Updated for 2020!
Originally published in 2016, this blog post has proved to be one of the most popular pages on my website. I’d like to greet the new decade with an update to reflect some new finds, as well as a whole new set of photos to illustrate the beauty of these natural spots for location family photography!
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!
More from this maternity / family shoot at Basing House, Basingstoke.
8. Brick Kiln Cottage, nr Alton, Hampshire
A fantastic period property is set on the site of an 1800s brickworks between Basingstoke and Alton. It has been artistically landscaped by its current owners to provide many picturesque features, including a billabong, shepherd’s hut, arbours and arches, and even a tree house! We were very fortunate to be able to use the gorgeous grounds as a setting to many a bluebell session in the past few years, and are still able to do so via prior arrangement with the property’s wonderful, giving owners. If you would like to visit independently, Brick Kiln Cottage is also open one day every year during bluebell season as part of the National Open Garden Scheme.
7. Hitchin Lavender, Hertfordshire
Lavender photo sessions have become quite popular in the past few years, but I will admit to being somewhat of a latecomer to them – primarily because of my fear of bees. So when one of my lovely clients asked me to shoot in the fields at Hitchin Lavender as a place of personal importance to her family, I hesitated a moment before saying… yes, of course! And, my goodness. Was I in for a treat! Soft lilacs as far as the eye could see and and that sweet, delicate scent all around us. And the bees really did keep to themselves and let us get on with it. A truly magical place!
Lavender is in full bloom during the month of July, so it makes a great backdrop for summer photo shoots. Hitchin Lavender is perfect for clients based in London, as it is only 40 minutes away. Alton, Chichester and Banstead also boast picturesque lavender field locations, and may be more convenient to you depending on where you are based. Please note that a small photography fee, levied by the farm owners, applies to shoots at all the above locations.
6. St John’s 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. But it’s only half of it! See which other beautiful places I choose for my family photo sessions in My top 10 outdoor family portrait locations, Part 2.
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 let’s get planning!