Food styling tips: How to compose your tabletop photo using the golden ratio


If you are a lover of food styling and want tome tips for your tabletop it's handy to remember some simple composition basics. There is the Rule of Thirds theory, where your content should only take up a certain portion of your composition, but what we will be discussing today is the slightly more complex Golden Ratio.

The Golden Ratio is a sweeping spiral that allows the eye to dance around your image and take in all of the elements before settling on the focal point. Below you can see an example of a Golden Ratio diagram demonstrating the lines you can follow in your styling and use as a guide to place your items.

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The golden ratio makes it possible to create a well balanced image in which the viewer comes to the focal point faster and enjoys a better aesthetic experience.

I've noticed during my experience in food styling that the success of many styling compositions have to do with how our brain works. Our brains will look for familiar shapes and patterns and due to this, some arrangements will be instantly more pleasing than others.

How to use the Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio spiral can flow in any direction you like and can be stretched or compacted as you see fit. Experiment with arranging the items in your image to flow the eye around in different ways. You can see below how using the same aesthetic theory but repositioning the same props can completely alter the dynamics of the image.


Sweep left to right

As well as the Golden Ratio, you can apply other baseline shapes to direct the composition of your image that will also trigger a positive response in the brain. In this image below the eye is lead from the left to the right which feels very natural to look at. Our brain is used to absorbing information in this manner, as with a book in which you read the pages from left to right. 

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Try a triangle 

Triangles can also make a pleasing base shape for your composition. This example uses just the plates to move the eye around the image but you could apply the triangular shape to more items  - and even the food itself - on your table.

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Get the most out of your shoot

While you are experimenting with your composition don't forget to get a few detail and alternate angle shots of your set up. Food styling isn't all about the composition - it's all about capturing those delicious flavours! 


Although many magazines and platforms like Pinterest favour vertical shots, make a point of getting some horizontal snaps as well.

You may want to experiment with different plates and pros within the one shoot. Sometimes it is even best to keep your linens and plates really simple to allow the food to really shine. After all that is the hero of your shot so you don't want it getting lost amongst all the other elements of your image.

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Remember - once the the dish is already in your stomach you can’t get any more photos of it so make sure you capture it from all angles.


About the Author

Lucie Beck is a Dutch photographer and food stylist. She regularly shares photography, styling and composition tups on her Instagram account @luciebeck and blog 

What should your next camera be? DSLR vs Mirrorless

One of the questions we get most often here at Creatively Squared is ‘what type of camera should I get?” There are hundreds of cameras and lenses to choose from on the market today and two of the most popular formats for professionals and amateurs alike are DSLR and Mirrorless. So how do you know which one is right for you? The aim of this blog is not to tell you which type of camera is better than the other, it’s about finding one that works with your style (and budget!) and helps you capture the photographs you want. We are going to break down the basics for you and show you some visual examples to help you decide.

What is a DSLR Camera?

The most popular choice for professional photographers, DSLRs use the same design as the original 35mm film cameras or SLR. Inside a DLS camera the light is reflected onto the lens via a mirror and up into the viewfinder for you to preview your shot. When you take the photo the mirror flips up and the shutter opens allowing the light to hit the sensor and capture your image.

What is a Mirrorless Camera?

Mirrorless cameras are a smaller, cheaper option in the market that still offers some high quality specs and interchangeable lenses. With a mirrorless camera the light passes through the lens and directly onto the image sensor. This captures a preview of the image you are taking to display on the rear screen and some models also offer a screen behind an electronic viewfinder that you can put your eye up to like a traditional camera.


Which one is right for you?

Consider a DSLR if:

  • You want more options and add ons, choosing a DSLR gives you access to a number of lenses from many manufacturers.
  • You need a camera that performs better in low light
  • You have a bigger budget to invest in equipment
  • You need a camera with a longer battery life - No power is used at all if you hold the camera up and look through the viewfinder which makes it possible to get up to a thousand pictures or more on a single battery charge

Consider a mirrorless if:

  • You need something more portable for travel or spontaneous photography
  • You like to shoot video
  • You need to take rapid shots - the simpler mechanics of mirrorless cameras allow them to shoot more photos per second, at higher shutter speeds.
  • You need a more affordable option
  • You want to see a preview on screen - a mirrorless camera allows you to see the shot you are taking more accurately and any adjustments you make to the exposure etc will be represented on screen prior to taking the photo.

Do you really NEED a new camera?

With advancements in smartphone technology and more megapixels than you know what do with, one could argue that you don’t really need to invest in a fancy camera with interchangeable lenses. If photography is just a hobby for you then the camera in your pocket could do the job just fine. In fact, even some of the professionals amongst us shoot on their smartphones - a few of the stylists work with us at Creatively Squared shoot client work on their phones! Taking a great photo really comes down to your skills in composition, lighting and editing - having a fancy rig and lens isn’t going to make much of a difference without mastering those other techniques first.

Have you got a camera that you want to use more often? Why not start with our blog post "Manual Photography Tips: How to get yo' ass off auto" by Photographer Leah Ladson

So what does everyone else use?

We have rounded up a few creative gurus from our community and asked them about their equipment and here’s how it stacks up.


