Where to take the children for a day out: Standen House Sussex

One of the best investments I made for our family was a National Trust annual membership.  Whenever the dreaded words "I'm bored, what can I do" are spoken in our house, we bundle into the car and off we go.  Within half an hour's drive from us here in the Surrey Hills we have at least 6 major house and gardens to visit. And our favourite at the moment is Standen House.Photo of Standen House guide National Trust It's in Sussex, just on the edge of East Grinstead and straight down the A22, an easy drive from Reigate or anywhere with access to the M25.  It's setting is stunning- nestled into the hillside and surrounded by farm and woodland, so particularly beautiful in autumn.Photo of Standen House National Trust in the Autumn by Amanda Darling Photography

Of all the houses I've visited with the National Trust, this is the one I could live in (!) It has it all- spectacular views, beautiful walks, fabulous vegetable and flower gardens, yet it's homely and warm.

Let's start with the countryside- there are plenty of walks. The Hollybush walk takes you from the carpark round to the gardens and is easy for youngstersphoto of Autumn childrens photo shoot Amanda Darling Photography Photo of Standen House National trust from the fieldsit's fun to follow the boardwalk through the trees, over streams and rootsChildrens photography Standen House Autumn by Amanda Darling PhotographyThere are fallen trees to climb, streams to poke about in and little paths to explore-  look out for the dragon.

Family photo shot Surrey Hills by Amanda Darling PhotographyThere's plenty to see in the house itself.  Its set up like the family home it once was, and packed full of interesting pieces.  For children who like drawing, one of the rooms is a studio with crayons and paper to keep the children busy and old art supplies and equipment to inspire budding artists.  And for grown ups there's the whole history and its Arts and Crafts style to enjoy.Photos Inside Standen House National Trust by Amanda Darling PhotographyThe back stairs areas are particularly good and you can learn about the servants, kitchens and their lives in detail.

Back outside, go up behind the house.  There are short walks around the woods and gardens, with lots of little areas to explore.

Photo of the Quarry garden and fernery at Standen House National TrustThe quarry garden is carved down into the rocks with a pond and plenty of ferns

Photo of the Bothy and the interior of the bothy at Standen House National TrustThe bothy further up the path, is my children's favourite. A tiny hut furnished with wood and tartan.  Climb up the ladder, sit on  the cushioned ledge and try to look through the stained glass.

Photo of meal at Standen House National Trust

We used to take picnics when the children were small, but teenagers are wise to the delights of curry and crumble, so we often have lunch in the barn- it may be why they're always so eager to go when I suggest a visit!Phot of the little people's room Standen House toys and vintage toysGo and find The Little Room at the back of the house. Climb the steps and you're in the Beale's children's playroom, full of traditional toys and dressing up clothes.

Photo of the orchard and beehives at Standen HouseTake time to go round the gardens-  the vegetable garden is wonderful. And autumn is a perfect time to visit the orchard with its beautiful beehives- little bee activity and plenty of hives.

Photo of boy with pumpkin at Standen House National Trust by Amanda Darling Photograohy There's always something to do at Standen and something new to see. Special exhibitions, activity sheets and new rooms and exhibits.  This autumn, they're displaying pumpkins, squashes and gourds they've grown in the gardens.  They're everywhere and very beautiful.

Photo of Pumpkins squashes and gourds at Standen House National Trust

So if you have the chance go to Standen House, you may find it becomes your favourite place too.



Why it's important to get mum in the photo - Surrey Family Photoshoot


So often mum is behind the camera or the iPhone.  She's the recorder of family events and moments.  But as a mum, how often are you in front of the camera?  I'm hardly in any photos with my children- at the time I didn't notice as I was too busy taking the photo.  But now eldest is nearly ready to leave for university, I realise that there's not as much of me to remember as I would like.  I have been grouping together photographs for each of my children for a photobook that they will take with them when they spread their wings and fly, and it has been both wonderful and a little bit of a wake up call.

And when I am doing surrey family photoshoots, more often than not I hear from mums that it's such a treat to be in the photos and not corralling the rest of the family.  But I also hear things like "I don't like to have my photo taken"- that they think they'll wait and lose a few pounds, need a hair cut, they're not wearing the right clothes..... the excuses go on and on.  But I want to say that it is so important for you to be in the photograph with your family, whether you think it's not important or you'd rather be behind the lens than in front, because you will never have that moment again, and you are building those moments so you must be in them.

