Notes from a Sussex family photographer: Why I'm going all in!

If you know me, you’ll know I treat every photo session like a day out with friends. We have fun, we laugh, we get grubby, we talk about all the love in your family, occasionally we get deep. I believe your session tells a story of a precious moment in time with your children. That’s why I’m passionate about giving you every single one of those memories we create.

My family package includes the photography session at an outdoor location we all love, hand editing by me of all your best images and delivery of an online gallery. Now it also includes all of your edited images for you to download and share to your hearts content. Plus a box of high quality 5x7 prints of all your images. I want you to have it all!

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My sessions are now either booked as a morning or afternoon slot - no set time frames, no time limits. So if your child is a little shy, your baby needs a feed or you take a little time to come out of your shell, we have plenty of time. It’s really important to me that you enjoy the session because I know that if you’re happy and relaxed, everyone else will be too!

Morning sessions start around 9.30 am, afternoon sessions should start two hours before sunset.

So it’s just one family package - two simple prices, one for week days and one for the weekend. That’s it!

THE ADVENTURER PACKAGE

£320 weekdays, £345 weekends and bank holidays

So am I the right photographer for you?

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When I think about the images I create, I think about my own family moments I want to cherish and even more importantly, the images I think my boys will cherish when I’m long gone. They’re not of us all looking perfect in our Sunday best. They’re of us in our most beautifully presented real state, our personalities shining through.

I don’t always want everyone to be looking at the camera, sometimes I want everyone to be looking at each other, the people they love most in the entire world. My editing has been described as gritty and raw.

If that sounds like you and your family, I’m the photographer for you!

It’s not a prerequisite, but I also adore children and families who love the great outdoors, where the wild is their playground. Whether it’s the beach, the woods, the mountains, the fields or even the sea! We can explore together and make your photo session an adventure you’ll want to remember forever.

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Notes from a Sussex family photographer: "I only want my kids in the photos"

Hey you! Yes you. The mumas who 99.9% of the time are the ones who are booking me for a family photo session. I want you in the frame!!!

I hear it time and time again and it makes me so sad every single time. Mummies who book with me book a session but only want their kids in front of the lens. Or who book a family session with the huge caveat that they don’t look their best, that they haven’t bounced back after having a baby, that they hate the way they look.

I’m with you, I really am, but guess what? I don’t want to take a picture of you for you, I want to take a picture of you for them. Because to your children, at this very moment you are the most wonderful, beautiful, lovely, kind woman to walk the face of this earth. To them, you are perfect. And they will want to remember you holding them, making them laugh, wiping a grazed knee, cuddling away tears - every single moment. Just the way you are. You are the most important character in the story of their childhood and they will want images that bring back those memories of safety, security, laughter and fun.

And once I’ve managed to persuade you to get in front of my camera, I really encourage all the mothers I work with to not look at their perceived flaws when they look at one of my photos but to look at the way their babies look up to them. The way they make their children laugh. The way they make their partners smile with pride.

But don’t just take my word for it. Check out these gorgeous mummies and the beautiful photos of them with their children. All of these women were hesitant about stepping in front of the camera, but then they would have missed out on these magic images that will be treasured.

Is there anything holding you back from getting in the frame?


The wild is our playground

For those of you who listened to my podcast earlier this week, you’ll know something that I’m truly passionate about is getting kids outside as much as possible.

Not a day goes by where my boys aren’t outside for a few hours a day - sun, snow, sleet and showers! To be honest if I don’t get my boys outside everyday then my house would be destroyed (more than it currently is)! But also I firmly believe in the emotional and physiological benefits to un structured, outdoor play.

The future belongs to the curious. The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it and turn it inside out.
— Unknown
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It’s a sad fact that children are less physically active than even we were as kids - despite less information about junk food. Now even with a better understanding of nutrition, kids these days still have lower muscle strength with higher rates of obesity. But it goes further than that, yes climbing trees will make a child strong, but it will also improve their balance, teach them to take risks, work as a team by helping each other and encourage their imagination when they turn that tree into a pirate ship!

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So let’s get them outside! The woods, the beach, the fields and the park. Running free in the wild, just like they’re supposed to. And maybe, heaven forbid even getting a bit bored…. as the saying goes, creativity is just on the other side of boredom!