 Amy Shamblen - Canon EOS 550D  See more from Amy at  amyshamblen

Amy Shamblen - Canon EOS 550D
See more from Amy at amyshamblen

 Tarnya Harper - Nikon D300  See more from Tarnya at  one.little.harper

Tarnya Harper - Nikon D300
See more from Tarnya at one.little.harper

 Dani Barrois - Pentax K3 See more from Dnai at  danibarrois

Dani Barrois - Pentax K3
See more from Dnai at danibarrois

 Marisa Young - Canon EOS 550D  See more from Marisa at  marisa.young

Marisa Young - Canon EOS 550D
See more from Marisa at marisa.young

Team Mirrorless

 Melinda Lee - Sony A5000 See more from Melinda at  m3linda_lee

Melinda Lee - Sony A5000
See more from Melinda at m3linda_lee

 Christall Lowe - Lumix Gx7 See more from Christall at  christall.lowe

Christall Lowe - Lumix Gx7
See more from Christall at christall.lowe

 Caroline Pears - Olympus OM-D See more from Caroline at  pears39

Caroline Pears - Olympus OM-D
See more from Caroline at pears39

 Karen Baker - Fujifilm X-T1 See more from Karen at  karenbakercreative

Karen Baker - Fujifilm X-T1
See more from Karen at karenbakercreative


Team Smartphone

 Jodi Burnham - See more of Jodi's photos on Instagram at  jodianne_

Jodi Burnham - See more of Jodi's photos on Instagram at jodianne_

 Bettina Brent - Seem more of Bettina's photos on Instagram at  bettina_brent

Bettina Brent - Seem more of Bettina's photos on Instagram at bettina_brent

 Gina Gooi - See more of Gina's photos on Instagram at  _hello_g_

Gina Gooi - See more of Gina's photos on Instagram at _hello_g_

 Natasha Seager - See more of Natasha's photos on Instagram at  natashainthecity

Natasha Seager - See more of Natasha's photos on Instagram at natashainthecity

Remember - cameras don’t take pictures - you do!

From looking at these examples alone it is easy to see that you can get great results no matter what type of equipment you use. Before you go rushing out to buy a new camera why not take the time to invest in developing your creativity and technical skills first. You might find that the resulting improvements in your photography negate the need for fancy equipment that may be only marginally better than what you already have.

Stylist secrets: Behind the scenes of a styled photo shoot

As many of you will already know, a lot of planning and prep work is required to execute the perfect styled photo - especially when you are shooting to a clients brief and capturing images of their products. The end result might look effortless but sourcing props and planning each shot can be a lengthy process - not to mention the clean-up afterwards!

Join us as we go behind the scenes with Jinny from The Urban Quarters as she plans and executes a styled photo shoot for Creatively Squared client Party Kit

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Step 1: Sketch out your concepts on paper

Your shoot has the best chance of success if you make a plan for all the shots you want to take first. That way you can maximise the output of each scene and get the most out of your props and minimise the time you need to spend shooting. By having a good ol' brainstorm you can take the time to think clearly about a bunch of different ideas before you shoot and have more to work with on the day.

That's not to say that everything needs to be planned though, a lot of the best shots happen in the moment and something that looks good on paper may not translate so well in real life. Think of the planning stage as a way to organise all your ideas in the one place so you know which concepts to prioritise during the shoot.

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Step 2: Get your shopping list together and organise your props

Most photo shoots will require you to purchase some special items to help bring your stories to life. The planning process and moodboarding can help you identify which colours and items you want to feature in your image. Purchasing props doesn't have to be an expensive exercise and often you can rely on items that you already have at home or even in your pantry to help accentuate your images

Jinny likes to put an extra personal touch on her shoots by making a lot of her own props. These cupcakes and donuts in the image above are decorated to complement a tropical and safari themed party kit. To get this effect you don't have to be a whiz in the kitchen, in this next image you will also see how Jinny has cut out some monstera leaves out of paper which is a simple and clever way to add some serious tropical vibes without much expense.

 Decorated donuts turn into cute little beetles - perfect for a Safari themed party!

Decorated donuts turn into cute little beetles - perfect for a Safari themed party!

 Using inexpensive paper cut outs to complement a Tropicana themed party kit.

Using inexpensive paper cut outs to complement a Tropicana themed party kit.


Step 3. Clean and flatten out backdrops

A lot of vinyl and paper backdrops are stored rolled up so it is important to start flattening them out prior to your shoot so that they are nice and flat before you start. This is also a good time to do an equipment check and make sure that your camera batteries are charged and that your memory cards have enough room to complete the shoot. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a set and have to stop to recharge or back up your shots.

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4. Get all the items per shoot together in one place

Before you start the shoot you should get everything you are going to need out and ready so that you can make the most of your time on set. With many of us relying on natural light you may not have long in your well-lit area of choice so making your all your items are out and ready to be photographed is vital to ensure all of your shots have consistent lighting. 

If you are a natural lighting enthusiast (aren't we all?) you might want to read Jinny's tips on 'How to take whimsical photos using window light' for some great tips and techniques

With four different Party Kits to shoot it was extra important for Jinny to have everything out of the box and ready to go. You can see in the images above how she grouped all of the kits with the appropriate props ready to be shot. Below is the finished shots with a mix of Party Kit items supplied by the client and props that Jinny sourced or created herself - it's the perfect way to show potential party planners how good their event could look!


Step 5: Style and snap your heart out 

Now that everything is all organised and ready to roll all you have to do is get creative and have fun! To get the most out of your shoot time make sure you have eaten and are well rested - unfortunately you will need to save some of your energy for cleaning up and editing your photos.

