If you’re reading this, you are probably planning to propose to your significant other soon- congratulations!
Your proposal story is one you both will be talking about for years to come. You may be thinking about hiring a professional photographer to get this surprise on camera with some photos of those freshly engaged smiles.
I’ve photographed several proposals at the Red River Gorge, in Louisville, Crestwood and other parts of Kentucky. Coordinating a proposal can be tricky by itself, and when you add a photographer who needs to be incognito – it means you need some next level planning to pull it off. That’s why I’ve come up with detailed advice to help you pull off your dream proposal and surprise the love of your life!
Proposal details to share with your photographer
The first details you’ll want to share with your proposal photographer are the basic logistics. Location, date, and time – as close to the actual time you’ll propose as possible. It’s great to get input from a professional on lighting at your specific location at the time of day you plan to propose. I always offer insight when I can for locations I’m familiar with, or visit locations that are new to me.
Location scouting for your surprise proposal
I always like to scout out the proposal location to make sure there is a good spot for me to hide. You, the proposer, will want to indicate where you will stand and which direction you’ll be facing with your partner for the big moment. I recommend going at the time of day you plan to propose so you get an idea of lighting and crowds if it’s a public place. I also recommend having a backup spot if your location is in a public area, so you can quickly adjust the plan if someone is in your first choice spot without getting flustered.
What’s your story going to be? In other words, what will the person who will be proposed to think is happening that day? What will you do to not draw suspicion? How likely are they to go along with your story? This is all helpful information for a photographer to know.
For example, at a recent proposal at the Natural Bridge, no one else was there besides me and my camera. Since it’s a common place for people to take a professional cameras for photos, I hid in plain sight without drawing suspicion. In other scenarios, I have hidden in my car, behind bushes or trees, or other locations so it wasn’t obvious.
Where will you both enter the scene? You don’t want to cross paths with your photographer as you’re on your way to THE SPOT. As your super incognito photographer, I want to look for you without drawing suspicion or missing the moment because I didn’t know where you were walking in.
Many people propose outdoors, and since the weather is always unpredictable, what will be your rain plan? Outdoor locations like Cherokee Park have covered shelters that also make great backup options because you still have a scenic view in the background. It’s also important to communicate your backup idea with your proposal photographer so I can bring the right gear. If we’re going to be outside the whole time, I probably won’t bring my flash; however, if the plan changes and we’re indoors somewhere with tricky lighting, I don’t want to be caught off guard without my preferred equipment.
Where will the ring be hidden so they don’t see it before you propose? Ring boxes are notoriously bulky and square, which is great for safekeeping but very obvious in pockets. On Etsy, you can find ring boxes like these that are flat and easier to conceal. You could also use a small drawstring pouch like this one. If you’re doing an activity together that’s leading up to the proposal like a picnic, a scavenger hunt, etc., you may be able to hide the ring or ring box inside something you bring for that activity. Whatever you do, make sure it’s secure and not loose in a pocket where it could fall out!
If you or your soon to be fiance(e) are carrying any items with you, will you mind if those items are in the photos? Or do you want to find a spot to put them before proposing? Make sure to leave any unnecessary items in the car, including any other items in your pocket, extra jackets, sunglasses, etc. If you have to bring an item with you, try to put it in the pocket that won’t be facing the photographer.
What will the signal be that you are about to propose? This is the biggest cue your photographer needs to know! I like to discuss this with the proposer beforehand so I know it’s about to happen. Some proposals may take awhile if the proposer is nervous, so having a signal that you are READY is helpful to make sure I get the exact moment you start to reach for the ring on camera.
The signal doesn’t need to be complicated – a tug on the ear (the one that’s facing the photographer), scratching your head, a big stretch, pretending to take a selfie are all simple and easy ones to pull off.
What are you going to say??? This is THE big question. It can be a short and sweet question, or something long and heartfelt. This part is totally up to you to write the script for – good luck!
Is your partner someone who would want this proposal to be shared just between the two of you, someplace private? Or might they enjoy having some of their close friends and family also hiding nearby? Consider the feasibility of the logistics as well as your S.O.’s personality. Some people opt to have a surprise engagement party after the proposal in a different location so your fiance(e) has time to process everything!
After they say “YES!”
What happens after the proposal? There is usually a LOT of happy squealing, oohs and ahs over the ring, happy tears, hugs, and kisses. We’ll take plenty of photos of you two similar to an engagement session, while keeping it pretty light considering they’re going to be feeling a lot of emotion! If friends and family are nearby, I like to get candid photos of everyone celebrating your engagement. You can also hire me to come along afterwards to your surprise engagement party where friends and family are waiting to celebrate with you.
One final note about proposal planning…
Proposals almost never go exactly as planned. Sometimes the weather changes last minute, there may be people in “your spot”, someone almost ruins the surprise, your S.O. may be so unaware of the surprise they are not going along with the plan, or you could even forget the ring! Regardless of any hiccups, remember that your partner loves you and anything that goes differently than you planned will be a cute part of the story you all will be able to share later. Go with the flow and everything will turn out incredible!
I hope this was extremely helpful for you as you plan your proposal – if you’d like me to photograph your special moment, reach out to me through my website or email me directly at email@example.com
Johanna Hribal is a Louisville, KY based couples photographer who enjoys photographing engagements, weddings, destination elopements, anniversary sessions, boudoir, and proposals. Click here to see all I offer for couples on my website!