In the bedroom with Michelle Green

Meet your Mentor: Michelle Green

Michelle from @everyday.home is a breath of fresh air when it comes to interiors. Her beautiful home interior is light, bright and airy, and is the envy of most of us. But most importantly it is incredibly homely which compliments Michelle’s loveliness and generous nature. One space that features a lot of her feed is her bedroom spaces which makes her the perfect inspiration for our bedroom themed week! Keep reading to get some great tips to help us all showcase our sleeping sanctuary and fulfill our sweet bedroom dreams.

Michelle’s bedroom sanctuary. Source:  @everyday.home

Michelle’s bedroom sanctuary. Source: @everyday.home

Q&A with Michelle

MIchelle’s fur baby is very much at home in the bedroom. Source:  @everyday.home

MIchelle’s fur baby is very much at home in the bedroom. Source: @everyday.home

Hey Michelle! Thanks for joining us for a Creatively Squared challenge during our Interiors month. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be creating such fabulous interior inspiration.

Feeling pretty special to be here for interiors month!

A little about me — I’m very much a creative at heart. By day, I work full-time as a digital designer. When I’m not working, I love taking photos for Creatively Squared or for my Instagram account, Everyday Home.

I started Everyday Home a couple years ago with small glimpses of our old flat and some basic product photography. Good times.

Fortunately, since then I’ve been able to share the build of our new home & renovation of our latest investment home. This has allowed me to grow Everyday Home as a place for inspiration on small home living & more budget-friendly options.

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

For my account @everyday.home, I know the content that works best with my community by looking at what’s performed best in the past. I use this data to create new spaces and images that I know my audience will want, and then space it out with whatever has inspired me that week/month.

For example, new additions to our home such as our study nook, latest renovation before & afters, new season colour trends, etc.

Who or what inspires you the most to create your images and share your journey?

For me, I’m quite a creative person so I have to be creating something, always, to stimulate my mind. I started my Instagram taking little product photos on my iPhone, as I didn’t have the beautiful house we have now. I would do this on the sly, out of embarrassment (how stupid), until one day I got found out by my (now) fiancé. 

I’m glad I did, because he’s probably my main motivator who has encouraged my passion for interior styling and photography. Now I have my Everyday Home account and also take photos for Creatively Squared.

The bedroom is often the more than just where you lay your head. Source:  @everyday.home

The bedroom is often the more than just where you lay your head. Source: @everyday.home

This challenge is all about your bedroom space. What are your three top tips for making your bedroom a sanctuary, and conveying this feeling in your images.

  1. Keep the space soft and calm

I like to keep my bedroom a calming space both in a practical sense and aesthetically for photos. It’s about creating balance and harmony with soft colours, introducing textures and natural fibres to make the space feel inviting and homely. 

I’m a huge sucker for of crumpled linen, muted colours, sheer curtains and textured cushions. That lived-in look can look beautiful in photos when done correctly.

2. Don’t over clutter 

This is so easy to do as well. Don’t worry, I’ve been there, but practice makes perfect to find the balance between all your soft furnishings, homewares and furniture. 

I would suggest taking a couple of photos, all with slightly different styling. There’s nothing worse than finishing your shoot and realising you’ve overdone your styling.

3. Capture the light

I love seeing sunlight streaming through sheer curtains onto a beautifully styled bed. Hot tip: if you don’t have sheers installed like me, you can still achieve this look. I have roller blinds, but purchased a sheer curtain from spotlight that I now hang in photo shoots.

Not so classy in real life, but it works a treat in images.

A beautiful capture of the natural light flooding Michelle’s bedroom space. Source:  @everyday.home

A beautiful capture of the natural light flooding Michelle’s bedroom space. Source: @everyday.home

Do you have any hacks, tricks or tools which help you create your interiors imagery?

Absolutely!

- Download Snapseed if you’re taking photos on your iPhone, or even just on the go. This helps tremendously to help lighten dark areas, add saturation to small areas & retouch out power points or tufts of dog fur (for me) with my forever-shedding border collie.

- Take a couple shots with different styling and angles in each location. I can’t tell you the amount of times I would do a shoot and not like any images once I’d finished.

- Don’t try to make the styling perfect. Whilst I don’t believe it will ever be ‘perfect’, it can also make it look too staged. 

- When you shoot, make sure you don’t over expose the images.

- Go easy on the filters!

- Try something or somewhere different – for example, I’ve posted the same areas a couple times. It’s time to shake things up and find more great angles of your home.

What equipment do you use?

For my @everyday.home images, I shoot with my canon DSLR. I do use a tripod so the geometry of the photo doesn’t get too distorted. I try not to edit the photos too much, however I will use Lightroom or my iPhones editing features to brighten images. Again, I use Snapseed if I’m not near my computer to fix up mistakes / blemishes. 

Anything more than my Instagram images, I use lighting, tripods, Lightroom and Photoshop to ensure the photos are of a professional quality.

What is your favourite images that you have created? Can you tell us why it is special to you?

1. A simple image but so rich in detail. I love the beauty and intricacy of flowers.

A beautiful table vignette. Source:  @everyday.home

A beautiful table vignette. Source: @everyday.home

2. My favourite area of my home, where we spend the most time. It’s also been the most popular area of my home on Instagram.

Michelle’s homely living. Source:  @everyday.home

Michelle’s homely living. Source: @everyday.home

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

Absolutely, you’ll notice I get really involved in Instagram for a couple months and then take a breather for a little while. I think that balance is important, however you find yours, as Instagram can become all-consuming.

When I started Everyday Home, I was obsessed with growing the account’s followers. There was a lot of quantity over quality. I spent so much time on Instagram, it took the fun out of it.

Now, I enjoy taking photos when I’m not at work or doing photo shoots for Creatively Squared. I post content I know my community will love. I don’t post everyday as I still prefer quality over quantity, and to actually enjoy my hobby!

Michelle certainly knows how to make a bed. Source:  @everyday.home

Michelle certainly knows how to make a bed. Source: @everyday.home


Michelle is the guest mentor for our October 14 - 20 creative challenge ‘My Bedroom Sanctuary’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Michelle at @everyday.home on Instagram. We invite you to join Michelle and the rest of the Creatively Squared community to share your sleeping sanctuary. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Curating interior style with Gina Ciancio

Meet your Mentor: Gina Ciancio

Gina Ciancio from @stylecuratorau has a beautiful interiors aesthetic that is not only stylish but so homely and cosy. One look at her images and you’ll find yourself wanting to cook in her kitchen, relax on her couch or take a nap in her beautiful bedroom. You just feel at home in Gina’s images.

Gina is very generous sharing her interior styling tips and encourages others to DIY and develop their own homely interiors. Keep reading to find out more about Gina and her journey to becoming the Style Curator.

A beautiful Kitchen Dining capture...fresh flowers always help. Source:  @stylecuratorau

A beautiful Kitchen Dining capture...fresh flowers always help. Source: @stylecuratorau

A space can change throughout the day depending on the light and shadows. Source:  @stylecuratorau

A space can change throughout the day depending on the light and shadows. Source: @stylecuratorau

Q&A with Gina

Gina looking cosy and at home. Source:  @stylecuratorau

Gina looking cosy and at home. Source: @stylecuratorau

Hey Gina! Thanks for joining us for a Creatively Squared challenge during our Interiors month. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be creating such fabulous interior inspo.

I’m excited to be here, thanks for having me! 

I’ve been obsessed with decorating and DIY for as long as I can remember but when it came to ‘picking a career’ in highschool, I decided to go down a marketing and business path. I worked for many years in PR both in Australia and overseas, but I reached a point where I wanted to do something more creative and that’s when I started my blog Style Curator stylecurator.com.au We were about to embark on a knock down rebuild project and I thought I’d blog about that journey, as well as use my writing skills to share latest interior trends and profile experts in the design industry. 

Five years on, I now spend my days styling for clients, blogging, and tackling reno and DIY projects for ‘work’!

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

Wherever possible, I like to create content for key dates (eg Christmas, Easter etc) and other seasonal content. Thinking about these topics often starts a creative journey of different scenes or types of styling I could do, colours I might like to use or particular products and things quickly take shape from there. Being a mum of 2 young kids, I’ve learnt ‘batching’ content is the only way to get things done so I’ll plan 5-15 different spaces or scenes I’d like to shoot and get them all done on one day.

Who or what inspires you the most to create your images and share your journey?

It sounds cliche but I find inspiration all around. Sometimes at a cafe, I might see something cool that I want to incorporate in some way, other times I might be inspired by something I’ve seen on Pinterest or Instagram. Often I’ll be creating images for a client, like a brand, and they will have a set brief and it’s up to me to interpret it and put my own spin on things.

GIna is very hands on in creating that homely feel. Source:  @stylecuratorau

GIna is very hands on in creating that homely feel. Source: @stylecuratorau

This challenge is all about your home interior and the feeling of home. What are your three top tips for making a house a home, and conveying this homely feeling in your images.

  1. Colour - injecting pops of colour immediately creates that feeling of home. Personally I don’t do colourful feature walls, instead I use artwork and then pick up on some of those colours in the cushions or other decor in a space. 

  2. Layering - one of my favourite tricks to create a warmer or more lived in feel is to layer items. Perhaps on a sideboard you could have a stack of books with a small decorative item on top. On the sofa you might drape a throw and then place a cushion or two on top. Even with artwork, you could lean a smaller artwork in front of a larger one to create more depth.

  3. Personalisation - what makes a house a home is YOU so don’t be afraid to inject more of you into the space. Displaying photos, trinkets you picked up on your travels, and things that reflect your hobbies are just a few ways you can personalise your home.

Add layers by stacking books and personality by displaying unique and treasured items. Source:  @stylecuratorau

Add layers by stacking books and personality by displaying unique and treasured items. Source: @stylecuratorau

Do you have any hacks, tricks or tools which help you create your interiors imagery?

I use a lot of apps! I always wondered how people achieved cohesive Instagram feeds and using a planning tool is the answer! UNUM and Planoly are free up to a certain number of draft posts and are really helpful with this. 

Rather than using the editing tools in Instagram, I like Lightroom but this has a monthly fee. Otherwise VSCO has some good filters you can buy at a low cost.

For Instagram stories, I find Cutstory helpful as I can just take a regular video on my phone and then this app will cut it down into 1 minute clips that can be uploaded to Instagram (way better than stop starting and creating disjointed videos). Or if I’m just doing an image/text story, Unfold looks beautiful and has loads of templates.

What equipment do you use?

I have a Canon 5D Mark IV camera and use a few different lenses depending on whether I’m shooting close up details or full rooms. For editing, I prefer Lightroom but sometimes have to fudge things a bit with Photoshop too. But many of my photos are taken by a professional photographer who I collaborate with on most of my client work i.e. when I’m working with an established brand.

I have two tripods - one for my big digital camera and a smaller one I can use for my phone (for example, when I’m doing a timelapse of me styling a space). I also bought a light ring but this only comes out for videos when natural light isn’t good.

What is your favourite image that you have created? Can you tell us why it is special to you?

Gina’s favourite image to date…such a homely living space. Source:  @stylecuratorau

Gina’s favourite image to date…such a homely living space. Source: @stylecuratorau

It sounds silly but it’s one of the first pics where I felt inspired by the finished image rather than frustrated that what I’d styled wasn’t translating well on camera. The depth of field and colour palette are probably two of my favourite aspects.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

Ha ha, yes! Similar to my blog, in the first few years, I felt like I should only share other people’s work. But over time I realised people were engaging more with spaces I’d styled or things I was working on around my own home so I began generating more of my own content. Now my Instagram account is 90% or more of my own images and only a few of other people’s pics that I repost or brand lifestyle images I occasionally share. I try not to look at the likes and focus instead on real, authentic engagement and creating quality content that people will enjoy.


Gina is the guest mentor for our October 7 - 13 creative challenge ‘At Home’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Gina at @stylecuratorau on Instagram. We invite you to join Gina and the rest of the Creatively Squared community to put things into context. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Everything is peachy with Cëe Tay

Meet your Mentor: Cëe Tay

Cëe Tay from @ardaisy_ is one of those stylists we all want to be when we grow up...well I know I certainly want to! She has created a peachy perfect signature style that sets her apart on Instagram. Her flatlays and vignettes are much loved online and one scroll of the #flatlay top posts can certainly attest to this. Cëe is very clever at teaming products together that make sense and puts them all in context in her own beautiful and distinct way. So sit back, read Cëe’s interview and get peachy keen with inspiration!

A flatlay of all the essentials. Source:  @ardaisy_

A flatlay of all the essentials. Source: @ardaisy_

Taking those essentials out and about. Source:  @ardaisy_

Taking those essentials out and about. Source: @ardaisy_

Q&A with Cëe

Cëe finds the peachy in everything. Source:  @ardaisy_

Cëe finds the peachy in everything. Source: @ardaisy_

Hey Cëe! Thanks for joining us for a Creatively Squared challenge during our lifestyle month. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be creating such beautiful flatlays and imagery?

Hi guys! Thank you so much for having me on board, I’m so happy to be part of this! Most people are surprised when I tell them that I graduated with a Business Management degree. 

I’ve had a couple of corporate jobs prior to becoming a content creator, photographer and stylist full-time.

Like most people, I started out my Instagram page out of boredom and would follow inspiring accounts. Eventually, I decided to try out a couple of flatlays myself and from there my audience grew and my style changed. If you scroll all the way back you can still see a couple of my older (and embarrassing) photos haha.

Your flatlays and vignettes are next level amazing! Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

Thank you! Usually I try to plan my content ahead, by using UNUM I’m able to see the photos that I need to shoot and how they’ll look together before uploading to my feed.

