“ I do ” – A Photographer’s Guide to Photographing the Wedding Proposal

“ His heart jumps in to his throat – The whole world stops as he drops to one knee and looks up into the eyes of his beautiful bride-to-be”

The proposal

The proposal

Photographing a wedding proposal is one of the coolest things a photographer can do. The tension, the mystery, the “cloak and dagger” … and then there’s the profuse sweating by the guy/girl who’s doing the proposing !

So, the first thing I do after I’m asked is acknowledge how cool they are for asking me . HA! Then immediately calm their nerves and let them know that I’m the expert in capturing this moment which can never be repeated so that they can have it forever. And all they need to worry about is “Putting a Ring on it” and not throwing up all over their soon to be fiance of course.

The Chase - before the proposal

The Chase – following them before the proposal

So, what goes into photographing a wedding proposal ?  Preparation – that’s what

Being Prepared for all the Scenarios … and there are a million of them !

You’re going to draw a crowd if you’re hiding in the bushes … or you might start a parade behind you if you’re following the couple and taking pictures . Yes, it’s happened just about every time that I’ve photographed a proposal. So I’ve got to be prepared to quietly and politely tell my followers to “go away”

What if some knuckle head yells “Hey … is he gonna propose?? “ (before he’s ready to .. propose)   They’re in public … so anything can happen. I remind the future groom that if this happens that he can still drop to one knee and get cracking with the proposal just as if the “knuckle head outburst” was a part of his plan. It will be a good story for the groom’s wedding day toast anyway.

He wants to propose during a romantic dinner in a crowded restaurant.  Logistics and planning are king here. You’ll need a clear line of sight to the couple of course. No waiters walking in front of you. No guests from other tables standing in front of you to applaud. No one running up to you and grabbing your camera saying “you can’t photograph in here!!” So they have to make sure that their table is reserved well in advance. And figure out (clear it with the management) where you’re going to be. Hiding in a closet? Sitting at the bar? Sitting at an adjacent table? Simple details maybe, but like I said – Logistics ! So you’ll want to arrive at the venue early, speak with the restaurant manager and make sure that everything is in place, including you.

He wants to propose at a family gathering – It’s not so much logistics in this case as it is keeping the family members from standing in front of you with their “big fancy cameras” . One way is to not tell anyone that the proposal is going to happen. Because I can promise you that if everyone knows that someone’s not going to be able to keep the secret and the bride will find out. And by the way – why are you there at their family cookout anyway ? Are you a long lost cousin ? One of the waitstaff ? Are you serving drinks? I suggest that you have a good cover story and bring someone you know with you so that you can interact with them until “the moment of proposal”

OK – He’s proposed and she’s accepted – how long do you wait to go up to the couple ? If they’re alone on the street or in a restaurant you should usually keep photographing until the groom-to-be calls you over. This could be a long time as the couple shares some private time … or it could be right away . At this point it’s an Engagement session with lots of kissing, walking through the park and ring shots. Happy day ! If it’s at a family gathering then treat it like a party and photograph all the well wishers and the crazy party which will certainly break out.

The Chase - before the proposal

The Chase – following the couple with your parade behind you before the proposal

Reasons you may want to have a written agreement and payment in advance: – some of these may make you smile … but once again – you’re preparing for all outcomes

The most obvious reason is so that all the details are documented and so that the groom-to-be doesn’t need to worry about paying you that day.

And then there’s the other reasons:

What if she doesn’t accept his proposal ? Not your fault and you deserve to be paid in full. But what do you do after she turns him down? Typically you need to keep photographing from a distance as they talk – you see it’s easier to delete the photos that you take and that they may never want to see than it is to create the photos that you didn’t take and they will wonder why you didn’t . There is a chance that she will still accept the proposal after a few minutes. No matter what – you do not just walk away without trying to speak with the groom-to-be. Even if it is just to quickly say good-bye.

