A

Are you planning a surprise proposal soon? As someone specializing in proposal photography, you’re going to want to stick around for this one!

Knowing how to pull off the perfect surprise proposal is a delicate little dance. But you’ll be more than ready after reading through my 5 best tips!

We’re covering everything from choosing the perfect location to not being suspicious.

So, grab a notebook and pencil, and get ready to take notes!

photos of engaged couple posing for proposal photography in a series of photos at big sur, california

1. Location: How to Pick the Best Spot for Your Proposal Photography

First and foremost, the location! Before you do anything else, you should choose a location for your surprise proposal (and proposal photography).

Do you want to pop the question at a beach, mountains, cliffs, Redwoods, or a sentimental place for the two of you? Do you want something off the beaten path or to have a specific rock in the background?

Luckily, we have so many gorgeous places in California to work with! I’ve photographed surprise proposals at the beaches of Big Sur, in the Redwoods, at vineyards, and so many other amazing spots!

Whatever you decide for your location, make sure it’s something both you and your partner will love.

man proposing to his fiance at vineyard in california
photos of engaged couple posing for proposal photography in a series of photos on a sailboat off coast in california
photos of engaged couple posing for proposal photography in a series of photos at big sur, california
photo of engaged couple on cliffside in california

2. The Right Amount of Privacy: Planning the Perfect Proposal Photography Session

It’s always a good idea to chat with your partner about their ideal proposal before the big day. Ask them some general questions, and get a feel for if they’d prefer a private moment or a big celebration.

Will they be cool with a crowd? Or would they like something more intimate?

proposal photo of guy kneeling down proposing to his fiance at big sur, ca overlook
series of photos of proposal photography of couple at beach in california
photos of a newly engaged couple playing in water for proposal photography

3. How to Choose The Best Time of Day

When planning the perfect proposal, timing is everything. While you’ll want to plan around your regular schedule, so you don’t become suspicious, I have a few tips. 

From a photography standpoint, I usually recommend an early sunrise proposal or a sunset proposal. Here’s why!

For sunrise proposals, busy locations are less crowded. This is a great option if you want a popular spot like Pfeiffer Beach. Plus, you’ll have the whole day to celebrate together afterward! 

One of the benefits of proposing at sunset is the romantic and intimate atmosphere it creates, with breathtaking lighting. However, popular spots such as beaches may be more crowded at sunset. 

While proposing in the middle of the day can be easier to schedule, it can also be a bit risky due to the crowds and poor lighting conditions. Choosing a more private location, like the Redwoods, may be best if you’re planning a noon proposal. The canopy from the tall Redwoods can provide both privacy and better light for your photos.

proposal photography of couple standing on beach in california with many birds flying above them

Recap on Timing:

  • Sunrise = Less Crowded + Have The Whole Day to Celebrate
  • Sunset = Romantic Sunset Possibilities 
  • Middle of the Day = Lighting Not Great + More Crowded

photos of engaged couple posing for proposal photography in a series of photos at big sur, california
photo of a guy kneeling to propose to his partner for a surprise proposal photography near big sur, ca
proposal photography of couple having a fancy picnic on the beach
photo of couple with their dog on beach after surprise engagement

4. Create a Believable Story to Avoid Suspicion 

Here’s something most people skip…but it’s so important! Have. A. Believable. Story!

Most of these tips will help you build a credible story AND get your partner to dress for the occasion too! 

Tips to be less suspicious:

  • Plan a romantic walk on the beach followed by a fancy dinner reservation.
  • Hire a planned picnic as a romantic evening together. 
  • Take a beautiful hike and stop in a designated spot. 
  • Make plans for after the proposal. Meeting with friends or anything that will make the “event” seem normal.
  • Plan an outing for the day, like visiting a place you’ve always wanted to see together.
  • Propose on a special occasion – birthdays, holidays, or anniversaries are always a great excuse!
  • If it’s near a holiday, tell your partner you’d like to take a quick photo for Christmas cards, and want them to dress for the occasion.
  • Plan a regular photo session (like the family below did for maternity photos) and pop the question during the shoot!

photo of surprise proposal including a prenant mom, her partner and two older daughters
photo of surprise proposal including a prenant mom, her partner and two older daughters

If you give too many clues, you may give off suspicious vibes. Do what you can, but don’t stress about it!

5. To Hide or Not Hide Your Photographer?

Here’s the deal, hiding like a ninja is part of the gig with surprise proposals. But it can limit how many angles I can get when it’s “go time,”, especially in cliff areas. And during this big moment, it’s all about angles. So if I’m stuck in one spot on a cliff and you’re not faced just right, I might miss the perfect shot. We don’t want that!

When possible, I always suggest having me be a regular bystander in the area, like a hiker or beach-goer taking photos of the waves.

proposal photography of couple at vineyard in california
proposal photography of couple at vineyard in california
proposal photography of couple at vineyard in california

Go Time! How I Pull Off Surprise Proposal Photography!

Before photographing the big moment, I have a secret code with the person proposing. Once the code has been given, I start taking photos from a distance with my zoom lens and slowly move in closer.

Once the cat’s out of the bag, I’ll keep documenting the moment and do some fun celebratory photos!

photos of a man surprise proposing to his partner in california
series of photos of a man proposing to his partner on trail near big sur, ca captured by surprise proposal photography

Pop the Bubbly!

I love getting photos of the couples celebrating with cider or champagne. I know that’s a lot to carry along without being suspicious, so I always offer to bring the bubbly and glasses! 

And if you’re feeling adventurous, give the bottle a shake before opening it! It makes for some of the most fun and lively photos!

photos of recently engaged couple popping bottle of champagne
photos of engaged couple in a series of photos at big sur, california
photo of a couple standing on cliffside near big sur, california after engagement

Engagement Photos

After we’ve raised a glass to celebrate the moment, I try to include a mini or full engagement session while you’re still living in the moment! These photos are great to use to announce your engagement on social media, with friends and family, and in your wedding announcements!

close up photo of a newly engaged couple in big sur, california
photos of a newly engaged couple playing in water for proposal photography
engagement photos of a couple after a surprise proposal
photos of engaged couple posing for proposal photography in a series of photos on dock beside water
engagement photos of couple having a fancy picnic on the beach
proposal photography after a man proposed to his fiance, standing under beautiful trees in california near the beach
photo of surprise proposal including a prenant mom, her partner near big sur, california

And that’s a wrap!

I hope these tips have been helpful as you plan your surprise proposal. I just threw a lot of information at you, but here’s one last tip: DON’T SWEAT IT!

If things don’t go exactly as planned, just enjoy the moment and roll with it. You’ve got a lifetime of adventures ahead of you. And if something unexpected or comical happens, it’ll make for a great story at your wedding. 

photos of engaged couple posing for proposal photography in a series of photos at big sur, california
scenic photo of a couple standing on the cliffside at big sur, california for

Ready to make your surprise proposal one to remember? 

With my experience in proposal photography, I’ll help you plan the perfect day that’ll be one for the books! I photograph couples all over California, from Big Sur to Lake Tahoe and everywhere in between! Will you be next?

Send me a message here to get started!

Comments

Christmas photography ideas and suggestions will assist you in capturing those priceless moments and creating memories with your loved ones.

Christmas photography

Add Your Comment

CLOSE MENU