the vibe you’re going for. There’s absolutely no right or wrong way to go with your adventure session, because it’s fully up to you, your partner, and what you’re looking to get out of your photos. Your outfits will play a big part in determining the vibe of your session, as what you wear will influence how you feel throughout your session, the emotions that come through in the photos, and what limitations (if any) are present throughout your session in terms of movement/mobility. Decide what kind of photos would best reflect you as a couple, and what kind of photos you’d be really excited to keep forever + share with your loved ones. Picture how they’ll look on your save-the-dates, in frames around your house, in a photo album on your coffee table, or even on your phone wallpaper.
Do you want casual, playful photos where you can roll around on the ground or give piggy back rides? You’re going to want to wear something more comfortable that you can move around in freely without any outfit mishaps. Want to feel like super models, and have a really glam save-the-date or a fancy photo album for your home? Dress it up and show off your best attire. Maybe you want to bring out your outdoorsy selves and show off your hiking abilities by going on an epic 10-mile backpacking adventure: get out all your best REI gear and wear your comfiest hiking boots.
Make sure that the two of you are also on the same page about the vibe you’re going for, and that one of you doesn’t dress super differently than the other—if your partner is giving 110%, then you better be, too 😉
And hey—who says you have to choose between fancy and casual? You can absolutely do both! I loved Leo & Jimmy’s Hoh Rainforest Adventure Session because they started out in their favorite activewear, coyzing up in a hammock with their pups in the forest, and then changed into fancy outfits for the rest of the session. Leo killed it in her floral-patterned dress and Jimmy looked great in his gray suit + dark blue undershirt🔥It was the perfect way to celebrate both the excitement of their engagement and capture the more casual side of their everyday relationship.
2. Dress for the season
Dressing for the season is super important when it comes to outdoor adventure sessions, because if you dress inappropriately for the weather, you’re going to have a rude awakening when we’re spending hours exploring outside.
Start by picking the season of your adventure session based on the vibe you’re going for: maybe you really want light, airy, and playful photos during the summer, when you can wear your favorite sundress, or maybe you want to go a little moodier with a fall session full of rich, warm tones, chunky sweaters, and cozy fireside photos. The weather and atmosphere around you will have a big impact on the feel of your photos and the emotions that come through, so it’s important to pick a season that’ll foster the type of environment you’re dreaming of! And if you’ll be using these photos for your save-the-dates, make sure the season you choose allows you plenty of time to receive your photos back, design your invites, and send them off before the big day.
All that said, it’s just as important to dress for the weather as it is to dress fashionably + for the vibe you want! If you plan a fall adventure session in the PNW, but you try to wear a sleeveless gown without a jacket, you’re going to spend the entire time freezing your butt off instead of being present in the moment and enjoying yourself. Same thing goes for the other way around: if you love thick sweaters and fluffy jackets but you’re going on a challenging hike in the summertime, that’s probably not the time for those faux fur jackets you have in your closet 😅Think through what will realistically keep you the most comfortable in the weather you’re expecting, and take advantage of layers to help you create variety in those outfits (which we’ll talk about more in a little bit)!
Worried that your session will be ruined by rain, snow, or other unexpected weather? Don’t be—I’m a big believer that your session is what you make it, and if you can go with the flow, the results will be magic. Read through my guide to How to Embrace “Bad” Weather On Your Elopement Day for all my best tips (which apply to both elopmements AND adventure sessions).
3. Think about the landscape
Once you’ve chosen the location and season of your adventure session, think about the landscape and how your outfits will look against it. It’s best to choose colors that won’t match the landscape too closely, as that can result in you blending in with the background of your photos. For example, you generally wouldn’t want to wear light blue to the beach or dark green in a rainforest—instead, opt for colors that will pop against the landscape! A better alternative to dark green in a rainforest would be a light color such as lilac, or a deep, complementary earth tone such as burgundy.
