Hylands House with Nina Mace-On-location family photography

As a professional family photographer, I’m always looking to improve on what I offer my clients and when I get the opportunity to work with other professional photographers, I make the most of the opportunity. Last month I was really lucky to spend time with Nina Mace www.ninamacephotography.com by attending her colour and light outdoor photography workshop www.ninamacephotography.com/child-photography-workshops/.

I find working with natural light is wonderful and can produce very different atmospheres to a photograph dependent upon how you use it. Use of light is probably the most important part of becoming a professional family photographer and living in the Essex/Suffolk area with some lovely countryside I have always used light to bring out the charm in a photograph.Which isn’t always as easy as it seems!

Nina is well respected in the industry for her talent at using outdoor natural light to create both natural and beautiful photographs. She is known for being one of the best photographers in the country and has been recognised by the SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers) as being one of the top 3 professional photography trainers and is a member of the Guild of Photographers. Nina organises courses all around the country for both professionals and beginners as well as contributing to the annual SWPP convention.

The course I was lucky enough to attend was half a day spent at Hylands House Park just outside Chelmsford in Essex. Hylands Estate is one of the finest wedding venues in Essex. Surrounded by landscaped parkland, Hylands offers the best of both worlds – a spectacular Grade II* listed mansion with meticulously restored period rooms and the Grand Pavilion presenting timeless glamour.

Hylands Estate is over 250 years old and in the late 18th century, the owner commissioned landscape designer Humphry Repton to redesign the surrounding parkland and enlarge the house in line with the fashionable Romantic movement. Repton’s influence is still seen today, in the white stucco, neo-classical façade and in its natural, spacious exterior. A short walk from the house, the Pleasure Gardens offer colourful traditional and contemporary vistas which provide the perfect backdrop for both wedding and family photos.

Situated just a couple of miles from the heart of Chelmsford, the venue offers quick transport links to London, Stansted Airport and the rest of East Anglia making it ideal for families to have a wonderful family photoshoot.

Nina started the afternoon with a tutoring session. Sharing with myself and 9 other photographers were techniques for getting beautiful family portraits outdoors irrespective of weather conditions. Nina is highly skilled

Nina started the afternoon with a tutoring session. Sharing with myself and 9 other photographers were techniques for getting beautiful family portraits outdoors irrespective of weather conditions. Nina is highly skilled in utilizing the amazing light during the golden hour so we were keen to see how she worked with the families which she had asked to come and join us at Hylands House.

First to join us were to beautiful mums and their gorgeous toddlers who, despite there being 10 photographers all pointing their cameras at them, were unphased and wonderful to work with. We took a walk to the gardens at Hylands house which were breathtaking. There were vibrant pink and yellow rhodedendrons, spring bulbs, highly scented lilac and a sensational pergola dripping with wisteria in full bloom by a pond. We couldn’t have asked for more! Nina made the toddlers feel totally relaxed and we were able to capture individual personalities, the childrens friendship and the unique bond they both had with their mothers.This was a great shoot and whilst we were busy trying to get our perfect shot, Nina was on hand to offer technical help as well as constructive criticism of our work.

Then it was back to the ‘classroom’ for some amazing food and drink that Nina had arranged and a very relaxed debrief about the shoot. Nina was more than happy to chat to us all regarding our businesses. As family photographers, it’s always great to chat to someone who has done so well in the industry so we were all keen to have our 5 minutes talking to Nina!

As we approaced the golden hour, Nina told us about the next family that would be joining us. We were going to be joined by a mum and her four children, with number 5 on the way! It’s always a challenge for family photographers when you have more than a couple of children. As many parents will know, getting them all to interact and capturing that ‘moment’ can prove a challenge even for the most experienced of family photographers! Again, I was keen to see how Nina directed this shoot and pick up some tips when photographing large family groups.

Just as the family were due, Nina received a message that the mum had gone into labour!  No photographer could plan for that but Nina took it in her stride and put out a casting call on Facebook whilst the rest of us busily text local friends to see if they were available.

Luckily a wonderful family living in Chelmsford came to the rescue. A mum with her 3 gorgeous children turned up at Hylands House looking amazing. Considering it was last minute and after school, the mum had brought the children along with clean faces, brushed hair and in beautiful clothes. Again, we walked through the beautiful grounds of Hylands Park and as the light changed, Nina tutored us as to where would give the best shots of the family. This was a totally different experience from the previous shoot as the children were older. This doesn’t always mean that it’s an easier job for the family photographer! As children grow-up, they become more self conscious and more aware of your direction and your camera.Unexpectedly the father turned up so we took some fabulous family shots which the family were overjoyed with. Time flew and before we knew it we had been shooting for 2 hours! It’s not often that a family tolerate a shoot for such a long time but they were amazing and we were very grateful to them for stepping in at the last minute.

Having completed the course Nina has continued her support to all of us that attended. She has set up a group on Facebook as well as offering us critique of our work. Considering family photography is such a competitive market, it’s always wonderful to meet other photographers who are happy to share their experiences, tips and tricks so that we can all improve in the photography we can offer our clients. Nina is one of those people who is both encouraging and an inspiration. I’m now hoping that I might attend Nina’s other courses on editing, business and marketing. I would highly recommend to any professional photographer that they attend one of Nina’s courses  http://www.ninamacephotography.com/child-photography-workshops/. And I can only imagine that her courses for beginners are equally inspiring, helping people move on from just ‘point and shoot’ into understanding the importance of natural light in their photography.

As well as the course being a really worthwhile investment for my own professional development, I cannot fault the venue. Hylands House in Chelmsford, Essex is an amazing backdrop for both a wedding and family photo shoot. With incredible grounds including wonderful open space and beautiful gardens, the house provides a stunning location. I will definitely be putting Hylands House on my list of locations for family portraits and photo sessions as I think it has a lot to offer to a family photographer in Essex and the surrounding counties.

Thank you Nina for a wonderful and inspiring afternoon in an unforgettable venue!