So I make a special effort with my family photoshoots to capture the special moments with mum.  And I thought I'd share some of my favourites with you for inspiration, along with some simple tips on how to enjoy the moment and get some lovely photographs that are natural and full of expression.

Here are 5 tips to help you relax and enjoy yourself in front of the camera and get photographs that you and your child will treasure forever.

Mother and baby photoshoot Surrey

Tip 1:  You don't have to be looking at the camera to get meaningful images.  If you feel awkward smiling for the camera do something you enjoy: focus on your child.  You are giving them the greatest gift of your time and your joy and love will come through in the photograph.  Notice too, how the image is focussed on the child and mum is softer- that can enhance the emotion and connection in the image, giving a more natural feel to the photograph.

relaxed natural family photoshoot surreyTip 2: Black and white can simplify the image to concentrate on what's important- the connection.

mum and child cuddle in photographs emotional and natural surrey photoshootTip 3: Cuddles, cuddles, cuddles.  Its one of the greatest feelings in the world to hold your child, and that can make a simple but deeply meaningful photograph. When I take a photograph like this, I think of the beautiful feelings that the child will feel when they look at this when they're grown up.happy family photoshoot surreyTip 4: A simple look. Instead of smiling at the camera, look at your child, tell them something they'd love to hear and enjoy their reaction.

teenage photoshoot surrey happy lifestyle photographyTip 4: Share a moment together.  As your children get older they can be less cuddly- but your changing relationship means you can share moments as equals.  Get someone to do something off camera that you'll both laugh at.

older child family photoshoot SurreyTip 5: Get in the photo whatever age your children are.  Sometimes as our families grow up, life gets busy and we take fewer photos.  But these can be the most precious- teenagers about to go to uni, family get togethers with grand parents- capture those moments forever.

So next time you're getting out the iPhone or camera, please don't stand behind it, hand it to someone else and ask them to take the picture- you'll be glad you did.

Or if you'd like to book me for a Surrey Family Photoshoot then get in touch, or check out my family photography page here


Family photography Reigate, Surrey- relaxed and sunny

As a family photographer photographing all across Surrey, I know how beautiful this county is- did you know it has the greatest density of trees in the UK?  Here at the farm in Chipstead, summer means green fields, lush leaves and woodland, and pathways through the trees.  So I was really happy when this lovely family came for their photoshoot on a perfect summer evening.

It was lightly overcast at first, but then the sun pushed through for a final golden moment, so we made the most of it.

What is so nice about families with older children who come for family photo session is that they can be very relaxed shoots.  There's often lots of laughter and a bit of joking around, and these lovelies certainly made the most of their time.  It's a perfect opportunity to have some real family time together with no pressure except enjoying yourselves.  And their happy and relaxed nature really comes through in this session- and you can see the fun they had.

I am also making sure that mum and dad get some photo time just for themselves, as so often all the focus is on the children.  So I build in just a few minutes of 'together time', especially when a lot of parents tell me that they haven't had any professional photographs of the two of them since their wedding.  And the results are delightfully relaxed and fun photographs as you can see from this session.

Enjoy a few of my favourites from their family photography shoot here in Chipstead, Surrey. Family photographer SurreyFamily photography Reigate photos Photographer ReigateChildrens photographer surreyChildrens photography surreyFamily photographer SurreyFamily Photography SurreyPhotographer Reigate

Top 5 tips on what to wear for your Family Photography Session

One of the most asked questions about a family photography session is "what should we wear?"  There's a lot of advice out there, some of which is totally conflicting, so I've pulled together 7 years of experience to give you my top 5 tips for choosing what your family could wear for your photography session.

  • Keep it simple: pick 2 colours, that everyone might have in their wardrobe- blue and beige for example, browns and pinks might be another,  Red is bold and goes well with blues or beiges.  This works really well if there's a big family or many generations.  The more people in the shot, the more harmonious the effect by wearing similar colours.  Unifying colours really pulls a group together.Photographer Banstead, Phographer Coulsdon

In the above photo, the different shades of blue tone together perfectly, to look harmonious without being matchy, matchy.  The effect is relaxed and natural.  It's softened further with a little beige and white which acts as a highlight to break up the blue.  The result looks effortless and subtle.

