We often hear of people awakening their creative passions after pausing work to grow their families, as was the case with our inspiring creator this month Danielle Dean. What initially began as a creative outlet for Danielle, taking photos of her daughter and creating whimsical images during nap time, quickly evolved into a blossoming career as a full time content creator.
Forging her new path as an influential digital artist didn’t happen overnight - or ‘over nap’ as it may be! Danielle’s story is one of incremental achievements and an example of canny resourcefulness. Danielle started out creating with just her iPhone and bit by bit taught herself new technical skills and upgraded her equipment.
Danielle is a self-confessed perfectionist, often sharing with her followers how she would obsess over the tiniest elements of each image before pushing publish. You could say that this laser sharp focus paired with her unbridled imagination has led to her finding success as a visual storyteller.
Danielle’s tenacity for learning how to express her creative ideas using whatever she could get her hands on has enabled her to simultaneously grow a legion of followers while satisfying her own creative appetite. Currently boasting an audience of over 200k followers on Instagram at @sienna.and.i, Danielle creates full time for herself and undertakes branded partnerships.
Paying homage to the origins of her own creative development, using free mobile apps and basic equipment, Danielle regularly shares techniques and ideas with her audience. She sets a great example for those wanting to learn new digital skills with the tools they have available and teaches accessible ways her audience can do this.
We had a chat with Danielle about her creative journey so far, scroll down to get to know her better and find out how she continues to evolve her digital artistry skills.
Welcome Danielle! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello, my name is Danielle. I'm a Content Creator, mam of one, and I have a notepad addiction (if you do too, we can be friends). Stationery is my love language! I live in the North East of England, right by the sea with my partner Ryan, our daughter Sienna (5) and our cockapoo Flo.
We’d love to find out how you got started on your creative journey as a Content Creator?
I was on maternity leave in 2016; Sienna was about three months old. At that time, I didn't have an Instagram account. I had had one a few years earlier, but I'd long stopped using it. Then a friend suggested I start a new Instagram to share photos of Sienna so everyone could keep up to date. So I did. And I quickly discovered that there were mam's on Instagram sharing beautiful photos of their family. I remember following accounts like @caseyleighwiegand and @marylauren and being in awe of the beautiful photos they shared, their stunning homes and the communities they'd built online.
I felt inspired to share my photos, but I lacked a camera, a fancy home, and zero photography skills. But what I did have was an iPhone 7, passion and lots of time. I was only a few months into my maternity leave. If I wasn't spending my time nursing Sienna and keeping the house tidy, I took photos and learned everything I could about photography and Instagram.
I'd find a cute corner of my home and take photos of Sienna's, or we'd go to the beach, so I had a lovely backdrop.
I found so much joy in taking photos. I'd always been the creative one in the family, but I lost my creative side over the years.
The following year, Ryan gifted me a camera for my birthday. I can't tell you the look of joy on my face. It was a Canon M10, nothing fancy, but I loved it. However, I very quickly craved a camera with more control.
My Instagram account began to take off very quickly. I returned to work after ten blissful months. But all I could think about was being at home with Sienna and taking photos. So I decided to take the leap and hand in my notice. At this point, I had about 35K followers, and I was beginning to get steady sponsors with my Instagram.
Fast forward to today. I've upgraded my camera (a couple of times), I have a whole toolkit of equipment for taking photos, and I'm still as passionate as I once was. And Instagram is now my full-time job!
What are some things people might not know about you?
What equipment do you currently use to create your images?
I finally have my dream camera, a Canon R6. I love her so much. I've always been a Canon girl and couldn't recommend Canon enough.
My favourite go-to lens is my Sigma Art prime 1.4. It's the lens I use the majority of the time. I also love my Sigma art 24mm lens; this one is great for small spaces. I recently bought a Sigma 85mm lens, but I still haven't used it. I can't wait to give this a go in the new year.
My tripod is a Manfrotto compact tripod, it's one of their cheaper tripods, but it is incredible, very sturdy.
Some extra equipment that I love and use all the time is my Wacom Intuos Pro tablet to edit my photos in Photoshop, my Logitech Anywhere mouse and my DJI Osmo gimble for my iPhone.
What is your favourite lighting?
My lighting setup is essential. I prefer natural light. However, I bought some lights from Amazon for less than £100, they do the job, but I'm going to invest in some better lighting soon.
Do you have any advice to share with aspiring content creators?
One of the questions I get tasked with all the time from my followers who are new to photography is which camera I recommend. I always reply with the same thing; equipment doesn't matter. I know I've just rattled off all the equipment I use, but I bought all my gear over time. I started with an iPhone 7!
Instead of worrying about equipment, start where you are and take lots of photos. It's more important that you understand what makes a good photo. Use natural light; the right light will transform your images.
Finally, be a learner, study other peoples work who you admire, figure out why their photos are good, learn about the exposure triangle and practice practice practice!
Some of Danielle’s early creative shots of Sienna, including a naptime pose. Source: @sienna.and.i
How do you keep learning and evolving your skills?
I am always learning. I'm a lifelong learner, and YouTube has helped me so much over the years. If there's a new trick I want to know in Photoshop, I will always turn to YouTube to figure out how.
I'm learning more about video with the introduction of Reels, so I'm learning about what makes a good video and learning new video editing software. I often edit video with Splice or Videoleap, but I use Premiere Pro if I'm editing a video shot on my camera (not my phone). This year I want to learn more about masking in Premiere Pro to be more creative with my videos.
If you want more than the free videos on youtube, Phlearn and the Photoshop Training Channel are great places to learn Photoshop. They have everything from the very basics to advanced tutorials.
Who inspires your own work?
I'd have to say my favourite photographer is @meg_nlo. I'm in awe of her storytelling. Every photo is timeless. I often joke and say, when I grow up, I want to take pictures like Meg; I say joke, I'm 100% serious. I adore her photos!
I can't leave out @ofleatherandlace. I have followed Tina for the past two years and I can say hands down she is the hardest working content creator I know, and it shows. Her content is stunning. She's a massive inspiration to me. She motivates me to try harder and push my creativity.
What are your top go-to props to use in your images?
I love props! I love creating Autumn and christmas content because of the props. If I had to narrow down my all-time three favourite props, it would be fairy lights, tea cups and books!
Thank you Danielle for taking some time out to chat to us about your journey so far as a content creator. Keep following Danielle’s journey through @sienna.and.i or visit her website to for creative inspiration including her own range of presets to purchase.
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