I try to base my content around everyday stuff, so let’s say I’m working from home I’ll style up my desk. On most days, my desk definitely doesn’t look that put together ;) Or if there are beauty products like lipsticks that I want to share, I’ll try to capture swatches of them for my audience to see.

Who or what inspires you the most to create your images and share your journey?

Honestly, Pinterest and Instagram are a great source of inspiration for me. There’s always fresh new content from various creators I follow which gives me new ideas for ways to shoot. Especially after doing this for so long, I’m afraid that my styling becomes repetitive.

Having an audience that appreciates my work also helps keep me going and wanting to share more.

Putting desk essentials into context. Source:  @ardaisy_

Putting desk essentials into context. Source: @ardaisy_

This challenge is all about lifestyle content creation. What are your three top tips for others wanting to produce beautiful content and show products in context?

1. Relevance. Personally, I think it’s important to make sure your photos relate to what you’re trying to showcase. So, let’s say I’m shooting bath/shower products, I’ll try to create a flatlay with props that are related (e.g. a towel, a cute loofa etc.) or in the actual bathroom, instead of shooting the products at a café or something. 

2. Layers. An image will look more interesting when it has various layers. Have the products that you want the attention on to be in the middle of the photo, and at the highest layer (e.g. stack a couple of books up and place the products there). The eye will tend to pick up that first.

3. Lighting. Having better lighting will make a difference to your photos, and the colours of the image will look much better.

Some peachy keen beauty favourites. Source:  @ardaisy_

Some peachy keen beauty favourites. Source: @ardaisy_

Do you have any hacks, tricks or tools which help you create your imagery?

I don’t really think there’s any tricks or hacks, but just great natural light! A well-lit photo makes a difference. I shoot at timings of the day that works best for me, and this may be different for everyone. 

What equipment do you use?

I use my iPhone 8 Plus for most of my images on Instagram, and a Canon EOS 60D or Fujifilm XT-30 for blog content, videos and client work. I recommend both these cameras, as they produce great image quality and have a flip screen.

Apart from shooting with natural light, I also use a recycled white cardboard to act as a reflector for my photos. It helps balance the light source and brighten any shadows.

When it comes to editing, I use Lightroom and Photoshop. It’s easier if you have Apple products because you can then airdrop your images from the iPhone to your Mac.

What is your favourite image that you have created? Can you tell us why it is special to you?

Cëe’s favourite image she has created…an epic flatlay! Source:  @ardaisy_

Cëe’s favourite image she has created…an epic flatlay! Source: @ardaisy_

This one because it took me over an hour to build and another half an hour to dismantle. I’ve never attempted a flatlay this colourful before, so searching for props that I have around was definitely a challenge.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

Of course! It definitely used to frustrate me when my likes didn’t hit a certain level because I felt that I had a duty and responsibility to answer to my paying clients and myself. Some people think that likes are not all that important, but to me it’s almost like a reflection of my work performance. I think most creators can relate to it.

But now, I’ve learnt to accept that I don’t need likes to validate what I’m doing and most brands I’ve worked with are really understanding. At the end of the day, I started Instagram to share my photos not for the likes.

I am grateful and appreciate having an engaging audience and lovely followers sending me messages telling me that my work brings them joy.

Putting vignettes into context too. Source:  @ardaisy_

Putting vignettes into context too. Source: @ardaisy_


Cëe is the guest mentor for our September 23 - 29 creative challenge ‘In Context’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Cëe at @ardaisy_on Instagram. We invite you to join Cëe and the rest of the Creatively Squared community to put things into context. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Taking personal portraits with Patti Schmidt

Meet your Mentor: Patti Schmidt

Patti’s light filled images capture the essence of her family life in a beautiful but authentic way. You will be surprised to learn she is quite a private person so her feed is full of inspiration to add a human element so cleverly in so many ways. She also is open about her journey as a mother which adds another layer of authenticity and love to her images. Plus, she has three grown boys that are actually willing to dress up for her in photos [often in public!] and a beautiful little girl that they are absolutely besotted by. Patti is a super lovely, genuine person. It’s an honour to have her as a mentor so enjoy her interview and get to know Patti.

Patti’s little one Avery at play! Source:  @pattischmidt

Patti’s little one Avery at play! Source: @pattischmidt

Flowers are always a handy prop, especially if you are a bit camera shy sometimes! Source:  @pattischmidt

Flowers are always a handy prop, especially if you are a bit camera shy sometimes! Source: @pattischmidt

Q&A with Patti

The beautiful Patti and her rainbow baby Avery. Source:  @pattischmidt

The beautiful Patti and her rainbow baby Avery. Source: @pattischmidt

Hey Patti! Thanks for joining us for a Creatively Squared challenge during our lifestyle month. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be creating such beautiful imagery?

Hi! I’m so honored to be here. I’m Patti Schmidt, and I live in New Jersey with my husband of 27 years. We have four children… 3 grown boys (26, 24 and 20) and our little rainbow girl (age 3). I’ve always loved photography, and I got my first real camera at age 10. In high school and college I was the person who lugged a big camera to parties and ordered “doubles” of prints so I could give photos as gifts. Like many mothers, my love of photography grew with the birth of my kids. As my boys got older I started photographing other people’s children, which turned into a portrait photography business that had a successful ten year run. With the birth of my daughter three and a half years ago, I stepped back from client work and started focusing on personal photography again as well as creating content for social media, including occasional work with brands.

You are so clever at sharing snippets of your lifestyle journey and your beautiful family on Instagram. Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

Thank you! To be honest, I would enjoy my Instagram more if I didn’t overthink it so much. Putting a lot of weight on what others might think can cause such a creative block… at least for me. That said, I try to stick with consistent themes that bring me the most joy to create and look at… simplicity, sunshine, the beach, colors that are peaceful to me, and most of all my family. When my daughter was a baby I loved photographing little details, like her feet or the side of her face when she was sleeping. I also love photographing our big boys with their tiny sister, especially in ways that show their size difference. I never would have consciously planned for such a big space between them, but now that she’s here I wouldn’t have it any other way… it’s been such a gift.

Who or what inspires you the most to create your images and share your journey?

It’s funny, I’m actually a very private, introverted person despite having a public Instagram account, and I struggle with this sometimes. There are some things I’m comfortable sharing openly about and other things not, and I honor that instinct without questioning it too much! Most of the photos I share publicly are planned and staged in some way, yet they still tell our “story” albeit in a different way from documentary style photography. As far as sharing my journey… there are ups and downs to doing this on a public platform. A thick skin is necessary, but I’ve had so many more positive and kind messages than anything else. Sometimes I’ll wonder why I’m doing this, and then I’ll hear from someone about how something I shared inspired them in photography or gave them hope in the face of infertility, and I’m reminded that human connection via social media is a beautiful thing way more often than not! I think it’s that connection that inspires me to create and share as well as enjoying what others create and share.

Adding a element of play into your photos is fun for all members of the family! Source:  @pattischmidt

Adding a element of play into your photos is fun for all members of the family! Source: @pattischmidt

This challenge is all about adding a human element to images and getting themselves or family in front of the camera. What are your three top tips for others wanting to be more present in their images?

I’m way more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it! When I do appear on my feed I’m usually either far away or hiding my face in some way. If you’re reluctant to be present in your images try being only partially there, or challenge yourself to photograph loved ones in a way that shows connection and/or emotion without showing faces. I also like having a prompt to work with, such as a hashtag challenge. I tend to feel more creative and adventurous and less self-conscious when I have a starting point!

If you don’t want to show your face, or that of your little one’s, books are a handy prop! Source:  @pattischmidt

If you don’t want to show your face, or that of your little one’s, books are a handy prop! Source: @pattischmidt

Do you have any hacks, tricks or tools which help?

Learn to use a tripod and your camera’s timer! I recently started playing with this, and it helps to see it as an experiment instead of having an end goal in mind. That way there’s no pressure at all, and if you end up with something you love it’s a bonus!

What equipment do you use?

My camera is a Canon 5D Mark IV, and my favorite lens is 50mm 1.2L. I edit each image individually in photoshop, but I’m slowly working on presets because I’ve been asked about them so many times and because having them will speed up my own workflow! With the exception of a few posts when my daughter was a newborn, everything you see on my feed was shot in natural light. There are also a few iPhone selfies in there, but I edited them the same way as the rest.

What is your favourite image that you have created? Can you tell us why it is special to you?

Oh my gosh I have many, including some that I’ve never shared publicly, but I’ll go with Wizard of Oz. It was my favorite movie as a child. I love that my sons were willing to put on those costumes in public, in the heat, for my crazy photo idea. I love how the characters match up. I love that Avery is suspended mid-air because my mother always says she came from heaven. It just gives me all the feels!

The Wizard of Oz themed photo with Patti’s children. Source:  @pattischmidt

The Wizard of Oz themed photo with Patti’s children. Source: @pattischmidt

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

My account was originally just for my portrait photography, and I had a separate personal account that was private. After I became pregnant with my daughter I shared a little of that journey on my photography account, and I began to appreciate social media connections and photography inspiration more than ever. For the first few months after she was born I was still posting clients along with some personal photos. This was pre-algorithm, so reach was across the board, but it was still obvious both what my followers (very few at the time) wanted to see and what I wanted to photograph. I gradually phased out client posts, eventually archiving what was already there, and I planned to delete my private account and stick to just one. But as my following started to grow I realized that when you tag or follow private friends and family they get a lot of follow requests from people they don’t know and obviously aren’t inviting. I ended up keeping both so I could follow private friends and family from my own private account. 

Falling in and out of love with Instagram is definitely something I can relate to! But I’ve stretched myself creatively, found a way to monetize my photography that doesn’t require me to be away from my baby nearly as much, and made new real life friends I’m so happy to have. I think we can get so caught up in the negatives (the frustrating algorithm that hides things we want to see and shows us things we don’t, the numbers, the comparison games, etc) that we forget this is a free app that gives a ton of opportunity and connection that we are free to walk away from forever or even just for a little while. Taking a break can do so much for perspective!

A signature napping pose of Avery. Source:  @pattischmidt

A signature napping pose of Avery. Source: @pattischmidt


Patti is the guest mentor for our September 16 - 22 creative challenge ‘Human interaction’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Patti at @pattischmidt on Instagram. We invite you to join Patti and the rest of the Creatively Squared community to add a human element to your images. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Styled in-situ with Connie Chan

Meet your Mentor Connie Chan

Connie from @whatshepictures sure knows how to make a product shine. Her images are beautifully styled visual stories that present products in an authentic and relatable manner. Connie regularly shares content creation tips and there is always something to learn from her posts on Instagram. Connie is on maternity leave after the birth of her little one Avery so we were lucky to catch up with her to find out what inspires her and get some more of those invaluable tips.

Q&A with Connie

Hey Connie! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for a Creatively Squared challenge during our lifestyle month. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be creating such beautiful imagery and flatlays? 

Thanks for having me as a mentor. I’ve been a photographer for over 15 years. I trained in commercial photography in my home town, Toronto, Canada. Up until about 1.5 years ago I was working as an in-house photographer for an ecommerce company, but I wanted to get out of the corporate world and work for myself again.

So I quit that full-time job and started freelancing from home.

You are so talented at producing beautiful content. Can you tell us about your creative process and how you go about deciding what to share next on your Instagram account?

Most of my work is for brands so I begin by talking to my clients about what they hope to achieve with their new images. Knowing the goal behind each image is the foundation for every photo I create. Everything from the lighting, to the camera gear, to the styling, to the editing is all determined from there.

As for my Instagram account @whatshepictures I like to plan the look of my grid in advance. I use Later to schedule my posts and write my captions. I always try to keep in mind my target audience when posting to Instagram and I try to tailor my images and captions to speak to that audience.

Who or what inspires you the most to create your images and share your journey?

When I was starting out, I was so frustrated at how confusing it was to build a career as a freelance photographer. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do or what was normal in my industry. I didn’t know how to have a photography business. There was a lot of fumbling around in the dark until I finally found my feet. I share my journey on Instagram in the hope of being a trusted resource for young creatives trying to find their feet today.

@whatshepictures 14.jpg

This challenge is all about capturing products and everyday things in situ. You are always so helpful with tips so what are your three top tips for others wanting to create appropriate and beautiful product images.

  1. Know the why behind your photo. Always understand the message you’re trying to convey for every image you create. All the decisions you make when creating that image should support your why.

  2. Lighting is everything. Lighting can make or break any image so be intentional with your lighting choices. Natural window light is a popular choice because it has a beautiful quality, and best of all it’s free.

  3. Don’t be afraid to style your scene. There’s a huge emphasis towards authenticity now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t style your scene to make it look its best. It’s like deciding to wear make-up and putting on a great outfit before going to an important meeting. All you’re doing is putting your best foot forward. You can style a scene and not be fake at the same time.

Do you have any hacks, tricks or tools which help?

If you follow my Instagram account @whatshepictures you’ll see in my behind the scenes photos that I often use white boards to bounce light into my sets to brighter the shadows. It’s one of the simplest, cheapest ways to improve the lighting in any shot.

For more details on this simple technique see our blog post: Expert tips to amplify ambient light when shooting indoors

What equipment do you use?

I usually use Fomex strobes for my client work because I like the precision and reliability of studio lights. But sometimes I like to use window light because it has a gorgeous, soft quality that’s hard to replicate using artificial lighting. 

My main camera is a Canon 5D Mark III which I often like to set up on my Induro tripod. I edit those photos on my desktop using Adobe Photoshop.

My behind the scenes photos and Instagram stories are all shot and edited on my iPhone 7 using the native apps that come on the phone. 

What is your favourite image that you have created? Can you tell us why it is special to you?

