One of the most fun and exciting emails you’ll ever receive sounds like this: “I’m planning to propose to my girlfriend soon, I’d like to get you to capture it!”
YES! OK, first of all you’re probably thinking… “This is DEFINITELY going to land me another wedding booking!!” But don’t get too ahead of yourself… Let’s talk about how to make the first part go so well that they’ll REALLY want to book you for the wedding! This is like a paid audition!
Here are the Top 11 things that you want to remember and be ready for when shooting a proposal:
#11 – Help the “Proposer” plan for success (Clothing, makeup, time of day, ditch the “disappoint then surprise” method)
You want to make sure that they’ve thought this whole thing through, and that they’ aren’t going to be doing something that will be impossible to photograph, or will look less than appealing. Make sure that you go over things like:
- How will they be dressed? How will she be dressed?
- Will she have makeup done? After all, you want to get photos of them, and she’s going to want to look good!
- What time of day are you planning for? If things run late, will it get too dark?
- Get them to drop the “Disappoint then surprise” method! You don’t want to be stealthily taking photos of someone who is unhappy because they’re getting tricked.
#10 – Dress for the weather
Will you be hiding in bushes? Crawling along a beach? Hiking up a mountain side? Make sure you’re ready for the setting, and that you won’t stand out because of what you’re wearing. I know, you want to wear an actual ninja suit…but I think you may be spotted…try blending in instead!
#9 – Have lots of battery and memory
Make sure that you’re not replacing batteries or memory cards seconds before it happens. There’s nothing worse than missing a shot due to a technical glitch!
#8 – Scout out the area ahead of time
Make sure you know the spots where you can hide, and where you can get a good vantage point of the spot where the proposal will actually take place. Communicate with the proposer what you’ve found, and make a plan for the location and timing.
#7 – Have long lenses
You don’t want to be too close to them and have them hear your shutter clicking, so make sure you’re far away and zooming in with a great, fast zoom lens. You can even get optical multipliers that can make your zoom lenses reach even further! Practice with them ahead of time though so you are confident with your gear!
Also, have a normal range of lenses for after the moment has happened so you can get great images of the couple. Wide lenses are great if they haven’t gotten makeup done!
#6 – Have communication with the Proposer
Make sure you’re texting or somehow able to communicate with the proposer so you can be kept in the loop if things change on the fly. Sometimes they’ll have a guide or someone else with them that you can be in touch with as well.
#5 – Don’t shoot innocent bystanders
OK, so you don’t have a gun, but you want to do your best to have a clear area where the moment is going to happen, because it would be terrible to have him go down on one knee right as a family of four walks between you and the couple and blocks the whole thing. This needs to be a part of your location scouting!
#4 – Use a decoy couple
If the girlfriend won’t recognize you, then you may be able to get away with getting a little closer to the action by having a decoy family or couple to photograph! I’ve done this before by having a couple stand in front of me, but the whole time I was zoomed in over their shoulders shooting my couple in the distance right as the proposal was about to happen. This allowed me to get a little closer to the action without being seen.
#3 – Give them some space at first
SHE SAID YES!! (Hopefully) And now it’s time to celebrate…but let THEM celebrate first! Let him point you out instead of you running up and making the moment about yourself. Keep shooting, cry behind your camera because it’s so sweet, and then just keep moving in closer and closer until they see you. Once she sees you, all bets are off and you can run up and congratulate them!
#2 – Re-enact the moment for fun (and for angles)
If you’re shooting the proposal on your own, it’s nice to get a couple angles of it happening, so go ahead and get them to do it again just for fun. they’ll usually be happy to play along, and because you’re just taking photos of it, they won’t be able to tell which was from the first time or the replay!
#1 – Get it on video!
I know, this is a weird #1 to have for a photography post…but this is such an important moment, and the emotion that happens in the moment is so much fun to watch back on video as well! All you need is another camera on a tripod in video mode, keep it wide enough that they won’t be out of the frame, but close enough that you can see what’s going on. You can also stash things like iPhones in audio recorder mode near the proposal site so you can hear what he said. Hopefully he thought through what he was going to say, but either way, she ALWAYS wants to hear what he said because she was in such shock in the moment and can’t remember. You can even have it in his pocket and it will sound half decent. Of course, sometimes he forgets to turn it on…but there’s not much you can do about that 😉
If you want to see the latest proposal that I captured, check out this video for the behind the scenes of the trip!