Jinny has put so much work into this shoot behind the scenes and the images she created are so clever and unique as a result

 Finished shot for Tropicana themed Party Kit featuring hand made props and decorations

Finished shot for Tropicana themed Party Kit featuring hand made props and decorations

How much work do you put into your styled photo shoots? Are you the type of person who likes to plan each shot out in detail or do you like to wing it and create as you go? Let us know how you like to work in the comments below.

If you love styling and photography and like would to join the team at Creatively Squared we are always looking for passionate creatives to work with our clients. Apply online today!

The key challenges Creative Industries are facing in 2018

Whichever way you look at it, creativity is a commodity. In the distant past, artists, poets, playwrights and musicians had to rely on the patronage of wealthy aristocrats to scrape a living. Or better yet, to have been born into wealth themselves so that they could indulge their creative urges without having to worry about where their next meal was coming from.

Over time it became easier to be professionally creative. Entire industries erupted around talent in the 20th century, allowing people to earn a crust by expressing their imaginations. And like any job, you would expect to be paid for any work you did.


Modern Times

Then came the internet age, and suddenly everything changed.

Words, images, music, video footage; anything and everything can be uploaded, shared, distributed and consumed online. And while this level of access is an amazing thing in many ways, the value placed on creativity has plummeted as a result.

Value Proposition

With so much content flooding the internet every second of every day, the idea of any creative endeavour being valuable has been eroded. What’s more, freelancers have shot themselves in the foot to a degree by agreeing to work for free just to get their foot in the door. The promise of ‘exposure’, no matter how minor, can be enough to lure newcomers into underselling themselves, and in doing so leaving everyone in their industry worse off.

This has the added consequence of meaning that creative work is something that only people from privileged backgrounds can afford to get into. If you’ve got bills to pay and an empty bank account, working for free for months or years until your career gains momentum is not an option. Are we heading back to the days of creative people only coming from the upper classes, or needing the support of benefactors?


Taking the fight to clients that do not pay freelancers is tough, but some people have stepped up to the plate. The Sh*t List is a great example, allowing creatives to name and shame the companies that have let them down to act as a warning to others.

Why pay someone to design you a logo, create compelling imagery for your ad campaign, or come up with a cool concept for your article when you can appropriate some existing content from the web?

Ok, so the word ‘appropriate’ is a fancy way of saying ‘steal’. And theft is all too common, with brands of all sizes being guilty of purloining the fruits of someone else’s labour.

More worrying still is the trend of the ‘race to the bottom’, which basically means that with so much competition in the freelance marketplace, people are being forced to work for lower rates of pay. Add in expectations of working for free in exchange for ‘exposure’ and the whole climate can seem thoroughly toxic at the moment.

So let’s delve into these issues a little deeper and see if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for people who want to earn their keep with the things they create.

Brands With Light Fingers

The story is a familiar one for people who work in the creative industries. You capture a great photo or develop an intriguing project which you then share via your social media platform of choice. Instagram and Twitter are two of the biggest places to get your work seen, so they also tend to appeal to those annoying ‘aggregators’ who are on the lookout for fresh content to snatch and pass off as their own, or re-post with a minor credit.

If your post takes off, it will attract their attention and can quickly be disseminated globally. Reddit can fuel the fire and bring even more morally dubious individuals and brands into focus. Soon you’ll get other people alerting you to the fact that they’ve seen your work ripped off elsewhere, or stolen wholesale to generate likes and engagement while not earning you a penny for your trouble.

Some people, like photographer Max Dubler, choose to take action when their work is used without payment. But the screenshots of conversations with the people who run the accounts responsible for the repurposing make depressing reading. Many are shocked at the idea you should even charge for sharing content you didn’t create, if the account you’re using to do so is associated with a brand or monetised in any way.

This leads into the next biggest issue; companies feeling like they can afford to underpay freelancers, ignore their invoices altogether or even ask them to work without getting cold, hard cash in exchange.


Muddy Waters

This dilution of the value of creativity is being catalysed by the sheer number of different sites which urge freelancers to sell themselves to the lowest bidder.

From Fiverr, which makes being creative pay less than minimum wage in most developed nations, to Tribe, which forces creators to come up with content before they have even found a client to buy it, the industry is being brought to its knees by marketplace culture.

So what can you do about it? Well firstly, stop selling yourself short. Don’t work with clients that refuse to value your skills. Only sign up to freelance sites that pay fairly and never ask you to produce content speculatively.

We made the decision from day one that Creatively Squared will never ask anyone to work for free, nor will we pay in exposure, likes, products or anything else that doesn’t pay the bills - it's a core value to us and a central part of our manifesto.

Believe in yourself, but don’t be naive about the realities of the creative industries.

The top 5 apps to animate and bring your Instagram stories to life

With all the constant changes happening on Instagram, finding creative ways to engage with your audience and share your message has become more important than ever before.

Launching in August 2016, Instagram stories provides users with the opportunity to share photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. With the new highlights feature, Instagram users also have the option to add their story to a highlights section under their bio, making it visible until the user decides to delete it.

There's no doubt that Instagram stories have become a powerful way to engage with your audience. Using Instagram stories helps you appear first (in the stories section) when people open the Instagram app providing you with additional ways to grow your business with on-brand images and video. With this big opportunity, it's important that you're using Instagram stories to your fullest abilities. This means not just using stories for a token 'new post' update but exploring how you can share an engaging story with your audience.

