At its core, this work captures the most joyous moments two people share. That beautiful moment when one drops to their knee and asks the other to spend the rest of their life together. However, there is much more to it than that.

If I were to pick a single word to describe successfully executing a proposal photoshoot, it would be planning. Without planning, a proposal photoshoot is like to have issues. I revel in the planning process because with a well-planned shoot, on the day of the shoot, I will have eliminated most of the variables that could ruin the day. I say most because some variables cannot be controlled, especially when shooting in a public venue. Examples that I have encountered are:

  • A traffic accident
  • A pop-up wedding at the photoshoot spot
  • A wedding party arriving at a location for the wedding pictures
  • A bus party of tourists
  • My client dropped to his knee 200 yards away from the agreed spot
  • My client was unable to get an Uber to travel to the spot
  • During the pandemic, a client proposed while wearing their mask in an outdoor setting
planning a surprise proposal

A pop-up wedding at the time of our scheduled proposal photoshoot at the Castle Hill Lighthouse

Rhode island photographer, George Ross

A muti-car traffic accident (no one was hurt) that happened on my way to a proposal photoshoot. I had left early enough, that the traffic delay did not make me late.

As you can see, life can get in the way, so I must eliminate as many variables as possible.

The following is the typical process I use when working with my clients – 90% of my clients are from out of state – and it begins with selecting the proposal spot. Some clients have a firm idea of where they want to propose but have never been to the location before, and others ask for my guidance in picking the best spot.

Once we have selected the location, I have to guide the client to arrive at an exact spot within a window of time at a place where they have never been before. A further complication is that three parties are involved in the shoot, and one does not know there is a schedule.

The best tools for this are a combination of location photos, annotated google maps, drone videos, and screen captures of the drone videos per the examples below.

Rhode island photographer, George Ross

Possible proposal photoshoot locations at the Castle Hill Inn

directions to castle hill light house

An annotated screen capture with directions to a proposal spot at the Castle Hill Lighthouse

Marking the spot at the Goat Island Lighthouse

This is a photo that I sent to my client to mark the spot for his proposal, on the day of the proposal This was plan B!.

All of my clients are nervous; after all, it is a massive life moment, but some are very nervous, so much so that they will send me many text messages in the days leading up to the proposal. I had one nervous chap text me more than 40 times! Occasionally, I feel like a therapist as I have to reassure my clients that we have “got this.” And this is why planning is so important; with a good plan, my clients can relax a little as they trust my plan.

Weather sometimes interferes with the plans, and when that occurs, we will either change the time of the shoot or reschedule. Several times we have moved the time of the proposal photoshoot to either side of the arriving weather, and sometimes, we have to use umbrellas.

a man kneels for a surprise proposal at newport vineyards-4

A rainy day proposal at the Newport Vineyards

With the plan in place, I build as much flexibility as possible because rescheduling is often impossible with my clients being out of state.

On the day of the proposal, I use the following tools and tactics to make things go smoothly and to plan!

  • GPS tracking – I ask my clients to share their location with me, and I share my location.
  • Send me a selfie on the shoot day so that I can recognize the couple at a distance. Being able to identify clothing is much easier than trying to recognize a face at a distance.
  • I hide my primary camera in a bright yellow Helly Hansen sports bag which permits my client to recognize me at a distance.

A screen shot of my clients GPS locations; AB is my client as he makes is way to me, the blue spot

To reassure my clients, I text them when I pull out of my driveway and another when I am parked at the proposal location. While we have a good plan for the shoot, we still do not know what is happening at the proposal spot, so I always arrive 30 minutes early just in case I have to call an audible and move the location based on what I find. Moving the site at the last minute is the last thing that I want to but sometimes, needs must. When this occurs, I take a photo of the new location, annotate the image and text my client.

With all of that done, let the proposal begin.

As you can see, there are many moving parts in planning the perfect proposal photoshoot.

If you would like to learn more about surprise proposal photoshoots, pop-over to the Proposal/Engagement web page for details on pricing and lots of information for planning the perfect surprise proposal.


After photographing many, many, surprise proposals…

Never do anything different. A behaviour change will give the game away!