Proposals: From the Photographer’s Perspective

Photographer Zlatko Batistich ( talks about proposals from the photographer’s perspective:

What is it like to photograph a proposal?

A proposal is part drama, part romance. The drama arises because the proposal is a surprise and the outcome is not guaranteed. Even if one party suspects that a proposal is in the offing, they likely don’t know the exact time or place or other details. The proposal is inevitably a special moment for the couple, full of excitement and likely a good deal of nervousness. And when the proposal happens, we instantly want to know the answer: was it a “Yes”?

The romance is evident in the details that have been planned, and in the couple’s interaction after the big moment. The details can be big or small. I try to capture any key elements of the event (rings, flowers, a special note, champagne glasses, etc.) to help the couple remember the event. I also keep in mind that the photos will help tell the story of the proposal to the couple’s families and fiends, and maybe to their children one day. After the proposal, if time and circumstances permit, we may go for a walk and/or make some portraits. If the couple is visiting NYC from another place, then the city may be an important part of the story.

What is your favorite part of a proposal?

I like the uniqueness of each proposal, and that it’s a big moment. It reflects a bit of the story of the couple’s life together thus far, and it marks the beginning of their life together ahead. Photographers are visual people, so it’s fun to tell a visual story about something new and meaningful.

What are the challenges of photographing a proposal?

The first challenge is communication. It’s important to have reliable plan for meeting up with the couple at the appointed time and place. This may be easy if the meeting spot is a hotel, restaurant or apartment, but may be a little tricky if the meeting spot is a public place like Rockefeller Center or Central Park. Text messaging is usually the preferred way of communicating that the couple is on the way and possibly what they’re wearing. In some cases it’s helpful to receive a photo of the couple in advance, so that I know what they look like.

The next challenge is capturing the moment in a descriptive way. This challenge is both technical and artistic. Although there is some planning beforehand, there are inevitably some photographic decisions that are made on the fly as things develop. Nighttime proposals can be especially challenging. Candlelight and other nighttime conditions can test the limits of camera technology. The latest cameras really help. Whether day or night, I want to come away with images that reflect the uniqueness of the couple, the moment and setting.

A third challenge is just the fact of being there. I am inevitably near the couple at the time of the proposal, and this can be a bit awkward. In a public place I may be able to blend in and look like a tourist. But if the proposal is in private place, there is likely to be a moment when the person receiving the proposal must wonder, “Why is there a photographer here?” Fortunately, that moment is brief; when the proposal begins the reason for the photographer quickly becomes apparent.

Do you want to share the story of a proposal you’ve photographed?

One that comes to mind took place in the couple’s apartment on a Friday night. When the young lady came home from work, she entered the apartment and found a rose petal path leading from the front door to the living room. The quantity of rose petals was enormous. The path also had some hand-written notes along the way. When she reached the end of the path, the young man was waiting for her, down on one knee and with ring in hand. A personal chef was in the kitchen preparing a special dinner for the two of them.

So the photos told the story of young man nervously waiting, an apartment transformed with flowers and notes, and a young lady coming home to a big surprise. It was around the holidays, so the apartment was also decorated for the season. The couple ended up ordering a large leather-bound album with many of the evening’s photos. However, I can’t show that proposal due to a confidentiality agreement. Some couples prefer to keep the photos private.

What are some of your favorite photos from proposals you’ve photographed?

Sandra and Antonio from Mexico:

engagement photo

happy engagement

Brad and Adrienne from Arkansas:

christmas proposal winter proposal

Shaun and Marina from the United Kingdom:

United Kingdom Proposal

dinner proposal

Neelon and Shawn from Illinois:

engagement proposal

marriage proposal

Michele and Roy from Indiana:

guy proposing to girl

horse and carriage marriage proposal

Cynthia and Francesco from Canada:

 romantic proposal

marriage proposal

(Text and photos © Zlatko Batistich)

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