Instagram stories provide a way for you to share a peek behind-the-scenes of your business and an additional way to share your brand's message. Users love this type of content as it helps them get to know the people and inner workings of your brand. Combining this behind-the-scenes content with some creative flair will have people tuning into your stories every day. So, how do you add that creative flair to your stories and stand out? We've listed 5 apps below that are making it easy to add some creativity to your Instagram stories.


1. Adobe Spark Post

Have you seen those Instagram stories with beautiful animated text? Chances are they used Adobe Spark Post to create their story. With this app, you can add animated effects and text to your photos. With sizing especially for Instagram stories, you can simply add the text to your photo and select animation. This will turn your photo into a 4-second video. The Adobe Spark Post app is free for iOS and desktop.

To create your story, open the app and press the green + sign at the bottom centre of the screen. From here, you can choose an image or solid colour background. Size your image for Instagram stories, double tap the screen to add text, tap effects and add animation, and press done to save your creation. From here, you can go to Instagram stories and post your saved content from your camera roll.


2. Hyperlapse

If you have a video that needs to be smooth and stabilized, Hyperlapse will turn you into a video pro! You can record a time-lapse or convert videos from your camera roll up to 12x speed to smooth out any unstable video footage. If you're recording video from within the app, make sure you record in portrait mode for Instagram stories.


3. Canva

Lots of people use Canva on their computers but their iOS app also packs a powerful punch. Create beautiful images for your Instagram stories with the templates on the Canva app. To make an Instagram story, start a new project that's 1080 x 1920 pixels. From here, you can upload your own images, use one of Canva's free images, or a paid image (all paid images are $1).

Once you've picked your image or template, you can edit the image, add design elements like lines and shapes, and overlay text. One of the best things about using Canva to create images for your Instagram stories is that you can save your designs to use them as a template for future stories. You can also create more than one image in each project which means you can download your images and upload them to Instagram without going back and forth between the apps - a big win!


4. InShot

A key challenge with making attractive Instagram stories is that the videos and images get cropped to fit the vertical aspect ratio of the app. With InShot, you can customize the aspect ratio of your images and video for Instagram stories. While the app is free, you will need to pay a few dollars to remove the InShot watermark.

Select the 9:16 option to create content for your Instagram stories. You can then upload your own images or video, add text, animated emojis, stickers, filters, music, voice-overs, effects, and edit the video speed.

The InShot app is free on iOS and Android.


5. Cut Story

With Cut Story, you can edit video for your Instagram feed and Instagram stories. The app allows you to edit a 15 second video for Instagram stories, with video lengths for other social media platforms also featured on the app. To edit your video, you just need to select your desired video length, add music, and upload your finished video to Instagram stories. You can also edit a video for your Instagram feed (60-second video) with this app.

While the app is free, you will need to make a small in-app purchase to remove the watermark logo and add music.

Is it ok for brands to share your content on Instagram?

 Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

It is widely known that is it not ok for brands to just google image search a photo for their next marketing campaign so why should social media images be any different?

We recently published an article called ‘Regram rules: Is ok for brands to share other people’s content on Instagram?’ discussing the correct and legal practices for brands to use externally sourced images.

Now we want to discuss the other side of the coin for all the creators of original content out there. As photographers and creatives it is important to know what your rights are and when the legal and moral lines are being crossed.

Who owns your content?

Sharing images on social media does not compromise your copyright, you still own the image and only you get to decide who gets to use it.

Brands who wish to repost your images must seek and obtain permission from you prior to posting otherwise they are infringing on your copyright and Instagram’s terms of use.

Tagging a brand in your image or using a branded hashtag does not constitute consent for them to share your image, they must still get your permission to share. Occasionally you may wish to indicate to your audience where a certain item in your image came from and you should feel safe to tag any brands you photograph without implying that it is ok for them to use your content.

Legally is it ok?

Instagram’s terms of service have their rights covered and it is worth having a quick read over their basic terms of service. The platform is not liable for copyright infringement and the responsibility to seek correct permissions for sharing content is passed onto the brand or individual account holder.

Instagram is very clear in their Copyright F.A.Q section that they are committed to helping users protect their individual copyright and that they do not permit the submission of content that infringes the intellectual property rights of others.

According to Legalvision if the creative work is not being posted and passed off as their own then brands can share other people’s content without directly violating copyright laws. The distinction between whether reposting social media content infringes on copyright or not seems to be made between what is considered ‘posting’ and ‘sharing’. Although with Instagram not coming with an actual share function this statement quickly becomes very murky and potentially confusing for brands and creators.

Copyright law differs according to the country where the images are reproduced or shared and there may be some ‘fair use/dealing’ situations which allow people to use your images under certain circumstances. Common examples include: criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, education, and research. Once again this is all outlined in the Copyright section of Instagram’s Help Centre so if you have any further questions it is well worth the read.

 Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Morally is it ok?

Whether you are a professional photographer or a hobbyist content creator, it can feel nice having a big brand regram your image and sometimes it can generate some great exposure for your account. However for many content creators, recognition and exposure is not enough and unfairly infringes on your copyright.

As content creators we spend years developing our skills and invest lots of money into our equipment. It can be disheartening when businesses and other accounts use our work without seeking permission or providing proper compensation.

For many businesses, Instagram is an extension of their marketing strategy and by sharing your content they are using your images for their own self-promotion. This leads many content creators to feel like they are being taken advantage of and that their work should not be used to market brands for free.

It is ok to apply your own moral guidelines to whether you allow brands to reshare your content online. There are many different scenarios in which a brand or business may wish to post your content on Instagram and each use should be assessed individually. If brands are sharing your images without obtaining your permission with the intent of furthering their own brand, it is ok for you to question it even when properly credited.

