Hi, I’m Josh Hartman. I’m a Traverse City photographer and I’ve captured proposals all over Northern Michigan, Old Mission Peninsula, and the Leelanau Peninsula. Some of my favorite proposal spots are at Old Mission Lighthouse, along the Empire Bluff Trail, at Sleeping Bear Point in Glen Arbor, and on top of the Dune Climb if you’re up for a big adventure. I’m always discovering new proposal spots and I’m happy to provide a recommendation based on what type of adventure you’re looking for, which brings me to my first pro tip…

1) Do choose the right location

You’ve got the ring. You’ve chosen a date. Now you just need an epic location. Just let me know if you prefer a shorter or longer hike and we can choose the perfect adventure. The day before your proposal adventure, we will confirm your location and time based on the weather and your plans that day. We will also share a google pin so you know the exact spot. It’s best to plan for no reception at the trail. You may also want to download the trail on google maps in your offline maps just in case you lose service.

2) Don’t plan a proposal in the middle of a Saturday

Sleeping Bear Dunes can get busy on weekends and during peak season. Crowds are a big reason you should avoid popular times. Most people would prefer to be asked such a massive question in private. Not to mention the lighting will be better closer to sunrise or sunset. Think about your partner and what time they would prefer. Is your partner a morning person? Or would they enjoy sunset better? I’ve captured proposals at all different times of day. The most important thing is to consider your partner when thinking of time of day.

Proposal Photographer Empire Michigan

Proposal Celebration Empire Michigan Couple Hiking Empire Michigan

3) Do plan a date

A date makes the occasion all the more special. Not to mention it’s the perfect excuse to get dressed up so you’ll both be ready for photos. You will appreciate looking nice for photos. If dinner doesn’t work with your travel plans, consider a visit to a local winery. Plan a hike with your partner afterwards to photograph a sunset. You could even mention that you plan to capture a sunset or take a selfie at the dunes after wine. Just casually mention that you heard about a great trail nearby.

4) Don’t over plan your day

Avoid over planning your day and give yourself plenty of time to get to your proposal spot. This is a big moment and the last thing you want is to feel rushed. Just don’t beat the photographer there. I like to get to a spot about 25-30 minutes early to make sure the area is clear of people. I recommend sharing your location with your photographer earlier in the day and just give him a heads up if you’re running late. Turn the phone on silent to avoid suspicion from your partner.

Proposal Sleeping Bear DunesProposal Photographer at the Dunes Proposal Photographer Dunes Michigan

5) Do take a selfie

Remember to send your photographer a selfie from earlier in the day. This is a great way for me to know who you are. A selfie at the proposal site is also my preferred signal to let me know you are about to pop the question. It is also the perfect excuse to remove bags, water bottles, and jackets for your proposal photo. That way you don’t have these things hanging off you for your big moment. When you get to the proposal spot, you might say “Let’s take a selfie over here. I’ll take your purse and sunglasses.” When I see you take the selfie, that’s my signal to move in so I’ll be ready to capture your proposal.

6) Don’t worry about the weather

I always plan a call the week leading up to your proposal so that we can chat about weather. If rain is a worry, maybe we can move your proposal to a different time that day. From my perspective, clouds can be dramatic and a little rain adds to the story of your proposal. Another benefit to an overcast day is we can often schedule a middle of the day session and still get great light.

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Chateau Chantal Old Mission Proposal Proposal Old Mission

7) Do include friends and family

Ask a friend or family member to set up a picnic with champagne at your proposal spot beforehand. Or if possible hide your family and friends in the bushes for a surprise after you pop the question. Of course not everyone will appreciate such a surprise and it may not work with your plans. You know your partner best and what they will enjoy, but including friends and family can make the moment all the more special.

8) Don’t stress if you are discovered

There are a few things we can do to avoid being found out. Scheduling a call to confirm details the week before your proposal, texting a selfie to let the photographer know what you’re wearing, and turning location sharing on if possible so your photographer knows when you’re nearby. Communication before the day can reduce any uncertainty on the day. In reality, your partner may already be on to you based on your peculiar behavior leading up to the day. Don’t worry. This happens quite often. If your secret proposal plan is discovered, play it cool and carry on with the plan. They still don’t know the exact details, so the actual proposal will still be a surprise.

Friends Proposal Picnic Champagne ProposalProposal Celebration Champagne

9) Do confirm details with the photographer

I recommend scheduling a phone call with your photographer the week before to confirm the time and location of your proposal. Have your photographer’s number handy the day of the proposal in case you don’t have reception at the trailhead. Sprint and AT&T have limited reception at Sleeping Bear Dunes. Verizon is often best. Texts will often work when emails don’t. Have all the information you need in a notepad.

10) Don’t worry about it being perfect

Life doesn’t always go according to plan, and neither do proposals. Don’t worry if things don’t unfold as expected. And remember I’m here for you. Text your photographer if something unexpected happens. And remember your partner will appreciate the effort, even if things don’t go perfectly.

Sunset Proposal in Empire