How to Prepare for Proposal Pictures in Any Situation, According to the Pros

Yep, you're on candid camera.
cape town mountaintop proposal
Photo courtesy of: Nadine in Cape Town for Flytographer
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated Oct 31, 2023
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Have a hunch your partner's about to propose? There's a good chance the moment will be caught on camera. And while your love is picture-perfect all on its own, we don't blame you if you want to plan ahead—everyone will want to see your proposal pictures, after all. On the other hand, if you're the one proposing, you might have already hired a proposal photographer to capture the moment on camera. And in that case, there are a few more steps to take as you prepare for the actual proposal photos. Whether you're set on scoring the perfect Instagram selfie or anticipating that your future fiancé might have hired a proposal photographer, these tips will help you feel totally prepared when the time comes.

In this article:

Proposal Pictures vs. Engagement Pictures

Proposal pictures are photos (usually candid) that are taken while the proposal is happening. When you're working with a professional proposal photographer, they'll choose an out-of-view spot to discreetly capture everything without imposing on your special moment. Proposal pictures are usually full of raw emotion, which makes them perfect for announcing your engagement on social media or sharing with loved ones. Engagement pictures are taken after the proposal, usually within a few weeks or months. They're often used for save-the-dates and wedding websites.

How to Plan Your Proposal Pictures

"Hiring a photographer for the proposal eliminates the stress of having to take photos the proposal yourself (or having to trust your friend with the task of taking a great once in a lifetime photo)," says Nicole Harris, owner and creative director at Dreams in Detail, a Beverly Hills-based event planning, production, event design and rental company that also specializes in proposal planning. "Photographers also offer amazing insight on how to pose, get down on one knee and important location tips." If you've already hired a pro for this important moment, here's what you need to do next.

Create a detailed timeline.

"When it comes to capturing the big question and their reaction, don't leave the photos to chance," says Nicole Smith, founder and CEO of Flytographer, a platform with more than 500 professional photographers for hire around the world who specialize in proposal pictures and other types of photo shoots. "Work with your photographer to plan exactly how the moment will unfold." Smith recommends creating a timeline or game plan for your photographer that's as specific as possible, all the way down to the little details, like where you'll be standing and who will be facing which direction. A game plan is especially important if you're proposing in a busy location or unfamiliar place. In those scenarios, creating a map can be extra-helpful, says Smith.

Try to share the exact location where you think the proposal will take place, and in return, ask your photographer to give you a general idea of where they'll be staking out with their camera. That way, you'll know how to stand and direct your partner. "You're in charge of how your partner will be facing, as they'll naturally turn to you when you drop to your knee," says Smith. "Make sure one shoulder is facing towards the photographer and the other shoulder is towards the backdrop for that iconic proposal pose and visible faces. Take off their sunglasses so you can capture their expression!"

Decide if you want to build in extra time.

The proposal itself may only take a few minutes, but it's important to decide in advance if you want to build in extra time following your proposal photos. Do you only need the photographer there to capture the proposal itself, or do you want to spend an hour or two afterwards doing an impromptu engagement shoot? Smith recommends capitalizing on the moment as much as possible so that you have both. "Celebrate your brand-new status as an engaged couple with a romantic photo shoot directly after while everyone is still buzzing with joy."

Plan a date as a diversion.

You want to look your best for the proposal pictures, but even if the two of you normally get dressed up to go out like it's NBD, we still recommend planning some type of diversion to keep your partner off of your trail. Smith's advice is to prepare dinner reservations or another celebration for just the two of you following the proposal—and to let your partner in on the selective details. "After the crying and the kissing of the main event, your fiancé will LOVE IT if you've planned some alone time for the two of you to bask in the big moment," says Smith. "That way, you both are dressed your best and it's not suspicious to be looking camera-ready."

Send photos of yourselves to the photographer ahead of time.

Chances are, you haven't met the photographer in person yet, so it's important that they know what you and your partner look like—and vice versa. Smith recommends taking a selfie with your partner on the day of the proposal and secretly sharing it with your photographer, along with a description of what you're both wearing. On top of that, make sure your photographer is aware of any other important people who might be in attendance, like friends or family members.

Rehearse your proposal speech (and your actions).

Practicing what to say when you're proposing is always a good idea, but it's extra-important if you want to make sure that your proposal photos turn out amazing. Say your speech out loud to yourself (don't be shy!) at least once or twice to help you avoid any fumbles. Along with practicing your speech and writing it down if necessary, Smith recommends going through the physical motions of the proposal, especially if you're using a ring box or planning to get down on one knee. "Take a few dry runs opening the ring box," says Smith. "Picture this: You present the ring and it's backwards, or upside down and falls out and into a street grate. Practice, practice, practice and avoid all potential disasters. We've actually had a ring fall into the ocean during a proposal on a pier!"

Don't stand up too quickly.

The big moment is finally here, and your partner said yes—*huge sigh of relief*—but if you're on one knee, try to remind yourself to hold that pose for just a little bit longer. "While it's tempting to immediately pop up for a celebratory hug or kiss, remember to stay down on your knee until the ring is on their finger," says Smith. "While you've probably been thinking about this moment for what feels like forever, the moment itself is fleeting. This also gives your photographer the opportunity to capture as many shots as possible of you and your loved one."

man secretly holds an engagement ring box behind woman's back while smiling for the camera
Photo courtesy of: Rachael in Paris for Flytographer

How to Be Proposal Picture Ready, Just in Case

There's no shame in wanting to be prepared if you have a feeling that your proposal might be caught on camera. Even if your partner hasn't commissioned a photographer, there might be other onlookers ready to snap a photo of the moment—sometimes friends and family members are invited to witness the engagement, and other times, strangers take it upon themselves to capture public proposals. Give yourself peace of mind by taking care of these to-dos.

Pick an outfit that you love.

We all know the power of a great outfit. If you think your partner is going to surprise you with an engagement (and pics of the proposal), wear something that makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Maybe this means an extra excuse to go shopping or splurge on that item you've been eyeing. But since you don't know exactly when or where the proposal is happening, try your best to keep your look practical and versatile, too. "The best way to prepare to be picture-ready for a proposal would be to pick an outfit that is flattering and can be weather-flexible," says Harris. "For example, a dress that isn't flowy is a great option, because it will not blow in the wind and you will not feel underdressed for the occasion."

Treat yourself to some pampering appointments.

If you suspect a proposal's on the horizon and want to do some primping beforehand, make the necessary appointments ASAP. Now's the perfect time to book that haircut you've been putting off, hit the nail salon consistently with a friend (to gossip about the impending proposal, of course) or even splurge on a facial for a little pre-engagement glow.

Do your best to stay present in the moment.

You can't always predict the when and where—that's the beauty of a surprise engagement. At the end of the day, your joy (and shock) are what will make your proposal pics priceless. So be yourself, live in the moment and know that your photos are, first and foremost, for you and your partner. (But if you do care about the Insta likes, trust the process! It's a photographer's job to take share-worthy images, so forget about the camera and let them do their thing.)

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