The first time I got an inquiry to shoot a surprise proposal the first thing I thought was, “OMG this is going to be so romantic!” And then right after I thought, “Holy Batman, How am I supposed to pull this off perfectly!?” Good news is that it went well and I’ve shot tons of them since that first one.
Even better news? I have some tips for you so you don’t have to swear to any superhero when that first surprise proposal inquiry comes along.
5 Tips for Photographing Proposals
Scout out your location at the same time of day as the proposal. I cannot stress this enough, KNOW where your light is coming from and then guide your client towards the best time light-wise for the proposal. When you’re scouting out, you can see if the area is crowded or not and check out interesting angles that you could use on the day of.
Any info you have before the proposal will help to prepare you and your client of what to expect.
Figure out the perfect backstory. I’ve done surprise proposals that were during our photo session and surprise proposals that weren’t planned as a session at all. For the former, we have a code word or subject for both of us to bring up when the light and framing is right. He may say, “Katie can you take a few of us individually?” And then I’ll say, “Sure, this lighting is perfect!” (or not perfect and then move them.) I’ll take a few photos with her back turned and he’ll come up and BAM, hello surprise proposal!
In the latter, I’ll be photographing the area like a tourist and wait for the couple to come to the designated location and capture it that way! Both ways have their ups and downs.
One up of doing it during a photo session is that the proposee looks camera ready. One up of the non-photo session version is that they have no inkling that the photos are being taken or of a possible proposal idea so if your future-fiancé often uncovers your plans, this is the way to go.
Prep your camera bag wisely. I like to take a long lens and also a shorter lens to get some environment! Usually I have my 100L and 50mm with me for versatility. This goes without saying but make sure you have your camera charged and that it works with the card in it BEFORE you leave for the session.
This goes for all shoots but is even more important when it’s a once in a lifetime moment that you’re capturing.
Prep your client to the MAX. Giving your client as much information as possible will make everything flow so much easier and less stressful for you and more importantly, less stressful for them.
Things to mention or ask:
-What YOU will be wearing so they can easily spot you.
-Ask what they will be wearing so you can spot them.
-Ask for a recent selfie of them so you know what their faces look like.
-Tell them what the location looks like or send photos if they haven’t been there before.
-Tell them what it’s like around the time they’ll propose
-Recommend good locations and times for an optimal intimate proposal.
-Recommend what they should wear.
-Tell them what the traffic is like to get to the location or the closest metro locations if you’re in the city, etc.
If you’re doing a session ask them what the magic conversation will be when they let you know that they’re about to pop the question (see tip 2).
Preparing your client is 95 percent of the work for this session and they’ll REALLY appreciate it. Remember, they’ve already stressed to the MAX about this, make it as easy as possible for them!
Think about alternate scenarios and plan b’s and then share them with your client. Things to think about: What if it rains? What if there are a ton of people in the area and it doesn’t seem like a good time to propose? What if they’re late?
BONUS: What can you do to make this extra special for them? Can you surprise them with a bottle of champagne (be sure to bring glasses too)? Can you send them a few surprise prints in a pretty box? This is such a special moment in their lives and you have the honor of being invited to witness and document.
Don’t let the gravity of that be lost on you. This is not “just another” proposal, this is a beautiful life changing moment for them and it’s our job to honor it as such!