I am very fortunate and honored that clients have trusted me to assist and photograph their surprise engagements. Watching it from the outside gives me a high-level view of everything that is happening. In a way, the whole process from planning to execution is the equivalent of someone preparing work and another reviewing it. When you prepare something and are in the thick of it you tend to get very focused and have a narrow vision of what is going on. The reviewer will see everything because they are not focused on the details but looking at the bigger picture. So in this engagement scenario as a photographer, I am the reviewer. I look at everything from a big picture perspective and help bring up any potential issues and assist with problem-solving. This is a service that I offer when you book with me because it always helps to have the extra set of eyes. And with all of the surprise engagements I have done, I thought it would be valuable to share some tips!
Location of where you are going to pop the question is extremely important because everything else falls into place around it. Are you looking to do it at a restaurant after dinner, a special spot in the park, on the top of the roof with the NYC skyline as the backdrop? The options are endless but there are a few items to keep in mind. First, if you are picking a location that is outside you need to remember that as much as you prepare and plan, mother nature gets to throw in her vote. This does not mean you should not plan an outdoor engagement, but if you have a whole day set for it (the proposal needs to happen that day regardless of the scenario), then you should have an option “B”. One of the first questions I ask a client when they book me to capture their engagement is “Where are you planning to pop the question?” and “Do you have a back-up location?” If not I have to play devil’s advocate and have you brainstorm some backup plans. Another thing to keep in mind is the foot traffic of the location. Times Square on a Saturday at noon is going to be absolutely packed, while a small park in New Jersey might be more secluded. Neither option is right or wrong, the only thing that matters is if you are happy and comfortable with the choice.
GETTING HELP FROM OTHERS
Getting others involved is extremely helpful. Maybe you want your significant other to be taken out for the day while you prepare for the engagement, or need family and friends to help prepare the location with a sign and balloons. Anything you can do to alleviate stress and planning for the day of makes a difference. You need to be mindful of who you share with as the more people you tell the more you risk someone slipping some information. So it should be with people that you absolutely trust and know that will be there to help you the day of. Every engagement I have shot someone else has been involved with, whether it was myself as the photographer or friends and family.
If your significant other is one to get their nails done then find a way for them to get them done in a color they would enjoy for the engagement. This is not an easy task to complete as it would be a huge flag if you randomly go up to your significant other asking them to get their nails done. If you are someone that likes to go with them and get your nails done then it should be easier. But if you are on the boat of wanting nothing to do with it then you will run into some issues. With the above point of getting others involved maybe you can have your significant other’s parent go with them or their best friend. Any time I have photographed an engagement the one that was proposed to was very happy that they had their nails done.
Unless you and your significant other and extremely private and someone has specifically said “I hate the idea of a photographer at an engagement shoot” then skip this completely. If not, having a photographer at the proposal is something you should highly consider. This is a moment that cannot be recreated. Yes, you could always pose out the photo, but you will never capture the same raw emotion that happens in the moment. I talked to a couple a few months after capturing their engagement. One thing they said that really hit me was that the photos told a story and that they could look at the images and feel the emotions of that day. Now you do not need a “Professional Photographer” to handle this, but I did write a blog post as to why you should consider using one (https://www.etgphotos.com/post/photographer-for-your-surprise-engagement). Regardless of who is taking the photos, I suggest having someone there to capture the moment.
The final tip I can give anyone is to lower your expectations for the day. You can plan all you want, have the most perfect setup, but something will always cause a small hiccup. Maybe an old couple walks in a spot that you reserved for an engagement at a park, the weather goes south, I can make a whole list. At the end of the day, you will not remember if the sun was shining, or that a family of tourists decided they wanted to follow you to a secret spot at
Central Park. The only thing you will remember as a couple will be the special moment that is shared between each other.