What can I do if someone shares my image without permission?

If brands are repeatedly sharing your content without permission your can report the violation to Instagram by filling out the Copyright reporting form. Instagram states that they will disable the accounts of those who repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights.

While the distinction between ‘posting’ and ‘sharing’ can be a little murky within the platform, it is very clear cut if the content is being shared outside of Instagram. If third parties are using images sourced from Instagram in a commercial context outside the platform you may wish to seek legal action as this is likely a direct infringement on copyright law.

A photographer named Max Dubler famously contacted every brand that had regrammed his content asking for payment. In his article  “No, You Can’t Use My Photos on Your Brand’s Instagram for Free,” Dubler explains why he charges for-profit companies a fee to use his  photos because they are making money off his work.

What can you do to prevent copyright infringement?

While there is nothing you can do to prevent brands misusing your content, there are some things you can do to make it easier for them to obtain permission or to protect your intellectual property. You can place a copyright symbol or a watermark on your content and ensure that you don’t post the full or high-resolution versions anywhere online. Simply adding your email address to your Instagram account may make it simpler for brands to ask for permission and give you the opportunity to discuss compensation.

If have read Instagram’s Help Center and still have further questions about your rights when it comes to copyright and intellectual property it may be worth seeking proper legal counsel in your country of residence.

Easter Inspiration: We are Going on an Egg Hunt!

What better place to look for inspiration for Easter images than inside this very community. We have revisited our 'Egg Hunt' themed challenge from last year to share some of the most inspiring ideas and images created. We hope you'll be inspired to participate in this years Easter challenge, even if you don't celebrate the holiday yourself you can still find loads of ways to get creative with eggs.

Need some egg hunt inspiration?

You could hand-paint, dye and decorate your eggs

 Image via Instagram account @ thebeecreative  

Image via Instagram account @thebeecreative 

 Image via Instagram account @ theeuphoricblonde

Image via Instagram account @theeuphoricblonde

If you don't want to use eggs as the canvas for your painting, why not just use them as your inspiration and paint them onto paper.

 Image via Instagram account @ rarepearstudio

Image via Instagram account @rarepearstudio

Create a seasonal table and incorporate some eggs into your setting

 Image via Instagram account @ jessie_ellen_ s

Image via Instagram account @jessie_ellen_s

 Image via Instagram account @ peyluvrain

Image via Instagram account @peyluvrain

Hide your eggs somewhere that no one will expect to see them

 Image via Instagram account @minimarshmallows_mum

Image via Instagram account @minimarshmallows_mum

Or perhaps in a way that everyone can see them (or they can see you!)

 Image via Instagram account @aravisdolmenna

Image via Instagram account @aravisdolmenna

Bring your eggs to life with cute little faces

 Image via Instagram account @ theurbanquarters

Image via Instagram account @theurbanquarters

Or use them to create a face for someone else

 Image via Instagram account @ annahsalter

Image via Instagram account @annahsalter

 Image via Instagram account @made_by_helga

Image via Instagram account@made_by_helga

Capture the shape of an egg in your image

 Image via Instagram account @ morlan1973

Image via Instagram account @morlan1973

Style an Easter themed shelfie or vignette

 Image via Instagram account @ stilettos_and_bricks

Image via Instagram account @stilettos_and_bricks

 Image via Instagram account @ _kelly_maree

Image via Instagram account @_kelly_maree

Recycle your eggs and give them a new life

 Image via Instagram account @ keeniediy

Image via Instagram account @keeniediy

Or just try to use as many eggs as you can!

 Image via Instagram account @ lilianmphoto

Image via Instagram account @lilianmphoto

All of the above images were featured in our 2017 'Egg Hunt' challenge, for all the original entries and loads more inspiration please visit the #cs_egghunt Instagram feed.

Behind the Scenes: Creative Photo Taking with Iswarya Venkatakrishnan


Hi I'm Iswarya, or some of you might know me better by my Instagram handle @ishyvi. I have been taking part in Creatively Squared weekly challenges for over a year. I love the concept of this new “Behind the Scenes” series and enjoy learning about the process that led to the creation of an image. I’m glad to have the opportunity to share my own behind the scenes action so you can see what goes on while I'm creating images for different challenges. I will be talking about finding inspiration, a couple of methods I use to approach a challenge, how to take a creative shot in a small space and my editing process.

Finding Inspiration

Since discovering the Creatively Squared challenges I would wait to hear the weekly theme every Sunday. My initial entries for these challenges were flatlays using items things that I had lying around the house. After a while I discovered my love for colour and paper and started creating my entries using them. I'll be sharing are some of the ways I approach each challenge I and hope it helps you look at these challenges with a different perspective. 

It’s all in the name of the Challenge


The creative challenges have completely different themes every week and each theme gives you so many touch points to get imaginative. Sometimes, just the name of the challenge itself could spark a creative idea. 

One of the recent challenges was 'Think Pink' which excited me because I can relate to this theme as most of my images incorporate different shades of pink. My initial concept was to create a big flatlay of all things pink. I also liked the title “Think Pink” and wanted to show that in a creative way.

While I'm thinking of ideas I start working on a challenge by sketching some ideas through the week.  Here is the sketch I created to show my version of “Thinking Pink”. It’s quite literally a flatlay of me thinking about all things I like in pink!

