Multi-tasking photography at Archerfield
Archerfield estate lies in a stunning spot on the East Lothian coast and is well known for its golf courses and as a high-end wedding venue, with various lodges and houses to hire, a glorious mansion house and cool, Scandi-chic spa. When Marketing Manager Jessica MacPhee approached me about Archerfield Marketing Photography to create a full library of images for the new Archerfield website, it was a something of a dream commission, but not without its challenges.
I knew this job would call on every element of technical skill in my armoury, and I wasn’t wrong. Along with everything else, my press photography experience was key: from drone stills and video of the entire estate, to getting the young chefs to relax in front of the camera, to delicate food close ups and gorgeous interiors, the project required a huge degree of flexibility and expertise from literally every angle.
Exteriors & Architecture Marketing Photography
There’s a whole range of buildings at Archerfield, from American-style lodges to an elegant Victorian villa, a pretty stone cottage, a clapboard house with a New England feel and the jewel in the crown, Archerfield House, a beautiful 18th century mansion. My mission was to capture the character of these different buildings while keeping a consistent look and finish, all the while coping with the vagaries of the Scottish coastal weather. Three of the properties are right above the beach with a spectacular outlook over the sea; a stunning location which also needed to form part of the composition.
Shooting inside the Archerfield properties needed plenty of planning and lateral thinking. Even gaining access wasn’t straightforward, with only tight windows of time available in between guests leaving and arriving (which involved working around the housekeeping staff). The interior design of each place also required careful consideration, with some decked out in a traditional country house style and others more colonial or contemporary.
I needed to evoke a true picture for potential guests and depict the defining characteristics of each one while also sticking to practicalities. Various techniques evolved as the shoot progressed: I found that lighting was essential for these interiors on a dull, grey day, and I managed to create just the right level of artificial lighting to simulate bright daylight when the East Lothian sky was not co-operating. I found that a mix of wide angle shots and occasional little details worked well (for the latter I was spoilt for choice as The Boathouse, in particular, is rich in objets d’art and quirky touches).
The proportions of the larger properties were important to convey: vast, vaulted ceilings and grand staircases were a matter of positioning and perspective, while at the other end of the scale was a gem of a cosy snug complete with hunting scene wallpaper. Each and every room to be shot needed to be quickly evaluated in terms of light and composition, always with the clock ticking . There’s nothing like a family due to arrive in half an hour to make holiday property interior photography that bit more nail-biting.
Jessica was kind enough to write a testimonial:
“Ashley’s honest style of photography was the reason we approached him for our new website project. With most of the estate needing reshot, during our busiest time of year and the joys of Scottish weather to contend with, the ability to be flexible was key to getting the shots we needed and luckily Ashley was! The website has only been live a few weeks now, but every positive comment will always include a reference to stunning photography and drone video.”
The Archerfield project wasn’t all about accommodation. For a full picture of life on the Estate I needed to photograph all its aspects, and this included action shots from the golf performance centre, chefs at work, and crucially, some sumptuous images of the beautiful Fletcher’s Cottage Spa. Again, this required a fair amount of juggling in terms of scheduling with the Archerfield staff and venues, but the spa in particular was fabulous to shoot, with its natural textures, warm wood interiors and a cool but inviting vibe. Treatments had to be depicted too, which entailed putting therapist and model at their ease, plus the usual meticulous but subtle retouching stage.
A totally different set of skills was required for some lush food photography. Here I needed to take my time to create shots which would entice the target audience to book the restaurant or private chef service. Towering tiers of amazingly elaborate afternoon tea delicacies, a chef carefully putting the finishing touches to a mouthwatering main, and close ups of food prep were among the food images I took as part of the library of images for Archerfield marketing photography usage.
Meet the Staff
One of Archerfield’s strongly-held values is its commitment to impeccable but non-stuffy service. In order to reflect this, we decided to photograph a variety of front-facing staff members in their working environment. As ever, the ability to make people feel comfortable is so important to get a natural, non-posed result. After some easy-going chat, the Archerfield staff proved to be very game and I got those relaxed and genuine smiles I was after.
I knew that the drone photography element of this Archerfield Marketing Photography project was crucial. Marketing manager Jessica requested aerial video footage for the website home page opener – the very first glimpse someone would get of the estate online. The lead web designer later referred to the homepage hero video as “epic”, which felt perfect for a company called “Epic Scotland”.
We wanted to show the scale of the place – its proximity to the sea, woodland paths, the layout of the buildings, with Archerfield House as the centrepiece, all in just 30 or so seconds. The weather conditions needed to be perfect – not too much wind, plenty of sunshine or at least a few patches of blue sky. And to shoot the Main House on a day when there was no event on and no vehicles parked at the front – not as easy as it sounds.
My time was limited but so was the good weather. I waited and waited, travelling back and forth with an eye constantly on the forecast, close to despairing at times. Then, one late summer evening with the deadline to get the shots almost upon us, and after 3 hours sitting in my car watching the weather app, about to call it a day yet again, the light suddenly changed and a crack in the clouds opened up without any warning. For that moment, everything was perfect. I flew the drone there and then and shot the lot in the space of a few minutes. A seagull flapped its wings across the horizon, as if choreographed, which was a lovely bit of serendipity.
Versatile Marketing Photography at Archerfield
While specialist photographers can be brilliant in their own right, for a project like this one, the client really needed an all-rounder who could turn their hand to multiple disciplines. It was far more practical and cost-effective for Archerfield to hire me rather than sourcing multiple photographers, all with their own styles and ways of working. Other projects I’ve worked on which required a similar versatile approach include The Royal Oak Pub in Ramsden.
Getting to know the client and the client getting to know me is often the key to building a strong working relationship which yields consistent and high quality photography across different photographic disciplines. On top of that we had worked out a broad marketing license to cover everything which really cut down on the back office heavy lifting which would be required with lots of different photographers and videographers.