To inspire, I’ve set up a new hub on Instagram, The Wild Is Our Playground sharing beautiful images celebrating children who play, learn and love life outside. I’ll also be sharing information I find about raising outside wildlings for those who are interested.

I’d love to hear about some of the things you do to get your kids outside and be sure to tag your own adventure images with #thewildisourplayground.

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I was on a podcast! Have a listen

I was recently asked to chat to four time Olympic skier, sometime TV presenter and full time mummy Chemmy Alcott on her fab podcast - Motherhood: Mayhem, Madness and Meaningfulness!

We chatted a lot about my pregnancy and giving birth to my beautiful twin boys. I opened up about the anxiety I felt while I was pregnant (which I’ve written about in more detail here). I also talked about our love for travelling with kids and getting them outside as much as possible. And of course photographing the whole lot!

Anyway, have a listen. I would love to know what you think!!

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Diary of an Arundel mother... as featured in The Bell

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Writing this in the depths of January winter, it’s tricky to think too far ahead to Spring. It seems a distant dream at the moment. We know the leaves will come back on the trees and the bluebells will sprout in the woods, but it seems so far away right now!

Having said that, we’ve had a wonderful winter so far – there’s something about the post Christmas blues that makes me even more determined to get outside. Plus, two little four-year olds wouldn’t let me have it any other way!

We started off the year with a bang – or should I say splash – as we always do. Every year, we organise a New Year’s Day dip in the sea mid-morning, supplying our friends and family who take the plunge with teas, coffees and sausage rolls. We head to West Wittering, which this year thanks to the beautiful weather was packed. There were 8 of us Arundel residents who took part aged 14 to 60 with many more coming down to cheer us on! Such a thrill jumping in the sea and dashing out again ana an amazing way to start the year - so much so that two of our party have carried it on and have done a sea dip every day since!

As you may have come to expect reading my column, we’ve been exploring the local woods quite a bit. We’ve just moved to a new house on the ‘other side of town’ and I’ve loved discovering the local woods – the ones up behind ACE that stretch up towards Tortington Lane and on to Binsted Woods. How have we never been there before! There’s a fab tyre swing in a clearing which the boys loved – and their mummy (me!) loved the many beautiful spots for family photos.  Also, excitingly near us, there’s some interesting work going on at the fields near Priory Lane. Many local residents are putting their heads together with the help of the Arundel Castle Groundsman are clearing up the field and turning it into a beautiful space the community can use. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds, I will keep you updated.

Another way I avoid the January blues is to organise a family trip away – so we’ve just returned from a bit of an epic long weekend in the Scottish Highlands! Literally the other end of the country from us here in Arundel but such a breath-taking place. We were staying on the Isle of Seil on the West Coast. I certainly recommend – although perhaps fly. We drove and the 14 hour trip home in the snow with four year olds may have pushed us over the edge! (I have detailed some tips on road trips with kids if you’re keen to hear more – check out my blog)

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Finally, I can’t talk about January without mentioning the other big milestone for us and many families of preschool aged kids – the primary school application deadline that loomed… we got our application in and now just have to sit tight until April to see which school the boys’ get into. No matter where we get in though, I did do a lot of research into schools in and around the area and I can say with certainty we’re incredibly lucky with the two schools we have in Arundel!

SO while we’ve had a wonderful Winter, Spring is on my mind. A time when our County comes alive with events, Spring Fairs, Mother’s Day celebrations and Easter Egg Hunts. There’s so much going on I thought I would outline the things we have pencilled in our diary to give you some inspiration.

Most locally, come April we will see Arundel Castle reopen. Which feels like it has come around very quickly this year! From the 6-7 April they celebrate with Combat At The Castle – which my boys will love. The event gives you the opportunity to see and hear how Robert de Belleme, Earl of Arundel, trained his soldiers in preparation for what was to be the first siege of the Castle in 1102. With traditional weapons and armour demonstrations plus archery competitions by the knights it’s a must see and full day out. It’s always incredibly popular too. The event is included in the standard Castle ticket price.

