From quirky cosmopolitan scenes to dramatic, brooding landscapes, the United Kingdom can be a photographer’s paradise — when the weather permits, that is.  But between the extremes of these two subjects exists an entire other world, one which snap-happy travelers tend to overlook. About 9.5 million people live there, in the villages and small towns of Great Britain. Besides 18% of the population, they are home to some of the most idyllic and unique scenes of simpler life in a rapidly-modernizing Western world. 

Even so, these communities are expected to grow dramatically in the next decade as people shun the city. In just a few years, it might be difficult to capture that historic church, pub, or bridge without unwanted passersby in your photo. While we’ve still got time to travel back in time through photography in these places, we asked photographer Stacy Cartledge to show us how. 

Stacy’s photos of the English countryside reflect her long-held fondness for its charm and antiquity, and she was able to share with us how to create that warm, cozy visual style that will transport your followers to another time and place. 

a cottage and gatehouse typical of british villages

PLANNING YOUR SHOTS

I spend a lot of time researching places that can provide nostalgia, looking for villages, manor houses, country estates, gardens, castles, tearooms… and so on. I try to photograph a lot of places outside of the busy summertime, opting instead for either spring when everything is blooming or for the autumn months with all the stunning colours they bring. I also always tend to try and shoot early in the morning or later on in the day as to avoid the crowds, especially when it comes to villages. Some of the places I capture attract a high volume of tourists, especially in the summer months, so I will always try and visit when I know it will be quieter. 

a typical row of houses in british villagesI think something that everyone should keep in mind when visiting the smaller villages in particular is that these are still living, breathing villages that people call home so try to be mindful of that and treat them and the villagers property with respect. The vandalism of the yellow car in the picture postcard village of Bibury is a prime example of this! For those who don’t know this story, an elderly resident of the village owned a yellow car which he parked outside his property at the top of Arlington Row — the most photographed row of cottages in the village. Tourists complained that it ruined their photographs and the end result was that his car was vandalised and he had to get rid of it. I was there last month and saw that he has replaced it with a more neutral silver car. 

WEATHER, MOOD, FEELING

When it comes to capturing the British countryside, cloudy days are your best friend! It helps to create a more nostalgic feel. As much as I love sunny days, I completely avoid them for a photography day as you end up with very harsh light and unflattering shadows. Of course, if you have the chance to visit certain places again, I recommend it. A change of seasons can transform a previously unflattering picture into something gorgeous. 

a house by the water in british villages
a tearoom in a british village

With everything I capture, I try to tell a story so I look for all those little details that will bring a place to life. Recently, I’ve been on somewhat of a National Trust marathon. This is an organization that restores, protects, and promotes the environmental and cultural heritage of Britain’s outdoor spaces and landmarks. In these locations, it’s easy not to realize how old your surroundings really are. Before you even lift the camera to shoot, I recommend immersing yourself in the stories and details. So often, they’ll tell you where to point and how to frame your shot.

This is especially important when it comes to shooting pubs. It is all the small details that tell the story of the building and the business and ultimately make people wish they were walking into the photo. That is what I try and do with every composition  I create. 

Of course, when I visit a place I will always look for the most picturesque parts to capture. That wonky building, the 15th century tea room, the historic church at the heart of the village. Then I will look for the best perspective to approach it from and find a way I can frame the scene, be it peeking through a gate or using foliage to draw the eye to the focus point. 

a path leading to a manor house in a british village

STANDING OUT IN STYLE 

I take hundreds of photos of each place I visit which I usually narrow down to just one or two of the very best images to share on Instagram. There are 95 million images and videos posted daily on Instagram alone and by only sharing my very best work I can ensure that my images stand out from a lot of these other photos. I also make sure to edit each and every image I share and plan out what order to share them in so that my feed is more aesthetically pleasing. After all, Instagram is a visual platform and you need to grab people’s attention on first glance — otherwise, you’ve lost them!  

a retro store in bath englandI think the most important thing is to hone in on what you want to share with your audience. If you can find your niche then you will attract more of the ‘right’ audience and this will happen a lot faster than if you share a mix of things. The way I have developed my own style is through a lot of trial and error until I have found a look that I’m happy with. I edit each image using Lightroom, but there are a lot of other really great phone apps you can use such as VSCO, Snapseed, A Color Story, Afterlight, Retouch, SKRWT amongst others.

Whatever you choose to use, try and edit your images in a consistent manner Start with the basics and decide whether you want a bright or dark feed and then a cold or warm one in terms of tone and then stick to this so all your photos have a cohesive look. If using Lightroom, you can save your edits as a preset to use on future photos which will keep the look consistent or in apps like VSCO they have some fantastic presets you can play around with to get the same effect. 

Do you have any photos of your favorite British village? Share them with us on Instagram! 

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Joseph Ozment
Originally from Tennessee, Joseph Ozment is a writer and musician whose relationship with travel was shaped by growing up between the Southern U.S., Wales, and Hong Kong. So far, he's written for a newspaper in Russia, released a handful of home recordings, and started a novel (with plans for more, someday). When he's not busy running country roads or cheering on Liverpool FC, he's most likely making the next cup of coffee, or plans for the next trip.