The groom decides not to propose that day – Not your fault and you deserve to be paid in full. But you can certainly offer to reschedule for a day that you are free,

The groom couldn’t contain himself and proposes before the agreed upon place and time – If it’s still logistically possible – you can meet them and just have a nice engagement session.

Photographing a proposal session requires that you are part sleuth and part photographer. But mostly you need to be prepared. Assure the groom-to-be that you’ll be there and all he needs to do … is propose !

Now, who wants to come along on my next undercover operation?

Here’s a look at the proposal as it unfolded 

The Chase - before the proposal

The Chase – Following, ducking in doorways, creating a parade behind me , before the proposal

The proposal

The proposal

The proposal

The proposal

The proposal

The proposal

The proposal

The proposal

A bit of laughter after the proposal - he's still holding the ring

A bit of laughter after the proposal – he’s still holding the ring

She accepts ! The proposal

She accepts ! The proposal – he’s still holding the ring

She accepts ! The proposal

She accepts ! The proposal and he’s still holding the ring !

The ring is on her finger - after the proposal

Finally the ring is on her finger

Now it’s time to let let them know that you’ve been there and ‘let’s have that engagement session”  – that is if you can get their attention !

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The engagement session - after the proposal

The engagement session – after the proposal

The engagement session - after the proposal

The engagement session – after the proposal

The Senior Yearbook Portrait – So, Do you choose the School Photographer or a Professional ?

As a professional photographer the question I get every year is “Must I use the national chain photography company that our school has contracted with for my senior yearbook picture ?

Senior Portrait © dan busler photography

The answer is Yes in some cases and No in others.

Senior Portrait © dan busler photography

Yes – In the case of many private schools where they want a consistent uniform, pose, lighting, background and expression for the senior yearbook picture. Here they will mandate that the picture for the yearbook must be taken by a particular photographer.

Yes – in the case of many public schools where they have contracted an exclusive agreement with a national chain photography company. The chain offers the school many incentives (some may be financial ) in return for being guaranteed that they will photograph every senior and have the opportunity to offer them prints.

Yes and No – One well known national chain company recently sent a post card to the seniors in one town with the wording “Students must be photographed by {this photography company’s name}” and then at the bottom of the card they state “No Charge – Basic Session Fee refunded 100% when you return the proof set! “

So, yes and no in this case – Yes – it appears that you must pay to be photographed by the school photographer, but No – you don’t have to choose to use the picture that was taken by the chain photographer in the yearbook as your Senior yearbook picture and remember – they did state that you can get all your money back when you turn in the proof pictures. How long it takes to get the refund is unclear and I would think that it varies in each case.

When a Parent who was confused (and I was told by the Parent – a bit concerned ) by the wording on the postcard that they had received asked the Principal at this particular school if they could submit a senior yearbook picture which was taken by a professional photographer he responded  “ You may send in whatever picture you like, from whatever source you like, and we will include it in the yearbook”.

Senior Portrait © dan busler photography

So, no matter how your school handles the actual yearbook picture, you are free to use whom ever you want for your senior pictures. The keepsake pictures that you’ll share with family, relatives and friends to document this milestone in your life. Of course you may not see it as a “milestone” !

Senior Picture © dan busler photography

So, Professional photographer or the school’s chain photographer ?

Often it may come down to how much you want your individuality to shine. A professional photographer will typically have time allocated (usually 30 minutes to three hours) to focus all of their attention on you alone. Giving you lots of time to get comfortable in front of the camera, get used to the lighting, make clothing changes and photograph in multiple locations. Whereas the school photographer may have a line out the door, watching you and waiting for their turn in front of the camera.

Senior Portrait © dan busler photography

The Parents who have chosen to have their Child’s senior portraits done by me tell me that there are only a few milestones in their Child’s life – being born, bat/bar mitzvah or first communion and confirmation, high school graduation, college graduation, marriage … and then the cycle begins again with their children’s kids.

Senior Portrait © dan busler photography

Which option you choose for your senior portrait is personal preference, but just know that you’re covered no matter which option you may choose.

Senior Portrait © dan busler photography