Staying in Arundel, the Wetlands Centre has a wealth of events on this Spring. I’m particularly excited about seeing what the Dark Skies Days event is all about. It’s being run in conjunction with the National Parks Dark Skies series – focussed on learning all about nocturnal wildlife with the centre being open late into the evening so you can see the birds going into roost. For kids like mine, who are big fans of the Gruffalo and the Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark, this is likely to be a winner and a treat to stay out a bit late. As well as watching out for owls, there’s also the opportunity to build a bat box (restricted numbers so need to book that one) and make pine cone decorations.

If birds are your kids’ thing – I recently learnt about the Chichester Cathedral Peregrines project. Unbeknownst to us, Peregrine Falcons have been living and nesting on the roof of Chichester Cathedral for years and thanks to a local couple, David and Janet Shaw, a web cam has been set up so you can watch them nest and watch their fledglings hatch. The couple will be at the Cathedral in March to tell you more about the local Peregrine Falcons. I’ll certainly be looking up to try and spot them next time we’re in Chi.

One of our favourite spots to explore come Spring is Amberley Museum which always makes a great day out. They have a special event on the 31 March for Mother’s Day called Mums Can Do which I like the sound of. If getting out and about (rather than a swanky lunch) is more your thing then this could be for you too. The weekend is set to be action packed with mums learning to drive a train, conduct the vintage buses and make some pottery. More information will be released closer to the time, but the museums events are normally best pre-booked as they are so popular.

If your children are of the age where they love some craft, I also spotted a lovely event a bit further away in Petworth. It’s being held at Petworth House and is an opportunity for children to make something for their mum and finish it off in a personalised frame – while mums can apparently relax and enjoy the beautiful house. The event costs £5 per child on Saturday 30th March from 11-3pm.

As a photographer, I always look forward to the Bluebells popping up in all our local woods. I’ve explored further afield but to be honest some of my favourite spots for Bluebells are in our local woods along Tortington Hill and towards Binsted. Much quieter and the beautiful light across the fields is magical. The bluebells can be expected as early as March depending on the weather and can last until around May.

Finally, lambing is another highlight of our Spring calendar. We always head to Gaston Farm in Slindon which will be open later this year since Easter is so late. It’s an absolute must for local kids with many of the schools planning visits there. We will be taking full advantage of having pre school aged kids and heading there on a week day to try and avoid the crowds.

I hope that gives you some Spring time inspiration and I can’t wait to report back on all the things we get up to and start thinking about Summer fun… where is the year going?!  

Favourite Winter Beaches in West Sussex

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If you’re a follower of my Instagram feed you’ll know how much I love getting my boys outside and especially to the beach. I believe in Vitamin Sea, blowing away the cobwebs and the grounding nature of walking in the sand. Plus my pesky dog, if I’m honest - my boys too, can live their best feral lives at the beach with limited judgement!

But beaches for me, are for life not just for Summer! And I believe that in West Sussex we have some of the best beaches around. So if you’re looking to visit West Sussex and want some tips on which beach to head to, or if you’re local and need some new inspiration for some of the best spots, this blog is for you.

So here are my top 5….

The widely acclaimed one: West Wittering

So this is hugely popular beach in Summer. I had a photo session there on the May Bank Holiday and it took me over 3 hours to do the 15 mile drive home… but for me it will always be worth it. And it is firmly my favourite in Winter when there’s only a handful of walkers on the weekend and even less in the week.

We always drive to the ‘dog beach’ end, which is basically the far end of the car park. In winter when the tide is low the beaches are huge and if the wind is too strong, you can escape and explore into the dunes which my boys love to do. In Winter the cafe is open on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday - 9am to 4pm.

A locals favourite: Pagham

Pagham gets on my list personally because it’s round the corner from my children’s school. I love nothing more than picking them up early and heading there for fish and chips in the summer - in the winter I pop for a bracing dog walk after I’ve dropped them off in the morning.

It’s a long shingle beach with sand in spots at low tide, it’s very quiet through the Winter and I’ve often found myself having the whole beach to myself on a cold and sunny morning. Bliss! Parking is free and there’s a great greasy spoon just off the beach. Also try spotting for seals in Chichester harbour from the beach. I’ve spotted one very close to shore shadowing a fishing boat. Made my week!

