Two years later, in late 2010, the former paparazzo founded Pap the Question, a Manhattan-based company that takes Ambler’s skills and experience for stealthily photographing people and turns them on unsuspecting brides or grooms. He and his photographers have also expanded to other cities, appearing on Chicago’s Windy City Live in February.
Ambler also counsels his proposers on how to make the proposal one for the photo albums. Below, Ambler shares some tips with ChicagoStyle Weddings.—Ruthie Kott
*What makes a great proposal?
For me, a great proposal is one that the fiancée does not see coming. I love the surprise and reaction of a woman's face when a guy drops to one knee. We always tell our clients to keep it personal: go back to the spot you first met or a place that holds a special meaning to you both. You should know what your fiancée to be would want so try and cater for that. I just the love the engagement when the guy has really thought through what is important to her and what will make her happy, and that is reflected not only in the proposal but also the pictures.
*What is the biggest mistake most proposers make?
There is no bad way to propose—if you have a beautiful ring and the time is right you have covered nearly everything. However, that said, this is the moment she has been waiting for her whole life, so don't make it about what you want. This should be everything and more than she has ever dreamed of. If she is a very private person, keep it personal—a flash mob in a public place may be cool for you, but she will probably not be as impressed.
The other important factor to remember is that it will all happen in a blur of nervous excitement, and if you have gone to great lengths to make it a prefect proposal, have some pictures to capture it all so you can share the moment with friends and family. The first things everyone will ask after you announce the news is "How did he do it!?" This way you can show them, as well as tell them.
*What's the most memorable experience you've had with one of your clients?
We were contacted by a client in London that was coming over to New York in the late fall for a weekend with his girlfriend and wanted to propose. He had given her a book on a graffiti artist based in Philly who wrote a love poem on the rooftops of the buildings along a train line that ended with the line “Forever begins when you say yes!” He wanted to propose on top of this building under the sign. We set about getting everything sorted, but when we visited the site, the building was so ruined that we could not get him and his girlfriend onto the roof safely. We set about contacting the artist, and we got permission to use the lines. We then hired a New York–based graffiti team to make a massive 10 x 6 canvas, made a wooden frame, and had it put up in a romantic spot in Central Park. After lunch at the Boathouse, he walked her to the sign and proposed. It was such an adventure to get the final result, and the couple had an amazing proposal made into a great film and a 10x6 canvas to forever remember their proposal.
*What are some tips for couples to look their best in engagement photos?
This all really depends on the couple. We often say that the best pictures take place outside, where we can be as far away as we can, and then capture the raw emotion and the exact moment without her thinking, what is that weird guy do over there taking pictures of us? Keeping it romantic and making a day of it is also a great way for us to document the whole proceedings. We often have guys getting family members in a nearby bar or restaurant so they can walk in and surprise her again with everyone there. This is a great way to document it all and have a way for the family to be involved but still having the guy keep that special moment private and romantic.
Courtesy of James Ambler