One of my favourite images that I’ve taken is a product shot I created for Code Republic. They make premium laptop bags and accessories for professional women. I love how this shot is more than just a flatlay because of the added dimensions to the composition. It’s a non-flat flatlay. It also speaks to my love of perfectly squared compositions.

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We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

My account has always been a reflection of what I shoot, although I don’t share all of my projects. But I guess you could say that my account is a reflection of what I want to shoot. I want to attract clients who will hire me to shoot images that look like the ones you see on my account, so if I shoot a project that doesn’t really reflect my brand or my aesthetic, I don’t share it on my social channels. 

I use my account as a marketing tool for my business so I always keep in mind my real target audience when it comes to my posts. I try not to get too caught up in the vanity metrics of Instagram as a personal critique of my work. Instead, I assess the engagement I receive as a way to learn more about my audience. I don’t think I’ve ever really fallen out of love with Instagram the way many people have because I only ever saw it as a learning tool for me. The trick is understanding that your Instagram account is not about you. It’s about your audience.


Connie is the guest mentor for our September 9 - 15 creative challenge ‘In-Situ’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Connie at @whatshepictures on Instagram. We invite you to join Connie and the rest of the Creatively Squared community to get styling the things we love and use everyday. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

On the Go with Kelly Williams

Meet your Mentor Kelly Williams

As well as doing amazing flatlays, Kelly from @myscandistyle cleverly incorporates her active and ‘on the go’ lifestyle with her little fam bam. From holiday snaps, coffee dates and wall pics with her little man, Kelly shares those everyday moments that document her lifestyle. These add a human authenticity to Kelly’s Instagram that we can relate to and allows us a peek into her world so grab a coffee and let’s get to know Kelly some more.

Q&A with Kelly

Hey Kelly! Thanks for joining us again for a Creatively Squared challenge, this time as a mentor for our lifestyle month. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be creating such beautiful lifestyle imagery?

Thank you, as my handle suggests, I’m a huge fan of Scandinavian style, lots of light and bright with primarily grey and white tones, I’ve always enjoyed photography and styling, and I love coming up with concepts and themes for my grid.

As well as doing amazing flatlays, you do a great job of documenting your adventures with your family. Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

I try to incorporate as much of my real life as possible, so my ‘on the go’ photos are candid and often taken on my phone when I’m out and about. I love to mix up my feed with styled room photos, curated flatlays and outdoor photos generally involving two of my loves, Harvey and.... coffee!

Who or what inspires you the most to create your images and share your journey?

Over the years my grid has changed to include more lifestyle photos, I’m always on the lookout for new parks and cafes to take photos at, I also have an amazing ‘Insta hubby’ who gets roped into taking photos of my son and I out and about.

This challenge is all about styling ‘on the go’ images. What are your three top tips for others wanting to share those spontaneous ‘on the go’ images?

  1. Have an idea in mind of the type of content you would like to create and then plan around that

  2. Make it fun and don’t stress if it’s not perfect

  3. You can never go wrong with coffee ‘on the go’

Do you have any hacks, tricks or tools which help?

Take plenty of photos and try different angles, I use editing tools like presets and Lightroom to get the most out of your photos.

What equipment do you use?

I often use my iPhone if I’m out and about, I edit one off photos on Lightroom Mobile & Snapseed and use a preset I’ve created for a cohesive feed, I use a Canon DSLR and Lightroom Desktop for bigger photoshoots.

What is your favourite image that you have created? Can you tell us why it is special to you?

One of my favourite on the go photos would have to be a coffee at the park photo, it’s special because I’m spending time with my son whilst enjoying my favourite beverage.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

Well, it all started a few years back with photos of my son’s room as I enjoyed styling it and taking pics. It’s evolved from that into an amazing side hustle where I get to work alongside some amazing brands and create content. At the end of the day, I enjoy what I do and that is the most important thing for me.


Kelly is the guest mentor for our September 1 - 8 creative challenge ‘On the Go’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Kelly at @myscandistyle on Instagram. We invite you to join Kelly and the rest of the Creatively Squared community to get on the go and be candid. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Welcoming whimsy with Shilah Sirois

Meet your Mentor Shilah Sirois

Our mentor this week sure knows how to bring the whimsical to her images…she welcomes it with open arms and embraces it with a passion. Shilah from @shilahsirois creates beautiful images that invite you to escape reality into her mystical and magical world. From submerging herself with jellyfish to levitating her family and beautifully ghostly family portraits, Shilah brings the cool to the whimsical and makes us all want to defy reality. She makes the unbelievable believable and the imaginable in your dreams possible. We have delved in Shilah’s world to show you her whimsical ways too.

Q&A with Shilah

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Hey Shilah! Thanks for joining us again for a Creatively Squared challenge for our conceptual month. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be creating such whimsical imagery?

Hi! I am so excited to be here thank you for having me! Let me first introduce myself, my name is Shilah and I live in South Florida with my husband Lucien, and our 2 children Laz and Lita, who are 3 and 6 years old. I’m a production stylist and photographer and my husband is a commercial photographer. We mainly shoot with big brands for advertising and ecommerce purposes which means our creative freedom is extremely limited and everything is very client driven. It’s a wonderful industry to work in, but we don’t always get to use our creativity to its fullest.

This is where Instagram enters.

So a little about my early days; I’ve always had a heavy interest in art and creating, since I was a young girl I was always creating or drawing something. And throughout my school years I was involved in art classes and participated in various art competitions. When I began college, I was initially going for a degree in illustration and eventually switched to photography. (This was many moons ago when we were still shooting film!) I was obsessed with editorial and conceptual styles of photography and focused my entire portfolio on this theme, creating images based on all sorts of concepts, from circus themes, to inspirations coming from fashion, to a mad hatter, my graduating portfolio was definitely unlike any the program had seen before and I actually won Best Portfolio! I’d say I’ve always seen creative and magical images in my mind, and I’ve always been determined to find a way to bring those visions to life. And I’m never satisfied until I get there! I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a mad artist truthfully!

Working in commercial production however doesn’t quite allow me to bring all of that mad artistry to the table. So Instagram is a place where I can create my own visions and my own art that I get to very excitedly share with others. It’s like I get to present me for who I actually am and don’t have to hide or “tame” anything. It’s so rewarding for me to receive so much love for my work. Our industry can be a very thankless one, it’s tough and very fast paced, so my personal work I shoot for Instagram is a chance for me to slow down and feel like I’m actually creating something for myself and getting to really show my true talents and the things I’m actually proud of. And the love and appreciation I receive for my work is the true icing on the cake! And ironically it’s always the most whimsical or “out there” types of images that I create that I get the most nervous about sharing, and they always end up performing the best. It’s hard to create imagery today that hasn’t been done before, it’s getting more and more challenging to actually get “noticed”. So for me it’s extremely rewarding to feel like I still stand out in this world that is so heavily saturated with so much amazing talent.

Your Instagram feed is so magically beautiful. Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

Thank you so much! I wouldn’t say I have one particular creative process but in general, I am very planned and particular about the order of my posts and what comes next. Typically I use existing images of my own or images I find inspiring (which could be something I’ve seen on Pinterest for example) and I use an Instagram planning app to drop those images in to plan out my grid for what I will be shooting next. This helps me to be sure things feel balanced with color, negative space, etc. I’m too OCD for my own good I will admit!

Once I decide on what I will be shooting next, I make a list of everything I will need for the image. Props, wardrobe, backgrounds, floor.. Then I make a list of everywhere I need to go to source these items. Whether it’s in storage or I have to shop anything. I try to allow myself a prep day so I don’t cram everything into one day. Getting everything prepped the day before, and planning to shoot the next day really maximizes the actual time that I’m shooting. I always talk things through with Lucien as well - lighting, the sets, getting props prepared - as he’s always involved in the shoot day, even if it’s just so I have an extra set of baby wrangling hands on set!

Who or what inspires you the most to create your beautiful images?

Well this is a loaded question! My inspiration comes from everywhere. (And I do mean everywhere.) From random things I see while driving, to images I see in a magazine, to a recent project I’ve worked on, to a song I hear, to unexpected colors and objects I see next to each other, to other artists’ work, to stories I read with my kids, to a garment I find while shopping.. I mean it truly comes from EVERYWHERE.

This challenge is all about creating whimsical images. What are your three top tips for others wanting to bring the whimsical is their images.

My number one tip would be to try new things, even when it intimidates or overwhelms you. I know that may sound cliché but trust me, this is a big one. Some of my favorite images have come from me totally experimenting and HOPING the image turns out the way I see it in my head. And you know what, sometimes it actually doesn’t work! It happens, it sucks when it happens, but it does happen. And that is totally ok! It’s part of the process, it’s part of creating and growing. 

My next tip would be to remember that while some whimsical elements can be digitally created, they can ALSO be physically created in real life. I think when we think of “whimsical” we typically divert to surrealistic elements like flying, fairy dust, and magical things that happen in Photoshop or a fancy app. But some of my favorite “whimsical” images I’ve created, have had very little photoshop work done to them, such as the image of my daughter with the white butterflies floating around her. Many people thought this image was photoshopped, but in reality I spent a ridiculous amount of time cutting out 150 paper butterflies and hanging them from the ceiling. It was grueling!! But so whimsical and totally worth it! So remember, you don’t have to be a photoshop whiz or an app whiz to bring whimsy to your images!

And lastly be playful and childlike with how you view ordinary objects. Sometimes listening to magical music helps. I know this sounds kind of corny, but the right music can help get my brain into that magical place. No joke when I need a little help getting my head in the game, I will listen to the Harry Potter theme song. It’s beautifully magical isn’t it? Those first few notes is all it takes and I’m immediately transported to a different world where I can see and create all sorts of amazing magic. Maybe it’s just me but music is crazy inspiring for me!

Do you have any hacks, tricks or tools which help you bring the whimsical magic to life?

I’ve definitely picked up a few tricks over the years. Simple things like movement. Movement is so simple yet can bring such an angelic and whimsical element to what may have been an otherwise boring image. Flowing fabric, hair blowing, twirling, falling petals, flying butterflies, sprinkling fairy dust.. little things that can kick an ordinary image up to that magical place. Overlaying fog or fairy dust in Photoshop is another quick and simple way to add that magical element to an image. Also dry ice! I shot with it one time and fell in love! I actually plan to shoot more with it as foggy smoke always brings that fantasy element to a scene!

P.S. Ultimate life hack for shooting with babies/children - (this isn’t really a whimsical hack but you need this any time you are shooting with little ones!) - NURSERY RHYMES are your best friend on set! I use this tactic on gigantic sets with huge crews for big brands, and I also use it down to my own teeny tiny little set with my own little daughter when it’s just her and I. Sing sing sing those ABCs and Wheels On The Bus and oh my goodness that ridiculously famous Baby Shark! That’s my ultimate hack, works every time with every child - you’re welcome in advance!

What equipment do you use?

If possible I often use natural light for my images. But living in South Florida usually means it rains, all the time and out of the blue without warning. And having children usually means I often don’t get to shoot when I plan to during the day so I end up having to shoot late at night after they’ve gone to bed. So often times I shoot with a White Lightening strobe and a 6 foot deep umbrella with silk diffusion. It’s a beautiful, soft light source and very easy to use. Typically Lucien will actually shoot my self portraits for me. If I’m alone however, I will use a tripod with a self timer but usually he is shooting with me or for me. Either way he is most likely involved somehow. And for my camera, I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III and I do my editing in Lightroom and Photoshop.

What is your favourite image [or two!] that you have created? Can you tell us why it is special to you?

I’d say my all time favorite image is actually our Halloween self portrait from last year. It was so last minute and almost didn’t happen. I had been planning the shot for months, but before I knew it, October was ending and I still hadn’t shot it, and it was the last chance I had to do it, and it was WAY past my kids’ bedtime. So I despairingly gave up and said I guess I just don’t get to create this image this year with my head hung low. I was devastated. And my husband looked at me and said no, get up and get dressed, we’re gonna make it happen right now baby. And he got his outfit on, got the kids dressed, set up my little set and we shot it in probably under 5 frames. And it turned out exactly as I saw it in my head, only better. I rode that high all week. And my husband won the best husband award that week. My second favorite image would probably be my recent “underwater” image. I’ve been wanting to create an image like this for YEARS. So the fact that I finally did it, and it turned out just as I had been envisioning for so long was a double victory for me.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

Oh my yes indeed. I’ve gone back and forth with Instagram in many ways for a couple of years now. When I first decided to start connecting with the community, I really had no idea what to expect. I don’t even know what I was looking for to be honest and I didn’t know much about Instagram at all. I definitely didn’t realize how much friendship and community was actually there. I didn’t expect to meet real people and make real friends but I have. It’s very special to me that I’ve met so many like minded people, other moms, other creatives, it’s amazing how many connections I’ve made.

Since my husband and I both work in production, our work life is crazy and hectic. We lead a very unconventional life and the constant unexpected wild cards can create added stresses to trying to “balance it all” so to speak. I’ll admit my account is neglected more often than I wish and work is the main culprit. But I always come back because I love the community so much. I love to get immersed in the creative world and feeling connected with people who share similar passions. Sometimes I like to look back through my account just to see how it has evolved over different phases of my life. Creative growth is one of the coolest things in the world. I’m still growing and learning every day. I can’t wait to see what I create in the next year. I can proudly admit today I am one of my own biggest fans. And I didn’t always feel that way. But I love what I do. I love what I create. And I so love that my account is a true reflection of simply me and who I am. That’s my favorite thing about it. My Instagram is so me.

