Oregon-based photographer, Skylar Coonan explains how Joy goes so much deeper than happiness and why she feels it's her job to catch joyous moments in couples' photos.
How did you get into photography? Are you self-taught or formally trained?
When I was a child, I loved taking pictures of everything… and I mean everything! (I get that from my mom.) Now, my dad didn’t share this same joy as me. Back then, it was all film and every snapshot I took…he knew he had to pay to develop. We love to look back on that time of my life now and see where it got me. It’s a funny story to reflect on, but so rewarding to see a joy turn into a passion and that passion turns into a career! I’ve been in business for 11 years and it’s been a beautiful journey of being self-taught.
Describe your style in one sentence.
My heart is to capture love in the most authentic way. I strive to show a true-to-life viewpoint while also being bold and vibrant.
What’s been your favorite experience as a wedding photographer?
Oh wow! That’s a hard one to choose. I’d have to say the best has been getting to photograph friend’s weddings. I’ve done it multiple times now and it never gets old. It’s amazing to get to see all the different stages and it’s an even bigger honor to be trusted with such a big day over and over!
What do you love most about photographing weddings? Why do you photograph weddings in particular?
I enjoy learning about my couples and the quirks in their love story. The wedding day highlights all of that and shows how committed they are. I always loved photographing weddings, but once I got married in 2017 it added whole new meaning to it! I know how it feels and now I want to capture those feelings even more for them.
Where is the most interesting or unique place you’ve photographed a wedding? Was there anything especially challenging about it?
They’ve all been unique in their own way. I’ve photographed a downtown Portland, Oregon wedding with them walking down the busy streets. I’ve done an intimate Naples, Florida beach wedding where their friends flew in from Germany as a surprise. There have been barn weddings in Indiana and Florida and then a full-on party wedding in North Carolina with the best mountainous views. I can’t pick the most interesting or unique because I love them all for how they fit each couple perfectly.
Do you have a favorite, must-capture moment for every wedding?
I always emphasize alone time for my couples. Wedding days are busy and go by so fast, it’s important to me that they get that time alone to be with each other privately and take it all in. I join them for some of that time to capture photos, but I also give them time without me there so it’s genuine alone time.
As a photographer, what has been your biggest wedding day challenge?
Honestly, the biggest challenge tends to be family members and friends that have their own agendas for how the day should look or go. I make it a point to show that the couple is my ultimate priority.
What piece of advice would you give brides and grooms to ensure that they get wedding photos they love forever? (This can include tips about preparation, choosing a photographer, or anything else.)
It’s really important to start the conversation early and not be afraid to ask questions. The more you communicate with your photographer, the more likely you are to be on the same page for your wedding day. Because communication is so important to me, I provide two questionnaires leading up to wedding days. The first one gets to know the couple and their story while the second gets down to the details of the day. So often I hear “Oh. I didn’t think about that” so it’s helpful to have vendors that bring up questions the couples don’t even know to ask.
What are your favorite wedding trends to photograph right now?
I absolutely love photographing the first look of the bride and her father! I’m always behind my camera sobbing. The first dance used to be my favorite and now this tops it, hands down!
How do you think an app like Joy can help make weddings better?
It absolutely helps simplify the planning process! Finding vendors can be tedious and this helps put a variety of styles in one place to help each couple find exactly what they want.
If you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be an elementary school teacher. That was once my passion and things simply shifted over the years.
At Joy we believe that even though a wedding lasts a day, joy lasts forever. What does that mean to you?
Joy has actually been a huge focus of mine lately. Joy goes so much deeper than happiness. It brings on emotions that can be beautifully overwhelming and a huge part of my job is to freeze those joyous moments in their photos so that they can look back on them for the rest of their lives.