well I have to say that being the photographer at the Santa’s Grotto event at Apley Farm Shop, Shropshire was absolutely brilliant! Alongside the fantastic staff, Santa was a joy to work with and the kids absolutely loved him (mostly anyway!),
Our photos were consistently spot on and we had a lot of very happy customers. I’m very relaxed at shoots like this, I had a lot of great chats with customers and other enthusiastic photographers who’d brought their cameras along and I was more than happy to hook one of them up to my remote flashes so she could enjoy my lighting setup. Word got round very quickly about the quality of the shots we were producing so I spent a lot of time rushed off my feet, which is what I enjoy about shoots like this.
Everything worked as it should, which was good given the need for a very slick workflow. Apart from a disaster with a broken monitor (ouch. Had a spare thankfully) and a broken keyboard (smaller ouch but had a spare one of those too! – I wonder why things suddenly break almost at the same time though). We even survived a storm of monsoon proportions which suddenly left me and my camera bag standing in two inches of water. The grotto itself was in a very cosy location but to remain unobtrusive I spent a lot of time standing outside – so while about an inch of rain fell in less than five minutes I ended up soaked through! I don’t think I’ve ever been so wet but I did man up and got some lovely photos despite my flash umbrella disappearing after a particularly strong gust of wind.
For this event I took the opportunity to test an upgrade to our mobile 4g network to pull in a better signal. We did this for two reasons, primarily because we’ve been continually frustrated with intermittent failed credit/debit card payments for a couple of months which is equally frustrating for our customers who have to hang around while we try to make the transaction go through – so it was well worth doing, it’s one of the only areas that I’ve been unhappy with throughout the year and it was good to get it resolved at last. We run a very stable and reliable closed network at events, both cameras transmit images on the fly and we don’t allow anything else to be connected to it (not even USB sticks) so the other area I wanted to implement was a file upload configuration which allowed customers to have a download from a secure area on our web server – not perfect yet and a little buggy because it’s dependent on their phone’s network signal but I was really pleased to be able to run it live and it was well received – people love to have prints but we recognise that providing social media images is equally important and we gave digital images to people free of charge during the event so they could share them on the day.
I’d really love to post lots of photos just to show the quality of what we produce at events like this, they’re very different to the run of the mill Santa’s Grotto shots, but we take privacy very seriously when children are involved (all galleries that customers have requested on our web site are password protected and we only put them up with written permission). And there were no adults who wanted to sit on Santa’s lap (which I could have posted!). But I am able to show one of my favourite shots – the delightful dog, all dressed up, who was perfectly content sitting on Santa’s lap for as many photos as I wanted to take. A couple of days later another customer arrived with their dog, then another, making me wonder whether a grotto for pets would be an interesting idea! Could you imagine it?