IWM : Catherine Farquharson

We spoke with Documentographer, Catherine Farquharson. She is a life photographer who enjoys capturing people’s essence, and sharing back what she sees and feels. We found out how to be more photogenic, the best way to handle a bridezilla, and what it’s like to shoot Lisa.

What is a documentographer?

A documentographer is not just a photographer. It’s a person (me!) who uses a documentary-style approach to photography to illuminate the authenticity of people through photographs.

When did you get your first camera?

I first learned photography in high school on my Dad’s old Pentax camera. It was a film camera with a single 50mm lens, and took beautiful photos.  I have so much more gear now, and have moved into the digital realm, but I still think nothing beats that Pentax.  As can be the case with so many things, simple is best for photography, and my first camera was possibly my best camera.

Are celebrities more photogenic than the rest of us?

Absolutely not!  Celebrities are not more photogenic, they just have more experience and confidence in front of the camera.  Anyone is photogenic once they relax.  In fact, sometimes celebrities can be more difficult, because they have a pre-conceived idea of how they think they look best, and it takes some undoing of that firm image to get to the real person underneath. Over the past decade, I have photographed celebrities including Lisa Ray, Marnie McBean, Jen Heil, Sarah Slean, Claire Danes, Ray Emery, Jason Lewis and other authors, singers, journalists, and philanthropists.

How do you handle a bridezilla?

Ha ha! Everyone always wants to know about Bridezillas!  I think the idea of them must both scare and entice people. I hate to bore you, but I don’t really get bridezillas.  My theory is that I am just not the right fit for that kind of personality, as a bridezilla occurs when she feels misunderstood or out of control.  And in my world, bridezillas appear when they are in direct conflict with the agenda of the Photographer.  Since my approach to working with couples is that I am there for them, and we have so much communication before the wedding day, our agendas are aligned.  I want for them what they want for them.  So our working relationship is easy — knowing I have their best interests in mind, they turn to me for guidance if anything goes amiss.

That said, if I were to come across a Bridezilla, I’d just hand her a xanax.  Just kidding.  A shot of whiskey.  No, really. In truth, I’d just give her some space.

Should you use the same picture on all social media platforms?

There is no need to use the same photo across all social media platforms. As people, we are multi-dimensional, and the whole point of having photos on social media is to showcase your humanity — changing up your photos can be advantageous in this. That said, I think the strongest approach is to have all the photos be consistent in brand representation. When I do shoots, we plan to have a variety of photos that the client can use for different social media platforms. They look different from each other, but always align with the overall look and feel that they want to communicate about themselves. Then they can keep their photos fresh by changing them up freely, and appropriately choosing between sites like Linked in (more formal shots) with Facebook (less formal), while also staying professional and consistent. (We agree! Know your platform and audience so you can choose the right shot.)

Lisa hates having her photo taken. Was it difficult to shoot her?

Hardest thing I have ever done. Phew, glad THAT’s over!!

Nah, just kidding.  I actually work with people that regularly “hate having their photo taken”, or consider themselves to be “unphotogenic”.  So, Lisa wasn’t different than my regular clientele that way. It was a pleasure to shoot her.  Even though she “hates it”, she still dedicated the time to doing it, and allowed it to be the experience she wanted.  Because of that, it was easy for me to do my job the way I like to do it, which includes different outfits, different locations and “looks”, and a lot of great conversations and laughs. It was a joy on my end!

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

Professionally, I consider my biggest accomplishment to be going to India + Rwanda as the photographer for Plan Canada.  Not only did I take photos that I was really proud of and that were widely used in publications like Chatelaine Magazine, but we ended up holding a photo exhibit of those photos for the CONTACT Photography Festival.  More than 200 people came to the opening reception, and I was very proud that the exhibit + silent auction of the photos raised more than $8000 (after expenses!) for the Because I am a Girl Campaign.  For me, it was a beautiful accomplishment in mixing my love of travel, people photography and making a difference.

How come photographers’ rates are so varied?

There is no industry standard for photographers. There is no bar you have to pass to be considered a Professional Photographer.  My theory is that because of this ambiguity, eager hobbyists rush to fulfill their lifelong dream of being a photographer by waking up one day, buying a blog, and declaring to the world that they are for hire!  Although this is great for their personal life vision, it usually means that their passion is not yet matched with experience, experience or experience.  And without the experience, there isn’t the confidence to charge appropriately. (When people are experienced and running their own business for real, they know their hourly rate because they are aware of the costs involved with the business, what it takes to keep the show running, make a living, etc.)  Without that knowledge, newbies usually find a random number that they feel they are worth, put it out there and cross their fingers.

What’s your favourite time of day to shoot?

This is a more difficult question to answer than you might think!  It depends on what I am shooting, really, as the quality of light changes throughout the day. I’ll say, sunrise for travel, morning for families, afternoon for portraits and late afternoon for couples.

What’s one thing we can all do to take a better picture?

To immediately improve your photos, PAUSE a second before taking a picture and ask yourself, “What exactly am I taking a photo of?”, and once you have the answer, ask yourself, “How can I BEST show this subject?”  These two questions help us to really look at what we are photographing, instead of just blindly shooting away and wondering why the photos don’t represent our experience.  After this, you can… never mind.  Sign up for my workshop!  (-;

For more information about Catherine and her services, visit documentographer.com. Tweet with her at @documentographr, follow her on Instagram, and Like her on Facebook too!