Here are a few more examples of color combos that would look great against certain landscape:
- Dark colors in front of an alpine lake (e.g. deep red/purple, dark olive)
- Light colors in a rainforest (e.g. sky blue, lilac, pink)
- Black in the desert or on salt flats
Speaking of picking colors that “pop,” Morgan and Akshay did this perfectly for their Engagement Photos at Mt. Rainier a while back. Morgan chose a gorgeous, deep red dress that looked killer against the lush greens of the mountains and forest landscape around them!
4. Think about your activities
I touched on this one briefly at the beginning of this guide, but make sure that your outfits are appropriate for any activities you’ll be doing throughout your session. The top priority here is making sure that you’re comfortable and able to move freely, without restrictions, in whatever attire you wear, so if you’ll be doing any sort of activities or you know you’ll be moving around a lot, choose your outfits accordingly.
For example, if you’ll be doing a challenging hike with quite a bit of elevation gain/steeper sections, opt for an outfit that’s going to give you plenty of room to breathe and move your legs as you walk uphill. Avoid wearing a super tight dress that restricts your leg movement—if you REALLY want to wear a dress while you hike (which I only recommend for shorter hikes), opt for one with a leg slit or one that’s loose + flowy.
Maybe you want to go rock climbing during your adventure session (epic!): throw fashion to the side and choose outfits that will keep you safe during your climb, and then you can always change into something more stylish/fancy afterward!
Or let’s say you’re going to have an adorable picnic by the lake for a part of your session: make sure you can easily sit down and stand up in your outfits, and that you’ll be okay getting them a little dirty.
5. Carefully consider your colors
Color is probably one of the biggest and most important things to consider when choosing what to wear for your adventure session: it impacts the mood of the session, the vibe, the way your landscape looks in photos, and your physical appearance (duh). To keep things simple, I’ve organized all of my color-related tips into an easy-to-understand list of do’s & don’ts for you below!
- Choose colors that flatter your skin tone: Oranges, pinks, and reds are the most common colors that may not flatter certain skin tones, but you know what works for you! Wear colors that complement your undertones instead of matching them, as well as colors that complement your hair color.
- Wear lots of earth tones: You can almost never go wrong wearing earth tones such as dark blue, deep geen, beige, olive, rust/burnt orange, gray, burgundy. . . you get the idea. They typically look fab against any sort of landscape—again, just be mindful of your skin tone and what’s most flattering on you.
- Use neutral/muted tones as your base: If you’re having a hard time figuring out what colors to choose, start with neutral and muted tones as your base! Neutral tones such as beige, gray, black, and white are always great baselines to build off of, and muted colors such as pale blue, sage green, and dusty pink are perfect colors to include without drawing too much attention. From there, feel free to pick a bolder accent color, if you’d like, or keep your palette to those soft tones!
- Pick colors that will *pop*: Like I mentioned before, make sure to pick colors that will POP against your landscape. An easy way to do this is to figure out what the main color of your landscape is (e.g. green in the mountains) and find its complementary color across the color wheel (e.g. red, in this case). This rule of thumb won’t always work—like you will probably never have a purple landscape haha–but you can also use it for smaller details of the landscape like wildflowers, trees, etc. Maybe the area in the mountains you’re shooting in has tons of gorgeous purple wildflowers: yellow would look fab against them. That’s a big reason why blue looks great in the desert—blue and orange are complementary colors!
- Choose colors that match the landscape: Again, you want to avoid blending in with the landscape around you. If you wear a forest green suit in the middle of a green forest, your photos are going to end up being a game of where’s Waldo, just trying to spot you in the midst of the trees.
- Match your outfits completely: Unless you’re going for a cheesy, matching-Christmas-PJ’s type of vibe, you’ll want to avoid matching your outfits entirely: instead, coordinate them. Choose colors that work well together, such as any earth tones or neutral colors, which aren’t too harsh and pretty much work with anything. Complementary colors also come into play here—you might want to lean toward wearing complementary colors instead of the same color (e.g. if your partner is wearing some shade of red, opt for a complementary shade of green instead of wearing that same red).
