Engagements always make for sweet sessions. It is an exciting time in the lives of the couple as they stand on the threshold to a new chapter in their lives together. Often the glee and excitement cannot be contained and it is such a pleasure to be able to capture these expressions. That is one thing you'll hear me talk about time and time again, my love for faces and capturing the many different expressions of human emotion.

I get asked to do a lot of surprise engagements. They are so exciting and a little stressful, but I like to think its the good kind of stress. For a moment, everyone takes part in the unexpected joy and rush of adrenaline as someone gets down on one knee to pop the question! This past weekend I got to document the engagement of a couple. It was at Libby Hill, a Richmond hotspot made famous for its sunset views of the river and downtown. I was so nervous and excited, trying to look inconspicuous in my baseball cap, sitting on the bench, constantly monitoring everyone around me. Finally, the couple arrived and I started really sweating then! Watching them walk and walk, finally sitting down under a tree RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. As casual as possible, I got up walked behind the bench I was sitting on, pulled out my camera with my 70-200mm lens (the perfect lens for spying!) and hid behind a bush just waiting, waiting WAITING for the right moment!

surprise engagement libby hill park Richmond Virginia couple lifestyle photography
surprise engagement libby hill park Richmond Virginia couple lifestyle photography

...and it got me thinking... There are so many moving parts with any surprise! When, where, how will I get them to go along with what I have planned?? WHAT IF IT RAINS!!??? So, I thought I'd share my tips and tricks for planning the perfect surprise and cutting down on some of the potential for stress.

  1. Pick a place that is familiar. Not only will this add significance to your photos but choosing a place that is familiar will help cut down on some of the stress of planning. Hopefully since it will be familiar, it won't raise any red flags for your surprise-ee. You'll also already know the lay of the land and can pick the perfect spot to reveal your surprise. Think about when the location gets busy and also think about what time of day does that spot look prettiest. Visit the spot at different times of day or consult with your photographer and try to plan around this time of day
  2. Make sure you and your photographer are on the same page about exactly when and where you're going to reveal the big surprise. Just as much as you want everything to go right the day of, your photographer doesn't want to miss a thing either! I always plan to get to the location at least 30 minutes prior to when the clients are expected to arrive. This way if they're early I am in place and ready to go! I like to get a few "before surprise" photos too. I always find those photos when you don't realize the camera is on you to be so interesting. Its like a little sneak peek of yourself from the perspective everyone else.
  3. Once you and the photographer are in place -- Don't wait too long! The longer you wait the more likely someone will realize something funny is going on and they might start getting curious about the person over there in the baseball cap with the book bag staring a little too hard in your direction.
  4. Enlist the help of friends and family. A trusted family member or a good friend can go a long way in helping orchestrate your ruse. They can help with getting your partner to the right location or they can suggest a "spontaneous" spa day for the bride to be so they look their best the day of!

Here's a little highlight from this past weekend's engagement session