I photograph many surprise marriage proposals yearly in the Myrtle Beach area, and so far, everyone has said yes to the proposal! From proposals in the pouring rain, sunset rides on horseback, the couple’s kids holding “will you marry me signs in the background” to literally jumping for joy, I’ve captured so many unforgettable memories. I get many emails asking for help setting this up, so I thought I would make a blog post with my usual recommendations and how I photograph the proposal and engagement pictures afterward. At the end of the post are about 50 photos from a recent beautiful sunset proposal you will want to check out.
Recent Surprise Proposals on Instagram
Proposing during a sunset walk down the beach
Proposing during a romantic walk down the beach is the most popular way to do it in the Myrtle Beach area. It might seem a little cliche, but it’s very romantic. It’s easy to make an excuse that you want to walk down the beach before dinner and use this as a reason to get dressed up nicely for the evening. My first recommendation is to plan the proposal close to sunset time. About an hour before sunset is best. When you propose, the sun will still be a little harsh in front of the ocean, but it gives us plenty of time for engagement pictures afterward.
I head down to the beach about 15 minutes before I tell the couple to arrive to ensure I’m ready. I’m always happy to help with the setup. For example, I once put a message in a bottle into the sand that he had given me a few days before. If you get there a little early, it’s not a big deal. At my usual Huntington Beach State Park location, you can walk around the castle before coming to the beach to kill some time. If possible, I always like a quick text message when you arrive to give me a heads up. It’s also nice if you send me a picture or tell me what you are wearing so I know who to look for.
Where to propose on the beach
My recommendation is to propose at one of the State Parks. This allows you to escape the crowds and hotels in Myrtle Beach. Of course, other beautiful spots like the Conway Riverwalk are available if you don’t want a beach proposal. I like to be very specific about where to meet on the beach. Guys get nervous and don’t always remember what I tell them. I had one couple go to the wrong beach access, and I finally saw them walking from far down the beach toward me. I like to send a Google Map with the exact walk down to the beach highlighted, even showing a satellite view of the correct beach access. For example, here is the map for a proposal at the Huntington Beach State Park.
How to hide the ring and other suggestions
One problem with proposing during a walk down the beach is how to hide the ring box. They make special thin ring boxes that are easier to hide, won’t be poking out of your pants pocket, and are so easy to spot. I had a recent proposal where the guy hid the ring box in his sock, and he knelt and pulled out the box without her ever spotting it.
When you get down on one knee, I recommend having one side of both your bodies towards me and the other toward the ocean. If you are perpendicular to me, I can get a good shot of you putting on the ring, with the ocean in the background and no other people in the picture. I’ve had guys propose too quickly or with their backs facing me, so I must run to get in a good position. If you forget or get nervous and need extra walking down the beach, I will spot you and keep up!
After she says yes, giving her a big kiss and even lifting her off the ground makes for a great picture. This last suggestion, I don’t expect guys to remember. But if you can choose a side to propose so that her hair will be blowing back in the wind, that will help me see and capture the emotions on her face.
Photographing the proposal and pictures after
When shooting the proposal on the beach, I typically have an extended 70-210mm lens on my camera to zoom in close even if I’m still physically far away. It helps to make me a little bit less noticeable, so I don’t ruin the surprise. Near the beach at the state parks, there are a lot of pretty old trees and palms, and even a castle at Huntington. So if we are doing the proposal at one of these parks, I usually have the couple walk away from the beach to get shade for pictures after the proposal. On the way, I switch to my 85mm lens and grab my off-camera flash with a small beauty dish mounted on the front.
With the couple featured below, we started in front of the Atalaya Castle and got some great sunlight filtering through the palms. I always love portraits against the ivy-covered wall as well. As the sun began to set behind the dunes, I got a beautiful picture where I deliberately kept the harsh sun flare in the corner of the lens. That tends to wash out the image, but I also used my Godox flash to add some fill light and counteract the harsh backlighting. I do notice even my tiny 16″ beauty dish on the flash helps control shiny specular highlights on the faces, and it doesn’t blow over in the wind like a large softbox.
This couple was a lot of fun, and she had some ideas she had seen on Instagram for poses. I’m always happy to try out any suggestions. I loved the piggyback ride she suggested, where she showed off her ring to the camera. I hope you enjoy the pictures below. Please let me know if you are planning a surprise marriage proposal in Myrtle Beach. I’m always happy to help plan and capture memories you won’t forget.