I’d say the biggest thing in how it’s evolved is that when I began this journey I really played it “safe”, only creating images that I thought would perform well, that I thought the Instagram audience wanted to see. I would never go outside of the box and create the more “risky” images, the darker images, the whimsical images, the different images. And Instagram proved me wrong every single time as every one of those “questionable”  posts outperformed the crap out of my safe posts. It goes to show you just how much when you really find your stride and just do you, people notice. Don’t try to look like everyone else, everyone else already does. Do you authentically. I’m constantly challenging myself - “How can I make this better?” Constantly. Every post, every job, every image, how can I make this better, different, more.. And it’s clear if you look at the evolution of my account. And I can’t wait to see how I keep getting better this next year!


Shiah is the guest mentor for our August 26 - September 1 creative challenge ‘Welcoming Whimsy’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Shilah at @shilahsirois on Instagram. We invite you to join Shilah and the rest of the Creatively Squared community to welcome the whimsical. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Family flatlay fun and fairytales with Danielle Dean

Meet your Mentor Danielle Dean

Danielle Dean from @sienna.and.i is a pro at turning linen into sofas and cardboard boxes into almost anything. I have literally followed Danielle from the onset. I have watched her creativity grow and blossom, as well as her daughter Sienna. Her magical and creative scenes invite us into her imagination and Sienna’s dreams, the little princess of napping. Danielle is so generous with her time and tips too, we were lucky enough to catch up with her as she mentors us through building your own scene.

Q&A with Danielle

Hey Danielle! Thanks for joining us for our Creatively Squared challenge during conceptual month. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be creating such amazing imagery?

I’m Danielle Dean a 37 year old Content Creator. I live, the North East of England with my partner Ryan and my daughter Sienna (2yrs) who is my not only my daughter, but also my muse and colleague. Well she sometimes allows me to take her photograph so I can add fairy wings to it

I was four months into my maternity leave when I started sharing photos of Sienna on Instagram, purely for friends and family, at the time I only had 33 followers and my account was private . As so many of use do in our early days of motherhood, we reach out for connection. So, I started to follow lots of motherhood accounts and creative accounts, seeing their beautiful images pop up on my feed and hearing their stories of motherhood, made me so compelled to start sharing my own journey.  Being a stay at home Mam and having a partner that’s works away can make for a lovely life. So it was amazing connecting with other mam’s all around the world. 

As my account grew I started to get more creative with my photos I moved away from the regular lifestyle and motherhood images and began creating creative shots, with Sienna still as my main subject. My account then exploded. I think when you really find your own voice and you become confident in your own style that’s when people start to really connect with you.

You share some amazingly beautiful and clever images on Instagram. Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

When it comes to creating content I have a 7-step process for working on my creativity, which includes things like having a creative constraint, so a theme, topic or word, I use that to inspire my photo. Another step is to brainstorm my ideas, stretch them out. I also now have a catalogue of old images (my feed) that I can look back through for more inspiration.

Who or what inspires you the most to create your magical images?

A lot of my inspiration comes from Sienna. I love watching her play and often ideas will come from the things she says and how she plays, especially when something sparks joy for her.. I love to use a lot of nostalgia in my photos too. I like to create images that evoke memories from my childhood. And finally I love incorporating the season into my photos. As autumn is around the corner, soon I’ll be planning how to incorporate all the leaves and fairy lights. 

This challenge is all about building a story using everyday props, something you are very clever at doing. What are your three top tips for others wanting to create a story using everyday items?

Thank you! I love using props, I think having a physical item you can touch and study can really help with generating ideas. My top three tips for using everyday items is:

  1. Plan your photos. Sketch out what you want your photo to look like. Hunt around your home looking your items that you could use. 

  2. Let your props tell a story. Look for items that will add etc detail to your photo, and tell more of the story. If you have a cosy autumn scene, think about adding a mug of hot chocolate with a silver spoon, place it beside an open book with a pair of glasses resting on it, and get out all your cosy blankets to add textures. 

  3. Think is shapes and colours.Some of my favourite photos to create are ‘scenes from above’, that’s where I use the floor as my canvas and create everything with everyday items. Everything in your becomes a prop, kitchen cupboards, the bedding cupboard and toys, you name it. Not too long ago created a bicycle for Sienna and myself. For Sienna I used upside down woven baskets her wheels, whilst I had hoola hoops. Once you have an image in your head of what you’re creating, its then just a case of finding those items.

Do you have any hacks, tricks or tools which you build your scenes?

Follow the steps above and when you’re creating your photo, make sure you’re viewing it on your phone or camera as you go. Set your camera up, and then keep checking to see if you’ve got the items in the right place. It really helps with the composition.

What equipment do you use?

  • Photography equipment:

I use a Canon 200d or for my shots from above (as its a lighter camera) I use a Canon M10. I have a few tripods, my favourite is my Manfrotto tripod, highly recommend it!  I use my phone as a remote, I just use the Canon app for that. To get my shots from above I don’t use a jib crane, instead I have a fancy cardboard taped to the ceiling, I use command strips to attach it. I have a small reflector for when there isn’t much light. 

  • Editing equipment:

The majority of my work is all edited with apps. My 2 favourites are Lightroom and Photoshop mix. I have over the past few months been learning how to use Photoshop CC on my Mac /i recently bought a pen tablet, which is amazing! So my photos are 50/50 apps and Photoshop.

I have over time invested in my different bits of equipment, however don’t feel like you need to go and buy fancy equipment, I grew my account to tens of thousands with just my iPhone and a bunch of free apps. It’s not about what equipment you have, more so about how you use it. Mastering those apps makes all the difference.

What is your favourite image [or two!] that you have created? Can you tell us why it is special to you?

It’s so hard just choosing one, because I love so many of them. I think mainly because Sienna’s in nearly all of them. I do prefer my autumn and winter photos by far, that’s when I feel most inspired. But if i had to choose two, I’ll go for Sienna’s birthday photo, as its so fun and she looks so happy and it’s a photo I think she’ll love to look back on and love. Secondly, I’m going to choose my Butterfly teapot photo, because it was my third or forth edit with a whimsical surreal feel to it and it performed so well, I felt so proud of that photo, as I was trying something new and different and wasn’t sure if it would work out, but it helped me find my creative path. also, of those photos where fully edited with apps.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

I can really relate to this. Looking back, 2018 was a year of rapid growth and engagement and it made Instagram feel amazing. Everyone was creating amazing content and everyone posted more and there was just an exciting vibe. But right now, as things have slowed down, it does feel different. A lot of my followers tell me that they feel disheartened when they create a photo and it doesn’t get the response they wanted. But I think It’s good to remember that this is affecting most of us, so you’re not alone out there, it’s the new norm.

A reason for this lower engagement and not getting the response we want, is largely due to the fact that Instagram fell into a sea of sameness. So images lookalike, inspo taken from here and there and before you know it, it’s all been done before. 

In my early days I was very much a lifestyle account, I shoot styled photos with Sienna which was working. But as time went on (and I was getting closer to my maternity leave ending) I realised if I wanted to make a go of it and go all in, I had to start producing content that no one else was. I downloaded all the apps and experimented for hours at an end. Because I knew I wasn’t going to have the time to take nice styled photos once I went back to work, so I thought, how I can snap a quick photo after I get in from work or on a weekend and transform it at night by editing it. As time went on, I leaned more into this creative style of editing. So I went from photos of Sienna napping with a teddy, to Sienna napping whilst riding a bicycle.

You are very open about having posting anxiety, something many of us can relate to. What words of advice would you give to those who are anxious about sharing their images?

Don’t take a long break from posting or your creative process. As I’m currently creating a course which teaches other women the skills and techniques needed to create, edit and curate post worthy content for social media, it means I’m not posting as often as I’d like. I’m not engaging in the creative process daily, I’m not picking up my camera I’m not editing, so it means when I do post, I feel a little out of sync and it can cause me to feel anxious.

There’s a great quote “We all have the creativity in our minds, but for it to consistently give great results it needs daily exercise” - Yousef A. Linge.

Make it a daily practice to sketch your ideas everyday, look for props, take photos as often as you can and then post as much as you can. When you’re in the process you’ll fall in love with it. I think dipping in and out can leave you feeling disconnected and stressing about whether anyone will like it. I think that leads to down a path worrying about the numbers, and that’s no good for anyone.


Danielle is the guest mentor for our August 19-25 creative challenge ‘Build your Scene’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Danielle at @sienna.and.i on Instagram. We invite you to join Danielle and the rest of the Creatively Squared community to build your own scene. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Paint the world with colour with Erin Summer

Meet your Mentor Erin Summer

Erin from @erinsummer_ is no stranger to colour, and she’s certainly not afraid to show it! Even her name invokes colourful connotations. Erin’s colourful captures and edits always brighten my day and she doesn’t shy away from bringing the colour. From turning oranges and avocados rainbow coloured to colouring her world with rainbows and bold nailpolish, Erin is such a vibrant inspiration to us all to just let go and have fun with colour. We were lucky enough to catch up with Erin and find out what inspires her vibrant world.

Q&A with Erin

Hey Erin! Thanks for joining us again for a Creatively Squared challenge, this time as a mentor for our conceptual month. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be creating such colourful imagery?

II’s a pleasure to be here, thank you for having me on board this week as a mentor! I am a self-taught graphic designer/content creator from Toronto Ontario. I started getting into mixed-media art and graphic design after a fibromyalgia diagnosis forced me to give up on my previous design business @erinlightfeather (which involved a lot of uncomfortable physical labour like cutting, dying, sewing etc.) I wanted to keep the vibrant, colourful aesthetic of my previous feather work and apply it to my new experimental design and photography. In 2017 I launched my own content creation business Erin Summer Creative Design and the rest is history!

You certainly seem to live a colourful life through your Instagram. Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

I love to spend time fostering my imagination. I like to sit down every now and again with a notebook and just brainstorm. Brainstorming for me is my favourite part of the creative process. I keep a notebook with a list. If any idea pops into my head, I will write it down. I’d say about half of my ideas make it past the notebook phase.

Who or what inspires you the most to create your vibrant images?

Oh goodness, I am inspired by so many things! My current favourite inspiration is taking something simple, mundane even- like a door or a bowl of fruit- and changing the colours or adding pattern to make it special. We can’t always pick up and go on a fabulous vacation or splurge on props and supplies, but we can all find joy in everyday items with just a little imagination and creativity!

This challenge is all about imagining colour in a whole different way. What are your three top tips for others wanting to play with colour and bring their imagination to life in their images?

Photoshop Layers! Learning how to add layers in Photoshop gives you so many options to experiment without having to commit. This comes in really handy if I want to change colours, increase saturation, apply pattern etc.

See the potential - spot a dull building with a great shape? Make it your canvas by adding colour! See an amazing vintage pattern on a dress? Take a photo of the pattern and keep it in your files. See a great car parked on the street? Snap a pic! There is so much potential just outside your front door.

CHANGE the colour! See something that could be great if ONLY it weren’t (insert ugly hue here.) Don’t let a bad colour ruin a good photo or project! It only takes a little time and practice :)

Do you have any hacks, tricks or tools which help you play with colour in your images?

I love the Selective Colour tool in Photoshop. Learning how to change the intensity and tone of  specific colours has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me. I encourage anyone who is interested in experimenting with colour to try out the selective colour tool and the hue and saturation tools!

What equipment do you use?

I keep it simple. If you are interested in experimenting with photography you don’t need to spend a fortune! I have been using the same Nikon camera for the past 7-8 years. I also take photos on my iPhone XR (the quality of smartphone pictures these days is amazing!) for smaller objects, I shoot them on a simple white board by the window in natural light. For larger subjects and travel I will use a tripod. I do have lights and a backdrop setup but I almost always shoot against a white wall in natural light.

What is your favourite image that you have created? Can you tell us why it is special to you?

My favourite images are the ones that resonate most with my audience. If I can bring a smile to someone’s face or inspire them in anyway, there is nothing more satisfying. My current two favourites are the colour wheel citrus slices, and rainbow envelopes flatlay. They are perfect examples of simplicity elevated with a pattern and/or colour.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

Yes absolutely! In fact, my entire @erinsummer_ account really showcases where I started from-just watching basic Photoshop tutorials on YouTube and applying them to simply concepts, to where I am now- still learning, but with a much stronger aesthetic and point of view. I totally relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram and the burnout that happens from being connected 24/7. I absolutely believe in taking time off every now and again not only to disconnect, but also to recharge your creativity and get back in touch with your imagination!


Erin is the guest mentor for our August 12-18 creative challenge ‘Colour My World’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Erin at @erinsummer_ on Instagram. We invite you to join Erin and the rest of the Creatively Squared community to have fun with colour. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Making extraordinary images out of ordinary items with Aravis Dolmenna

Meet your Mentor Aravis Dolmenna

We have been lucky enough to have Aravis host a challenge with us before. We have invited her back, this time as a mentor because we believe she has so much to offer our community. Plus, she is in my opinion the best person on the gram that can make a banana, a safety pin or some spilt milk into something amazingly extraordinary. We caught up with Aravis again and delved into her extraordinary imagination.

Q&A with Aravis

Hey Aravis! Thanks for joining us again for a Creatively Squared challenge, this time as a mentor for our conceptual month. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be creating such amazing imagery?

Thank you Marisa, I’m really flattered to have been asked, and excited to see what everyone comes up with. I was born and raised in the South of England and have always lived in the countryside, I have a great passion for the natural world. I have drawn and sewn for as long as I can remember and Instagram has allowed me to explore and develop that side of my interests.

You have certainly created a niche on Instagram with your simple yet wonderful masterpieces. Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

My ideas often come from simply looking at the shape of an object and noticing how it resembles something else, sometimes it’s the other way around, I decide I want to depict something “for example a motorcycle” and I look around for objects I can use to create the shapes I need. If I have an idea I will write myself a note, it could be some time before I get around on trying it (not all ideas work)

Who or what inspires you the most to create your amazing images?

