It’s a wrap – Muddy gets festive at the farmyard
I thought I knew what family photo shoots were about until I spent an amazing morning at Michelle Morris's farmyard. Here's what happened.
Think family photo shoots and what springs to mind? Boxy studios? Bored kids playing up as you smile through gritted teeth? Nothing could be further from reality at one of Michelle Morris’s shoots on her idyllic farm in Worcestershire’s Teme Valley.
So when Muddy got an invitation to spend the morning posing it up at a Christmas Mini Session it was naturally a big ‘err, yeess!’.
Ok, actually, the reality is I’m eye-rollingly British about having my photo taken (dislike it), add to the mix a reluctant husband, two teenage boys and a wayward dog and I couldn’t help thinking it would be a challenge for even the hardiest of photographers.
But Michelle, the creative force behind Michelle Morris Natural Portraits, has had tougher audiences before settling in the wilds of Worcestershire.
Now a portrait photographer, she was an international human rights lawyer based in New York until 2006. Working in the world’s most notorious trouble spots for more than a decade she helped bring the issue of child soldiers to international attention and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Nelson Mandela.
But the place she now calls home – and the setting for her sessions – is the farm where she lives with husband David and daughter Livvy, 11 along with three dogs, a clutch of free range rescue hens, pigs, calves and sheep.
Now living a lifelong dream, the farm is just 20 minutes from Worcester and the M5, making it super-easy to reach.
Before you turn up Michelle is on the case, chatting you through some helpful tips and advice, from what to wear (bright Christmas colours work a treat) to what happens if it rains (there’s a huge Dutch Barn so no worries there).
You can choose from year-round family shoots at the farm, each month with it’s own special seasonal feel – from bottle feeding lambs in the Spring, to running through the hay in Summer, and picking pumpkins in the Autumn. And right now her new, seasonal Christmas-themed sessions are proving a huge hit.
We rocked up on a cold but beautifully crisp October morning for our shoot, and as we turned into Noverton Farm and up the track to the farmhouse, it was a magical winter wonderland that greeted us.
The ‘studio’ is a fabulous, alfresco, grotto-with-a-view, with sledges to sit on, hay to roll in and a tree to decorate. It’s an incredibly pretty backdrop, with a curtain of twinkly fairy lights and rustic decorations, and little ones get to choose a bauble from the tree and a teddy bear to take home.
And the kids (big kids included) get to make and play with fake snow, as well as meeting the farm animals, including pet lambs in winter scarves (erm how cute?).
And if you want someone to get the best out of your unruly family you’re looking at the right woman for the job.
My 12 and 14-year-olds looked rather bemused when we arrived, in that way only teenage boys can when they’ve been released into Real Life from the half-term cocoons of their PS4. But Michelle was amazing, instantly helped them to loosen up by making them laugh, mainly with direct orders to tickle each other without mercy (always a winner, although how the tree stayed upright I have no clue!).
Infact, ten minutes in we’d forgotten we were being photographed at all we were so busy giggling at our attempts to blow fake snow at each other.
There’s even a room to do a quick change in the main farmhouse (afterall ladies we all know one outfit is never enough, right.). And yes, I brought about 25 changes of clothes but Michelle was ever the professional and tactfully offered advice on what colours and cuts would work best.
These were just a few of the little touches that made the day feel really personal and memorable. Even the dog (dogs are very welcome by the way) got into it, giving us some of the best family photos we’ve ever had – something that’s pretty priceless.
The experience takes roughly an hour and is Covid-19 secure – all the sessions are outdoors on the farm and socially distanced with just two a day (Michelle shoots with a long telephoto lense), and you get a locally-produced hand sanitiser at the start to keep.
At the end of the shoot we went to the farmhouse studio to look at extra options (that’s the Christmas cards sorted) and the boys even got to hitch a cheeky tractor ride with Farmer David, making the whole experience an absolute, authentic joy from first pose to final click.
Having your photo taken never felt so much fun, far more like a family day out than a photo shoot I’d say.
And the best bit? Coming away with a set of stunning and really natural photos that feature all of us looking in the right direction and happy. Who’d have thought it. An absolute rarity when, if you’re anything like me, you’re always the one clutching the phone and trying to get people to pose.
And of course … I couldn’t leave without getting the money shot, could I folks?
*Ehem* … did someone say Muddy Stilettos?! …..
Sophie and family booked in for a Christmas Mini Session, priced at £195, including: a one hour Christmas-themed photo session and farmyard fun, collect eggs to take home and meet the farm animals, around 15 high resolution digital images plus, a gift for each child.
Optional add-ons: Luxury Christmas Greeting Cards, a pack of 25 for £45; The Folio, £195; an Acrylic Block, £195.
***** PLUS *****
WIN! A Christmas Mini Session at Noverton Farm with Michelle Morris Natural Portraits worth £195! *
**** NB **** Update as of 02 November. Due to the evolving Covid situation, should lockdown continue past 02 December, the winner will still be able to claim a fabulous ‘seasonal’ shoot when bookings can reopen.