It’s high stakes. High pressure. A high risk… that comes with a huge reward. There aren’t do-overs. You get one shot. Will you get it right? If you’ve ever thought about photographing a proposal, we’ve got the secrets to ensure you succeed.
Here are the 10 Must-Know Tips for Photographing a Proposal:
Between the elements of surprise and a nervous groom, a lot could go wrong. So reduce the risk as much as possible. How? Do a walkthrough one day before with the groom-to-be and any other co-conspirators at the exact same time of day that he’s getting down on one knee. A walkthrough will help put the groom at ease and get everyone on the same page. If there are any holes in the plan, they’ll be discovered and fixed. This is also the time to make sure the bride won’t be able to see us, but ensure we’ll be able to see her. Which doesn’t just sound creepy. It kind of is. But for a good cause!
We can’t always control the time a proposal is going to happen (golden hour is definitely our preference), but we do want to make sure the light will be even, so that nothing distracts the eye from the magical moment. Give him your expert opinion on timing based on the scenario he’s dreamed up.
Preparing him on the right angle and positioning is vital. Make sure you are positioned so that when they’re facing each other, you can see both of their profiles and the full context all at the same time. If we can’t see him down on one knee, her reaction, and the environment around them all in one shot, we didn’t do our job well. One photo should be able to tell the whole story.
Our favorite lens for proposals is the 70-200mm. The length allows us to be far enough away that we’re not intruding on the moment — or ruining the surprise! And for as much as we love prime lenses, during a surprise proposal, you’re only going to have seconds to get the shots — pulled back and tight — and there’s just not time to stop and change lenses. It happens fast friends. Because of that, long zoom lenses are our jam.
If you’re a solo shooter, sling two cameras. There’s no time to troubleshoot if your primary camera throws a technical temper tantrum while he’s popping the question, or to change a card if it’s full. So, if there aren’t two of you, play it safe and have a backup on your body, and use the largest memory cards you have.
Make sure to wear quiet shoes and clothes that don’t make a sound. Leave those noisy bracelets and necklaces at home, too. We wear items that are durable enough to protect us from thorns (yes, thorns!) if we’re creepin’ around in bushes, and colors that wouldn’t draw the eye of the bride-to-be.
One of the most important jobs of a photographer is to be a storyteller, and the story doesn’t start or end when he says, “Will you marry me?” We click our shutters to “silent” and start firing away the moment the couple is in sight. Then, once they’re in position for the moment, we prep for the most important shot: a pulled back horizontal image that shows their profiles and perspective. Remember, context is king here.
Don’t move the camera away from your face once she says, “Yes!” Stay in the lens and just keep shooting. The progression of emotion is as powerful as the actual proposal. As soon as we have the shot and the moments right after, it’s okay to run out of hiding to get different angles and more direct shots of her (first) and then him. In the proposals we’ve done, the brides-to-be have been in so much shock that they didn’t even realize we were there until the whole thing was over.
The shock causes brides to be in a daze, so speak clearly. It’s kind of like talking to a patient who’s coming out of anesthesia. For example, “Hi! We’re Amy and Jordan. Your fiancé hired us to photograph your proposal.” The simpler, the better, to help them get a grip on the situation. From there, we say this: “We’re going to take some engagement photos now. Do you want to touch up your makeup really fast?” And we pull her makeup bag (that the groom snagged for us in advance) out from our camera bag. She’s so thankful for this! Getting a quick 30-minute engagement session done before sunset helps complete the story, and also gives the client an experience with us as the photographers (which might help in booking the wedding later!). Just make sure to be extra clear with your posing instructions, since they’ll be more emotional and adrenaline-filled than during a typical engagement session.
Proposals are a huge excitement-builder and a great marketing opportunity. Plan to maximize it, but not until the happy couple has the chance to tell their loved ones either in person or on the phone. We recommend asking them to hold posting on social media until you’ve posted the professional sneak peek online. When we explain to our couples that it’ll get more interaction that way — especially on Facebook — because it’ll combine both our audiences together, they’re usually excited about that! Just remember that their experience is always the most important thing, so respect any final decision they make regarding posting, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
Phew! That was a lot of information, friends, but we hope it helps the next time you find yourself photographing a proposal.
We help people take great photos and build profitable businesses that change lives. Get our free photography and business coaching delivered straight to your inbox every week.