It was my dad who gave me my perspective on the world and sense of humour, and although there are so many artists I admire, it is the pleasure and fun I get from making my little pictures that keeps me doing it.

This challenge is all about taking ordinary objects and using them to create something extraordinary, something you are extraordinarily gifted at. What are your three top tips for others wanting to bring inanimate objects to life?

I would say firstly spend some time looking at the object you intend to use, from all angles, how it “sits” etc. Secondly, keep it simple, it doesn’t have to look exactly like something else, just evoke the idea or feeling.  And thirdly, think about your background and lighting, I personally don’t edit my pictures (it’s a sort of private challenge to myself) so the light can be the most important thing of all

Do you have any hacks, tricks or tools which help?

Blu-tac is a really useful tool, for holding most things in place or forming a little “stand” to stop rounded things from rolling.

What equipment do you use?

Ha ha, you would laugh if you saw my setup, I have a frugal nature and part of the challenge for me is to try to just use the objects I have around me. I use an iPhone 6 ( with a spiders web of cracks ) a collection of coloured cards, my kitchen table and the sun. That said I have recently bought a cheep clamp to hold my phone “it’s like an angle poise lamp with a clamp at each end” I intend to try making a few more short videos (I’m afraid they will have to be edited because of the 1 minute time limit)

What is your favourite image that you have created? Can you tell us why it is special to you?

Years back I took a picture of my hand holding coloured marbles up to the sun. This picture represented a turning point for me because it made me realise the possibility of turning my account into a sort of gallery, not just photographing the beautiful world around me but creating my own little world (Instagram was much less creative back then)

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We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

At the start I became quite obsessed with Instagram, it was almost like being a child again, seeing things in a new way, and communicating with like minded people all over the world. Of course familiarity breeds contempt to a degree and you can find yourself getting a bit jaded, especially with the new algorithms which make things more disjointed and less varied. which is why groups like creatively squared are great for keeping you challenged and interested. As my page has got more exposure it is hard to maintain a sense of the personal and it can be tempting to create and post pictures just because you know they will be popular. It is important that I don’t take myself too seriously, I’m not a great artist, just someone having a bit of fun.


Aravis is the guest mentor for our August 5-11 creative challenge ‘Make it Extraordinary’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Aravis at @aravisdolmenna on Instagram. We invite you to join Aravis and the rest of the Creatively Squared community to explore the ordinary and make it extraordinary. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Why Harley Langberg loves playing with his food

Meet your Mentor Harley Langberg

Harley from @harleysfood_art is a food artist from New York. He creates amazing food art from the contents of his fridge and pantry. From portraits of celebrities to cute animals, I don’t think there is anything Harley hasn’t tried his food art hand at. We caught up with Harley to get to know him better and find our some of his tricks of the trade to help us play with our food too!

Q&A with Harley

Hey Harley! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our Creatively Squared foodie challenge Play with your food. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m 31 years old, was born and raised in NYC where I currently reside today. While I work in a family investment office by day, food art has become my creative outlet at night and on the weekends. I have always had a strong interest in food and art growing up and food art is the perfect combination of these two passions. Apart from my financial job and food art, I enjoy traveling where I get lots of inspiration for food art and cooking - a lot of times using the food art ingredients to prepare delicious and healthy meals for myself and my husband Zach.

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to create next with your food art?

I often look to current events and pop culture for inspiration, whether it’s a popular Netfix series like “Stranger Things” or a celebrity birthday. Other times I will be inspired by something I see in nature or on my travels. I keep a photo album on my iPhone of inspiration photos for future food art pieces.

What is your favourite creation so far?

My favorite piece is one of my more recent creations, a food art portrait of Taron Egerton playing Elton John in the movie “Rocketman.” It was definitely one of my more challenging, more detailed pieces and I love the different textures and colors in the piece.

Harley’s portrait of Taron Egerton playing Elton John. Source:  @harleysfood_art

Harley’s portrait of Taron Egerton playing Elton John. Source: @harleysfood_art

You are so talented at food art and making food look like something else or someone. What are your three top tips for creating food art?

  1. Focus on the details 

It’s important to try to focus on the details. It’s going to be hard to capture every detail but the more details you can capture, the more realistic the piece will look. I would also say don’t start with an overly complex piece, start simple and work your way up to a more detailed piece. 

      2. Choose ingredients that you enjoy eating 

For the most part try to use ingredients you enjoy eating, then you can use those ingredients to cook with or eat as is. 

       3. Have patience

Patience is very important when creating food art. When I first started each piece took a while to create but food art can’t be rushed as you do more pieces you will be able to create them in a shorter amount of time. That’s why I suggest starting simpler and dedicate at least 1 full hour to a piece. Don’t forget to have fun with it as well! I often listen to music or podcasts or have the TV on in the background since the process can be tedious.

Any tricks or tools which aid in using food in your captures?

A toothpick is my tool of choice as the small point helps keep the foods in place especially the finer details. Make sure you have a very sharp knife when cutting the produce. Natural lighting is very important when taking the photo. You do not need a fancy camera, any smartphone camera will take a great photo. Make sure when taking the photograph, place the plate on a simple, neutral background (floor, carpet, counter, etc..). This way the attention can be on the piece and not the background.

What equipment do you use?

I use my iPhone to take the photo and edit the photo in the Instagram app.

What happens to the food once you have used it? Do you plan meals around what you have created that day?

I will either eat the piece right after, use the ingredients to cook with, or save the ingredients to remake another piece depending on the condition of the ingredients. I will often make pieces for breakfast or for snacks.  

Do you have any hacks when it comes to using food to avoid wastage?

I try to use ingredients that have long shelf lives. If the ingredient has a short shelf life I will try to consume it right away. I tend not to freeze food, especially since I cook everyday so the ingredients all get used.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

I have tried to keep my account fresh by constantly throwing in surprises whether it be new subjects or ingredients I’ve never used before for my followers. I never want my account to be seen as monotonous and predictable. I also used to do a lot more “throwback pieces” reposting previous work however now I just focus on creating new content even if it’s less often. When I first started out I used to create and post about 5 times a week, now it is about 2-3 times a week. I also am genuinely appreciative of each and every follower and comment so I always make it a priority to respond back to each person even if it may be a day or two later due to my crazy schedule.


Harley is the guest mentor for our July 22-28 creative challenge ‘Play with your Food’ and will be featuring his favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Harley at @harleysfood_art on Instagram. We invite you to join Harley and the rest of the Creatively Squared community for some fun with your food. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Putting meals in motion with Effi Tsoukatos

Meet your Mentor Effi Tsoukatos

Effi Tsoukatos is one half of the creative food duo @sydneyfoodsisters. Effi creates some pretty epic and drool worthy imagery with a great appreciation for seasonal produce. Amongst her mouth-watering styling, she has a beautiful knack of adding motion to her images or cleverly alluding to movement. It makes you just want to dive into the image and start feasting! We chatted with Effi to learn a bit more about her, and to get some valuable tips on getting moving with our food styling.

Q&A with Effi

Hey Effi! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our Creatively Squared foodie challenge, meals in motion. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I live in Sydney, Australia, where I was born and bred. I wear many hats, including mother to two young humans, food photographer, social media manager and co-director of Sydney Food Sisters (to put it in some sort of a nutshell!). After graduating from law I decided that I needed to explore my creative side. For the most part of my working life, I ran an events styling business before transitioning into the world of food photography, content creation and social media when the Sydney Food Sisters was born 3 years ago. Food and photography has become a passion and it is wonderful that the passion has translated into a career.

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

Apart from using Instagram to interact and socialise with a creative and food-loving community, I use the Sydney Food Sister Instagram account as a portfolio of my photographic work. For that reason, the Instagram feed is a collection of my favourite photos of the recipes that Caterina (my business partner) develops for the clients we work with. We try and share the 'hero' shots that best express how we felt about a recipe.

I try and share photos that will make people happy or make people drool and crave food, in the hope that they will be inspired in some way.

I also try and share a seasonal journey through with the posts so that people are educated about what food is in season and how best to enjoy it, so that also goes into the creative thought process when deciding what to post.

This challenge is all about meals in motion. You are so talented at food styling and creating a sense of movement in your captures. What are your three top tips for capturing this sense in an image.

Firstly, concentrate on creating a food scene that looks great without any movement. Movement shouldn't be used to mask any negatives in the original scene or hide any blemishes, instead it should be used to enhance an already beautiful looking scene. 

Secondly, ensure the scene is uncluttered and clean, so that when you do add movement, the main focus will be on the movement and not obscured by the viewer's eye focusing on other details. The movement needs to be the hero of your final image.

Thirdly, lighting! Lighting! And more lighting! Anyone can capture movement. Capturing movement using your available natural light is when the true magic happens. Playing and experimenting with light to enhance the sense of movement is where you can get creative. 

Any tricks or tools which aid in using food in your captures?

Too many!

* Great quality ingredients to start with

* A great camera lense 

* A pair of chef's tweezers (to easily adjust things without disrupting the scene)

* Plenty of olive oil (to make things look freshly cooked)

* Make enough food to create a second plate of of food. Food scenes can be easily ruined especially when creating movement shots like icing sugar dusts or sauce pouring. If there is another plate of food available for a second take, it's always better!

* a second pair of hands to help model. It is always easier when you can focus on being the photographer rather than the model  AND photographer

What equipment do you use?

I use a Canon Mark III to shoot all my photography, however it is time for an upgrade and I have my eyes on the Mark IV. I NEVER shoot with a smartphone, in fact I am hopeless with taking photos with a smartphone!! 

My favourite lens to shoot with is my 85mm. It is a magical lens and, apart from overhead shots, it is my go-to.

In an ideal world I would only ever shoot without a tripod because I feel more freedom to move around and play with the scene, however because a lot of my work is for clients and cnd ends up in print, I now try and make it a rule that I always shoot with a tripod, to ensure minimal camera shake and maximum quality.

I edit all my photos in Lightroom (both on my desktop and a phone version). I just bought an apple iMac desktop and I don't know what I was thinking trying to edit photos on a smaller laptop all this time. It has changed my editing life!!

Who eats all the food once you have finished styling up a storm? Your family must be very well feed...lucky them!

We fiddle, fuss and play with the food on scene A LOT some shoot days. Sometimes it takes time to get that hero shot and if that means the food has been sitting around for hours, the garden gets treated with added compost.

When everything goes to plan and the food is still safe to eat, yes my family and Caterina's family relish in the feasts!! They are all very well fed with a great variety of food.


As creators we are always looking for ways to do our best work with whatever materials, low budget or environment we have available to us. Do you have any hacks for those that are facing the same challenges, especially when it comes to using food to avoid wastage?

Food is never wasted! There is always a use for food, even if it can't be eaten. Yes, you might have to buy 2 kilos of lemons for a photo shoot, but there are always things to do with them!

My top tip here is to eat seasonally and create seasonal content. When you do, the produce is generally cheaper, looks better for the camera and tastes better. Turn discolouring bananas into banana bread, freeze wilting herbs for use in stews and casseroles, use all your food scraps to feed your garden, dry out sad looking orange slices to garnish a Negroni down the track.... there are endless ways to deal with food waste!!

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

It is very much a love hate relationship. The most wonderful thing about Instagram is the opportunities it has given us to work with businesses that allow us to work our magic. We have also had the great fortune of making some wonderful friends because of it.

We started with an account that seemed to grow very easily and rapidly, without too much thought from our part. In the last year especially however, gaining traction with posts has become increasingly difficult, which can be very disheartening when you have put so much effort into it. For that reason, we have changed our attitude towards the way we use Instagram. We focus on creating great content for the businesses we work with and are more selective with what ends up on our feed. Rather than posting constantly and religiously like we were, we have now dropped to fewer posts a week on our feed, in a more random fashion (which, yes, goes against all the 'posting consistently' theories!!).

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Effi is the guest mentor for our July 15-21 creative challenge ‘Meals in Motion’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Effi at @sydneyfoodsisters on Instagram. We invite you to join Effi and the rest of the Creatively Squared community for another moving week of experimenting with motion in food styling. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Honouring the ingredients with Aimee Twigger

Meet your Mentor Aimee Twigger

Aimee Twigger from @twiggstudios sure does appreciate her produce and where it comes from. Hailing from Devon in England, her beautiful photographs pay homage to the process of preparing and cooking whilst having a tremendous respect to the food; its origins, its journey and what’s in season. From making lilac sugar from the beautiful flower to homemade pasta and gin, Aimee is a breath of fresh air and inspiration.

Aimee making sugar magic with Lilac flowers. Source:  @twiggstudios

Aimee making sugar magic with Lilac flowers. Source: @twiggstudios

Q&A with Aimee

A self portrait of Aimee from a recent workshop. Source:  @twiggstudios

A self portrait of Aimee from a recent workshop. Source: @twiggstudios

Hey Aimee! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our Creatively Squared foodie challenge, farm to table. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Thank you for having me here, I’m Aimee, a food blogger turned photographer and stylist from Devon in England. I started by blog as a hobby as I loved food and baking and wanted to share my creations with others.

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

I find that I get inspired by all sorts of things, whether it’s nature or even the light. I often wake up in the night with an idea for a shoot and have write it down.

This challenge is all about fresh ingredients. You are so talented at food styling and creating such emotive food scenes. What are your two top tips for capturing these moments?

I love to use the human element in my photos so that the viewer can connect with it, it really tells a story if you can see hands and movement. The light is also really amazing at setting the mood for a story, if the lighting is moody or bright it can help tell a story. 

Any tricks which aid in using food in your captures?

I try to keep things as natural as possible, I use side light for most of my photos and set up the table for the shoot right next to the window. I don’t shoot in direct light.

What equipment do you use?

I was using a Canon 70d for the last view years but recently I just got a new camera a Canon 5d mark iv!


