I did a Holiday Mini Session with a small puppy corgi, Spenny, and his human owners. It was going to be a short and sweet, simple photo session with just a girl and her dog, and her boyfriend.
But two weeks before our photo shoot, her boyfriend secretly emailed me about wanting to propose to his girlfriend at the photo shoot. He told me they're always together, and it was next to impossible to plan something special without appearing suspicious like he was up to something. He wanted that element of surprise! And this photo shoot seemed like the perfect time to do so.
My reaction was something like this:
Hey! That's awesome!
Oh man, what if I mess this up?
I don't think I can do this!
What if I pick a terrible location, and there's people all over the background, and it turns out to be lame?
But! This would make such a great story to tell!
And wouldn't it be awesome if, as a photographer, I was able to capture this moment for them? To remember for the rest of their lives? I know I was happy that I asked my professional photographer friend to photograph my proposal to Leanna.
And, Spenny would be there, part of the moment!
Okay, let's do this!
I told him since there was an open Mini Session slot right after Spenny, I'd let them have the the next slot as an engagement gift. That way, we'd have more time to photograph and celebrate their engagement.
(Sidenote: This would be the THIRD time someone secretly hired me as their dog photographer for a secret mission. The other two were for a secret Christmas present, and for a secret house-warming gift that magically appeared one day in a new home. That story will be posted later this month.)
One week before our photo shoot, we had a secret meeting at a super secret spot called Starbucks. There, we hatched out the plan.
I wanted to get to know them better, so I could best know how to serve them. We talked about their relationship, what they like and what they don't like, and we talked about Spenny. We talked about making signs, like "Engaged!" or "She said, 'Yes'!" But we couldn't find a great idea on how the actual proposal would take place, in a way that would come as a huge shock and surprise to Kristie.
When the caffeine finally kicked in, I said, "Okay, how about I tell her to hold Spenny and look at me, and pretend to take pictures of just the two of them. Then I'm going to tell her to keep in looking in one direction, while you sneak up from behind and get down on one knee. Then at the right moment, I'll ask her to turn around, and there you are, on your knee and ring in hand."
And that's where we left it.
Afterwards, he texted me sketches of the plan he was making at work:
I decided to ask someone who's been proposed to for help - my wife, Leanna. She helped me with the planning process and helped create props for the photo shoot.
Come photo shoot time, three out of four people at the photo shoot knew what was going to happen. But I had to play it cool, and act like it was just going to be a simple, short, and sweet Holiday Mini Session of Spenny.
We began with portraits of just Spenny:
Spenny was about 6-months old, and he was full of everything you'd expect in a puppy: gleaming with energy and playfulness, easily distracted, unable to sit still for more than 1 second, and...
Now let's add some two-legged humans into the mix:
And there's that puppy personality coming out!
As for our Holiday theme, we decided to put antlers on Spenny. After all, Spenny is named after the reindeer in Frozen, Sven.
And if you're a dog owner, then you'd be just as surprised as we were that the antlers stayed on long enough to take these Holiday portraits of Spenny.
I love these family portraits up next:
Finally, it was time.
During the photo shoot, I kept thinking, What if I mess this all up? What if I somehow ruin the surprise?
I think was I more nervous than Matt. I started looking around, seeing where the right angle and look would come from. This photo is going to be in their family forever!
When I finally saw an angle that I liked, I summoned up the courage, took a deep breath, then asked Kristie to just get some photos of her and Spenny alone. Then, I looked over the Matt and gave the "signal," a nod and a wink.
Except Matt wasn't getting it. I gave another signal. Nope.
Oh, great, I'm going to ruin this. Kristie is going to totally catch on.
I think it was my third or fourth or fifth nod when I turned to Matt, and said out loud, "Hey! Can you go around the back and fix Spenny's leash so it's not in this shot?" Then I made sure to wink dramatically. He finally got the signal.
And just like that, this eager young man went around to "fix the leash" and got down on one knee...
Can you feel the nervous energy of this moment?
Meanwhile, Leanna was off to the side, recording the moment on her iPhone.
Matt finally started talking, Kristie turned around, with Spenny still in her arms, and then...
Kristie saw what was happening, and tears started flowing, all the while she was still holding onto the big, fluffy Spenny.
Leanna and I caught the whole moment on camera, both in still photography and video.
"But, wait!" you say.
"What happened next?" you ask.
We're not going to show everything of course. Some special moments are better kept special, and exclusive.
But what I can show you is that...
I especially love this triumphant smile of Matt, Kristie just adoring her new accessory, and Spenny probably wondering what's for dinner later that night.
Speaking of Spenny, I'm so glad Spenny was a part of this because Dogs are Family. And in every photo of this beautiful moment, their precious little Spenny was part of it.
He'll forever be in their family photos and stories for years to come, as part of this milestone in their lives. And it was so adorable to see her melt in the moment holding Spenny wrapped in both of her arms, providing comfort and joy in this precious time of her life.
And the best part? We totally surprised her! She didn't see it coming at all!
And to get back into the Holiday spirit:
Notice anything different on Kristie's ring finger?
Engaged! The beautiful "Engaged" banner there was designed and crafted by my lovely wife, Leanna.
You did it, Matt!! And we didn't ruin the surprise!
Congratulations Kristie on your lovely engagement!
And congratulations to the soon-to-be Best Dog, Spenny!
And Happy Valentine's Day!
Here's what Matt and Kristie had to say about their experience with Dog Photography. Thanks, Matt and Kristi! -
As Spenny’s mom and dad, we wanted to have portraits of Spenny as a puppy to remember him as a puppy. But, we can only do so much to ask him sit or stay for a picture. Even though we know he is a puppy and he's so distracted by the world, we can still get impatient with him. We appreciated how Steamer took the time to get to know Spenny and to be patient with him in taking the pictures. Now we have a huge, 20x30 framed print and also 16x20 prints of Spenny hanging all around the living room. When we got the final printed portraits, we felt happy that we could show off Spenny to guests in our home. They really like all of Spenny’s portraits! We were happily surprised with how smooth the whole process was and we are very happy with the finished products! Thanks for everything, Leanna and Steamer!