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Couple poses for engagement photos in pollinator garden at blandy experimental farm in front royal virginia

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When Carla and Glenn mentioned going somewhere with classic Virginia mountain views, field, or blooms for their engagement session, I had just the place in mind. Blandy Experimental Farm is a free, expansive, and gorgeous place for engagement photos! We caught the end of the summer season, with the pollinator garden still full of color. The location was a perfect reflection of what they love, and exactly what they’d opt for on a weekend off.

A candid-heavy, relaxed engagement session

These two, like most couples, had some reservations and nerves about dressing up and being posed for their engagement photos. Most people only hire a professional photographer a couple times in their life–senior portraits, graduation, engagement and wedding, family milestones. But we treated it like a date night, and just look at the results! Blandy farm was a place they were familiar with, and we spent the first part of the photo shoot just walking around and getting more familiar with one another. It took a dozen frames or so, but we figured out what worked best for them, and the rest of the session was a synch!

Love, laughter, pollinators, deer, and Virginia landscapes!

This session has everything. First of all, they’re adorable. Carla cannot stop laughing at Glenn! I mean, I get why. But they are too cute. And we had lots of precious animal guests along our session. First bunnies and pollinators in the garden. Then, turtles, birds, and even a deer friend that didn’t seem at all bothered by our presence! I had to include them in the engagement photos, of course. They were all part of the process, and it’s fitting they make the final gallery.

Ready for your own engagement photos?

Maybe you landed here looking for a photographer, or maybe you’re just looking for outfit or location inspiration. Either way, I hope you love the photos and get something out of this! If you’re searching for a wedding and engagement photographer, I’m here to help! Here are some helpful links.

Learn more about Photography by Jo’s wedding photography experience.

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Groom in modern black fitted velvet suit jacket opens a bottle of champagne for his new wife during modern virginia wedding styled shoot in downtown Staunton, Virginia

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Just steps away from the historic downtown Staunton Virginia courthouse, we assembled a modern wedding editorial photoshoot. The creative portrait session celebrated the grand opening of Virginia Creative Collective, a new photography studio and event space. Showcasing the elegant mantels, plentiful light, and striking features of the grand hall, we chose bold black and white modern attire with touches of gold and mauve to bring life to the monochromatic style. Bold rental choices such as modern glassware and ghost chairs by Argent Events brought the historic space to life for our first wedding editorial!

The newest wedding venue in historic downtown Staunton Virginia

I have had the pleasure of cleaning, painting, and restoring the old Echols building on Barristers Row with some good friends and a lot of community support! Although small, we intend to host small rehearsal dinners, offer bridal suite space to prepare for your wedding day, and hold intimate wedding ceremonies and micro weddings. Rent the studio for events.

Inspiration for the Modern Virginia Wedding style

The color palate was inspired by the building itself. Boasting white walls and original, black, iron fireplace inserts with decadent carvings, black and white was the obvious choice! We selected silk off whites with bold black textured elements throughout our décor. The florals provided by Ket with One Last Avocado florals were simple but stunning blooms. Most stood on their own in bud vases strewn across the dining table. The table was set with mauve silk napkins lightly tied with thin black velvet. The placements featured modern glassware and plates with crisp lines, and black silverware to echo the contrast.

Staunton Wedding Editorial Vendors

Of course, I must thank the special vendors who made this day possible! We had the best team! Not only was the work amazing, it was a joy to be in the same room, laughing and working together.

Venue: Virginia Creative Collective, Staunton Studio and Event Space

Photographer: Jo Mahaney, Staunton Wedding Photographer

Planner: Atlas and Ember Events, Charlottesville Micro Wedding Planner

Florist: Keturah of One Last Avocado, locally sourced wedding florals

Event Rentals: Argent Events, Waynesboro boutique event rentals

Models: Tevin and Alexis

Makeup: Libby Makeup Co

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It’s July of 2015, and I know my husband (I mean, boyfriend) is hiding a little black box somewhere in his dresser. The fact that I know for certain there’s an Emerald engagement ring in there is a long story for another time. And what am I doing with this information? Scoping out photographers for our engagement session, because I *know* fall is going to be booked up if we drag our feet (you know, as soon as I finally get to wear that ring!). My friends are rolling their eyes *typical Jo*.


Why do I love engagement sessions so much? Why do I not even offer a single package without them anymore? Lately engagement sessions have been boiled down to photos to post on Facebook with an announcement, and a nice image for your save the date cards. But they are SO much more — a SUPER valuable part of the wedding photography process, and will mean more to you than you think!


