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  • Todd Shapera

Popping The Question: A Photo Speaks A Thousand Words

Story and images by Todd Shapera of Todd Shapera Photography

When Scott dropped to one knee and asked Casey to spend her life with him, she had had no idea that two photographers were there to capture the moment. The proposal, which took place in a Larchmont park overlooking the Long Island Sound, came as complete surprise to Casey, whose event planner mother worked closely with Scott to create a magical day that she would never forget.

Traditionally, the most anticipated moment in weddings has been when the bride walks down the aisle. In the modern day digital era, we have seen a shift to the dramatic 'first-look' photographs before the ceremony on the venue grounds. Now more than ever, capturing life's true candid moments has replaced stiff posed portraits. A growing number of grooms are arranging to covertly capture the breathtaking moment when they propose to their future brides. The end result conveys every emotion, overflowing joy, and a wholly sincere emergence that the bride would otherwise have never seen on her own face. We all know our go-to smile for posed photos, but to get that irreplicable expression from within the moment... this is the photo that speaks a thousand words.

Inspiring a moment such as this only takes the utterance of four words, but to capture it requires significant preparation. For Scott's proposal to Casey, the occasion was met with diligent coordination. Last minute scheduling adjustments had been made due to the weather, on top of logistical details being sorted prior to proposal. On the day of, I arrived early to scout backgrounds and lighting, and to take test shots. Inevitably, in wedding photography, the best laid plans are subject to unanticipated developments. I try to embrace these uncertainties and the challenges they present for each occasion. Originally, I had anticipated shooting the couple with a dramatic ocean backdrop, but when they opened their picnic blanket and Scott was ready to propose, I realized they would be in silhouette when he was on his knee. I then scrambled to the rocky shoreline beneath them, set up just behind Casey's shoulder (out of her field of peripheral vision and father away than the photo reveals), and was fortunate to capture clear, dramatic shots. As the proposal proceeded, when I could see that Casey was completely locked into Scott, and transported far from anything stirring around her in the park, I became more daring and moved closer. I also had the added benefit of a second photographer to capture alternate angles for a comprehensive capture of what had been taking place.

During our advance planning, I suggested to Scott that their special feeling (and special photographic moments) would likely continue long after she said, "Yes," and he gave her the ring. I advised him to enjoy it for as long as they are feeling it, and I will be there to capture. There was no need to tell her I was there; in fact, the longer she went without knowing, the better it was for capturing those spontaneous embraces and moments of joy together. As it turned out, they found themselves in a variety of celebratory embraces that made for beautiful images, and I was able to move unnervingly close to photograph them, at times as close as ten yards without Casey noticing. The end result meant that Scott and Casey could relive this cherished memory forever in its photographed captures.

Todd Shapera is a widely sought after wedding photographer based in the New York area. He has photogtaphed in 56 countries for some of the world's leading publications, foundations and agencies, and is the recipient of numerous photography awards for his work in weddings and special occasions.

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