More and more grooms are popping bulbs while popping the question, say wedding photographers, who've seen a spike in requests for proposal shoots this year.
"I shot my first proposal four years ago; it was one of those random things," NYC-based photographer Laura Pennace said. "Then, since last summer there has been a huge uptick. It's so funny because I tell people that I'm basically being hired to be a total creeper."
Having chosen a destination ahead of time, the photographer usually stakes out the location, posing as a tourist or unassuming stranger to covertly snap pics leading up to the big moment. After the groom gets down on one knee and the couple shares a few private moments, the photographer then reveals him or herself. Most charge between $350 and $500 per hour.
"We've been seeing the proposal photography trend for a few years now but it's definitely increasing in popularity," TheKnot.com site director Anja Winikka said.
"Beyond the ultra-romantic gesture of proposing, it doesn't get more emotional as looking at those photos and reliving the feelings of the moment all over again."
Winnika suggests using a photographer who understands what you're looking for and has experience staying hidden.
"A lot of the clients that I've worked with are from out of town, they're here on vacation and, if you're not from New York City, it's got this amazing vibe to it that they want to include in their engagement," photographerPennace.
Some grooms-to-be have a specific site and plan, others are looking for inspiration.
"A lot of times they will look to the photographer for suggestions and we kind of help them plan the day: what's the story, what's the theme," said Feuza Reis, a Myrtle Beach, S.C.-based photographer who founded UnJerseybride.com. " I feel like the intention isn't really to go viral, but for them to have for themselves."
Still, some creative proposals could become highly shareable on the Internet.
"I had one guy earlier this year visiting from California," Pennace said. "They're kind of a kooky, fun couple."
For the shoot, the groom chose an entirely original location: He brought his girlfriend to the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Center.
"Next thing you know, his nieces showed up wearing Yoshi costumes and handed his girlfriend this large egg that he had painted," Pennace said, "and inside he asked her, 'Will you be my Player 2?' It was so perfect for them."