It came to Sunday morning and I hadn’t created a version yet. Luckily I had a different idea of using light bulb to create another version of “Think Pink”.  This resulted in my final image for the challenge, I liked that it was a simple concept and took less than an hour to create.


Things I used

  • 2 light bulbs
  • Pink and White Paint
  • Pink Paper for background

I had 2 spare light bulbs, so I just painted them in different shades of pink and combined the different images in Photoshop (which I have talked about in my editing process at the end ☺)

Here are few other examples of of times I have creating an image inspired by the challenge name. I love approaching a challenge this way as you can get creative in so many different ways.

 My image for 'Plant power'

My image for 'Plant power'

 My image for 'sweet escape'

My image for 'sweet escape'

Creating a mini set up

One thing I love to create are miniatures made our of paper and for some challenges I like to create a small set with completely different objects in the house. One of the challenge I enjoyed creating miniatures for "Travel'. I love taking road trips and wanted to create an image based on this. Another thing I like to do before creating an image is to create a Pinterest board for inspiration which led me to create a mini road trip set up.

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I had a small toy car  that I had picked up from one of my street market hauls because I couldn't resist its pink colour! I made paper suitcases and placed it on top of the car driving along a pink road. But the setup didn’t feel complete, I love stopping on the road trips just to enjoy the sunsets and wanted to build that into the image. To add this dimension into the image I just cut up a circle for the sun and also created a tree to make it more like a proper landscape. I love adding small elements like this to make the scene more lifelike. Here is the before and after shot. 


Things I used

  • Paper for background
  • A small pink toy car
  • Paper suitcases
  • Paper for sun and tree.

I really enjoy working with paper, so I use paper to create all my own props. But this could be easily and more beautifully done with items found around the home such as children's toys, small cardboard boxes, etc. 

Getting the shot  


I work mostly at night after office hours hence taking a picture in natural light is not an option.

I use a Sony A7rii and a small Godox continuous light to take my shots. Although I would like to get a proper studio light, this one does the trick.


I edit my images in Photoshop and Lightroom and hence it consumes more time, but I enjoy the process of editing. 

If I am editing on mobile, I use 

  • Lightroom 
  • Snapseed 
  • Touch retouch 
 Snapseed – I love the Expand feature. You can expand the image and it fills smartly based on the image. 

Snapseed – I love the Expand feature. You can expand the image and it fills smartly based on the image. 

 Touch Retouch – you can easily remove the unwanted objects using object removal

Touch Retouch – you can easily remove the unwanted objects using object removal

 The final image for "Happy Hour' themed challenge

The final image for "Happy Hour' themed challenge

Photoshop always comes in handy when I have a really big idea and I don’t have the space to get everything in the one frame. I use Photoshop to combine two images together to get the perfect shot. At first I thought Photoshop was difficult and that you needed to be an expert to use it but then I started watching tutorials on Lizzie Darden's YouTube channel . Lizzie explains her editing techniques in a simple and easy to understand way and I would recommend taking a look at her videos if you want to learn editing in Photoshop.

For the 'Letters' themed challenge I wanted to create an image based on the words “Be your own Rainbow”. I started with a sketch and realised I couldn’t get everything in one shot so had to combine a couple images for the finished result. Here are the before and after shots having necessary edits in Photoshop.


Must have things

  • Paper: I always use thick colored paper as my backgrounds. I love making my own props with paper too.
  • Blu tack: Always a good thing to have around because it would help keep your objects in place
  • Straws: I use straws to give varying heights to objects to create a sense of layering in a flatlay or an image. You could use other smaller objects to create this effect, but straws + blu tac works if you are working with really small items.
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There you go, a peek into behind the scenes of my creative process for some of the challenge images I have created! I hope you found it interesting and are feeling inspired to create your next challenge entry.

You can see all of Iswarya's amazing content by following her on Instagram

How to find more joy in Instagram in 2018

 The Insta struggle is real. Photo by Ian Dooley via unsplash

The Insta struggle is real. Photo by Ian Dooley via unsplash

Have you been feeling like you aren’t getting as much enjoyment out of Instagram as you used to? If so, you certainly aren’t alone. For many early adopters to the popular photo sharing platform, the last few years have been quite a bumpy ride.

Although it feels like we have been dealing with a lot of change lately, some of these updates have been expected and a long time coming. The alarm bells first sounded back in 2012 when Facebook acquired Instagram. Until then, we had been enjoying the growth of the platform, the communities we were building and the connections and friendships that came with it. There were many updates after this and it wasn’t until a few years later that the first major change took place with the removal of the chronological newsfeed.

All of a sudden we stopped seeing our favourite accounts pop up in our feeds, we freaked out and some serious FOMO set in. Morale sunk even lower with the introduction of advertising and paid promotional posts. We felt outraged, first we weren’t seeing all the content we signed up to see and now to add salt in the wound we were being served content we never wanted to see in the first place.

Those genuine connections that we cherished felt harder to find and maintain. The rise of influencers and social media entrepreneurs made us question the integrity of each post and then came the bots. These automated accounts filled our notification feeds with spammy comments and we quickly tired of the same accounts following and unfollowing us over and over again.

There is no denying it, Instagram has changed and so has our use of it. Sadly, many of us still haven’t been able to capture that same feeling of enjoyment that we used to get scrolling our feeds and sharing little snapshots of our lives. If you are in this camp, there is still hope. While you can’t resurrect the Instagram of the past you can change the way you use it now and in the future. Have a read over the following suggestions and see what you can implement now to find more joy in Instagram in 2018.

