Children’s Photo Shoot in Winchester – Exploring Farley Mount

This week has all been about checking out out great new locations for family photo shoot in Winchester. Although I am very lucky to have two children and a dog to take out with me and practise on when I’m exploring, it’s never quite the same as carrying out a ‘proper’ shoot as inevitably they end up running off!

So I was very lucky today as I had a good friend join me with her little people. Ezra is just two and thankfully he loves my snacks/treats/bribery (delete as appropriate) so will do pretty much whatever I ask him! His little brother Saul is less fortunate as is only a few months old so can’t run away from me!

We headed to Farley Mount Country Park (to the West of Winchester City Centre) as this has been a location I have had my eye on for a while as having the potential to be a great shoot location. We have visited many times for dog walks (see my Family-Friendly Dog Walks) but never ventured there with my photography hat on, so I was excited to see how it fared! It had all the makings of an interesting location – long grass and flowers in one part and very heavy tree cover in the other.

Getting the Conditions Right

As an outdoor family photographer, I am almost entirely at the mercy of the weather and all the elements. And this can be really tough sometimes. I have lost count of the number of times clients have asked me what happens if it rains! Well we embrace it and hope that it’ll clear. That is my job and I chose to use natural light and surroundings for a reason – I love the natural and relaxed feel to it.

There can be challenges though I won’t lie, and this shoot definitely threw it’s fair share of challenges at me. The shoot itself was actually split between two days in different weeks in May. As you will be able to tell from the images, the first shoot was in brilliant sunshine without any shade or cover whatsoever which made for very tricky shooting conditions. Many people assume that sunshine = brilliant conditions and shade = dull conditions but I would absolutely disagree with this. What you end up with when shooting in bright sunshine (especially in the middle of the day) is really blwon out highlights, really dark shadows and very contrasty images. There is no softeness to the images and they can be really unflattering. In shade, howver, the light is diffused through the clouds so is uniform and soft.

The second day of shooting was a really really dull and overcast day so I thought we should try out being in the trees and using the flash to light the subjects. As I said earlier – I normally always use natural light, but i just wanted to try the flash out just to make sure I wasn’t missing a trick or something. In my mind the feel and atmosphere created by using natural light is far more warming and natural. It certainly takes more skill and understanding to get natural light right rather than just pinging a flash off. Thankfully I had my ever helpful and obliging model in Ezra who didn’t bat an eyelid at going to Farley Mount with me again and posing for me again, albeit in a slightly different setting.

I have reached the conclusion that flash outside (as used in this manner) is definitely not a good plan for me personally. Maybe if I had used fill flash it might have given the photos a bit more body and umph, but to me they just look flat and lifeless! Still – an amazing opportunity to have when shooting a friend’s children so I didn’t need to worry about being Mum and I could just concentrate on changing the settings on my camera and flash. I have also come to the conclusion that I need to reach these conclusions for myself in an investigatory way – if somebody had pointed this out to me initially then I wouldn’t have learned half as much as I did. I am very lucky that I have so many friends with young children who I can practise on. I’ve no idea what i’d do wothout them – but their services are invaluable!

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