Photographer Riegate, Photographer SurreyBlue and white features here too- this time a combination of pattern and solid takes it towards relaxed.

Photographer Reigate, Photographer SurreyHere different shades of pink create a lovely coordinating effect, with the white t shirt and checks of the shirt keeping the overall look modern.  The bright pink works really well to balance the lovely yellows in the field

Photographer Reigate, Photographer Surrey The children here are wearing totally different clothes but the colours of the flower pattern and the checks are the same, and it looks great.

Photographer Ewell, Photographer SurreyIn  this winter photograph, the blues are vibrant, and in this case the second colour is really the green of the grass which balances it well.

  • Avoid logos, branding and tiny patterns or prints: logos and brands date and take a photograph away from timeless and classic to 'of a time'.  It's quite hard to coordinate with a Teenage Ninja t-shirt!  Small branding like tiny logos on polo shirts are fine, but a Nike Swoosh across the front of a shirt makes the shoot about fashion and less about you.

Now there is an exception to this and that is that younger children can be very attached to certain items of clothing (I remember my youngest would not go out unless she was wearing her Belle princess dress-lasted for a month).  It is not worth having an uncooperative little one if they can't wear their favourite Disney top, so my advice would be to let them wear it and bring the other clothes to the session and we'll make sure they get lovely Disney shots first before they change, so  they feel listened to.  Make the second outfit a favourite and easy to change into.

Of course there is a very valid point that family photography is all about capturing your family as it is at a certain point in time, and if your children are wearing Marvel as a second skin, then that is this stage of life- it won't last forever and when it's gone you'll wish it hadn't.  I'm sure some of you would love those moments captured forever- so enjoy the Disney/Marvel months.


  • Use accessories to add a variety and a pop:  scarves, cardigans, chunky jewelry and jackets are a really easy way of adding an extra colour without being distracting and are easy to add to change a look very quickly.  They can also be used to bring a brighter colour into the mix without being overpowering.  Not everyone needs to be adding pop, a little sprinkle goes a long way.

I love the way this family have chosen their colours, with the beiges and blues and the clever use of a different pinks scattered throughout.  Looking good!


  • Consider a clothes change:  Can't decide which outfit to wear? Want casual and more formal? Why not bring a change of clothes? It'll give you more options for variety- in fact it's really two sessions in one!  Not every location is suitable for this, but if you're having your family photography session here on our Surrey farm, there's a chance to change outfits during a break.

Here are a couple of great examples of an outfit change.  Photographer Surrey, Photographer TadworthThese lovely twins had fun denim dresses on for casual playing in the woods and fields, then a complete change to pale pink and beige for some family portraits.

And here we have relaxed jeans and tops for a laid-back feel, and then a quick change into dresses for a more formal portrait.


  • Wear comfortable footwear: Wherever you have your session you will be on the go for at least and hour, so it's important to choose footwear you can last in and that is suitable for the ground conditions. Uncomfortable shoes, or worrying about spoiling them will make the session less relaxed and more like a chore- and that will affect expression and body language.  So if in doubt bring alternatives and choose once you've arrived.

Now I know I said 5 tips, but it's really 6, and this is the most important

  • Whatever you wear, be comfortable and be yourselves: If you feel comfy in jeans and shorts, wear jeans and shorts.  If you prefer more dressy look- go for it.  This is your photography for your family and it should be you in the photographs- not someone else's idea of what the right thing is.  It's wonderful to have the session and you'll really enjoy the photographs now- but in 5, 15, 25 years from now, the photos from your family session will be even more valuable.  In 25 years, you won't be looking at the clothes.  You'll be looking at the most precious people in your life and the warmth, love and relationships that you see in those photographs will be the most precious thing.Photographer Reigate, Photographer Surrey













Thursday Thoughts from a Surrey Family Photographer

Wiltshire horn ram by family photographer Amanda Darling

Hi friends,

So it's 2018, the children went back to school on Tuesday and I ventured into the office for the first time this year. It took a while to reach the desk as I had to do a major tidy up- it was the place where we put everything we didn't want to see over the holidays!  Now at least I can use the keyboard, even if the room isn't looking like a spread from House Beautiful. But I have plans to be tidier this year.....

