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Proposal photographers: the new wedding photographers

Author: Rosa Caballero
by Rosa Caballero
Posted: Dec 25, 2014

"In the car. 15 minutes."

The location was scouted, the camera was packed, the celebrity dog was ready, and now, the text had been sent.

On a windy Friday night in front of Washington DC's Capitol Christmas tree, a man was about to propose.

He texted Cedric Terrell, and now it is show time.

"Time to go," Terrell says, turning off the lights in his photography studio near Eastern Market.

Into his Nissan goes his camera, his tripod and his nerves. Terrell is professional photographer who normally shoots portraits and engagement photos. He is expanding his repertoire to include the earliest possible take on an engagement session: He had been hired to secretly photograph a prospective groom as he dropped to one knee to make the big ask.

What if she sees the camera? What if the light posts aren't bright enough? What if a runner gets in the way? The groom-to-be, Jeff, made it seem like a given that Lauren will say yes. But what if Terrell misses it when she does?

This was his moment. To capture another man's moment.

"There is one shot," he says. "I've got to get it, or I've got nothing."

The months between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day are what the wedding biz in the US likes to call "proposal season."

The Knot, a wedding web site, estimates that more than 30 percent of proposals take place in this 2 1/2-month window, when the nearness of family during the holidays may inspire the question to be popped. More than 50 percent of couples post the news of their engagement on Facebook within 24 hours, the Knot says.

We're getting married! She said yes! Sooo happy!

The words are minimal because the photo does the talking: two big smiles and one sparkling jewel, soon to receive an avalanche of "likes."

And since your entire social network will be seeing the happy moment, why not put the photo in the hands of a pro?

An email spree found 74 professional photographers in the DC area who have been hired to shoot a proposal in the past few years. A few advertise surprise proposals as their specialty or set a fixed cost for a "secret proposal package."

"This is not your iPhone picture of your ring," said Jeannette Tavares, editor of

Washington is an especially good place to discreetly shoot proposals, they say, because so many people want to get engaged near tourist destinations, where it's easy for the photographer to blend in.

That's how, for US$400 (NZ$510), Terrell planned to get away with taking photos of Jeff proposing to Lauren. He could pretend to be taking photos of the Capitol.

The plan was elaborate. On Friday afternoon, Terrell met Jeff on the Mall to walk through what would happen.

First, the puppy.

Lauren loves an Internet-famous pomeranian named Jiff. Jiff has 163,000 Instagram followers and 1.3 million Facebook likes, from fans who enjoy photos of the fluffy pup eating cupcakes or wearing sweatshirts or sitting in purses. Jiff once appeared in a Katy Perry music video. Jiff holds two Guinness World Records for walking on two paws.

Jeff contacted Jiff's agent (because Jiff has an agent) and Jiff's owner agreed to make a video in which Jiff would dress in a tiny It-shirt and walk up to a sign that says "Lauren, Jiff thinks you should marry Jeff!"

Around 6pm, Jeff would text the owner to post the video on Instagram.

Then, under the guise of going out to dinner with another couple, Jeff would bring Lauren to the Capitol Christmas tree for a walk.

Like dominoes, each part of the plan had to happen for the next part to work.

"If you walk to this lamppost, there will be enough light for me to take the shot," Terrell said. Jeff agreed.

"If this light is out, go to the next one over," Terrell said. Jeff agreed.

When he got to the light, Jeff would ask Lauren whether she saw the new Jiff video. She would pull out her phone, watch it on Instagram, and Jeff would drop to his knee.

Perfectly positioned, Terrell would capture it all.

At 2pm, that was the plan.

At 6:28pm, Jeff messed it up.

The couple is walking toward the Reflecting Pool and Terrell is pretending to shoot photos of the scaffolding-covered Capitol dome. The cold metal of the camera is making his hands freeze all the more, but he barely notices. Just like we practiced, Jeff. Walk up the pathway to the Reflecting Pool, turn right, go under the streetlight.

They're getting closer, and Lauren hasn't pulled out her phone. Terrell can't hear what they're saying over the noise of the wind.

Turn right, into the light.

Jeff turns left.

There is now a stone barricade smack dab in the middle of the shot.

Terrell picks up his tripod and side shuffles 10 feet to the right, getting the barricade out of his frame.

Now Jeff is pulling out his phone and showing it to Lauren. She watches Jiff on the screen. Terrell can hear his own camera clicking and can hear her start to cry.

Then Jeff turns his back toward Terrell, blocking Lauren from view.


He lifts his tripod and runs past the barricade the other way. As he puts its legs back in the grass, Jeff goes down on one knee.

More clicks, more tears, is the shot in focus? The ring goes on, and she's bending down to kiss him.

He fired the camera like mad, but if he missed it, it's already over.

Jeff stands and puts his hand on her shoulder as they kiss again.

"There's a photographer," he says, and they turn to Terrell.

"Hiiiiiiiii, congratulations!" Terrell says, and walks up to shake Lauren's hand. Her face is pink from tears and wind. She's laughs and holds on to Jeff's arm.

Terrell backs up, as if to give them a moment, and turns to press the playback button on his Nikon.

There it was, completely in focus: one big smile, one face masked by blond hair, one sparkling jewel and a knee on the ground.

Later, it will get 337 likes. Later he'll tell his fiance all about it. Later, they will all get married.

For now, a few portraits. And a She said yes! selfie to send to Jiff.

"This," Lauren says. "is the best Christmas gift."

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About the Author

Life consists not in holding good cards, but in playing well those you hold. keep your friends close,but your enemies closer.

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Author: Rosa Caballero

Rosa Caballero

Member since: Mar 02, 2014
Published articles: 253

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