Graphic displaying 10 tips for taking stunning proposal photographs

Proposals are the beginning of a special journey for couples. It’s one of the most intimate and life-changing moments they go through together. Many couples often skip hiring a professional photographer to capture their proposal, but when they do hire one, it’s likely because photography is important to them and they want this special moment captured. So, if they hire you to take photos during the proposal, this blog post is for you! Here we share some tips on how you can get stunning proposal photographs.

Stunning Proposal Photographs is All About Being Prepared

From finding the perfect ring to selecting the ideal location and time, for anyone planning on proposing, there’s a considerable amount of strategizing that goes into it. And it also takes some planning to capture stunning proposal photographs! As their photographer, getting involved in some of the planning process will make things easier for you. It will help you understand what your client is looking for, first and foremost, but it will also help you know where to be, and if you will be part of the “story” or need to be hidden. There are lots of little details involved in surprise proposals, and getting in on the planning will help you be part of the surprise! Here are some things that you can do in advance to help things go smoothly on the day of.

1. Get to Know Their Story

Graphic displaying - It's not just about using the right camera or selecting the most beautiful spot, it's about their story.

It’s not just about using the right camera or selecting the most beautiful spot, to get those stunning proposal photographs you should also try to get to know your couple. Once your client contacts you, ask them how and where they met each other, what their favorite things are to do together, etc. Getting to know them not only strengthens your relationship with them, but also helps you understand what their expectations are. Showing your interest in getting to know them as a couple will also help set the stage for you to become their wedding photographer. Aim to impress!

2. Be a Part of the Planning Process

Once you get to know your couple’s story, it’s time to bring your expertise to the planning process. For example, if they’ve selected a location for the proposal and it’s not particularly special to them, you could suggest a spot that might be better photographically (if needed). You could also guide them towards the best time of day for the perfect lighting for photographs. Early morning or late afternoon golden hour lighting will make capturing stunning proposal photographs that much easier. If you do happen to visit the proposal location in advance, you could scout out the exact spot where they should be standing in order for you to best capture the moment.

3. Try to Plan a Practice Session

If there is time, try to suggest the client who is doing the proposing meet you ahead of time (on a different day) for a practice session. It will be exactly like the actual day, just without their partner. It will give both of you a better idea about whether the location fits what the client is looking for and works for great photos as well. This practice session will also help you understand the timing and lighting. If something is off, you can always adjust. Remember: This is a very special day for your couple, so try to do your best to make things easy for them.

4. To Get Stunning Proposal Photographs, Scout the Location in Advance

Graphic displaying for stunning proposal photos - scout the location in advance

Even if you cannot plan a practice session, scouting the location in advance could really help you assess and then you can advise your client if anything needs to be changed. If you go scouting around the same time of day that the proposal is going to happen, you can better understand lighting, positioning in relationship to the light, and even take some time to select additional spots where you might want to take a few photos after the proposal.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to look for spots where you can hide (if that is part of the plan) while taking the proposal photographs!

5. Plan Your Camera Setup

While you are scouting the location, you could also check for the possibility of a multi-camera setup. Since you will probably be the only photographer there, you might want to have another camera or two set up around the couple. Proposals can be extremely emotional, so having a multi-camera setup will help capture all those raw emotions from every angle! You could even have one camera recording video if that is something you feel comfortable offering. However, try to keep these at a distance where they can’t be seen.

6. Have Backup Equipment Ready

If you are photographing a proposal outdoors, you can never be over-prepared. Extra equipment might add a little weight to your already heavy camera bag, but it will also give you some peace of mind. Just like on a wedding day, these are once in a lifetime moments that cannot be recreated, so having a backup camera, backup lenses, and lots of memory cards and batteries on hand will help you prepare for any eventuality as you head out to get those stunning proposal photographs.

7. Have a Shot List Ready

Graphic displaying a tip to take stunning proposal photograph stating

Finalizing a shot list 100% is hard since there are many things that could happen at the moment that are unique to this couple, but keeping a checklist of some must-have photographs on hand will help you be prepared. Classic proposal moments include the proposal itself, a close up of faces, a close up on the ring both during the proposal and as it’s being placed on the finger. Getting close up and pulling back for far away shots for each moment will help cover everything, just be sure to shoot fast.

Pro Tip: Set your camera to shutter priority and choose a high shutter speed so that you know any action will be captured with minimal blur. You can also set your camera to capture multiple frames in fast succession – just be sure your focus is sharp!

8. Pack Your Long Lens

You might not be physically close to the couple during the proposal. Pack your long lens in order to capture stunning proposal photographs while you hide at a short distance. With a long lens, you don’t have to step out of your hiding spot or compromise on the quality of photos. Using different lenses rather than always your go-to lens will also stretch your creativity!

9. Be Prepared to Work With Nature

A proposal is unlikely to be an event that the couple can reschedule, so if the weather decides to spoil the moment, try to work with it. If rain is in the forecast, keep an umbrella handy and ask your client to do the same. To keep your equipment safe from damage, you could also carry some plastic bags or waterproof protection. Try not to let the weather ruin the day, and just try to stay positive and carry on with what you and your client had planned. Channel those dramatic clouds and hope for sunset through the rain.

Read our blog on How to Photograph a Wedding When It Rains to learn some tips and tricks on working with the weather.

10. Maintain Your Distance

An engagement session photograph of a couple kissing with a bridge as a backdrop.
Proposal Photo by @apollofields

Whether you are taking proposal photographs during COVID or not, try to maintain a distance from your clients when they are proposing. Not knowing that you are there will help them feel more comfortable and they will be able to be more genuinely emotional. They won’t have to think about posing for you or reacting a certain way, which will give you the chance to take more raw and candid photos. If you do happen to be documenting a proposal during COVID, maintaining a distance is more of a necessity. So, stay safe and keep shooting from a distance!

Keep it Candid for Stunning Proposal Photographs

An intimate and personal moment like a proposal deserves to be photographed with an intent to capture real emotions. As a photographer, try to discuss your client’s vision in advance so you know exactly how you can prepare for this session. A proposal can be complex to plan and capture, so getting involved in the planning won’t just make things easier for you, but will also help your client and build your relationship. Keeping your distance will help keep your clients from being aware of your presence and it will help you capture those raw, unfiltered emotions. And last, it is better to be over-prepared – for yourself and your clients. Remember that all your hard work could pay off especially if they book an engagement session – or even the wedding – with you!

Photographing a COVID engagement session? How to Plan for COVID Engagement Sessions could give you some tips.

At ShootDotEdit, we aim to help pro photographers focus more on honing their art and worry less about the editing process with blogs like 10 Must-Have Detail Photos For Every Wedding and A Wedding Photographer’s Checklist for Reception Photos. Learn more about our price plans to see how we can help your wedding photography business.

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