Photo Shoot and Technique: Spillers Farm B&B, Devon

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: February 24, 2011

Category: General

Ok so before I let you in on the lighting and editing side of things I want to first of all introduce you to the actual folks I was photographing…Keith & Bridget Trayling who own and run the fabulous Spillers Farm in Devon, UK …

Lifting the text straight from their website here’s a brief background giving you the who, what, where and when:

The owners of Spillers Farm – Bridget and Keith Trayling – moved to Devon from London in 2005 seeking a simpler way of life and wanting to grow their own food and raise livestock.  Spillers had not been a working farm since the 1960’s but Keith and Bridget have literally brought new life to the farm when their sow Cassie had her first litter of six piglets in April 2008 – the first livestock to be born on the farm in forty years. They have also created a vegetable garden with four large plots which produces vegetables all year round; planted a small orchard with apple, pear and plum trees and planted a soft fruits plot which provides enough strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and loganberries to make almost a hundred pounds of homemade jam per year!

Bridget and Keith raise their animals using the principles of good animal husbandry. The pigs have a custom-built pigsty with constant access to outside space and they live as natural a life as possible.

The same principles are applied to all the other animals reared on the farm – lambs and poultry. Wanting to offer a good life to as many animals as possible, Bridget and Keith rescued two dozen battery hens in the summer of 2008. The project was so successful and fulfilling that two dozen more were rescued in the spring of 2009. All fully feathered and thriving, the birds are now completely free range.

Strange but I never imagined when I first started in photography that one day I’d be taking the portrait of a fully grown Gloucester Old Spot Pig by the name of Rodney. But, I guess if there’s one lesson I quickly learned in photography it was to always “expect the unexpected”.

I’ll never forget Keith calling out “Rodney, Rodney come on mate, up you come” in an increasingly desperate attempt to wake him from a deep sleep; geez if his own snoring wasn’t waking him up then Keith didn’t stand a chance…or so I thought. Before we knew it up he popped, front trotters on a wall and peeked over and if I didn’t know better I’d be convinced he was was ‘working the camera’ as he turned his head from side to side and struck a pose each time the flash went off 🙂

Lighting Set Up:
In all honesty it couldn’t have been simpler; virtually all of the shots where taken using one Nikon SB800 Speedlight and a 46″ Shoot Thru Umbrella, triggered using the Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5.

This time rather than shooting in Aperture Priority as I did in the earlier Male Model Shoot [Link] I decided to go back to using Manual and for the record, this is where I’m going to be staying. Now don’t misunderstand my reason for this because Aperture Priority works really well, but it’s just that I’m more used to shooting in Manual and don’t have to really think about what I’m doing on the technical side which leaves me to engage with whoever I’m working with. The new Pocket Wizard units work faultlessly in Manual and still allow me to sync at much higher shutter speeds which at the end of the day is all I was really intending to ask of them anyway.

Again, full control of the flash power and the mode it was in was done using the Nikon SU800 attached to the Mini TT1 ontop of the camera. This makes for such a quick way to work being able to make all the changes from shooting position albeit this set up is a little on the bulky side. Sure there’s the soon to be released AC3 Controller for Nikon which is alot more compact but do I really need it yet when this system works perfectly as it is? … I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Post Production
Most of the images from this shoot took just a few minutes of editing; starting off in Lightroom and then over to Photoshop to bring out some details, add contrast to the subject’s skin and adjust the colouring.

The image below is the one that took a little more time to complete. Reason for this being that I wanted to get a shot of Keith, Brigett and Meryck the dog from low down to include some of the sky but it was the middle of the day so the sky was fairly bright but also a little on the ‘flat’ side.

The side by side images above show you the ‘Before’ (out of camera) image and the ‘After’ (edited) image and to give you an idea of what editing was done in Photoshop here’s a breakdown…

So what was done?

  • Remove Shoot Thru Umbrella and branches from left side of frame
  • Remove reflection off the shoot thru umbrella and speedlight from Keith’s glasses
  • Use a sharpening technique to bring out a little more detail
  • Add contrast to skin
  • Replace sky
  • Adjust colouring (Add warmth & Desaturate)

•    •    •

So there you have it…a quick run through of a ‘Promotional’ shoot for Spillers Farm, Devon; a wonderful place to stay either in Bed & Breakfast or Holiday Cottage set amongst the Devon Countryside. Owned and run by people who truly love what they do which is clearly evident by the warm welcome and ‘home from home’ feel of the place; I can’t recommend Spillers Farm enough!

