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How Scots photographer launched Farm Gate Photos to diversify during lockdown

The Robertson family - Eilidh, Craig, Jack (3) and Andrew (1)
The Robertson family - Eilidh, Craig, Jack (3) and Andrew (1)

Most farmers look at an old steading and wish they had the money to develop it into something more useful.

Craig Robertson was no exception but his wife Eilidh had other ideas and, looking at it with an artist’s eye, she set about creating an outdoor photography studio.

The Robertson family is well known for producing top-class commercial cattle from its base at Newton of Logierait, Ballinluig, Perthshire, but it is another tenanted farm, Dunfallandy, near Pitlochry, which was the inspiration for Eilidh’s Farm Gate Photos venture.

Eilidh set up her wedding photography business in 2013, specialising in rural weddings. Her sister, Laura Hay, joined her as an associate in 2016, but this year has been difficult for the business.

“When the country went into lockdown and couples sadly had to start postponing their weddings, I quickly realised that family photography could be an opportunity to keep busy during 2020 and hopefully claw back some of the revenue I was losing,” said Eilidh.

With her income expected to be drastically reduced due to the loss of weddings and taking inspiration from doorstep photos set up by some urban photographers, she launched Farm Gate Photos during phase one of coming out of lockdown in June.

Initially, she travelled the country organising 30-minute photoshoots, socially distanced outdoors.

However, she recently realised what an asset she has on her own doorstep in the shape of the rundown, but picturesque, steading at Dunfallandy.

She is keen to make the half-hour shoots, which cost £75, a fun experience for families and children can play on the vintage tractor, climb over straw bales and generally have a great time visiting the farm, while following Covid-19 guidelines.

Eilidh’s style of photography is very natural – she makes use of what is lying around for props and natural light – photos are seldom posed and no one is ever asked to say “cheese”.

It also helps she has two small boys and knows what children can be like.

“People say ‘never work with children or animals’, but I love the challenge of persuading, or distracting, them until I can get the perfect shot,” said Eilidh.

Despite being busy with kids and helping Craig on the farm, Eilidh is very active on social media and this summer set up her Farmlife Scotland Instagram page, on which she aims to showcase rural family life in Scotland through documentary photography. Much of the interest in her Farm Gate Photos venture has come through this route.

Supporting women in agriculture and small rural businesses is also something Eilidh is passionate about as she strives for personal development and continues to drive her own business forward. She is part of this year’s Rural Leadership programme and has also been working with a rural business coach Jane Hemmingway, who encouraged her to diversify.

“Lack of weddings this year has given me the time to think about the direction the business is going in,” said Eilidh.

“And while Laura and I are fully booked for next year with more than 60 weddings between us, I plan to keep Farm Gate Photos going and also get involved in mentoring aspiring photographers.”

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