Who eats all the food once you have finished styling up a storm? Your family must be very well feed...lucky them!

Most of the time my family eats everything I make. And the stuff I can’t eat right away I often freeze or share with the neighbours.

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How has your Instagram account evolved over time?

I have really enjoyed the community aspect of Instagram, I have met some many amazing people and feel so connected with people that I haven’t even met yet, it’s amazing how a platform can bring people together and how we can all support each other’s creative journeys.

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Aimee is the guest mentor for our July 8-14 creative challenge ‘Farm to Table’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Aimee at @twiggstudios on Instagram. We invite you to join Aimee and the rest of the Creatively Squared community for a beautiful week of farm to table appreciation. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Serving up stylish food stories with Christall Lowe

Meet your Mentor Christall Lowe

Joining us this week with the mentoring duties is one of our favourites, Christall Lowe. I have long admired Christall’s talent as a creative and stylist, and I have closely followed her journey. I now consider Christall the queen of mood food...an amazingly talented food stylist and photographer. I must warn you, do not scroll her feed when hungry. Who am I kidding, one scroll of her feed will certainly put you in the mood for some food regardless. And I’m sure Christall will inspire you to be creative with your food rituals and serve it up to us this week.

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Q&A with Christall

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Hey Christall! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our creative community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! It’s such a pleasure to be mentoring this week! I’m a freelance food stylist and food photographer living in rural New Zealand, mostly working out of my home (except when shooting on location) which doubles as my studio, and that I share with my ever patient husband, three children and two cats. I have a 20 year career in a variety of creative endeavours - I’m officially an interior architect, and have run a plethora of businesses from online retail homewares to the production of a natural fibre product, and interior design. I found my calling a few years ago after many years of dreaming about creating and capturing gorgeous food, and now I spend my days developing recipes, cooking, styling and shooting incredible food and products for a huge variety of clients - from large food companies, to small artisan businesses, chefs and for publications. I love what I do! 

Now I’m building on that dream by teaching others how to harness their creative genius and become crazy amazing at food styling and photography. And that’s the ultimate. I love seeing students work flourish once they’ve unlocked the simple secrets - it’s absolute magic. I hold workshops, in person and online, offer one-on-one coaching sessions, and am currently prepping the first of my online courses - coming very soon!

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?
Part of the way I work is planned, and the other part is spontaneous. When it comes to client work I’m well planned with “flexibility for spontaneous magic” (sometimes the best work is created in the moment!). Client shoots will always be planned as far as recipes/dishes, ingredients, look and feel, and the essential shot list specific to the brief. I’ll create a moodboard of images (Pinterest, Instagram) for the client, and also for myself as a guide. I always keep my mind open as I’m styling and shooting however, as I very much work intuitively, and I go with that flow thinking about ways to make optimal use of the light on the day, and how I can shoot the same thing in a different way - changing camera angle, point of view, or the overall setting.

As far as coming up with ideas for what to share on my Instagram account - it’s mostly spontaneous, but well considered. I’m not a huge planner as far as Instagram is concerned (I’m extremely impatient, I’m very much “in the moment!”), and I tend to decide on the day which image I’m going to share. There is one thing that dictates which image I will share, and that is grid cohesion - I use a grid planner, and I like to make sure my grid “feels comfortable”, usually by ensuring that I don’t have two similar images touching each other, that there is some contrast between each image, and that the colour and mood of each image ties in with at least one other in the 3x4 screen view. Phew! Okay, so a little obsessed with grid cohesion! But overall it depends on my mood, and what my story for the day is. There’s almost always a story.

In general, what I share on Instagram is about 40% client work, 40% personal projects, and 20% lifestyle images - the things I get up to with my family, the things that inspire me outside of the foodie-verse. Mostly nature.  

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This challenge is all about tabletop styling. You are so talented at food styling and creating mouth watering scenes. What are your three top tips for capturing these moments with food.
Oh thank you! I’m all about telling a good visual story - and storytelling is a huge part of creative food photography. The truth is we eat with our eyes first. We need to be able to activate all the senses solely with the eyes, and my job as a food photographer is to make sure this happens.

I don’t have three tips as such, but three things which I ultimately believe that if you nail, will change up your food photography forever. Understanding COMPOSITION, LIGHT and COLOUR. These are the fundamentals I teach in my workshops and coaching sessions, alongside learning to drive your camera SPECIFICALLY for food photography. You can have the fanciest camera, the most amazing props, and even the most incredible, mouth watering dishes to be shot, but without an understanding of these three things, along with the right camera settings, your styling and photography will often fall short of your expectations. 

Three quick tips based on these crucial components:

  • COMPOSITION - Rule of thirds, and negative space. 
    Not always, but often, I apply the rule of thirds to my photos. The rule of thirds is when you divide your image into an invisible 3 x 3 grid, and place your main subject at one of the points where the grid lines intersect. This creates a more naturally balanced and interesting composition, and also creates “negative space” (empty space) around the scene. Negative space draws the eye into the main subject, creating drama and a more dynamic image, and also allows the dish to breathe.

  • LIGHT - Use natural light from windows or glass doors.
    If shooting outside, shoot in a shaded area that’s close to light. If indoors, make sure all of your artificial lights are turned off otherwise they can cast an awful colour through your photo which is hard to correct in editing. If you need more light, and you’re using your camera in manual or aperture mode, increase the ISO (you can reduce any noise created by doing this in editing), and use white bounce cards (or white fabric) to bounce light around your scene. And really important - have your scenes lit from the side or top - not the bottom. You want your shadows to fall the right way. If shadows are falling above the dishes, your photo will actually look upside down. It’s a brain thing!

  • COLOUR - Cool it down! And use the colour wheel. 
    Complementary colours, which are colours on the opposite sides of the colour wheel to each other, enhance the story and give your image more depth. There’s a reason they work well together - they pair cool and warm tones together, eg. blue and orange.

    Having a “cooler” blue hued background will make your food look and feel fresh. This doesn’t mean your background should be blue, but in a cooler tone. So never use timber that is really orange toned - it will make your food look unappetising. A cooler toned timber is one that is worn, or has more grey-brown tones to it. You can also cool down the temperature in editing if need be. 

Together, complementary colours create a sense of movement. Warm colours come forward (most dishes are warm tones), and cool colours recede. So a cooler toned background will make an “orange” dish pop.

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Any tricks which aid in using food in your captures?
I have what I call a “Food Stylist Survival Kit” that I always have on hand. A container which houses: scissors, spray oil, olive oil, water spray bottle, duct tape, clamps, blu tack, toothpicks, wet and dry cloths (wet inside a ziplock bag if on location), lens cleaner, small paint brush and diffusers and reflectors (obviously these don’t fit into my box!). 

Every bit of food is so different to work with, and you often have to work fast otherwise it will spoil, melt, solidify, lose lustre, go limp, dry out, lose its form….it’s constantly a challenge to keep the food looking good without resorting to fakery like hairspray, shaving cream and shoe polish (!!!) which I am absolutely against. I don’t like food waste! So usually what happens is that I’ll set the scene, and get the lighting and camera settings right, and use a “stunt double” in place of the real dish. I’ll get the shots I need and then swap out the stunt double for the real thing at the last minute, so that the dish is fresh and looking its best. 

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What equipment do you use?
I have a Canon 6D Mark II and my go-to lenses for food photography are my 50mm f1.4 and 100mm macro f2.8. I also have a small mirrorless Panasonic Lumix GX7 with a 25mm f1.4 lens (equivalent to full frame 50mm lens) which I usually pop into my handbag when out and about. Like I said above though, it doesn’t really matter what camera you have, it’s knowing how to use it specifically for food photography, and understanding those three fundamentals - composition, light and colour. 

I don’t use flash often, I’m very much a natural light photographer, but I do use reflectors to my advantage - and these don’t have to be expensive either - just a simple large white card or silver object like a tinfoil tray will suffice! I use a tripod with a ball head attachment for ease of use and for different camera angles, and I have a boom that attaches to the tripod if I want to shoot overhead with a tripod (handy for when you want your hands free, or a steady shot). I use my phone as a remote using the Canon or Lumix app which is handy when I’m by myself and need to move things around the scene, or, be part of the shot too! 

My primary editing software is Lightroom Classic on my desktop, and if editing on my iPhone when I’m on the go, Lightroom mobile (the mobile version is free, I HIGHLY recommend). Transferring images from my camera to iPhone is easy using the camera app.

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Who eats all the food once you have finished styling up a storm? Your family must be very well fed...lucky them!
As well as myself (I can’t resist eating some of the delicious food that I shoot - zero self control!) it gets eaten by my family, extended family, husband’s work colleagues and friends! My husband is a primary school teacher at our children’s school, and often I will send him to work with big snack platters or cakes for his class. Sometimes there’s just TOO much food though, especially when I’m shooting multiple campaigns, and so some items go into the freezer for future shoots (apple pies, bread, and cakes especially). This is super handy for when I suddenly need a chocolate cake for an ice cream shoot or something.

As I mentioned above, I really don’t like food waste, and where possible everything that comes out of my kitchen is edible and not spoiled by anything fake. You do get some spoilage though, especially if something has been out in the studio all day, or has been reheated four times! In this case the spoiled food that really can’t be used again, or can’t be eaten or frozen, goes to feed the animals on our friends little farm, along with all of our household food scraps.  


Christall is the guest mentor for our July 1-7 creative challenge ‘Styled and Served’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Christall at @christall.lowe on Instagram. We invite you to join Christall and the rest of the Creatively Squared community for a delicious week of culinary creations. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Casting larger than life shadows with Angel Aguila

Meet your mentor Angel Aguila!

Angel is the clever creative behind @heydominic, her Instagram page dedicated to her adventures with her little one Dominic. As well as having a huge spectrum of creativity, Angel has a beautiful and creative way of playing with shadows. She is the queen of adding shadows and creating some truly magic images. From the simplicity of hands to some magical dragons, Angel from @heydominic is a shadow wiz. We chat with Angel about her creative journey and get some shadowy tips.

Q&A with Angel

Hey Angel! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our Creatively Squared shadowy challenge. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Thank you so much for having me! I’m so honored, really! Well, I picked up photography when I was a teenager. I actually worked for a photographer while in college back then. Now, I have a 3 year old son and became a stay at home mom after having him. That’s when someone suggested I make an Instagram account. At first it was just everyday images then I started using editing apps, and now to Photoshop edits. I spent a lot of time teaching myself and watching YouTube tutorials!

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

My creative process is all over the place. Some weeks I can’t think of a single thing and other weeks, I have so many ideas, I can’t finish them all. I have a notebook, as well as my phone notepad, full of ideas. Sometimes when I’m playing with my son or reading or watching something, the idea just pops in my head and I’ll jot it down. I use Pinterest and google as well for inspiration. I like to look at art and photography or even quotes to help me get creative.

This challenge is all about shadows in your images. You are so talented at playing with shadows. What are your three top tips for working with shadows?

Thank you! For one I’d say go against the rules! The general rule for creating shadows in Photoshop is never use a black brush. Shadows are usually brown in real life or a darker shade of the object you are creating the shadow for. If you are creating “shadow play” and the focus IS the shadow, use black! Number 2, always use the blend mode, “Multiply”. This particular blend mode will let your background show through a bit and give it a more realistic look. And, number 3, remember that shadows very rarely have hard edges. I always soften the edges with a Gaussian blur. Even if I want the shadow to be prominent (like in my Peter Pan edit), I still blur it slightly.

Do prefer to work with shadows as you create your images or do you add shadows in post production?

Definitely post for me. I find that I can really get creative when I have control of the way a shadow looks and the ability to make the shadow the main focus.

Any tricks / apps which aid in adding shadows to your captures?

Photoshop all the way! It is honestly the quickest, easiest way to create them.

What equipment do you use?

I use a Canon and the Canon app on my phone as a timer. Most of the time, I shoot my son by hand, and myself with the tripod and my timer on my phone. I use Photoshop and Lightroom for all of the post processing.

They say never work with children or animals but you often include your beautiful little boy in your captures. Do you have any tips to help us work with our little ones and include them more in our images?

Lol yes! Give them something to do! When Dominic was younger, I would give him snacks and he would be so busy with those that I could pose him and snap some photos quickly (a tripod helps when they’re younger because you can step out of the shot quickly). Now, I try to plan the shot in advance for the particular photo I need. Will he be holding something? Do I need him to look up or down? Things like that and I think of something he could hold that I can edit out or I’ll point to a photo I’ve tacked to the ceiling to get him to look or point up. I always set up the spot before bringing him in for a photo. And, sometimes I plan a photo around what he is into at the moment. Like the airplane photo. He had been mimicking airplanes for a while and I just took the opportunity to create what he was imagining.

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As creators we are always looking for ways to do our best work with whatever materials, low budget or environment we have available to us. What’s your number one home studio hack for those that are facing the same challenges?

I actually love this question! I live in a 1920’s house and the layout is exactly what you would imagine. Tight, old, sometimes dark. My biggest hack is I snapped practice photos around my house and I use the areas with the best lighting. I also have a go-to place in my house that is mine! A little area clear of toys etc. I painted it the color I use most often in my backgrounds and I have a little cube shelf with all my props. Look in second hand stores, little local shops etc. or just around your house! You’d be surprised at how many great props you can find just lying around.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

Oh yes definitely know that feeling. I think that at first I felt like I had to create photos that were always aesthetically perfect on my grid. I checkered it (dark and light), I tried keeping it dark then tried keeping it light. It was exhausting. Especially when your ideas don’t quite match up with your grid. So now, at this point, I’ve stopped worrying about it. I’m a creative so I can’t throw out brilliant ideas when they come to me just because they don’t “sit well” on my grid. Post whatever you love, be friends with your community, and you’ll find that others will love it just as much, even if you don’t have a perfect grid.

