Act fast and shoot continuously.
Wise words from a photographer offering tips on how to discreetly shoot an outdoor marriage proposal. I watched his YouTube video the day before I was to capture a young man, Matt, ask for the hand of his would-be fiancé, Nicole.
It was my first assignment of this kind. I’d originally encountered a marriage proposal-specific photographer on ABC's Shark Tank, who pitched his non-proprietary business idea that spawned a slew of said shutterbugs. I’d even once come across a marriage proposal shoot while in Madison Square Park in Manhattan and captured my own shot.
I talked with Matt the night before the big day, going over the logistics of his proposal plans. He and Nicole were scheduled to close on a house on Long Island in the morning. They would later drive to and enter their new house unaccompanied for the first time. There, atop a tall pole on the front lawn, a white flag would bear the black script: “Will You Marry Me?”
Matt anticipated that as they pulled into the driveway, Nicole wouldn’t immediately notice the flag. They’d exit the car and walk across the lawn; then he’d ask her to look at the flag and he'd get down on one knee and produce a pricey rock.
But plans don’t always unfold as drawn up.
Before the couple arrived, I sat in my car three houses down the street with my camera set for the outdoor environment and partly sunny February day. Act fast and shoot continuously, I repeated mantra-like.
When they finally pulled up the street and into their new driveway, Matt quickly exited and walked around the car and dropped on his knee to pop the big question. Meanwhile, I had just quietly closed my car door and planned to walk along the sidewalk, camera smuggled under my winter coat and iPhone held to my ear, pretending to be a casual passerby. I had to immediately nix that plan.
I’d learn later that Nicole had spotted the flag as soon as they pulled in. So Matt had to act faster than he expected—as did I. With camera in hand, I dashed down the sidewalk and across a neighbor’s lawn before I stopped and started shooting continuously, even though I wanted to get closer for the money shot.
Because I acted fast and shot continuously, I captured the surprised Nicole’s every step and gesture as she said “yes” and went in for a kiss. As my accompanying collage of photos can attest: I not only got the money shot but a sequence of Benjamins.
Yes, branches from a small tree on the lawn got in the way, but these add to my paparazzi-like perspective of their intimate moment. Later, in post-production, I tried to heighten the intimacy by cropping each clockwise frame more tightly than the last.
Congrats to Matt and Nicole! And much thanks to that YouTube tipster!