I remember the first surprise proposal we ever shot. We were dressed up as “just a couple” enjoying one of our mountain wineries. We were taking in the gorgeous view of the vineyard while sipping on pretend wine. My hands were sweating and my heart was racing. It was like hide and seek all over again when I was young. We were well prepared for the shoot, but the excitement still had me as giddy as a little kid waiting for Christmas. And let’s be real, I still get that excited for every surprise proposal we shoot!
With that in mind we wanted to share how we prepared for a surprise proposal.
8 Real Tips for Photographing a Surprise Proposal :
1. We communicate WELL with our groom
When we work with a somewhat nervous groom-to-be on one of the biggest surprises he will ever orchestrate we are sure to communicate very very well. We listen to his entire plan of proposal. Then we walk through each step. Our goal with the walk through is to ensure everyone is on the same page. We answer any questions, choose the place we will be shooting from. And lastly we make sure our groom-to-be is feeling amazing about what is going to happen in the next 24 fabulous hours.
The day before the surprise proposal, we meet with our groom-to-be and anyone else who is helping at the proposal location. There we literally act the entire thing out. This helps everyone feel prepared and confident. During this time we also plan out where we will be “hiding” or blending in. This is so the future-bride-to-be won’t see or notice us, but, we will be able to see her.
Paparazzi status, we know!
If our couple lives out of town or we are flying in for a shoot in another state and can’t do an in-person walk through we will Skype with our groom-to-be from the proposal location hours before or the day before depending on the schedule. We then act out the entire proposal for our groom (via Skype), using his vision for the surprise – it looks so goofy but it works so well.
Bonus Tip: Help your guy figure out a way to be dressed up and to get her dressed up without it looking obvious. This is an important part of the game plan. We have even helped guys figure out how get their gorgeous woman to be dressed up after hiking a mountain.
2. We help our groom find the sweet light
Obviously we love shooting 2 hrs before sunset for gorgeous light. That may not always be an option for the surprise proposal. In either case when we meet at the location for the walkthrough we help our groom select the best place to pop the questions based on the light. We choose the best spot for him to kneel. And we pick the direction he will be facing when kneeling and asking his future bride-to-be to be his wife. Our goal here is to be able to see our groom’s face and our soon-to-be bride’s face + the background all at the same time in the photos.
4. We pull out the big guns
For lenses: I carry my 70-200mm 2.8 and Brandon carries his 100mm 2.8 and we shoot from two different locations. If you are a single shooter we recommend having two cameras ready to go. The main camera being your 70-200mm 2.8 and another for back up just incase the other has a “technical difficulty”. This is a once in a lifetime moment so its better to be over prepared.
Using a telephoto lens lets me get amazing full story shots and tight intimate shots while being hidden or far enough away to not be noticed. The 100mm sets Brandon at one focal length but he will typically move just slightly to get different angles without being noticed. Which brings us to #5
5. We dress for the mission
We choose to wear clothing that allows us to “fit in” with our environment. For example, if the proposal is at a waterfall or mountain top we wear our hiking clothing (we prepare our groom-to-be for this as well) he knows we will be “in disguise”. If we are shooting at at vineyard we try to look like a couple who is visiting the vineyard. If we will be shooting from hiding in a bush then we like to wear clothing that will protect us from bugs, prickers and anything that may be uncomfortable. Yes we do hide in bushes at times.
6. We are story tellers
We believe it is our job to tell an amazing story for our couple. And we document every second we can of the surprise proposal not just the knee drop. Which means, shooting our couple as soon as they are in sight. Since we are hidden and our shutters are on “quite” mode they never hear us clicking away. It is our opportunity to document both the before and after of the surprise without ever being seen.
A little side note is that we have our groom-to-be give his girlfriend a big hug right before he kneels down. This is our secret sign that it is about to happen!
7. After the YES we focus on her!
Right after our groom pops the question and she says yes we focus in on our brides face. This is the after which is so true and soul moving. The emotion at this time is raw and priceless. We give our couple a few mins to just be with each other and breathe it all in. Right after that we come out of hiding and say hello to our newly engaged beautiful couple. We explain to our new bride-to-be that her man had this all planned out well in advance (scoring him major brownie points!) and hired us to document it all.
8. We then move into a mini-engagement session
We explain that a mini engagement session with gorgeous posed photos comes next. Again thanks to her amazing man! We give our bride-to-be a few mins to do any makeup touch-ups (from tears) and a few mins to also adjust to the huge surprise that just took place. We then move into a beautiful engagement session filled with so much love!