Gagan Dhiman for the Rachel Vanoven Collective

I started building a list of guest instructors I wanted for the Collective last Spring. There were a handful of friends who believed in my dream and supported me by trusting us to film them teaching without really understanding just what the Rachel Vanoven Collective was going to be. Or if anyone was even going to subscribe!

Erin Tole, Sarah Hill, Natalie Leech, Susan Scott, Sara Mordew, Hillary Warren, Sandra Coan, and Mel Macmaniman were the first photographers I reached out to, and all were immediately on board to help me in any way they could.

Then I met Gagan Dhiman.

Gagan’s wife, Kayleigh, is an eWorkshop member and won a 1:1 mentoring with me last year. She flew out to my studio in Indianapolis, at 34 weeks pregnant, all the way from California. With her, she brought her photographer husband who I knew nothing about, but after our day of mentoring was over, I got to know both of them a little better and was introduced to Gagan’s amazing engagement and wedding work.

I follow a lot of photographers but there was something about Gagan’s work that stirred my heart. A rawness paired with an vision of the world that drew me in. It was immediately clear that he simply sees his surroundings different than I do, but somehow captured moments that made me see it too.

Am I making sense? Probably not, so here’s a few of my favorites from him…





I think what I love most about his work is the variety. Every image, every session has it’s own mood and feeling. Where I pride myself on consistency in my sessions, he fully embraces different lighting, angles, and locations. Whether it’s a remote shoreline, a concrete pathway, a wedding or a crowded street…he somehow makes it work. And while every session varies in lighting and posing and content…they are all uniquely Gagan. 

So immediately I told him, without really knowing him, that he had to be a part of the Collective..for a few reasons. One of my dreams for this monthly subscription was that it wouldn’t be the same old instructors (me included) because while our methods work,

there are so many other ways to do it.

Get what I’m saying? I don’t care if you’ve been a photographer for a week or fifty years, you have something to contribute. I don’t care if you shoot engagements or pets or landscape because even though I’m a newborn/family photographer, I can still learn from you.

So it didn’t matter to me that Gagan had never taught or that he shoots completely different than me, I knew his methods (whatever they were) would be amazingly beneficial for the Collective members to learn from.

Georg (our Collective videographer) and I flew to San Francisco and drove up to Bodega Bay to film Gagan shooting a couple session, and while Gagan embraces cloudy, foggy Northern California days, we were greeted by a brilliant cloudless sky! With a filming time starting around noon, I was anxious/curious to see how Gagan would hide from the harsh midday winter sun…

Spoiler alert: He didn’t.




Not only did he not shy away from sticking this couple in the bright sun, but he intentionally stuck them in dappled shadows. My backlit-field-at-sunset-self was FLOORED.



We headed off to the coast, still full sun, still high in the sky…and all I’m thinking is, “Man I hope there are some tall rocks to hide behind.”





I remember at this point (above photo) I was like, “THERE’S SHADE RIGHT THERE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, CRAZY PANTS?!?” Ironically, this series he took was one of my favorites!



(and he did eventually stick them in the shade…)






After wrapping up on the beach, we drove to the last location of the day to film the interview portion of his video, along with one last really amazing spot that was actually in the shade! I was back in my comfort zone!








As the sun was setting, the couple, Gagan, and Georg all set off to grab a few golden hour shots…





And then it was a wrap!

I am just so excited to see his video (it was super windy so I couldn’t hear a word he was saying!) and get a tiny peek into how his mind works. I’m ready to be pushed out of my comfort zone and I hope the Collective members are too!






You can see this session blogged on Gagan’s website here.

Information about the Collective membership here.


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