Surprise Engagement: Alen and Semsa

There's something about wedding proposal shoots that always make me a little bit nervous.  I'm one of those photographers that likes to remove as many of the unknowns as possible.  For example, I am checking the weather report a week in advance of a shoot.  I send out client info packages on where to park for beach shoots because I don't want them driving around in circles as the sun sets on me and my camera alone.  So naturally when I shoot a surprise proposal I am introducing an unknown...will she say yes? 

Alen who lives in St. Louis gave me a call out of the blue one evening on my way home to discuss a surprise proposal / engagement session while they were visiting Clearwater Beach.  He wanted to disguise his proposal during a "Couple's Portrait Session", something that makes the unknowns even more of a challenge for me because I hate lying even if it's a white lie.  Before you compare me to George Washington, it's not because I cannot tell a lie due to my high moral standards, it's more the fact that I am horrible at lying, or keeping a secret in this case.  Knowing this I was somewhat worried I might accidentally slip and say fiancée before Alen had a chance to even ask the question.  I actually wondered if I could pull off a Helen Keller and go mute the first half of the shoot in an effort to not spill the beans. The good news is I had some time to practice my poker face and by the time the photoshoot day rolled around I had a pretty good story figured out.

I opted to bring my wife, Jaclyn, to capture video of the proposal for Alen and Semsa, however, I disguised her as being there to shoot behind the scenes video content for my website...which as you can see below is half true (maybe I really can't tell a lie).

We arrived about an hour ahead of the scheduled meet time to get all the gear setup and do a couple of practice runs.  In true Eric fashion, I had multiple cameras to ensure we captured the video content, Jaclyn was in charge of the main camera which would be one of my 5d Mark iii setup as a video rig with a Rode shotgun mic attached.  I also had an EOS-M set up with with a lav. mic for a side angle and also to have a backup sound source of Alen asking.  Finally, I had a GoPro attached to my main camera I would be shooting stills with, to create a point-of-view vantage point. 

About 5 minutes before Alen and Semsa were scheduled to arrive, we had a small group of guys decides to go in the water directly in the background of our lined up shots for Alen's proposal.  After asking them very nicely and offering to send them a free professional photo of them on the beach so they can post it on Facebook or whatever they agreed to move down a bit. Thanks, guys!

After Alen and Semsa arrived, and we did a quick wardrobe fix, we started the session.  I explained that Jaclyn was there to record some video for behind the scenes content for my website (Alen knew all this ahead of time through the info packet).  I then said I start all my photoshoots with an icebreaker, to make it less obvious I had Alen go first. "Alen stand over here and face the water, I am going to say a word and when I say that word I want you to turn around and make the face that best represents it. 3...2...1...CONSTIPATED! "hahaha", okay Semsa you're next".  Semsa took her place, facing the ocean, and I gave Alen the thumbs up, it was on.

After the ring was on, and Semsa forgave us for setting her up, we had a fun and beautiful engagement photo session.  Here are some of my favorites!

...and here's the video of Alen Proposing and a nice slideshow of some of the photos.

...and here's my behind the scenes Snapchat video, feel free to follow me @erictillotson for uncut goodies.

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