A Look into the Engagement Session with Jonathan Connolly
April 3, 2013
CasualRustic WeddingsSpring Weddings

It's pretty safe to say that every time I see one of Jonathan Connolly's weddings or engagement sessions, I fall in love all over again. Not only are his photos positively stunning but the couples he works with are the sweetest. You can just feel the beautiful, relaxed, pure love radiating from each photo and this Parkland, FL engagement session is no exception. And bonus – Jonathan is sharing his tips on why you should considering having an e-sesh, where to do it, what to wear, etc.! See the rest of this sweet Southern Florida shoot in the gallery!
SMP: Tell us a bit about yourself. Why do you love what you do?
JC: I’m Jonathan Connolly, a wedding photographer based out of South Florida. I enjoy creating images, of life and love in a way that is usually overlooked. Before photography I was a graphic designer that made “logos and stuff”. Now, I would consider myself to be an artist who happens to take pictures. I am married to Marie, the love of my life and secret weapon to my photography. Together we enjoy taking pictures of people who are in love and true to themselves.

There are several things that we love about what we do... If you have the ability to work with your spouse it can be amazing or horrible all at the same time. Either way it will certainly strengthen your marriage. I do love working with my wife and being able to get away and go places with her. Photography provides us with the flexibility to shape our company around how we want to live. We also really enjoy getting to know our clients. Their love stories encourage us and remind us of our own. We see the wedding day as the most important time in a couples life. It's truly an honor for us to share in that one day when two people commit their lives together and become one. Those are the days that we live for. Those are the moments where we infuse our art with their true love story.
SMP: What do you enjoy most about engagement shoots?
JC: The part about engagement shoots that we enjoy most is connecting with our clients and getting to know them. It gets us pumped up about their wedding and we always come away encouraged. Plus they get some awesome pictures during a time in their life when they are really excited! Everybody wins.

SMP: Why should couples do an e-sesh?
JC: I totally recommend that every couple should do an engagement session with the same photographer who will be shooting their wedding. If circumstances don't allow then at least meet up sometime before the wedding for drinks and get to know each other. The last thing you want is surface level talk on your wedding day. By that I mean you want your wedding day to be a fun experience. The last thing you should be thinking about is how you're performing. The photographer is very different than any other vendor you're hiring. They will be with you all day so you want to know them, like them and most importantly feel comfortable around them. The engagement session gets all of that out of the way. You'll know what to expect and knowing what to expect on your wedding is a good thing.

SMP: How do you go about choosing a location with the couple?
JC: Location isn't everything to me. Sometimes the most bizarre spots can turn out to be amazing! I don't try to make it all about the location. First, I try to see if the couple has a place in mind that is meaningful to them or if the spot has any significance to their relationship, culture or lifestyle. Putting couples in a place that has some significance is the way to go. I definitely prefer going to quiet locations without any distractions. If you have a shy personality I would recommend that for you. I love shooting in locations that have never been shot before. Most of the time when I leave it up to the client to decide I am pleasantly surprised with the outcome. If the couple can't come up with a location or are from out of town we'll try to break down the landscape depending on where the shoot is like woods, park, beach, mountains, urban… etc. Then we'll find a little spot that has some variety and make the most of it. At every location we're looking for good light first. Good light will make our couples more flattering and normally our pictures are focusing on them and not the background. We usually don't worry about the backdrop until we begin composing our shots.
SMP: Can you share some of your style tips for engagement shoots?
JC: Most people aren't super stylish so what ever they show up with we'll shoot and try to make it look cool. I think style comes just by being you. Sounds cheesy but when you're tryin' you ain't stylin'. Haha. Style I think comes when couples are true to themselves and are able to rock it out without any shame. I think you just have to be careful about jumping on all the trendy bandwagons. The challenge is when everyone is looking at all the same current engagement sessions for inspiration. I'm sure the first time someone wore all white linen on the beach it was really stylish and hipster. Everyone after that saw it and thought, "hey that's a neat idea" or "I guess that's what you do for beach pictures". So no one really has a reason for why they do something. They usually just want to replicate something cool that has been done before. So know what your reason is.

My suggestion for stylizing your engagement session would be to just keep an open mind about what you want. The best shots are always the ones you weren't expecting. Photographers don't always enjoy re-creating shots that have already been done. Let your photographer be the artist so you can focus on having a good time with your loved one. That doesn't mean to not make an effort. Ladies get your makeup and hair done, buy some new outfits, wear something you feel good in, have an energy drink and get ready to have a good time. In the end our style will invade into your photos just by the decisions we make like: finding good light, positioning, posing, communicating, not communicating, waiting, talking, laughing, composing shots, cracking jokes, getting the shot right in camera, culling, editing, etc. Each photographer has their style and process which is unique to them. So if you like them, hire them and trust them.
SMP: Do you recommend using props?
JC: Props are for losers! Totally kidding. Props do make things look cool especially if those props have some importance in your life. We'll take pictures of props but it's not really what we focus on. If you go the route of putting together a themed engagement shoot try not to make it feel staged. You want everything to come across as natural as possible. Engagement photography should be about shooting real people in real life places. When you look back at pictures of your life your not going to be like, "where were those old pictures of mason jars, antique books and coke bottles".  Your going to want to see those images that bring back emotion and joy from the one person you chose to live life with.
SMP: What advice to you have for couples when choosing a wedding photographer?
JC: Obviously my answer will be somewhat biased in this department but when choosing a wedding photographer I would really take it serious. Probably more serious than everything else on your list. Most people really regret not hiring a good wedding photographer because it's the only thing they have to look back on besides the fading memories in their head. Understanding how you value photography is one thing and getting a good photographer is another. The market is saturated with so many photographers. It's such an easy industry to get into these days. Anyone can go to the store, buy a nice camera and put up a template website. So try your best to not take risks in this department.

The other thing I would say is to put your value in the artist and their work not in the superficial stuff. It's easy to get fixated on all the extra gimmicks and add on's like books, albums, hours, second shooters and the list goes on and on. Finally, make sure you like the person. Having a good person that you can trust will go a long way. Meet with them in person or over Skype if you have to. Your investing into a person who is going to show up and be with you on the most important day of your life so make sure their cool, calm and collective.
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From Jonathan... We had a ton of fun taking photos with Jenn and Ryan the other day. We absolutely love how these Parkland engagement pictures turned out. We stumbled upon this farm in Parkland, FL and just had to make it out there for an engagement session. Check out Pine Hollow when you get a chance. We are so grateful to work with such sweet people! Jenn and Ryan met and fell in love at University of Miami. Jenn’s a teacher – So my wife and her had a lot in common. Ryan plays pro baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals – So I had a ton in common with all my years of experience in tee ball. Such down to earth, real, humble couple to be around. Grateful to get them behind our cameras. Can’t wait to shoot their wedding in the mountains of North Carolina this Fall. Miss you guys and congrats again and again!!!


Photography: Jonathan Connolly | Location: Pine Hollow