Angel xx

Angel is the guest mentor for our June 24 - 30 creative challenge ‘The Dark Side’ and will be featuring her favourite shadowy entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Angel @heydominic or simply click on each image to take you directly to the post on Instagram. We invite you to join Angel and the rest of the Creatively Squared community and lets explore whats lurking behind the shadows. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

The magic of light with Judith Khlk

Meet your mentor Judith Khlk!

Judith Khlk adds shimmer and sparkle in the most beautiful of ways. Her images are pure magic, whimsical visual poetry…one look through her instagram feed @judith.khlk can attest to that, inspiration galore. Judith takes us through what inspires her and how she adds that bit of lit magic to her images to take them to the next level.

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Q&A with Judith

Hey Judith! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our Creatively Squared challenge about ‘light ‘em up’, adding light to your images. We love it when you enter our challenges so we are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Thank you so much for inviting me to join you on this wonderful topic. My name is Judith, I’m a graphic designer and a mom of a two year old boy. Both are influencing me the most when taking pictures for my Instagram journey. I live in Dubai and after feeling at the beginning uninspired due to the lack of seasons and nature I embraced with time the unique beauty around me and the possibilities of creating whimsical pictures with objects of our daily life.

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

Most of my ideas are inspired by my surroundings. Places spark ideas, funny shaped fruits in the supermarket or swings on the playground. I try to create everything organically while we head out on little adventures. Most of the time I have my camera with me I’ll also have little props to play with and to use them in my pictures. Funnily enough when I head out with an idea already in mind, almost certainly, I’ll choose at the end a very different picture or perspective I had originally intended to take.

This challenge is all about adding light to your images. You are so talented at adding light to create magical and whimsical scenes. What are your three top tips for adding light?

My top tip of capturing beautiful natural light outdoors is to wait for the golden hour. The moment the sun is so low everything is covered with warm soft light is just magical. Another thing I like to do is to use battery operated fairy lights. I will put them in jars to add depth or to light up a small area. Last, don't be afraid to add luminosity in the editing process post production. Choose the mood you want to create and emphasize on that. Follow the natural light in your photography for an authentic feeling. You can always add bokeh, lense flares, sparkles of fairy dust for the extra tad of magic.

Do prefer to add light whilst taking your photos [fairy lights etc] or do you mainly do add light in post production?

I like to mix both. A picture is more authentic if there has been a real light source in it. While editing it I play with the intensity of that light and add more if I like the way it looks.

Find out more about how Judith creates her whimsical images in our Creative Journal post: Composing magical fairytale images with a touch of sparkle

Any tricks / apps which aid in adding light to your captures?

Bokeh Cam Fx or KiraKira+ are wonderful to add light spots and sparkles on your phone. When editing in Photoshop I like to use Overlay images that can be purchased on Etsy and many other platforms. They come in usual with a black background and when the blende mode is changed in Photoshop they turn transparent.

What equipment do you use?

I use a Nikon D750 for most of my pictures, sometimes my Iphone and a tripod when I take videos for cinemagraphs. I always edit in Photoshop and Lightroom.

They say never work with children or animals but you often include your beautiful little boy in your captures. Do you have any tips to help us work with our little ones and include them more in our images?

Thank you very much. Yes, just go with it. Don’t expect a certain picture, what I’ve really learned is that you rarely get the picture you want with kids but you get many, many better ones if you go with the flow. Give them something to hold and see how their play evolves. And if you have a wild child like me capture them sleeping. That’s actually the only time I can adjust, reshoot and rearrange the setting of a picture.

As creators we are always looking for ways to do our best work with whatever materials, low budget or environment we have available to us. What’s your number one home studio hack for those that are facing the same challenges?

Turn your surroundings into your advantage and make it your unique style. Everyone's life is different and our environment individual. Look for the beauty in nature where you live, take pictures in front of interesting doors you pass by every day or bring vintage teacups in your grandmas house to life. Try to shoot the same things from different perspectives with different light. At home I think to fix a camera to the ceiling is an incredible hack. Build a little cardboard box and place your camera inside. Unfortunately, this has never been an option for me as our ceilings are too high but the endless opportunities always spin in my mind especially for stop-motion videos and large flatlays.

You certainly make the most of living in Dubai and using your location as a backdrop. Do you have any tips for making the most of where you live?

Dubai is an incredible place for lifestyle photography, pictures of lovely cafes, architecture and amazing food. Not so much for my favourite, images of nature and flowers. Only when I stopped to chase something I can’t create I started to embrace the photo opportunities around me. High grass on the side of the road, big rocks at the beach or groceries in the supermarket for my flatlays. If you still run after something that is not given where you live, it’s good to pause and embrace the pretty corners around you.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

At the beginning most of my pictures were based on the afternoon naps of my son. And if he wouldn’t have outgrown them so quickly I probably still would take daily pictures of his slumbers. I knew very early that they won’t last very long and shortly after his second birthday he skipped them totally. That's the reason I’ve always created a variety of pictures, as my forced perspective images, flatlays or outdoor photography. With time those kind of pictures have taken over and I only post sometimes sleeping scenes that I take now in the mornings.

Judith xx

Judith is the guest mentor for our June 17-23 creative challenge ‘Light ‘em up’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Judith at @judith.khlk or simply click on each image to take you directly to the post on Instagram. We invite you to join Judith and the rest of the Creatively Squared community and light things up. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Getting in the mood with Barbora Kurcova

Meet your mentor Barbora Kurcova!

Barbora Kurcova sure knows how to bring the mood to her images. Barbora, or @herinternest as you might know her, is an active member of the Creatively Squared community.

Q&A with Barbora

Hey Barbora! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our Creatively Squared challenge about mood lighting. We love just love it when you enter our challenges so we are thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am so glad to be part of this amazing community, so thank you! I am Czech living in Oslo, Norway. I work full time in a regular nine to five and in my free time I explore and develop my creativity. I love photography as a tool to share my thoughts, ideas, knowledge and views on the world but I am passionate about so many things, perhaps that is why I rarely run out of ideas for my photography. My biggest passion at the moment is conscious and sustainable living and finding simple ways how can we all do just a little bit better.

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

For me inspiration and ideas are all about being conscious and having your mind and eyes opened as ideas are everywhere around, even in the most boring everyday objects or activities.

I would say my creative process goes two ways: either I have a visual idea, an image in my head and try to make it happen, find the best location/background, props and lighting to make it live, or I have something I want to say and I try to figure out how could I visualise that idea or message. But in general it is a lot of failed ideas and a lot of figuring out how to make things work, so patience is needed!

This challenge is all about using lighting to alter the mood of your photo. What are your top tips for capturing a moody image?

The moody image is all about a story and story-telling. Think about the emotion, moment or situation you are trying to communicate with your photography. The light, texture and movement are in my opinion three key elements to making each photograph a bit more moody. I see moody images as a bit of a theatrical, movie-like images capturing moments rather than things. It is about translating the three dimensional mood full of amazing light, scents, sounds, into flat image whilst still managing to create a bit of mystery and tension.

Light is key to great photography in general and especially if we want to capture or create certain mood. But moody photographs definitely don't need to be dark! It is more about looking for contrast, shadows, depth but most importantly light fitting the mood be that soft morning light or harsh direct sunlight. I prefer daylight myself but candle light or strong flashlight can create interesting effects too!

Different textures really help to bring depth into the photography and also different layers of light as it will break in many different ways. And adding movement is amazing tool to translate the idea of specific mood into image! It doesn't mean that there need to be something moving, like twirling skirt or hair blowing in the air (although that is of course amazing). It might just mean that instead of organising flower petals into beautiful arrangements, you just through them from the height to let them fall on the surface more naturally!

What equipment do you use?

I do not believe that the equipment is what makes the great photography and try to keep it as simple as possible. For the longest time I was an Olympus PEN E-PL7 girl so most of my photographs up to today are taken by that camera with a 17mm lens. Unfortunately my trusty ‘photofriend’ said goodbye a couple of weeks ago and I upgraded to Canon. So at the moment I have Canon EOS M50 and a couple of lenses, 32mm for portraits, 22mm for more street photography and the kit lense 15-50mm which I carry with me on a lazy day as it is a really good overall lense. It is a fantastic camera but I still have so much to learn to quite understand it, it feels like I am starting my photography journey from the beginning the old ways don’t quite work the same.

As I am working on a one big project now, I upgraded to better tripod but have been using the cheapies they had in the shop up until now. Now I have one which can tilt 90° and is great help for flatlays! I can use an app on my phone as a remote control to connect to my camera which is super handy especially for self-portraits! And when it comes to editing, I am really basic as editing is not what I prefer to spend my time on, I rather try to take the photograph just right and usually just enhance a bit of contrast or saturation in VSCO.  

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Are there any techniques you use to enhance the moodiness of your captures?

I suppose there are two layers to it: before production and post-production. When I want to create moody image I usually look for beautiful natural light, often next to the window where the shadows are soft yet dramatic and I can play with where I want my light to hit the subject. You should definitely try it yourself and see what works for your idea, but in case of portraits, facing the source of light (window) or looking away or side ways will have very different impact on the photography! It is all about what is visible, what is hidden, what is in the spotlight and telling the story.

When it comes to post-production, I usually play with highlights, shadows and contrast to make the image feel just right. Maybe you want to create more soft, mysterious feeling so fading the image can help a lot, or maybe you want to highlight the dramatic shadows and then upping the contrast can help.

You have an imaginative and beautiful knack of taking self portraits. Do you have any tips to encourage people to take their own self portraits?

Thank you so much! If you would ask me two years ago if I would put my face on the Internet and enjoy it, I would laugh for sure. I think the biggest “push” for me came when I shaved my head about a year and a half ago and suddenly realise I have nowhere to hide, my face felt so bare. So I started to accept it more and show it more in the creative portraits, using my face as canvas (sometimes literally). I have actually written a free e-book with all the tips how to start and feel comfortable in front of the camera as I got asked so much!

To be very honest, I do really hate my photos being taken and take 99% of my photos myself, because I know how I look the best, what are “my angles” and no one is stressing me. It is an intimate moment, almost like a self-care routine really and I absolutely recommend to find a quiet time to start learning!

In general I would say take your time and way to feel comfortable and take it one step at a time. There is no need to have your face out there if it makes you feel any kind of negative emotions but if you really want to try, start small. Maybe first take portrait from a big distance, landscape with a tiny figure. Next photo could be you hiding your face with beautiful bouquet or big autumn leaf but a bit closer and slowly you will work your way to “close” portrait. And before you know it, your first portrait is out there!

What’s your number one home studio hack for working with limited space and resources?

Keep everything and think outside the box! I am a bit of creative hoarder so if I have a nice shoe box, wrapping paper, leftover flooring, sample wallpaper, whatever can come photo handy, I keep it. That way I have a lot of material to work with, mostly really “garbage” which can help me create virtual reality in my home. It is not about tricking people into thinking my life is perfect, it is just about getting the visual idea right. When trying to create serene floral portrait, messy kitchen in the background is just not going to work. So when the day is dark and I want to create something, I take out my wooden floor boards hidden under the sofa, put them on the window sill and create small home studio in no time!

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

What a great question! I had another IG profile or five before but when I started Her Internest, it  was more intentional, with goal to reach magical 10k followers. I was very present, posting every day and really putting a lot of effort into posting and connecting and I loved it. I grew about 20k in one year I think and then realised I do not want to grow much more as I was not able to communicate with people as before and the amount of comments and DMs became impossible to handle with full time job (thanks to my amazingly engaged audience). And the community and connection is what matters to me the most, sharing my creative visions and ideas with people who spend their time receiving my content is so valuable to me.

Fast forward to about one year ago, I stopped focusing on growth and started to focus on finding my true self and true style, what would I do or post if there was no likes, what would I create if there was no Instagram, those sorts of questions filled my mind. And to be very honest, I am still there figuring it out, sharing my journey with my followers. I am very purpose driven, conscious person so I would hate to waste people's times by posting ”whatever”. What is the next step, I don't know, but as Instagram is my hobby and not a source of income (except few gifted items which I am very grateful for) I don't feel too pressured to figure it out. And when I fall out of love with Instagram, I always try to reconnect to my own ideas and creativity and get out of the “comparison, everyone is better than me” Instagram loop. Focusing on doing something creative and sharing later always works!

Barbora xx

Barbora is the guest mentor for our June 10-16 creative challenge ‘In the Mood’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Barbora at @herinternest, her website or simply click on each image to take you directly to the post on Instagram. We invite you to join Barbora and the rest of the Creatively Squared community and get in the mood. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Chasing sunshine with Hannah Argyle

Meet your mentor Hannah Argyle!

Hannah Argyle’s light filled captures will inspire anyone. The talented photographer lives in Northampton in England’s East Midlands with her family including her two beautiful boys and the rather large Albert the rescue dog who all feature as her muses. Hannah has an incredible eye for capturing light, anywhere from a simple window vignette in her Victorian terraced house, a beautiful wall with a perfectly cast shadow to the golden magic of the countryside. Did I also mention that Hannah is partial to a still life and flatlay arrangement. She certainly has something to inspire everyone and I personally have been a long time follower on her journey.

We are so lucky Hannah is very generous to share her tips with us and what she has learnt on her photography journey. We had a chat with the lovely [not to mention modest] Hannah to find out more about what inspires her.

Q&A with Hannah

Hey Hannah! Thanks for joining us to mentor our Creatively Squared challenge all about lighting, our community requested you many times over so we are thrilled to have you here. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Thanks so much for having me! I live in Northampton in the UK, in a Victorian house that is very much a work in progress! I'm a Mum to two boys, who you may see pop up in my feed from time to time. I've been a full time photographer for about 3 years, working mainly to create content for brands here on Instagram and on paid collaborations on my feed. and I also offer tuition sessions in my studio here in Northampton.

