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Do You Need a Proposal Photographer? A Starter Guide on Planning the Perfect Proposal

Updated: Jun 24

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A wedding proposal is just about the most romantic thing in the world; you’re about to ask someone to spend the rest of their life with you. So of course, many people want proposal photography to capture the moment.

Even though someone will cherish having that moment captured forever, surprise engagement photos aren’t for everyone.

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of hiring a secret engagement photographer to see if proposal photography is right for you.

The Difference Between Proposal and Engagement Photography

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So what is proposal photography anyway?

Proposal photography is when you hire a photographer to capture the moment that you propose to your partner. There are typically two methods that photographers choose when disguising themselves:

  • Covertly hiding: This method involves being completely out of sight during the proposal itself. This is ideal for proposals that are taking place somewhere remote, where you two would be the only ones around.

  • Hiding in plain sight: This method works best if you're in a busier area.

I've been different levels of hiding in plain sight; I've had another model that I was "working with" near the proposal itself, so it looked like I was taking photos of another client. At the last moment, I turned and captured the proposal. I've also hidden in a more theatrical way. I pretended to be a tour guide for my clients for a personal tour of Rockefeller Plaza. I even made a fake ID badge and everything! Before we started "the tour," I told them to pose for a photo, but I actually hit record while he got down on one knee.

People sometimes confuse engagement and proposal photography, because there's typically a quick engagement session after the proposal itself. These are a lot of fun, because there's so much excitement and emotion from just saying yes to such a huge question.

Engagement sessions, on the other hand, are planned by both parties and happen at a pre-planned time. It isn't a surprise to anyone that photos are happening. Even if you get some engagement photos after the proposal, it's still a good idea to get engagement photos taken, as your partner will get to prepare themselves how they want to be represented on Save the Dates and have a say in the vibe and location.

Proposal Photography: Is This the Right Move for You and Your Partner?

Still Poetry Photography has masterminded a few proposal photography sessions. The proposal in front of the Rockefeller Tree was my first foray into this genre of photography. I planned with the groom for months on how to get this moment just right. It took time, coordination, and a lot of preparation, but the moment was absolutely perfect.

Right afterwards, we went on an engagement session all over the city. Their genuine joy was palpable in the photos. The images looked incredible. We were so blessed to be a part of that day.

So it might surprise you that my husband didn’t hire a proposal photographer for our engagement.

We’re photographers; why wouldn’t we want proposal photos of our special moment?

Let’s talk about it.

Before you get started, you first need to ask yourself the most important question; is proposal photography something my partner would even want?

While we all love to coo over extremely public proposals and gasp at over the top and lavish signs of affection, some people would be extremely uncomfortable having that bright of a spotlight shined on them. Right after the NYC proposal, strangers immediately came up to the couple to congratulate them. It was really sweet, but not something everyone would want.

When my husband proposed to me, there was no one around, and that was exactly how I wanted it. I hate surprises and I hate attention, so when he proposed in Hyde Park at the FDR library during a government shut down, there was no one around to watch us.

It was perfect.

But that isn't everyone's definition of perfect. Maybe your partner would really like something elaborate and intricate.

Or maybe your partner would like to wake up to you on one knee on their side of the bed on Sunday morning with celebration pancakes waiting in the kitchen.

It all depends on their preferences, and you know them best.

So would your partner want wedding proposal photography? If you know your partner well enough to propose to them, I'm sure you can answer that question.

Brainstorming with the Right Proposal Photographer

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So you've decided that an elaborate proposal is something your partner would like and you know for sure they'll say yes (nothing more awkward than having to say no with 100 strangers looking on).

Please know for sure that they’ll say yes.

It’ll be awkward for you, them, your proposal photographer, and everyone within a hundred feet if they say no.

So where do you pop the question?

You have to ask yourself what makes your relationship special. Did you bond over your love of Panic! at the Disco? Do you guys love theatre? Nature? Aquariums? Boxing rings?

Everyone's relationship is special, and you should pick a place and a theme that matters to you both.

If you love baseball but your partner couldn't care less, maybe don't propose on the Jumbotron during the Kiss Cam.

That's a classic move, but it's just not that important to them. No matter how big the gesture, you want your partner to feel like you put time and effort into making this proposal about something you both are passionate about.

Once you decide where it should happen, find the right proposal photographer. Pick someone local to the area.

As Delaware photographers, we’re able to give out–of–state clients the ins and outs of Rehoboth Beach before they arrive. If you’re not familiar with the area, you’ll definitely want a local. No matter how much research you do, your proposal photographer will know when and where will be the best time to shoot.

Plotting Your Diversion with the Proposal Photographer

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When planning the proposal, you've got to have an alternative reason why you're going where you're going.

The reason the Rockefeller Tree proposal worked so well was because we had a believable cover story; they were going on a private tour, and it was going to be the least "exciting" part of the trip; the day before, they did a carriage ride through Central Park and the next day they were going to a Packers game, so even if she was expecting a proposal, it probably would have been during the other days.

This also gave me the perfect cover for why I would be taking a picture of them. Instead of doing the sniping method in the bushes (which I have done), I had an excuse to be front and center to capture the moment.

So if you're planning an engagement party at a friend's house so you can propose surrounded by friends, say it's so-and-so's boyfriend's birthday party (but make sure they can't cross check on Facebook to verify). That way there's a reason for the get together.

And then you can all pose for a picture and pop the question then.

Proposal Photo Ideas: What Makes Secret Engagement Photography Special

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What makes surprise engagement photoshoots so special is that both of you are glowing and giddy the entire time. You just committed to spending the rest of your lives together. That excitement absolutely shows in pictures.

Having a professional in your arsenal is such a blessing when it comes to planning; you've (probably) never proposed before, but capturing these moments is the professional's job. They know what they're doing and would love to help you plan out every last detail.

Also, having a third party not in your family or friend circle gives you someone to safely get excited with. You have someone to send pictures of the ring, to talk to about your nerves, and to just get excited without being nervous that your friend will spill the beans.

Hiring a photographer for proposal photography shouldn’t make you nervous. So if you’re looking for a proposal photographer to help you pop the question, contact Still Poetry Photography! We’re here to help you plan the perfect surprise engagement photoshoot. We know how to photograph a proposal and make the experience unforgettable for you and your partner.

Thinking of putting together a public proposal? Email and let's get planning.


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