1. It’s ok to love the 24-70mm. Thank you, Paulo Santos (who has an even more Spanish name than me and even less Spanish accent than me). I’d shot on primes forever, until I started shooting weddings back in 2011 and decided to try a zoom. It was brilliant and suited my style of shooting so much that it sort of changed my life… but in recent years I’ve started rediscovering primes. I’ve been a little out of love with the workhorse 24-70 (aka, the “mini zoom”, in our not-very-tech-y house, as opposed to the “super zoom” 70–200mm). The primes just feel more… magical. Dipping down below f2.8 just looks so… delicious.
But Santos was emphatic in his love for the 24–70 and the flexibility it gives him in composition. He reminded me that’s why I love it for most parts of weddings, too. When I’m shooting something static or in controlled circumstances, and composition options are limited, primes are still my favourite. But when I’m shooting something that’s constantly changing, I want to be able to shoot exactly what I want in a split second, without needing to change much. The 24–70 allows that. It’s totally reasonable of me to love it; I’d just somehow forgotten.
2. Shooting wide and close and with multiple layers of action is probably my true love. Lee Allen‘s class on candids was the first I booked, because I come from candids. Journalism degree plus music photography equals me taking candids for granted. I was so used to shooting in a purely documentary style that it’s always been the other stuff I’ve wanted to focus on: setting up portraits, choosing locations, etc, the non-photojournalistic bits. And focusing on that affects everything – the way I edit, the work we show, what we post on Instagram, and so on. But deep down, nothing envelopes me in smugness like seeing multiple uncontrollable people doing multiple unexpected things all at once and finding the right position and angle and moment to shoot a picture that people on Twitter will say looks like a Baroque painting.
3. Even when you think you know a million things about LightRoom, there are still a billion other things you could learn. I’d been so looking forward to Neil Thomas Douglas‘s editing workshop: I spent all of September drowning in editing after all August’s weddings (it was officially the biggest month September Pictures has ever had) and the one thing I kept telling myself was, “Once this is over I’m going to go to Photography Farm and learn to edit better and faster”. It totally worked: I learned so much about tools that were right there all along but I’d never actually noticed! I discovered there’s a “previous” button that just copies what you did on the picture before, which had never appeared on my screen because for some reason I always have the entire batch of files selected instead of just the one I’m looking at! I now know that it’s ok to shoot really dark on a really low ISO if you know why and how you’re going to pull it all up in the edit! And I got a very good idea of what to do with Petra while I’m trying to work, from one of Douglas’ closing comments: “I can’t tell you how to edit faster if you’ve got kids. Put ’em in wee cages?”
4. Saying – and showing – who you are is good. This seems so obvious. I mean, we’re Rachel and Chris, obvs. And we knew, superficially, that you need to express that through your [I hate saying this] brand [ugh]. We do everything on our site/Instagram/emails/mailing list, etc, ourselves, so it’s tempting to assume we’re expressing ourselves really clearly by default – who else could we be expressing? Three sessions at Farmers’ Market made me think about this issue from three different angles. The first was a great discussion with Björn Lexius of Hafenliebe, who is a brilliant person with whom to talk about brand identity without ever feeling like you’re talking about brand identity. Lexius literally lists some key aspects of who he is on his Hafenliebe site, in capitals: “FEMINIST” and “ANARCHIST” and whatnot. It’s really, really refreshing. And then Lexius talked through how he chooses images that demonstrate those qualities, and how he avoids promoting, or perhaps even shooting, work that isn’t in line. (He wouldn’t want to shoot at the Hagenbeck Zoo, popular for weddings in Hamburg, because he’s vegan.) I’d never seen a wedding photographer being so explicit about their identity before, and I love it.
Lisa Jane‘s session on identifying the right (and wrong) clients was an ideal companion class to the one mentioned above. It’s so hard to actively try to repel people – but it makes so much sense. No one is the right photographer for everyone. If you try to please every potential affianced person on the planet, you’ll end up more basic than a pumpkin-spice latte. Perhaps lots of people might vaguely like your work but no one will actually love it. And we want the people we shoot for to love it. It was a really good way to start the day, because we did actual “get out your notebook and work on this right now” thinking about who we should and shouldn’t be working with, instead of me just planning to do it later and never getting to it.
5. Being specific about what you do and who you do it for is really hard. Melissa Love, founder of The Design Space and all-round web design maven, had so much immediately implementable wisdom that I filled two entire pages in my Moleskine (and it’s the big type, not one of those little ones). There is so, so, so much we can do to make our website so, so, so much better. But the biggest thing to ponder is how to sum up who we are, what we do and who we do it for. It seems obvious when you try that for someone else, and near impossible when you try it for yourself. We currently just say that we’re Rachel and Chris and we shoot nice things for good people… I have a bad feeling that I wrote that as a placeholder for something more useful and then never went back and finished it. It’s the number-one thing on my Farm homework list.
6. Curating your visual identity is an art. The Costa Sisters made me miss the desert by showing us one of their films of beautiful people being super sexy in the middle of a deserted road California, which is the sort of thing I shot quite a lot when I was a young ‘un, too. We definitely need to post more Californian work – we’ve been shooting so much on the colder, wetter, less dotted-with-taco-trucks side of the planet that we’ve neglected our sunnier side. Sofia and Elena’s whole online identity is so well curated that it seems thoroughly natural… and then they blew all our minds showing us a mocked-up Instagram feed with the type of shots they could show from their weddings, but don’t – it was all light and bright and elegant and (less literally) middle of the road. There were audible gasps. They are master curators.
7. The best hot chocolate in the world (at least that we’ve tried) is from Brighton. Be Chocolat does spectacularly lovely milkshakes with which I’m obsessed – I once dragged a client 20 minutes out of his way on the way to a venue recce just to prove how good they are – but this was the first try for their hot chocolates and it turns out they’re EVEN BETTER THAN THE MILKSHAKES. Honestly, if you’re anywhere near Brighton and have even a passing interest in chocolate, go to Be on Duke Street and get a Drink of the Gods. (That’s not hyperbole, it’s the actual name.) Plus they gave me a free dark-chocolate-dipped bit of ginger while I waited because they somehow could just tell that I love dark chocolate and I love ginger, and it was amazing.
8. Brighton Town Hall looks really good in harsh light. (Seriously, how sunny is Brighton in October? Is it always like this?) I strolled past on my way to get lunch and a wedding was leaving the town hall and seemed to have no one taking pictures, ironically – perhaps every single Brighton wedding photography-type person was at Farm? (We haven’t shot a wedding at Brighton Town Hall yet. Get in touch if you’d like us to, and we’ll bring you some of the aforementioned best hot chocolates in the world.)
MISC BUT V IMPORTANT THINGS
9. You can get jumpers that say DON’T BE A DICK, as modelled at Farmers’ Market by Photography Farm empress Lisa Devlin. Apparently they’re sold out, though. If they come back, I’m getting one.
And now we’re off to buy tickets to Farmshop ’19 in London. See you there, fellow photographers?