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

My creative process is very much lead by what "ingredients" I have to hand. I love photographing nature, so my work tends rot be very seasonal. I'm always looking for something to make an image just a little bit special, whether it's the frosty morning, or an autumn mist, or a beautiful golden hour... these conditions can turn any landscape or scene into a dream world. Because I don't live in a particularly photogenic place, I have learned to make the most of beautiful light or conditions. Aside from that, I love to photograph my home, my travels and my kids, and I try to go with wherever the mood takes me, and not limit myself to what may be more popular on Instagram!

You have a beautiful talent for capturing light. As a photographer, what are your top three tips you would give us aspiring image takers to capture the sunlight? Any dos and don’ts?

Thank you very much! Soft light is easier to work with ie. light filtered by clouds, or when the sun is low in the sky. I'm completely self taught and frustration lead me to find out what I wanted to know, after many a ruined photoshoot. Strong sunlight will create high contrasts and dark shadows, it's therefore difficult to expose the shot and can be unflattering with portraits, leaving dark shadows under the eyes and nose. 

My biggest tip would be practise, constantly. Figure out what went wrong, and what you could try next time. Try going out at golden hour and shooting towards the sun (backlit) to create a dreamy effect. Experiment with different angles and figure out which placement of the sun gives you the desired effect. 

If you have no choice but to shoot in the midday sun, try seeking shade. If you cut off the light from above (for example if you are under a tree) you will get that more flattering side light directed onto a face. 

I find each season the light has a different quality, and the longer I have been a photographer, the more I understand different lighting conditions and which are my favourite to work with! I am obsessed with light, I'm always watching what it's doing, where it enters a space and which direction it travels in throughout the day. The first thing I do when I travel with my job is work out where the sun will rise and set, and therefore which locations will work to shoot at which time of day. 

What equipment do you use? Any tricks which aid in enhancing the lighting of your captures?

I primarily use a Nikon D850, and a variety of different lenses. My favourite lenses are probably 50mm, 35mm and 70-200mm. I use a tripod for all my self portraiture, and I set my camera on a timer to take 9 shots. I'm yet to experiment with a remote shutter, I've just got used to doing it on a timer and it works for me! Not knowing when the exactly the camera will click gives my shots some of their spontaneous feel I think. I worry I'd lose this if I had a remote in my hand. 

I shoot in RAW which I think is the single most important thing you can do to optimise the light in your images. I edit in Lightroom on my laptop, or Lightroom mobile for iPhone images. I'm a believer in getting the light right before taking the image, and I think it's really pretty impossible to correct bad lighting through editing. I do like to reduce the highlights in the sky in my pictures though, to try and avoid a completely blown out sky.

Your account has a beautiful mix of countryside scenes, interior shots [with cameos from yourself, your boys and your rescue dog of course] along with floral flatlays and vignettes...do you have a favourite to photograph?

Thanks so much, I really like to mix it up! I do it for my own sake really, I think I'd get bored if I limited myself to one genre. Sometimes I think Instagram would like me better if I stuck to one thing, haha! In the end though it's got to be fun and to be able to maintain an account for a number of years, it's important to feel passionate about what you shoot. 

My favourite thing to photograph is probably my kids, closely followed by nature - wild flowers, golden hours, misty mornings etc. Having said that I really enjoy styling too!

What are your tips for successfully mixing these genres on your Instagram feed?

I guess keeping a constant style, colour palette and editing is all key to being able to post all sorts of pictures. It's the greatest complement when people say to me that they knew a picture was mine before they even saw the name. 

Do you have any tips for good lighting for your beautiful vignettes and flatlays?

I always use natural light from a window. Again my tip would be to learn to watch the light, look at the way it falls across objects in a room, what time of day you like it the best etc. If you have a flat lay close to a window, you'll have a more evenly lit image, if you move it further away you'll have moodier lighting. Once you know the light you can play with it, make long shadows a part of the composition, or use dappled light or strong contrasting light to create a really striking image. 

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

My account began as simply a way to keep myself amused and feel creative again after having my second baby. Having followers wasn't an aim, and it being a full time job was certainly not something I ever imagined! As it's grown there has obviously come a lot more pressure, and sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming. I think many of us have made mistakes, done collaborations we wouldn't want to do again, posted picture we wouldn't post now! I've always been very open and honest on Instagram, and I've done my best to stay true to myself and carry on regardless with what I love doing, in spite of the algorithm! Having said that I'm also quite guarded about my children, and my life isn't an open book to anyone who chooses to dip in and out. I think it's a difficult thing to negotiate having a genuine voice and telling our story, yet still protecting our children and not leaving a digital footprint that they have no say in. I'm not necessarily getting it right but it's something I'm very conscious of.

Hannah xx

Hannah is the guest mentor for our June 3-10 creative challenge ‘Chase the Sun’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Hannah at @hannahargyle, her website or simply click on each image to take you directly to the post on Instagram. We invite you to join Hannah and the rest of the Creatively Squared community for some creative fun in the sun. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Meet the Creatives: Bronte Huskinson

Meet Bronte!

I’m Bronte but most people call me Bee. I’m an Instagrammer, a blogger and a writer. I’m all about trying to live as kindly as I possibly can, whether that is being nice to people or being kinder to the planet.

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Q&A with Bronte

You are best known on Instagram for being a bookworm, for those of us that are new to the term can you tell us what ‘Bookstagramming’ is?
Bookstagramming is essentially a community on Instagram that take photos of books. This can be anything from a simple flatlay to marvellous Photoshop creations using books as props.

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We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?
Oh gosh, my account has changed dramatically overtime! I started off on Instagram just posting book flatlays (they’re still up on my account if you fancy having a bit of a nosey!) and over-time I developed into doing more creative photos. I started appearing in them a lot more and Photoshop became a bit of a main staple in my photos. But after a while, I felt like I wasn’t being ‘me’ anymore. When I started the account, I had no idea that it would become my full-time job, and I was much more than someone who liked books. That’s when I decided to do my rebrand and change my name from ‘bookishbronte’ to ‘frombeewithlove’. This was very freeing for me and was something that needed to happen, but I also felt like I had no direction anymore. That I was just posting photos for the sake of posting them. So I decided to go back to why I started the account in the first place; to show off my writing. And now I am doing exactly that! Each month, I theme my photos around a short story I write at the end of the month. It’s early days, but so far I’m loving it! It makes me feel like my account actually have a purpose, and the location changes every month so I’ll no longer be getting bored of my photos like I was before.

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Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?
This is something else which has changed a lot. But it’s always about finding the right inspiration. Previously, I used to take a lot of inspiration from other Instagrammers and Pinterest. I’d find a concept that I would like and somehow make it my own. But now I don’t really look to other Instagrammers for inspiration simply because I think that if a photo already exists on Instagram, why would you want to recreate it? I still look to Pinterest for inspiration, but it’s not for concept ideas anymore, it’s more for poses. I absolutely love looking at editorial fashion shoots for posing ideas because they’re always so unusual! I also really love taking inspiration from certain decades – I’m a sucker for the 60s!

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What equipment do you use?
I use a Canon EOS 200D with an ef 16-35mm f/4l lens. I used to use a 50mm kit lens, but since I’ve been doing a lot more outside photography, a wider lens means you can get so much wider! I also think that natural lighting is the best lighting, and I never really use any lighting equipment unless it is a flatlay of objects that create really harsh shadows. I mainly use Lightroom and Photoshop for editing.

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It seems you have quite the knack for doing creative and whimsical edits in Photoshop. How did you get started?
I mainly got started with doing edits in Photoshop because I got bored of the photos I was doing and I needed something to re-spark my love for photo taking. I’m the kind of person who’s always looking to do something different, and at the time, I wasn’t seeing many bookstagram accounts who were using photoshop. So I started doing really simple Photoshop editing which I taught myself to make things float. Then things got a bit out of hand and crazy before I calmed it down again. I always think Photoshop looks best when it is kept very simple, especially for beginners.

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As creators we are always looking for ways to do our best work with whatever materials or environment we have available so we loved your blog post on ‘How to create great photos when you don’t have an Instagrammable house’ What’s your number one home studio hack for those that are facing the same challenges?
Of course, it always helps when you have a plain white wall but I’m not about to go and ask you to buy some paint and start painting your walls haha! If you can, I would think about investing in some backdrops – they don’t have to be anything fancy, they could just be large white card or plain bedsheets! But if you’re not looking to buy anything, I would really just use what you already have and use it to your advantage. Do you have a colourful wall in your house? Use it! I do a lot of overhead shots on the bed, and these are really simple and easy to do, especially if you don’t have an instagrammable house.

You have started your own book club on Instagram @girlswhocanbookclub, can you tell us about it and how we can get involved?
The Girls Who Can Book Club celebrates all things women. It’s a community run by women who feature books written by women. We cover a lot of different genres from early readers and beyond. It’s really simple to get involved, all you have to do is follow @girlswhocanbookclub where at the beginning of the month we announce what books we are all reading and you just read along!

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We can see from your blog that you have a passion for writing as well as reading, do you have plans to write your own book?

I do! I’ve recently started posting my writing on Wattpad which I update weekly. I also publish a short story at the end of the month on my blog, which is loosely based on the photos I’ve been posting that month. I do have plans to release a book in the future too. Your personal mantra is ‘self-love, empowerment and kindness’ I think we could all do with a healthy dose of all three, how do you stay positive and inspired? I think it’s important to note that it’s not possible to stay positive 100% of the times. There’re definitely days where I feel like I can’t do anything right or the world is crumbling beneath me – that’s completely normal! But I’ve always been a very optimistic person who believes that everything that happens to me has happened for a reason. Even the bad things are there to teach me something. Seeing the good side to everything is just part of my nature. Staying inspired, however, is something that I used to find really difficult. Before I decided to start basing my feed around a short story, I found it super hard to stay inspired because I didn’t have a direction. I’m the sort of person who needs to have a reason why I’m doing something, otherwise I start to feel quite lost. It also doesn’t help that I get bored easily, so now that my photos are going to be changing every month, that’s definitely helped me to stay inspired and excited about what I’m doing. My advice would be to not limit yourself to what you create. Don’t be afraid to change it up and experiment, especially if you’re unhappy with what you’re creating and just creating for the sake of your followers. Keep experimenting until you find something that makes you excited.


Bronte is the guest host of our ‘The Life of Pages’ themed photo challenge this week. Find out how you can participate here - Creative Challenge Entry Details

You can see more of Bronte’s photos on her Instagram account @frombeewithlove




Meet the Creatives: Tracey Carroll

Meet Tracey!

Hi, my name is Tracey and I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I am married to the kindest man, Tony, we have known each other for over 25 years, we met while working in a restaurant and have been together for sixteen years. We have a beautiful daughter Charlotte who is ten, we also share our home with a little Jack Russell cross Dusty, he's the sweetest!

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I am a classically trained Chef and I worked for many years in Restaurants in Adelaide, I also ran a catering business 'Lemon Tree Catering' with my closest and dearest friend Shannon.

Now days I am so blessed to be working as a Photographer, recipe developer and stylist for a fabulous, family owned food business here in South Australia. I am so lucky to be able to combine my love of food and cooking with my passion for photography and styling... it's my dream job!

In my spare time I love to spend time with Tony and Charlotte at the beach, I also love my garden and spend many hours tending to it especially my beautiful roses. I am learning ceramics at a local arts society its so much fun and I really enjoy it!

I have always been interested in photography, Instagram really ignited this passion again for me a few years ago, it’s been a fantastic platform for my creativity and along the way I've met so many lovely and like minded souls, who would've thought that a little app could make such a difference in ones life!

Q&A with Tracey Carroll

How would you describe your creative style?
I would say my creative style is light and bright, I like to photograph with natural light.

I also love to forage! its usually the basis for my photos, I carry a pair of secateurs in my car, I'm always quick to pull over and snip a few branches from the roadside!

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Photographing our everyday life is also important to me, I always tell my daughter..."you'll appreciate Mummy taking all of these photos one day!" I love looking at our family photographs, reminders of happy and special days.

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What kind of equipment do you use?
I mostly use my Canon 6D DSLR with a 50mm lens and sometimes a 28-100mm lens but I still use my iPhone on occasions as well. I edit my images in Lightroom Classic CC

Can you tell us why the theme ‘My moments with flowers’ resonates with you?
I absolutely love this theme, flowers are something I truly love! I always have fresh blooms in the house, anything from a small posy to a big huge bunch of foraged loveliness! it just makes me feel happy! I’ve been lucky enough to meet some very talented folk through Instagram and Lisel from Belle Bouquets is amazing! I absolutely adore her work and the paper flowers are exquisite!

Can you share 3 of your favourite images you have created and why you love them?

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I love this image of my beautiful daughter, although you can't see her face I think it really captures her soft, gentle and sometimes serious nature. I also really like this soft afternoon light.

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This was taken with my iPhone on a day we spent in the Adelaide Hills with our closest friends, it was the perfect day...fig picking followed by a picnic by the lake, a really happy and special day!

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My favourites -David Austin Roses. I liked the softness of this one, the tones and the depth of field. This image was taken with my DSLR, it’s always exciting to capture the first beautiful blooms of spring! I'm trying to push myself to take more "moody" photographs, its something that I'm working on, but I quite liked this one of a David Austin in the garden in the early morning after a rain shower.


Tracey is the guest host of our ‘My moments with flowers’ themed photo challenge this week. Find out how you can participate here - Creative Challenge Entry Details

You can see more of Tracey’s photos on her Instagram account @traceyc1968