Instagram Stories: An Insta-journey to Being Insta-worthy (+Practical Photography Tips for the Non-Pro!)
I am so honored that Sheryn asked me to guest blog this month! I’m not much of a writer so please bear with me. She asked me to talk with all of you about my experience with social media marketing, brand repping, and starting my own small IG business. Most recently I have been focusing more on photography and promoting beautiful handmade clothing while photographing our children in action. Photographing the things they do best; playing. In a nutshell : a Candid Life. My journey began with our mutual friend Liz and her shop Blu Monet. Blu Monet is a handmade brand that I have been a loyal follower of since my daughter was born over 3 years ago. The quality and beauty of her items went beyond anything I could find in any store. I was hooked. Hooked on handmade. Hooked on made-small.
As a small business owner myself, I never considered there was this big giant world of children’s clothing that was NOT made cheaply, or mass produced. It was brilliant. I could support mommas just like myself while keeping my children dressed the absolute best. Why is their dressing well important to me? It’s trivial right? I don’t think so.
Each gorgeous outfit my daughter wears, means something. You associate feelings and memories with that outfit much like you would a smell, or a song that stirs up nostalgia. And handmade clothing means so much more than even that. You are paying for a dream. A life. A family.
Maybe you’re helping them make their mortgage payment so mom could quit that 50 hour work week she was putting in while nursing an infant that never sleeps.
Maybe you’re paying for dance shoes so child number three could dance this year.
Maybe it’s not about money. Maybe it’s about a dream. This maker’s dream to be independent, or creative, or to be an artist. Finally, maybe it’s the simplest explanation; to be home. To be the primary caregiver of her children while maintaining her autonomy and contributing to her family. Whatever her reasons, I support that.
One of our first Blu photos taken. Similar ones to these were entered in her search. (iPhone5)
We began representing Liz’s brand in the fall of last year. It happened by pure blessing. I was not a good photographer. I didn’t know Liz. I was not a brand rep of any kind. I was a momma, who worked part time and dressed her kids in adorable clothes and enjoyed documenting their every movement with my iPhone. A friend, knowing I was obsessed with the brand encouraged me to enter her search. I thought NOTHING of it. I did it and didn’t give it a second thought. The competition for this type of search is way above my pay grade at this point! One night I see my phone lighting up like CRAZY! Congratulations to the new Blu Monet TEAM!!! Umm, what?! Seriously?! I was blown away. And excited. And honored even. I was given the chance to promote this artist to my friends, and family, and other moms like me. To push a product I loved and believed in. Much like my friends tell people my ice cream tastes great to their friends. So from this moment, I did not think about being a “brand rep” but I wanted to learn everything from Liz and Sheryn and the team they assembled.
Many of them were experienced photographers and brand reps. I was neither. I felt a bit out of my league but I wanted to exceed at the task and learn all that I could from each one. From here I developed a few more relationships with brands that I loved along the way, but in general I wanted to learn from the community. To meet moms and their littles, support their shops, and take amazing pictures of our everyday moments.
First stop on this journey was to learn the ropes of social media. What is this hashtag nonsense and why does it matter? What’s a “hub?” What makes my profile have flow or not? Who do I choose to follow and emulate? I spent so many hours reading blog posts, visiting hubs and other users, studying the hashtags and profiles that appeared over and over. In the end, once I learned the lingo, I needed to find my niche. I decided my niche was #momtog mixed with #runwilmychild with a dash of #brandreppin.
The hubs I love are #MagicofChildhood, #MomHub, #CameraMama, #Momtogs, #CandidChildhood, #MomswithCameras, #ChildhoodUnplugged, #FashionKids, #ForEveryOOAK and #StunningBabies.
I could go on but these are big ones that inspire me regularly. I choose hashtags that interest me the most. By choosing your hashtags, you are choosing a community. You are choosing who you want to reach and who you don’t. It seems minor but it’s actually the most important part of the post. Spend some time studying the posts of the people you love.
What hashtags do they use every time? Find out why and where those hashtags lead. There are a list a hashtags I use that others with similar interests use. It’s not about using the most popular hashtag. It’s about using the most popular hashtag that fits your post.
