A photographer’s view by Kelly Hearn

A photographer’s view of Southend Barns by Kelly Hearn Photography

I frequently have the pleasure of being asked to photograph weddings at the exquisite venue of Southend Barns. Being such a beautiful venue both inside and out, it’s always a pleasure to have such a stylish backdrop at my disposal and the assurance that couples will be provided with so many charming photographic opportunities to aid the capturing of the most important day of their lives.

With so many delightful areas within the grounds, it is vital that I utilise the barn’s variety of spaces creatively and thoughtfully whilst being true to the real events and moments the couple are experiencing during their wedding day. As well as a balance of artistic with candid photography, every couple also requires a unique and bespoke set of images, which is the continuing challenge for me when photographing in the same venue on a regular basis.

Whilst, however, the buildings themselves are largely unchanging throughout the year, the seasons, weathers and light are always evolving and providing me with a fresh canvas to play with at each and every wedding. My experience at Southend Barns thus confirms that this venue allows for the romantic, contemporary and timeless images my clients expect and hope for, whatever the climate and whatever the skies may dictate on the day.

Upon arriving at Southend Barns, it’s trademark feature of the white three-peaked canopy roof greets wedding parties with its striking presence. For a photographer, a triangular shape is always appealing as we know this shape is magical for creating images which lead the eye, offer strength and stability in compositions and help to create some interesting aspects. This entrance is the perfect spot for creative shots when welcoming the groom or for the arrival of the bride in a glamorous wedding car and whilst can be a bright blue sunny spot, is also a great space at the end of the night in which to photograph the couple together.

Through the entrance is the courtyard known as the Collecting Yard, where under the shelter of the three canopies, comfy outdoor seating surrounds a warm and glowing fire pit. I will often be found in this space on the wedding morning, photographing both the groom and groomsmen relaxing on the sofas against the feature log walls. Here I can utilise the variety of natural textures on offer that guarantee to add a little countrified flavour to this naturally funky setting, whether shooting in the fresh light of day or by cosy firelight.

The yard provides a wealth of scenery to aid photography in any weather and the outdoor slate path surrounding the lawn is both a sensible and pretty spot for very cold or rainy day shots. When there is a need to avoid high heels sinking into the lawns, this patio area which backs the Sussex flint-stone wall of the Dairy Barn is the perfect spot to keep feet dry and to retain that picturesque rustic vibe throughout the images. Having enough room for big groups, including umbrellas, has always been a bonus!

I will often first photograph the bride getting ready in the luxurious comfort of the Milking Parlour, where makeup and hair are perfected and where I also have the privilege of capturing that magical transformation moment when a bride gets into her wedding gown. The comfort of this bridal suite enables discrete and calm photography of these exciting and often slightly anxious moments for a bridal party. The serene muted pastel backdrop allows for optimum showcasing of dresses with their embellishments, bouquets and accessories, whether by cool natural daylight streaming through the windows or by the warmth of video lighting.

Bridesmaids can be grouped creatively without worry of decor interfering with outfits and wedding colour themes. Whether taking a classic or humorous approach to the photography the suite’s tasteful interior works only to compliment the beautiful bridal portraits.

In the cosy but deceptively spacious ceremony room, guests are seated on long fur-covered, sweet chestnut benches, as they eagerly await the arrival of the bride. The lengthy aisle, often idyllically lined with posies of blooms, creates the perfect romantic pathway for any bride, keen to make that show-stopping entrance. This long-awaited, much dreamt about moment is arguably the one most thought about by a bride and so is often captured from both ends of the aisle thanks to the help of a second camera and my handy assistant!

The Dairy Barn is purposefully a blank canvas in design with muted walls and natural wooden beams which enhance the high vaulted ceiling, creating an airy calm and romantic light. On a hot summer’s day when you would expect all photography to be outside, I will actually often use this room to capture some romantic images of the wedding couple as it’s natural lighting is soft and dreamy. On rainy or stormy days, I find the Dairy Barn to be incredibly versatile, the benches assisting with fun and creative group compositions and unique contemporary styled bridal party shots.