I did my last photography shoot in the week before Christmas.  Then treated myself to stepping away from the everyday tasks to invest in learning and planning for 2018.  This included 2 workshops and a planning away day- and it was fantastic.  As my photography business has grown I have needed to upgrade and streamline systems.   This will allow more time to shoot more family photography sessions, while serving my clients even better.  Exciting things on the way for 2018- watch this space.

So what's new on the farm, since the last update?

(You can see some other posts about the farm here)

  • We're expecting the pitter patter of little hoofs again this Easter as lambing starts.
  • We had spectacular success with selling our beautiful pedigree rams to flocks far and wide this season.  (When I say 'our' I mean Eamonn's as he does all the work!)
  • Last year we began clearing out some of the old woodland, to provide better conditions for the beautiful native trees to flourish along with the wildlife, and it's starting to look wonderful.  It means there is access to previously impenetrable areas- and as a bonus, more lovely areas to photograph in.
  • The recent rain has refilled the ponds, ready for spring and frogspawn.
  • Inside, there is finally a new family bathroom (we've only lived here for 6 years!).  And we found that the Georgian part of the roof was built using a beautiful oak branch complete with bark. We need the Time Team to come to the farm - I bet we'd find some really interesting history here!Sheep grazing on Noke Farm, SurreySo, till next time, enjoy your weekend...




A relaxed and natural mother and baby photography session Epsom Surrey

Babies are only babies for a fleeting moment.  I know because my eldest will be 16 this year and it seems like only yesterday that I could hold her in my arms, blow raspberries on her tummy and not be embarrassing (although she hides it so well- I am so lucky).  I wish I could have each of those moments again.  So when Rebecca introduced me to Teo, I was smitten- big blue eyes, just like his mummy; lots of bubble blowing and a wonderful interest in everything going on around him.  He's at that lovely age when the best game in the world is to take his socks off.  He was so relaxed and easy, even having a little nap whilst we were enjoying a cup of tea.

Mother and baby photography session are so lovely. Because we take our time and work around the baby's feeds and naps, both mother and baby are relaxed and happy throughout.

We wondered round the home, finding great light and capturing many special mummy and baby photographs.  So now Rebecca can hold onto these wonderful baby moments forever.

Enjoy a few favourites from their relaxed and natural mother and baby photography session.....

relaxed and natural baby photography Epsom Surrey relaxe natural lifestyle baby photography Surrey Relaxed natural lifestyle mother and baby photography Epsom Surreynatural and rlaxed baby photography session Epsom Surrey

A day in the life- family photography in Walton on the Hill


This family photography session really brings the sunshine into the middle of winter.  It was a very grey and rainy day, but you would never know that from the relaxed warm images.  This is a really special shoot because we decided to go more editorial and capture Sally, George and their girls relaxing at home.  Really relaxed and natural, doing activities that they would normally do together- literally capturing a slice of their life forever.

One of the really special things about this type of shoot is that it captures the everyday details- special looks, smiles, moments and hugs, that families do all the time, but rarely get to see.

It was such fun too- I got to spend time with this lovely family at their home in Walton on the Hill and enjoy the delicious cake they made during their photoshoot. Who needs sunshine outside when you have it in your heart?

I'm really happy to share some of the magical photographs from this family session:

Family Photographer Waltton on the Hill KT20 Surrey  Relaxed family photoshoot Surrey Tadworth KT20Family Photoshoot Tadwoth Surrey by surrey Family Photographer Amanda Darling relaxed and natural family photography Tadworth Surrey Relaxed family photpshoot KT20 Surrey by surrey family photographer Amanda Darling                                     It was raining quite hard when we took these but you'd never know from these sunny smilesBlack and white family photography session Walyon ont he Hill, Surrey At home family photography session KT20 Surrey Family reading together during family photoshoot Walton on the Hill Surrey Relaxed and natural family photography by Surrey family photographer Amanda Darling

Monday Musings from a Surrey family Photographer

Family Photoshoot in Walton on the Hill, Surrey, KT20 by Amanda DarlingHappy Monday Friends,

Don't some days just flow pefectly? I leapt out of bed this morning, the kids made it easy by being ready for school EARLY, the sunrise was spectacular and I even remembered to take my vitamins!  The school bus was on time, I was in and out of the supermarket with no queues and slid onto my office chair at 9:30 on the dot.  Bam! (as my 12 year old would say).

