How do you go about photographing a surprise proposal photography session? How do you price them so they’re attractive to clients, yet profitable for you?
Some of the popular requests we get at our studio are for surprise proposal photography sessions. We’ve found that these sessions are often very lucrative for the photographer. However, we’ve also found that they can be very challenging.
Many photographers have little to no experience with proposal photography. So, before we get into pricing, let’s look at some of the challenges that surprise proposal photographers face.
- Plans change, and you need to be able to adjust.
- Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, so be prepared.
- Sometimes clients expect a lot for their payment, so you need to show what they receive clearly.
- Proposal sessions require a lot of planning and scouting, even before the big day.
- Google Earth and Google Maps aren’t always up to date, so your hiding spot may not be there.
If you have never photographed a surprise proposal, here is what you can expect.
Obviously, one person will be proposing to a spouse. This person might already have everything planned out, but most likely, it’s not set in stone.
Your job as the photographer is to work with your client to help talk through plans and finalize them.
On the day of the session, you will need to hide out of sight, at a distance, ready to photograph the proposal.
After the proposal is done, it’s up to you and your contract with your client what comes next. As a part of my package, I include a short engagement session. Sometimes the person proposed to doesn’t want an engagement session — like if not dressed for the occasion. But for the most part, these happen.
Aside from discussions with your client, the first part of planning uses tools like Google Maps, Google Earth and PhotoPills. You can see the location, its surroundings (for hiding spots) and even forecast for light between these tools.
But as mentioned above in challenges, be prepared to change your plan. For example, one time, I planned to hide behind a tree for a proposal session. I got to the location for scouting two weeks prior, and the tree was removed.
A similar thing happened at another session when I had to change my location and kneel next to a public restroom. It was awkward for me, but I remained hidden. This also did not match the overhead view or Google Street View.
The one thing you can always count on is planning for the light within PhotoPills.
I recommend using the sunrise and sunset times and use the forecast for light, and, of course, stick with whatever your client wants.
When writing this, I have a proposal session planned, and it will be underneath a walkway at Princeton University. There are large glassless windows throughout the outside walkway. But the sun will be in a perfect location to reduce the harsh sun shining through the windows.
The most important part of pricing is knowing how much you want to make and what you would like to provide your client with.
Some photographers prefer to set their price based on a percentage of the total cost of time. However, if you provide prints with the package, you need to consider physical goods into the equation.
My proposal photography package is $350 whenever traveling less than 30 minutes to the location. In that package is planning and preparation with the client and anyone else involved. I also included that short mini-engagement session mentioned earlier. It’s about 20–25 minutes long and in the same location or within a short walk from the proposal spot. Finally, I include 5-10 edited photographs, but the client can purchase additional and an 8-by-10 inch standout print.
When I get a new proposal lead, I reply with a standard template I have created, ask questions and congratulate the lead. Nine times out of 10, these leads become bookings.
As a photographer who also offers family portraits, my proposal clients often become family portrait clients.
So the initial $350 revenue winds up increasing over time.
Sell the experience
When you’re first starting, it might be better to keep your prices low and only do a few sessions. Once you have a solid track record of proposal sessions, then raise your prices.
But it’s important to understand that you’re not just selling a photography session; you’re selling the experience. So, be prepared to provide that experience, and you will not have any problem getting booked.
If you liked this article and the advice, watch the video below for some additional tips for proposal photography sessions.
Also, if you know someone needing a proposal photographer in New Jersey, send them my way. I’d love to talk to them!