 Don't forget to share your unique sparkle! Photo by  Kristopher Roller  via   Unsplash

Don't forget to share your unique sparkle! Photo by Kristopher Roller via  Unsplash

Give yourself a clean slate

Like the old saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. The most important thing you can do this year is to give yourself a break and stop comparing your account to others. Even more importantly, please don’t compare your own account now to how it was last year or even last week. The platform is frequently updating and the algorithm constantly evolving, the true workings of which will likely forever remain a mystery. Is there any point worrying about something that you have no control over? Do yourself a favour and give yourself a clean slate this year by thinking about the present and the future rather than dwelling on the past.

Don’t look at the numbers

There are so many reasons why your numbers of followers and engagement will fluctuate over time and very few of them are meaningful in any way. If Instagram were to shut down tomorrow what would you have achieved by having a certain number next to your name or post? Next time you are obsessing about the numbers just remember - there is no magic number of likes that will make others think any differently of you. It’s time to stop focussing on external validation and look internally to find the joy that you create for yourself. Your account shouldn’t exist to please others and you should be proud of what you share even if you think no one is seeing it.

Quit trying to beat the algorithm

We are all savvy enough now to realise how easy it is to try and game the system. People who have bought fake likes or followers are easy to spot, as are those who fake engagement partaking in comment pods. While it can feel validating to receive lots of likes or comments on your posts there are no winners from manipulating the engagement on your account. Chasing these vanity metrics is ingenuine behaviour and is essentially misleading your audience. Deep down only you know the truth about your use of the platform and your integrity should never be questioned, but if you have been resorting to these tactics it can’t be making you feel good inside.

 Don't compare your account now to how it was in 2012. Photo by  on  Unsplash

Don't compare your account now to how it was in 2012. Photo by on Unsplash

Do some housekeeping on your account

With our feeds being curated by an external algorithm it can feel quite isolating when we feel like we are missing so many of our friends and posts from our favourite accounts. With many of us having used the platform for many years it is common to find yourself questioning why certain posts that you can’t relate to pop up at the top of your feed. If you haven’t interacted with  particular account in a long time, or no longer shop at an online store then why not just remove them from your feed. You don’t owe anyone anything and it is completely ok to unfollow accounts that are no longer meaningful or relevant to you. It is your feed and you are in control of what accounts you interact with so why not give your account a spring clean to help the algorithm improve your experience on the platform.

Delete that follower app

I’m just going to put it out there - nothing good can come from those apps that show you who has unfollowed your account. As previously mentioned in the intro, there are a lot of bots and ingenuine accounts out there that will follow you only to unfollow you shortly after. This is nothing to do with you, or your account they are just automated to perform certain activities and unfortunately there is a lot of them. Follower apps will only serve to make you further obsess about the numbers or make you feel bad about who is no longer following your account. If someone you like or admire unfollows your account the only thing you can do is leave your ego at the door or better yet just turn a blind eye. Your only concern should be your own use of the platform and your account, not what someone else is doing with theirs.

Be engaging and give first

If you aren’t feeling connected with your own feed, or feel like your friends are missing all of your posts the best thing you can do is amp up the engaging you do on other accounts.

As well as monitoring your activity, the algorithm will be watching who visits your profile, tags your account, watches your stories and likes and comments on your account. Be active and engage with others, leave lots of positive comments and start building new friendships. Every interaction you have and each person that reciprocates or replies will contribute to refining your algorithm and how often you appear in other feeds.

 Be original, genuine and engage in meaningful interactions. Photo by  Diego PH  on  Unsplash

Be original, genuine and engage in meaningful interactions. Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

To summarise all of the above the best thing you can do moving forward on Instagram in 2018 is to focus on the things that matter. Forget your follower count, don’t question why you are getting less likes than a year ago and take back control of your own account.

For you to find joy in the platform only you matter so make sure you are focusing your time on meaningful activities. Be original and true to yourself and create quality content based on what you love, not what you think others will like. Be genuine and engage with others because you want to, not because you are hoping it will be reciprocated. Always give first and most importantly - if it doesn’t serve you or bring you joy it’s ok to change the way you do things. There is no point having a flourishing online presence if the real-life you is feeling miserable because of it.

Do you have any tips we could add to this? We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

Behind the Scenes: The Making of a Creative Photo

I'm kicking off a new series this week to take you behind the scenes while I created my entry for the weekly Creatively Squared challenge. I'll be discussing finding inspiration, sourcing props, backdrops and equipment and the editing process.

I'm hoping that documenting this process might help those who don't know where to get started with their own entries and inspire them to get involved. This challenge is for people of all different skill levels and the foundations of this community were built on being inclusive. It was important to me to make each weekly theme accessible to all and invite creative people from all walks of life to challenge themselves to think outside the box and try new things.

Our challenge themes are always designed so that participants are able to work with whatever items one might have on hand or find within their home. I believe that being creative shouldn't cost anything and that you don't need more than the smartphone in your pocket to join in the fun. 

Our community does welcome a variety of people from talented amateurs to professionals from all over the world. Regardless of your background, your experience and equipment does not determine your ability to participate or the outcome of the challenge. Winners are not chosen on their flawless finish, it is all about how your share your creative ideas and ultimately more about concept than execution. 

