Proposals are NOT Photo Sessions: A Client-Focussed Approach

11/26/23

Proposal photographers, this is for you! 📷😄

What’s the number 1 fundamental thing I’ve learned about photographing marriage proposals? They are NOT photo sessions. Let’s dive into why taking photos isn’t my main priority when planning proposals.

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The Big Differences

First, let’s compare proposals to an engagement photo session. Despite some of the photos looking similar in the end, HOW you take these photos is wildly different.

PLANNING

  • Engagement photo sessions usually involve discussion between the photographer and both clients. We’ll discuss location preferences, style, lighting, timing, outfits, how to prepare yourself physically and mentally, and what to expect overall.
  • At a proposal, the photographer is a total stranger to 1 out of 2 clients. The person who is proposing had a similar conversation with the photographer, but their partner had no input. Despite efforts to plan something their partner will love, there’s just no way their partner will be totally prepared to take lots of photos. But no worries! There is no expectation that they be 100% photo-ready. Instead, the priorities are shifted to appreciate the real-life, candid moments.

POSED VS. CANDID

  • Engagement photo sessions are fully posed. Or at least, the photographer has the ability to direct the couple, telling them what to do, providing feedback and making adjustments.
  • Most photos taken at a proposal are totally candid. At the beginning, one of the clients doesn’t even know they’re being photographed.

DELIVERING PHOTOS

  • Engagement photos can be delivered in your normal range of time. There’s not usually a big rush.
  • Clients want to see their proposal photos (at least some previews) as soon as possible!
Proposals are NOT Photo Sessions: A Client-Focussed Approach

Be more than a photographer

As a proposal photographer, my main job is to help the whole proposal flow smoothly. That means choosing the right time of day and location for my client’s needs, educating them on the best options, providing a detailed timeline, considering every factor they’d never think of, and keeping their nerves down by making them confident in their plan.

Notice that I haven’t yet mentioned taking photos? Well, if you plan the proposal with photos in mind but not the MAIN priority, the photos and the client’s experience will both be on the right path.

The truth is that most people planning a proposal need some serious help with the planning part. Yes, they need someone to take photos, but they also have 15 other questions that need an answer before anyone gets down on one knee.

Wedding photographers, think about the weddings you’ve photographed that didn’t have a planner. Remember the lack of organization, and the stress it created for both the client and for YOU. Your photos probably suffered because of it. Now compare that to a proposal. A proposal is a smaller scale event, but it’s also a surprise and is being planned by one person who is often inexperienced in planning surprise events.

As a photographer, you can choose to:

  1. Show up, take photos, and hope for the best
  2. Guide them to make the best decisions from start to finish

Despite the extra work, it’s an easy choice. 😊

Proposals are NOT Photo Sessions: A Client-Focussed Approach

Plan differently than you plan a photo session

In some ways, being a couples or wedding photographer prepares you for being a proposal photographer. 📷 This is good news for anyone wanting to take the leap into offering this service! But, you may want to slow your roll before accepting your first proposal. Being able to pose couples aesthetically and provide a good session experience is only a tiny part of the proposal process.

From planning, to shooting the proposal, to delivering photos, almost every step of the process is different. The priorities are just 𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵.

Pre-proposal communication is the key to taking candid photos of this moment without meeting your client in person or setting them up in the best spot beforehand.

Your usual rules for lighting and timing may fall lower in the priority list too.

Here’s an example:

You suggest that your client propose at golden hour because that’s when the lighting is best, but the client wants to propose in the middle of the day. Instead of insisting that lighting is the most important factor, ask why they want to propose then. Maybe you’ll discover that mid-day works best with their schedule, and proposing later would look very suspicious. If the client values a surprise over perfect lighting, listen to them.

Reconsider the location or the exact spot where they should propose. Is there way to photograph it differently than you initially imagined in order to make the lighting work? Are you able to shoot in direct sun, even if that’s not your normal style? Be sure to communicate this with your client so they understand that their photos may look different than most of the example photos you’ve showed them. They may be totally fine with it!

Proposals are NOT Photo Sessions: A Client-Focussed Approach

Focus on what matters most

The experience you provide to your client BEFORE they propose is invaluable. They will appreciate your expertise in both proposal planning and photography.

Yes, I’m there taking photos, and that part is great, but whole experience should NOT be planned solely around the photos. Something more important is happening, and there’s a balance between giving the couple a smooth experience and taking the best possible photos.

Let me know…👇 Does this hot take surprise you coming from a photographer? 🔥

Proposals are NOT Photo Sessions: A Client-Focussed Approach

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