The reason for my happy endorphins?  My 2017 family photography shooting season started last Saturday- and I am so happy to be behind the camera again and shooting sessions for the lovely families of Surrey, Sussex and Kent.   I have an absolute beauty of a family photoshoot to share with you later this week- something a little bit different and a lot special, so watch this space.

So what is new this week?

  • The evenings are definitely getting brighter- isn't it lovely picking the children up from school before dark?
  • It's exam week (again!)- is it just me or haven't we just had an exam week?
  • I have just had all my kit cleaned and serviced- thank you Nikon- and it was like Christmas getting the box of camera bodies and lenses back.  I definitely felt strange without them.
  • We have spring cleaned so much here at the farm over the last month
  • Newsflash: you can walk across my daughter's bedroom without treading on something
  • Outside on the farm, the ewes are all eating enough for two, and we eagerly await Easter and the arrival of the lambs
  • We had the last blackberry and apple that I froze from last autumn's harvest- what a perfect taste of late summer to lift us in the middle of winter

Let's keep up this happy week.  Have a great one everyone....

Meet Stitch- Photographs of a gorgeous Frenchie

Sometimes when you're working really hard, you just need to step away and focus on something really gorgeous to reinvigorate yourself before plunging back into the task at hand.  That's why videos of cats and dogs are so popular on YouTube.    Today we don't need to go anywhere else for our dose of gorgeous, because it's right here.  Meet Stitch, one of the most adorable dogs I have ever met.

She came right in and made herself at home.  Relaxed and chilled are an understatement. Within minutes she had claimed the sofa- snuggling down, nestling under the cushions and generally melting the hearts of everyone who met her.

Interesting factoid about Stitch is that she is deaf.  But that did not stop her from joining in and milking every hug and cuddle she could get.  This girl knows how to work a room, and within an hour she had assembled a court of adoring children and adults.

She also knows how to work the camera- any pose was granted- no tantrums and no bribery needed. In the sunshine on her beautiful black, white and grey coat almost glowed and her enormous dark eyes sparkled.

She click-clacked over the flagstones to the windows and spent a few interested minutes watching a chicken in the garden. Then it was back to the sofa for more cuddles and a game of 'where's my toy?'

Stich's family recently added a new baby Frenchie to their brood and I can't wait to photograph her too.  How cute must a Frenchie puppy be?

Enjoy Stitch's photography session everyone.Beautiful Frenchie photographed by Amanda DarlingFrenchi dog photographer Amanda Darling Dog photographer Surrey Dog and family photographer Surrey Frenchie Dog photographer Chipstead

Early autumn family photography session in Kingswood Surrey

Last month this lovely family came to the farm for a very relaxed photography shoot.  It was perfect to do it here as they are incredibly outdoorsy and love walks and runs in  the country.  In fact they told me that they sometimes go running along the footpaths that follow the edges of our fields! So it was fun for them to see around the farm from inside rather than looking at it from the outside.

It threatened to rain all morning, but in the end the weather was perfect.  It turned into a warm early autumn afternoon with lovely soft light.   And I had great fun getting to know them all.  They're very laid back and these photographs capture each of them perfectly - mischievous, fun, kind, close and everything they say comes with a sparkle in the eye!  We laughed our way through the session, and the time flew we were having so much fun.

With busy careers and 4 very social children, they really enjoyed some fun time together with no pressure or deadlines.  And I am honoured to capture that time together for them.

I hope you enjoy some of the photographs from their session.

Surrey Family Photographer Family photography in Kingswood KT20

Family of 6 Photograph Kingswood Surrey
Some really relaxed and natural family photographs

Mother and daughter photography Surrey Relaxed Family Photography Surrey Happy Family laughing by Surrey Family Photographer Beautiful Family Photography by Surrey Family PhotographerRelaxed and happy Childrens Photography by Surrey Family Photographer Amanda Darling

Four girls laughing together by Surrey Family Photographer Amanda Darling

Large family photgraphy relaxed and authenticParenst and children relaxing on a family photography session by Surrey Photographer Amanda Darlingsisters piggyback photography in Kingswood Surrey