Everyone has different creative methods and tips to share and I would like to invite everyone to contribute to this series and show us how you made your creative challenge entries. If you would be willing to share your behind the scenes stories then please shoot me an email at 

Getting creative: from idea to execution

 Shoot in action

Shoot in action

This is the first time I have documented my creative process and shown a shoot from start to finish. I am definitely not a professional photographer so probably shouldn't be giving any advice on such things so I will just be discussing my thought process and all the steps along the way. If you are a skim-reader and don't want to know all the details I have kindly summarised it at all the end so scroll on down (but don't forget to pause at the before and after shots on your way past!)

The challenge theme I was attempting this week was 'Hearts' and I had admired lots of entries coming in for the few days prior to attempting my own. It's always great to be inspired by other members of the community and quite often seeing something that has already been created will ignite a series of my own ideas that I can explore during the week.

The ideas (or lack of!)

Coming up with your initial idea is always the hard part, but once you get started it's even harder to single out just one idea to take through to your final concept. I usually try and think of a few different ideas during the week and will workshop ideas in my mind for a couple days before creating something.

I often do a lot of my best thinking at times when I shouldn't be, like during meditative moments at yoga. On this particular morning I was in my yoga class and we began our session with the courageous heart mudra (symbolic hand gesture) which of course set me off thinking about hearts for the entire session.

I decided that when I got home I was going to try and make a heart shape out of my trailing pot plants and pad it out with some green produce from the fridge. I also wanted to try and find a way to add a human element to my shot with the mudra - although I hadn't really established how I was going to combine the two!

 Pot plant and produce circle - the second failed idea.

Pot plant and produce circle - the second failed idea.

 Making a heart shape with my hands (not the actual courageous heart mudra) 

Making a heart shape with my hands (not the actual courageous heart mudra) 

I realised after about 30 seconds that creating a heart shape with wayward plant tendrils was not going to work. I'm not into forcing an idea and I would rather fail fast and move onto the next one so I quickly fashioned it into a circle and dumped some random veg in to fill it out.

Nope, I decided that it was not looking so good either, I added some hands, double nope. Ok time to move on. 

I figured the pot plant tendrils just weren't making a solid enough base so I pushed them to the side and started assembling the heart out of just vegetables.

By now I had probably wasted about 25 minutes setting up and stuffing around, I hadn't had breakfast yet and I really wanted to get the shot so I could eat that avo!

 The final concept

The final concept

Luckily my third and final concept was a bit smoother to execute.

I created the basic heart outline using some seriously sad looking mini cucumbers that had been in the fridge for about 3 weeks and then filled it out by adding other pieces of produce on top and around the edges. I added the (also sad and wilted) celery leaves last to fill the gaps and add some texture. 

The pineapple and plant that I had pushed to the side happened to frame the shot quite nicely so I left them there and scattered a few of the extra pieces of produce around as well.

This only took about 15 minutes to perfect and I finally got the shot - and the chance to eat my props afterwards!

Props and Backdrops

 Edible props on my wooden panel backdrop

Edible props on my wooden panel backdrop

This was all the props I used in my shot, everything was sourced from inside my home as I tried to make the most of what I already had on hand. I find that gathering items of a similar colour is always an easy way to kickstart your creative mojo. 

Because I was working with produce, I needed to use a background that I could wipe down easily so I chose my VJ panel board that I bought at Bunnings for around $20. I like that the panel grooves give the backdrop a bit of a subtle texture although getting them all straight does make the edit a bit trickier at the end!

My setup and equipment

 My studio set up on the lounge room floor next to a big window

My studio set up on the lounge room floor next to a big window

I like to keep my photo taking as simple as possible, it's just a photo for Instagram so I don't need to go crazy with the perfect lighting setup or expensive gear. As you can see in the shot above I just plonk everything down near a big window and use the natural light I have available

My tripod has an extendable arm which is perfect for taking flatlays and you can buy smartphone attachments for them for those times that you don't want to get out your camera. 

I like to use my tripod for shots like this so I can use a wider aperture to keep all the details of my flatlay in focus, but generally I still take plenty of shots free hand on the auto setting. My husbands iPhone (which is a newer model than mind) can take great photos and I'll often borrow his phone to capture shots as well. 

The edit

 Before the edit

Before the edit

 After the edit

After the edit

I do love playing around in Photoshop and Lightroom on my desktop but I also have barely any time so try and keep my edits as simple as I can - often I can get just as good results on the Snapseed or Lightroom apps on my phone!

For this edit, the first thing I did was adjust the angles and perspectives to straighten out the lines of my backdrop - although I probably could have saved myself the time by straightening up my tripod arm better to begin with!

To reduce the shadows I brightened up my white tones and lifted some of the shadows and mid tones to bring out the details. My backdrop isn't actually white so I did a manual white balance adjustment to make it look white. Some of the fruit was a little more more yellow then green so I adjusted the yellows to blend in a bit better. 

I probably could have tweaked it all day but, as I mentioned earlier, it's just a fun shot for Instagram and you don't need to take it too seriously. It's better just to go through the experience of creating something and do the best you can in the time you have available than to not try at all!


The short version

Total number of concepts attempted: 3
Props: Pot plants and produce from the fridge
Backdrop: Wood panel from hardware store
Lighting: Natural window light
Camera and Lens: Panasonic Lumix GX7 with fixed 20mm lens
Other equipment used: Vanguard Alta Pro Tripod and edited in Adobe Lightroom CC
Time spent editing: 20 minutes
Total time spent including setup, edit and pack-up: 75 minutes

There you have it! The making of a flatlay from start to finish. Are you willing to share your creative process with the rest of the Creatively Squared community? Please get in touch as I would love to feature you in a blog just like this.