I guess there are people out there that search #love or #want or #brandreppinfolife but I definitely don’t. Within the Instagram community there are specific hashtags that draw people together. They then look through these hashtags to find content similar to their own.
It’s sort of like going to a mommy group and narrowing down the ones you want to go get coffee with after. If you don’t drink coffee or wine, you probably wouldn’t be in my “group”, for example. I really, reallllly, hope @TaylensMom drinks coffee and wine…
I chose people to follow who inspired me within my community. Other #momtogs who documented life in similar ways or who inspired me to keep pushing my skills as an amateur photographer and whose kids wore pretty handmade. And sometimes, they even followed me back!
Somewhere during the few months I spent learning about social media marketing and saving up to buy my first DSLR camera, I decided with my sister, to open a small shop of our own, Adventures of Two Sisters or @_adventuresoftwosisters_ on Instagram. What the heck, right? Everyone’s doing it! What’s the big deal?! I’ll tell you what the big deal is…
IT’S HARD! Very hard. As if starting a brand new business isn’t hard enough, you need to add developing a social media community from a bunch of faceless accounts, getting followers who are actually interested in spending money with you, and finding a way to be seen using this new crazy IG algorithm. That’s on top of the difficulty of launching a brand to begin with.
A friend I met through Liz introduced me to a group. She promised they would be helpful on our new endeavor. I followed her advice and I became a member of a community that was completely different from the #momtog community I was a member of in my personal life.
The community is called Brandreppin. This secret society (that’s not really a secret) holds the key to all things IG shop related. I found and made mom-friends who drink wine and coffee and also whose kids model my clothing. I mean, how good is that? Our shop is very part-time as we both have other jobs, but it’s been so rewarding. I got my one (and probably only) feature on FashionKids with @wendology. It was a BIG day.
Currently my Canon, my kids and I represent 8 small shops that I adore and we provide photographs to many handmade shops.
I don’t post them all. My feed is a representation of my style and our life and posting several pictures in the same outfit or providing detailed photos of an outfit just doesn’t fit my feed, however I do what I can to support these mommas who are making their dreams come true.
The last part of my rantings will focus on the progression I’ve made as a #momtog over the past few months.
I went from the iPhone, to a SonyA5000, to a Canon Rebel T6i.
Currently I am shooting MOSTLY with a 50 mm 1.8 lens, and occasionally with a wide angle lens. I have taken an intro course to learn my way around the camera, and currently I’m enrolled in my first Clickin Moms online course. The course is made for moms who want to take candid pictures.
Lots of people have said to me over the past few months “Wow I need a camera like that instead of my phone so I have good pictures.” This statement doesn’t bother me personally but I can imagine a world where that would bother most photographers.
It is not something you can just “do.” It requires first and foremost, an eye for a beautiful frame. That’s not something you can learn necessarily. Some people have it more than others. I believe that part can be worked on.
Next thing it requires is knowhow. Photographers don’t just throw their cameras in Auto and start taking pictures!
They adjust their settings, they change their lenses, they adjust the temperature they are shooting at to acquire a particular look. That’s right. Temperature, like on the Kelvin scale. Do you even know what that means??? I sure didn’t.
I still barely do and I’ve been reading about it for two weeks. They visualize a shot they want to take, and they need to create it using light and glass. That’s pretty darn amazing if you ask me!
Finally on this journey I have learned a HUGE amount about editing. When you are looking through a gorgeous feed and you say “Man, I’m going to go take some pictures tomorrow and they are gonna look SOOOOOO good.” Then you take them. And you look at them, laugh, and hit delete because they look nothing like that bea
utiful feed. That’s because each photograph a photographer takes is edited.
That editing requires artistic talent and an eye for what is wrong with the picture or developing a certain look you want from the picture you took. Another friend I met through Liz walked me through Photoshop Lightroom, the key to editing all your photos.
It took me a good deal of time to navigate it myself. Admittedly, I’m not the most patient person and all of these things I’m describing take time to learn.
Finally, I’m feeling like I’m finding my way around it, but there is still so much to learn.
I’m going to leave you with a few photos that were recently taken and edited that I love. Keep in mind I am no professional. I’m a mom of two who runs an ice cream shop, and sometime sells some kids clothes.