Oh and one last thing if you find yourself photographing farm animals and need a little bit of help getting them to “Work the camera Baby!” I’m sure Keith will be happy to pass on any hints and tips 🙂

As always if you have any questions or comments about anything in this post then please feel free to make use of the comments section below; it’s always great to ‘hear’ your thoughts.




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  1. Larry Eiss

    Thanks for an excellent post. I had wondered about the technique used in “post” to get that look. Your explanation was perfect. These are great shots that tell a strong story of two very interesting people and their farmyard animals. Well done!

    • Glyn

      @Larry…Very kind of you to say that; thanks 🙂

    • Glyn

      @Hristo…Ah yes ‘Rodney’ … he’s quite a character 🙂

  2. Tim Pursall

    Hi Glyn!

    As you know we stayed at Spillers Farm last month. Totally endorse your comments. A lovely place to stay!

    Nice blog post. Some website stuff for them? Keith & Bridget – you are natural posers! Have a great summer.


    • Glyn

      @Tim…Absolutely mate. Funnily enough we spoke about you when we were down last; I mentioned you’d said about the sausages 🙂

  3. Alex

    Thumbs up, Glyn.
    I really like the “more dramatic” sky because in my opinion it adds depth to the image. Also the warmer tones give the picture this “welcome” feeling.
    Nice unobtrusive lighting btw.
    Keep on sharing your experience with the Pocket wizards.

    • Glyn

      @Alex…Cheers for that and yeah I’ll keep you posted re the PW’s. It’s more than likely an AC3 will end up in my bag when I’m at Focus on Imaging next week; paid for though of course 🙂

  4. Keith Hammond

    loving that pig shot, will they eat him one day, or did you just have a few slices the other week in that butty 🙂
    Is this for promo material ?
    Good post as usual mate with simple explanation. You will be trawling every trade stand at Focus for the AC3 won’t you 🙂

    • Glyn

      @Keith…Thanks mate. Re ‘Rodney’ … not at all. He’s got a great life ‘looking after’ a few girls if you know what I mean 🙂

      Re the AC3…you could be right and yeah this is all ‘promo’ material for Keith & Bridget.

  5. David Kelly


    Informative post as always mate and not just for the photography :-). I’ve been wanting to go to Spillers for sometime now after hearing all the good stuff about it from you previously. The wife & I are big River Cottage fans so we’d use it as a base for spending some time down there. Now just need to get some leave from work sorted out…



    • Glyn

      @David…Would make a great short break for you guys, and if you’re as much fans of River Cottage as I think you are you’ll absolutely love Spillers!

      Keith and Bridget have the same high ethics when it comes to animal husbandry as River Cottage and HFW.

      Keith and Bridget have quickly become great friends and we look forward to seeing them and the gang so much each time.

      The hosts, the location, the animals, the rooms, and the breakfast…did I mention the breakfast, the home made jams, home cured bacon, home made sausages….the lot. Each time I eat it so quick in the hope that Keith won’t notice and will think I’ve not had it yet 🙂

  6. Tim Skipper

    I’ve taken some pictures of some “pigs” but I think you have me beat.

  7. Russell Pritchard

    @Tim Skipper, you might have photographed some pigs in your time…
    I’ve went out with them !

  8. Andy

    It’s really nice to see your shoots, so simple and such a great result. Keep em coming man, greatly apprecieated!

    • Glyn

      @Andy…Thanks for that mate

  9. DaveT

    Hi Glyn,

    Great post,images,and behind the scenes information. Just wonderful!


    • Glyn

      @Dave…Very kind mate; thanks 🙂

  10. Neil Glover

    Great post again Glyn.

    How on earth did you get a gig shooting a farm in Devon!?

    I’ll have to check it out. Love staying in those kind of places.

    The landscape shot you have with the couple and dog pitched slightly to the left is almost surreal. The background doesn’t look real, I think its the way they pop off it. (Not meant as criticism by the way. I think it’s a testament to how the lighting has worked).

  11. kelley

    Wonderful. Love the feel of each image. Well Done!

  12. Dean Robertson

    Great post and what a small world. I thought the background looked familiar in one of the images. When I looked at the map I realised why. My wife was brought up in Musbury and we were married in Musbury church. Have driven past Spillers hundreds of times.

    Keep up the good work.



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