6. Pay attention to patterns + textures
Choosing the right patterns is equally as important as choosing the right colors when it comes to your outfits. If you want to wear a pattern, I recommend sticking to just one—e.g. If your partner wants to wear stripes, keep it to just their stripes. This is because it is suuuper easy for patterns to clash and if you don’t plan carefully, a combination of patterns can look pretty odd on camera and distract from the actual focus of the photos: you two! Certain patterns can also look funky on camera, such as stripes that are too thin or close together—they can create a weird “moiré” effect, which is essentially when an objet or fabric being photographed has a lot of repetitive details that the camera sensor can’t handle. Avoid this by wearing thicker stripes or patterns that are a bit more spread out!
Textures can also add extra depth and dimension to your photos, and just like patterns, you should be careful not to overdo it. Having too many different textures in one outfit, or wearing the exact same textures as your partner, can distract from your faces and look a little too matchy-matchy! You can totally get creative and play around with textures such as knit, jean, ribbed, velvet, etc. — but less will usually be more in this case.
7. Get creative with your layers
Layers are your friend when it comes to photoshoot outfits, especially in the chillier months for obvious reasons. Having layers in your outfits can add a TON of variety to your photos without fully changing what you’re wearing, since you can add + remove pieces as you please, and can easily create different looks. For example: you could start your session in a cute tanktop and jeans, then add on a leather jacket, or a cute hat for a little something extra. Maybe you go the opposite way and start out in a sweater + pants, then you remove your sweater and throw on a cardigan over the tanktop you’re wearing underneath. And finally, you wear just your tanktop and whatever pants you’ve got on for a bit more of a casual look.
Definitely make use of items such as jewelry, jackets/outer layers, hats, scarves, etc. and use them to create varied looks with ease throughout your session!
8. Focus on comfort + confidence
If you take nothing else from this guide but THIS suggestion, my friend, then I’ll be a happy photographer: above all else, place your focus on comfort and confidence. No matter what season you choose, what vibe you’re going for, what activities you do, your top priority (other than safety) should be feeling like your best, most confident self the entire time. Avoid wearing anything that makes you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable, or that needs to be constantly adjusted—these will all take away from the moment and really make it hard for you to be present during your session. The goal is to have a wonderful time with your partner, celebrating the two of you, and if you’re spending every minute worried about how you look, then that’s all you’ll remember when you look back at your photos!
9. Choose appropriate footwear
Trust me, I know you want to wear your cutest high heels or your most fashionable dancing shoes to look glam during your session—but also trust me when I say that practicality is king here! Don’t wear heels if we’re heading outside of the city, or any shoes that don’t keep practicality + safety at the top of mind during your session. If we’re anywhere out in nature with unstable ground (rocks, tree roots, sand, dirt, etc.), or really just anywhere without paved trails that we’ll be using the entire time, opt for shoes that will be comfortable and easy to move around in. If we find a spot where it would be safe for you to pull out your cuter shoes for a few photos, then by all means, bring them along in your backpack if you want to!
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Last but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help when it comes to what to wear for your adventure session. As your photographer, and somebody whose worked with hundreds of couples, I’m more than happy to give you outfit guidance and all of my best recommendations based on your location, personalities, and the vibe you’re aiming for. Need help picking the right jewelry? I got you. Can’t decide on the best season? I’ll help ya out! Or maybe you don’t even know where to start shopping—I’ll give you some of my bests reccs.
Speaking of your adventure session photographer. . . if you’re still looking for one and want somebody who’s going to take you on an epic adventure, guide you through the entire process, and get to know you & your love so they can capture your authentic selves, then you’re in the right place 🙂
I’d be stoked to photograph your adventure session, be it in the mountains of the Washington, on the coast of Oregon, in the deserts of Utah, or anywhere in between (or not!). You can find information about my adventure session packages and prices here, and contact me here if/when you’re ready to chat further—can’t wait to hear what you’re dreaming up!
For more wedding & elopement-related guides and resources, browse through my blog or check out a few of my recent favorites below.