Here I am, two years later, and my favorite engagement photos are still framed, front and center in my living room. Why not my wedding photos? Why not something more current?


I am tempted to say it’s because my dogs are in them, and it’s a little true (I love them so dang much!).


It’s the sentiment. Those photos were the first nice photos of the new Mahaney family. (whoa! Didn’t think about it like that, did you?) Those smiles – all giddy from imagining the rest of our lives together – they’re from an amazing season of our lives that we can’t get back, but I can frame it and put it on display. That’s college Jo and night shift John working REALLY HARD so we can own the house that now displays these frames. That’s “photography is just a hobby” Jo who is falling in love with everything weddings.


Those kids have come a LONG WAY, and I get to celebrate that every time I catch a good look at those photos.


Beyond the sentiment… A more practical reason I am offering way more engagement sessions next year is to serve my couples better. I see a noticeable difference in the wedding portraits of clients I have worked with before. They’re at ease, their smiles are natural, they look drawn to each other and unaware of the camera.


Have you even seen a portrait and thought “wow, that posing is a little awkward.” You know, stiff? The placement isn’t quite right? Reminds you of 1990’s studio portraits on the blue backdrop? We all know the one.


That’s just nerves. Everyone acts a little differently on camera, and part of warming up to my clients is learning what cues, posing, and prompts they respond to best, and how they feel in front of the lens. It’s my job to make everyone look their best, and I am confident I can do that! Even the best of wedding timelines sometimes only leave us with 15-20 minutes for portraits of just the bride and groom. That really doesn’t give me much time to let my couples get the nerves out and learn how to make them look like their happiest selves.


That’s why engagement sessions are such a crucial part of my client process! Even if you never use your pictures (but, you’ll want to!), the result is wedding portraits that are a true representation of the two of you and your story. That “what do I do with my hands?!” feeling is gone, because we’ve done this before. You’re pros at it! Plus, you’re so busy celebrating being married, you hardly notice I’m there to photograph it all. It’s easy, it’s natural, and far better than meeting you for the first time on your wedding day.


In 2018, every couple who books with me is getting a complimentary engagement session – no matter which package, no matter how many hours. It’s my gift to you to make your wedding photography service the best it can be!


Engaged and looking for a photographer? I’d love to talk to you about becoming a Photography by Jo couple! I am honored to be chosen for each couple’s special day. Plus, there’s a bunch of perks, including your complimentary engagement session and free Wedding in a Box gift, worth over $2,000 with tons of offers from local vendors! Email me at with your name and wedding date to receive more information.


Until next time… happy planning ya’ll!

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Time has flown, and these cuties are just two weeks away from celebrating three months of marriage! It feels like just a few weeks ago that we were meeting up for their engagement session at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at James Madison University. Alora and Frankie’s wedding day was my first of 2017, and it really set the bar high! This tulle-loving bride has the most detailed, personalized wedding decor I’ve seen to-date.


Their wedding was truly a joining of families. Not only did Alora become a wife, but she became a step-mother to Frankie’s son Dink (or “bonus mom” as her charm bracelet says). The love and support the bride and groom’s families showed each other that day really made an impression on me. Some wedding mornings have an undertone of stress and family tension, but this one was different. This was a celebration from start to finish.


Mountain Ridge Venue was a picture perfect wedding location. The tulle-strung ceremony backdrop, hearth with burning fire, and warm “LOVE” signage over the bar complimented Alora’s style perfectly, and really minimized the amount of decorating that the couple had to do. She and Frankie covered the reception area in pictures that told their story – from family outings and finishing trips, to the engagement photos and first Christmas. They put their personal touch on just about everything.


Having Dink in the wedding was such a blessing. It’s amazing that the couple got to share this day with their son. His spunk definitely added some character to these wedding photos. Take a look at that first kiss – hilarious!


I am just so happy for this family! Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Tayman. I was so thrilled to be a part of this day for you. I always feel honored to be chosen to photograph such a special day, but this wedding reminded me how far I’ve come. I remember stealing my mom’s camera to take pictures of the Grace Christian Varsity Girls Basketball Team when Alora and her bridesmaid Jul were playing. I followed my interest to high school yearbook team, and now I get to photograph some amazing weddings. Feeling blessed today!



Just getting started planning? You need my wedding day timeline templates, built for all seasons and kinds of ceremonies! These are tried and true guidelines for having a stress free wedding day schedule, while still capturing all your must-have photos. I’ve used these to coordinate dozens and dozens of weddings, and rarely need to make a tweak. 

The Perfect Wedding Day Timeline Templates


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