Updated: Apr 25
With bluebell woodlands creating a stunning carpet of blue for us to enjoy, it's the perfect setting for family photography. Hiring a professional family photographer for a bluebell photo shoot is usually the best way to ensure you have wonderful photos which the whole family can all be in, but with that sadly not being possible during this time of lockdown I thought I would share some tips so that you can photograph you children yourself! If you are lucky enough to live within walking distance of a bluebell wood and with the weather looking lovely over the coming days I hope you can get out and enjoy nature's beautiful blue spectacle!
Before I start, the most important thing to remember is that bluebells are a protected ancient British flower and are easily damaged, so please avoid stepping on them by staying on the paths when out in the woods.
1. Find a good bluebell woodland - All bluebell woodlands are beautiful, but if you can, find a woodland with a thick carpet of flowers which does not have nettles or brambles and lots of twigs lying around your photographs will instantly look better. Paths through the bluebells and logs to sit on will also give you plenty of options, but don't worry if you can't find a bluebell wood like the one below, even small patches of bluebells will give you plenty of opportunities!
2. Choose the best light - You may think that sunshine is best for photographs but actually, when photographing people, shade is much better to avoid over-contrasty bright and dark areas in your photos. So a light overcast day or some cloud or dappled sunlight is best. If it is very sunny, then position your children (or pet!) facing away from the sun so that they are not squinting. You might get the bonus of a nice backlit glow on their hair if so! The light is particularly nice about an hour and a half before sunset and the low golden light will add something very special to the photographs!
3. Get your camera ready! - Any camera will do, and phone cameras have some great portrait modes nowadays but if you do have a DSLR or mirrorless camera and are happy to step outside the automatic setting then set it to aperture priority mode (usually A or AV depending on the make of camera) and use the dial to set it to the lowest F number (but no lower than about F/2.8). This will help to blur the background nicely. Also set your ISO to automatic so that you are less likely to experience blurring with camera shake. If you are finding you are indeed experiencing camera shake you could try setting your ISO to between 800-1600 or switching to sports mode on your camera to give you sharper images. A professional photographer will usually have a zoom (telephoto) lens on her/him for portraits so if you have one then take it along as it can really help your 'subject' stand out from the background. If you only have a kit lens (usually 18-55mm) then do not worry, it's an excellent lens for portraits, especially when used at 55mm!
4. Choose the best position - In order to really show off the bluebells in your photos, it's a good idea to get down low and shoot 'through' the tops of flowers to your subjects as this makes the bluebells look thicker and richer in colour. Having them sit on a log is one idea, or you could take a blanket and place it in a flower-free patch or a path so that it looks like they are sitting 'amongst' the flowers when you photograph them, and position yourself so that there are some bluebells between you and them. Doing this will nicely blur the flowers in the foreground. Always try and make sure the camera is focusing on your children's face or eyes as the last thing you want is for a tree branch in the background to be beautifully sharp but your child's face to be blurred!
5. Check the backdrop - Background is all important in any portrait photography and the last thing you want when you get home and look at your pictures is to see a twig coming out of your child's head! It's easily missed so take a few moments to check this when you are taking the photo and position yourself to have as clutter free a background as possible, preferably just a wooded back drop, with the less sky showing the better and the further away behind your children the woodland backdrop is the better as this will help them to stand out from the soft-focus background nicely.
6. And last but not least, have fun! - You may be keen to have your kids sitting nicely and smiling into the camera and that is absolutely fine, but after you have that 'mantel piece' shot just capture them being kids! Having fun, giggling, being silly, balancing on or jumping off of a log, playing hide and seek, bending down to smell the flowers, walking or skipping hand in hand along the paths. This is where a zoom (telephoto) lens will come in particularly handy if you have one (otherwise zoom in a little on your camera phone from a distance if you can). You could try peering through some foliage or flowers to give the photo the impression you are looking in on your child's secret world! These are the photos you will remember with fond memories and the kids will remember having fun in the woods rather than being sat rigidly being told how to pose!
Emma Stokes is a Family lifestyle and wedding photographer who loves capturing relaxed and fun portraits outdoors, based in Tonbridge Kent. You can find her family photography page here or you can follow her on facebook or instagram