A quick dip: Climping

One that is incredibly close to my home is Climping. A lovely quiet spot. It’s a shingle beach with not much there in terms of facilities, but if it’s a bracing walk on a shingle beach you’re after, this is a great spot. You can easily walk to Littlehampton and beyond to other cafes but it is quite far for little legs. My boys love it for the giant rocks that they climb and the little rock pools at low tide.

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The one with my favourite cafe for breakfast: Ferring

My favourite thing to do on a Saturday morning by far is head out to breakfast at the beach. It probably harks back to when we lived in Sydney. And my most favourite cafe to do this at is The Blue Bird Cade at Ferring. It’s breakfast and lunches are great. It’s bright and airy, friendly staff and they are very dog friendly. It’s a must see on my list.

Once you’ve had breakfast then you can take the walk in front of the beach huts and on to Goring. It’s paved so perfect for little ones who love to scoot and a proper walk for the dogs.

The one with my favourite cafe for dinner: Bracklesham Bay
Billy’s at Bracklesham Bay is worth a visit in itself, the fact that it’s beautifully located on the beach is a bonus. It does do breakfast but it also does dinner on the weekends which we’ve been to with the boys - the restaurant is light and airy and accepts dogs. The beach itself is shingle and you can walk along the beach towards East Wittering.

How to take better photos of children

Over the last few years, I've really tried to hone my skills taking photos of the true essence of childhood. My obsession with capturing moments and memories of the ordinary everyday of my own children and now other people's families has driven me to discover and study from some of the best professionals and experiment.  Whether you're using your phone, a point and shoot or 'proper' camera here are some of the best prompts, angles and tips I've gathered to achieve beautiful imagery of children. 

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1. Establish real emotion 

I don's say 'cheese' ever ever ever. I never say 'smile' or 'look at me'. Achieving the real look of emotion be it happiness, laughter, joy and sometimes even moments of sadness can't be faked with kids. That's what I love about photographing them the most. They wear every single emotion like a badge of honour. Not just smiling through their eyes but through their hands, head, whole body really. I love love love it, but it does mean if you want your images to scream joy you have to get real and work for it. And saying 'cheese' isn't going to cut it.

The way I do it is to talk to the children I'm photographing. Really talk to them about the things they love. If it's your own children this should be easy, getting them to say 'cake' or 'tractor' or 'unicorn' for example will make them glow if they're their favourite things. Singing songs from their favourite TV shows or nursery rhymes all elicit happiness. Real happiness. 

2. Get on their level

Literally get on their level! I'm not talking about thinking like a kid, although this can definitely help. It's about getting down low at eye level to take their snap. All too often we snap quick pics of our kids from above (our level). The kids are looking up, often into the sun which makes them squint with necks straining. Get down on your knees and look them straight in the eye. 

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2. Let the kids take the lead 

Whenever I shoot a family session I like to have a rough plan of what we're going to do, but that goes completely out the window if the kids aren't into it. The best photos to take will always be of your kids doing something they're really into be it climbing a tree, playing with toys or just wondering around on a walk. Let them direct the action and the smiles will flow. Following them around you get to see the world through their eyes and children really do see magic. 

4. Take a lot of photos 

I am a self confessed over shooter. In a 2 hour family session I take about 1500 photos! Of course they're not all keepers, in fact I get it down to about 70 images that I love. Now obviously your iPhone doesn't have room for 1500 photos, but in a few minutes you should keep snapping away especially if there's fast moving little ones racing around. Phones are surprisingly good at capturing movement, just make sure you take enough and you'll get a keeper. 

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5. Time is of the essence

Some of my clients are surprised about the length of time I like to have for portrait sessions. Often it's no more than 5 minutes to get one great portrait shot! The first shot is usually the best and when I've got it I call it a day. As anyone with kids knows, they have very limited attention span even more so when you're trying to take some photos and get them to look at you. Photograph in short sharp bursts. Sit them on a stool, chat and get it done with. If you don't quite get what you want, try again a few hours or even days later.

6. Bribery will get you everywhere 

The last tip and possibly the most important! My own kids are so over being photographed, but even at three they know how much mummy loves it and they understand the bargaining potential! Snacks, TV time, a trip to the playground, when the chips are down and you want a photo, don't be afraid to resort to bribery to get what you want!

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