Chaffee’s January Artist of the Month

Chaffee’s January Artist of the Month

Brian Farnum knows how to get on your good side.

The portrait photographer based in Clarendon, Vermont is the Chaffee’s featured Artist of the month, and his goal is to make you look great in pictures, without any plastic-y over-Photoshopped doctoring. Natural is key.

“Most people might not know they have a side,” Farnum said. “But you part your hair a certain way (and go) with the direction that the part’s going.”

“Some people don’t want a double chin,” he said. “There are tricks.”

He first got interested in photography during a photo class in high school. It was before the digital revolution and Photoshop, when people still spent time in dark rooms and used tactile artsy tricks to manipulate photos.

“It was a black and white photography course,” he recalled. “I spent a lot of time in the dark room.”

“I was in there with the developer and a paint brush – the light hits the undeveloped piece of paper and there’s nothing there until you put ink to the developer,” he explained. “I would splatter the developer so little dots would develop.”

“I got really involved in the yearbook. That’s when I discovered that I really liked taking portraits, and it kind of grew from there.”

Today his photography business draws clients from all over the country, from class pictures to weddings and beyond, and you can currently see some of his more artistic portrait photos on display at the Chaffee Art Center at 16 South Main Street.

He started B. Farnum Photography in 2005 after taking some classes and teaching himself. There were some costly mistakes in the beginning, he said, the necessary bumps in any new venture.

“I wasted a lot of money in the beginning on camera equipment,” he said. “I learned the lens on the camera is more important.”

Marketing was another big lesson. 

“85 percent of what I do is social media,” he explained. “When I don’t do it I don’t get business. You have to put the work in.”

But when the clients arrive, he knows how to get a good picture out of them. Whether it’s playing music they like beforehand or spending some time just chatting in the beginning, he knows putting the client in a relaxed mood will yield a better photo.

“The first 15 minutes is us getting comfortable,” he said. “If they’re not comfortable they’re not going to have a good portrait. I don’t like having my picture taken so I get it. But once you find that rhythm and get comfortable it just flows.”

His preference is always to shoot outside with natural light and Vermont’s beautiful backgrounds, and he knows the tricks around that, too.

“We didn’t have any sun so I needed to make it,” he said showing one photo as an example. “This has an orange gel so it looks like the sun’s coming through and setting in the background. Creating light that looks natural is really the job.”

“I don’t like to over-Photoshop my images. I want the people to look natural. I don’t want my photos to look fake. But if the groom has a blemish he wants gone that’s fine, it’s a couple clicks and it’s gone,” he said.

“I do a lot of senior portraits and family portraits but most of it is probably weddings. That’s what I enjoy,” he said. “I like people. You can photograph an object but there’s no interaction, it’s really boring to me. I can make something look pretty all day long but if it’s not something that has emotion it’s like, why?”

For more information visit and keep an eye on the Chaffee’s website for Brian’s series of photography classes, coming soon…

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