As a children’s and family photographer, my greatest passion is to shoot on location portraits. If I could, I would work outside all year round! Everyone seems to be happier and more relaxed in the fresh air. Babies and children smile and laugh a lot more, there is plenty to explore and we never run out of games and activities to keep the session flowing nicely. And what of the final results? Oh, the light, the colours, the textures!
I am often asked by clients about location ideas. Which is understandable! Serving three counties and London, as I do, I have developed something of a guru-level local knowledge of the spots that photograph the best.
So today, I am sharing my top ten public locations for family portraits in Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey. The ranking is not hard and fast – in fact, I would say these are joint favourites of mine, each of them equally perfect for photography or a fantastic day out. Or both! So read on – if you are looking for a source of inspiration for our next photo session, there is plenty to be found here.
10. Donnington Castle, Newbury, Berkshire
A picturesque 14th century ruin perched on top of a hill in the town of Donnington, just outside of Newbury. Donnington Castle has it all: open countryside views, ancient walls with character, history and texture, and soft green space for even the youngest of visitors. Your children will love running along the wall perimeter and playing hide-and-seek among the trees surrounding the monument. A lovely quiet spot for light, airy and summery images.
9. Basing House, Old Basing, Hampshire
Basing House is very local to me and I often suggest it as a location to out-of-town clients, especially when coupled with a studio session. It is a delightful place that delivers on so many different levels. The short walk from the car park to the site coasts the Basingstoke Canal and features an old railway bridge, a wooden bridge and many opportunities for bird spotting. The location itself is a fascinating journey into the English Civil War, with a well preserved barn still bearing the signs of a siege, and the remains of the once-opulent House. The well-kept grounds feature a garden, an orchard, and even some ancient cannons. An ideal location that will keep the interest of toddlers and children alike, with its beauty and history. A couple of welcoming country pubs nearby (Bartons Mill and The Crown) provide a well-deserved après-session drink for all!
8. Portchester Castle, Fareham, Hampshire
This location is a little further south, sitting pretty on the Hampshire coast, near Fareham. Portchester Castle is a very well-preserved historic site, dating all the way back to the 3rd century. Older children (and those not suffering from vertigo) will be able to explore the interiors of the castle (complete with the dramatically lit, tall window niches) and even climb all the way up to the roof for some impressive seaside views over the Solent. Little ones will enjoy the safe space of the walled grounds and the peace St Mary’s church, tucked in the corner.
7. Alice Holt Forest, Farnham, Hampshire/Surrey borders
A great destination for walkers, Alice Holt Forest is a large area of mature woodland near Farnham, easily accessible from both Surrey and Hampshire. The forest is criss-crossed by family-friendly walking trails and very easy to navigate even with a pushchair in tow. What makes it special is a number of purpose-built, animal-themed playing areas and sculptures dotted along the paths, including ones based around the ever-popular Gruffalo characters. Your children will not even know how far they have walked, so excited they will be to discover the next play area on their route! And I will of course be there, ready to capture their delight and the simple pleasures of a family day out in the countryside.
6. Odiham Castle, Odiham, Hampshire
Probably one of my most picturesque portrait locations, Odiham Castle, located in North Hampshire, near Hook, is stunning in its simplicity. There is little remaining of this 1st century fortress, and you would easily miss the signs to it while on a walk along the Basingstoke Canal. The site is very compact but provides a very attractive and peaceful backdrop to family photography sessions with children of any age. And of course, the surroundings are every bit as enchanting, with brooks and clear ponds which are just perfect to little (and bigger!) feet to splash in on a hot summer’s day!
Phew…! That was a lot to go through, and a lovely way to look back at some of my favourite outdoors session of the past couple of years. Stay tuned for my next post to round up the next five top family portrait locations, coming up in the next few days. And of course if you, like me, have fallen in love with the look and feel of any of these magic places and would like your own photo shoot there, simply get in touch and I’ll be really glad to organise it all for you!