The funky interior spaces provide a pleasing contrast to the rustic English country flavour found in many other areas of the venue and these are where I often take license to be imaginative, humorous and quirky with the imagery.

For after-ceremony bubbles and mingling, Southend Barns boast beautifully manicured lush green lawns which play host to a variety of activity, particularly during a summer wedding. I regularly photograph the cutting of the cake out on the lawn, as now against tradition, we often see brides and grooms combining this with celebratory drinks as opposed to after the wedding breakfast when guests are already full to the brim! On these immaculate lawns, bouquets get thrown, croquet and lawn games are popular to play and it goes without saying that this grassy area is a fantastic spot for group or family photography on a clear-weather day.

Whilst the sun goes down and the wedding guests are dancing away merrily inside the barn, the lawn space is brilliant for capturing some romantic evening shots of the newly-weds. Some couples choose to light up their evening by bringing giant love letters out into the gardens often to the backdrop of bright moonlight or a dazzling firework display. Moments like these can be a photographer’s perfect opportunity to gain some spectacular shots against the recognisable sharp silhouette of the three canopy peaks. The glowing warmth of the fire pit radiating from the Collecting Yard, along with the twinkling festoon lighting ensure a incandescent atmosphere to create the perfect setting for further celebratory moments to be captured.

I find the gardens at Southend Barns to always be beautifully designed and well manicured, offering so much to a couple’s photos in terms of shape, texture and colour whatever the season. The blossom tree in May brings oodles of romance whilst In June I love to see the blue lavender spring up and add pops of colour to the scene. The geometric shapes of carefully cut trees and hedges bring pleasing symmetry and interest particularly when capturing the couple or group. Alongside is the cool stone water feature with its bold strong lines of stone that never fail to look striking, whether against a clear blue sky, or even better, a grey moody one. Details such as the laser cut rusty gates make for intriguing detail additions to portraits and sit well as images on their own, further enhancing the similarly themed images. As I follow the sun around the gardens through the year, I find this evolving oasis always has plenty to offer to bring extra life and variation to the photography whether summer or winter, night or day, rain or shine.

The venue’s pièce de résistance is the grand Threshing Barn. This wonderfully flexible space in the summer often dons pastel bunting, pretty florals and billowy paper lanterns which hang from the old oak beams in the bright and airy space. The room in winter transforms into a magical cosy place full of Christmas greenery, sparkly fairy lights and twinkling festive decorations. Whilst lighting and decor will largely dictate the vibe that comes through in the photography during portraits and the wedding breakfast photography wise, I am fortunate that this space looks great from a variety of perspectives. The transformation from a light and romantic feel by day, into party central by night, means that the energy, colour and vibrancy created by additional disco lights and uplighters, add great life to the couple’s bespoke photography story.

One thing I always love to capture towards the end of a wedding is the golden sunset, which occurs variably, of course, dependent upon the time of year and time of day. The barn’s neighbouring fields are a treasure trove of interest and texture which I love to capture using nature’s own props to aptly showcase the bride and groom in the romantic fading light. Barley corn, haystacks and marshmallow clouds are all there to be caught at the perfect sunset moment, helping to complete a stunning array of backdrops to a couple’s most special day.

For any couple wishing to capture a varied and enchanting overview of their day, having this beautiful countryside adjoining this outstanding wedding venue is truly a bonus for any photographer.

As I return to this contemporary barn time and time again, it never fails to be the photographer’s dream. Abundant in picture-perfect backgrounds by which to frame beautiful wedding couples, each image is a blank canvas uniquely painted by the ever-evolving variants of seasons. Enhanced by this stunning setting, the unpredictable English weather and the varying dynamics of light help capture the bride and groom’s individual style, making my role of seizing their special moments at Southend Barns, a continuing joy and delight.