To see what it was like to make photographs for “The Grams,” I turned myself into an Instagram boyfriend!
People travel all over the world to visit cool destinations. In previous eras, people were more than happy to get some snaps on a disposable camera, but holiday goers today take their photography very seriously. Social influencers are now a thing, and the everyday person is cashing in. That’s why you will often see the fashionable, beautiful girlfriend review her iPhone and promptly tell her boyfriend to “retake the photo!” I wanted to see what that experience would be like. Now, I’d like to say that, in order to become an Instagram boyfriend, I met the woman of my dreams. And I’d like to say that we both fell in love and embarked on a fantastic journey of emotional growth and development. But the truth is we worked with a highly talented, professional model to build this piece. Katie Hodgson is a UK based model who was more than willing to be my muse for what turned out to be a grey, rainy day in London (shocker!).
Our Instagram Shoot Location
London has plenty of exciting locations to shoot at, but for this, we wanted something chic and beautiful. There’s no better spot than Notting Hill for this kind of aesthetic. The area has rows of multi-colored houses, plenty of cute, little cobbled paths and charming, hip coffee shops for that oat milk latte shot! The area oozes the wealth and prestige ideal for giving off a “we’re living the perfect life” vibe.
Note: Both Katie and I agreed that the perfect life approach can have an unhealthy impact on society. And a world where models can show their vulnerability will have a more positive effect. But for today we were Instagrammers, and we had to think and act like them!
We broke the shoot down to three sub-locations within Notting Hill:
- Portobello Road – Famous for its cool independent shops, stalls, and coffee shops.
- St Lukes Mews – Beautiful little townhouses, covered in flowers with benches and fancy bicycles outside.
- Ladbroke Square Garden – Nice wall art, big houses with pillars – perfect for a fashionable shot.
Okay, let’s make it clear: Katie got dressed all by herself! But, we did work collaboratively to come up with what she would wear for the shoot. For this we wanted something cute and relaxed. We were not going for dinner at The Ritz; we were documenting a day out in a cool location and needed it to look natural. So we opted for casual, high street fashion that complimented her beauty, rather than overpowered it. For the cute little townhouse photographs, we felt a lovely floral skirt would add to the aesthetic we were going for. Makeup was also kept nice and simple. This wasn’t a glamour or editorial shoot, so I asked Katie to go for the “girl next door” look.
Taking the Shots
Now that the location was fixed and Katie was prepped, it was time for the most essential part: the photographs! As a street and travel photographer, I’m more used to candid, unposed shots, rather than directing and posing models. This actually worked quite well as for this Instagram-themed shoot we didn’t want to make it look forced. Instead, I wanted Katie to be herself and just ease into any pose she felt most comfortable with. I directed her–positioning her within the frame and identifying the hot spots for the best shots. But other than that, I let her experience take over.
Because of Katie’s experience, it made my job much more manageable. She showed strong knowledge of what made an excellent Instagram photograph, and this made our creative connection flow freely and easily. Personally, I was keeping an eye out for cool wall art, lovely shop fronts, and colorful places in which I could frame Katie within the elegant surroundings. We mixed it up with some wider shots, portraits, and more up close and personal photographs. We felt this built an excellent narrative for the day we spent together.
“The party was predominately female; most had their own cliques of 2-5 girls, and one guy with a camera. Throughout the party, the girls would go from one Instagram-able spot in the house to the next, taking basically the same pictures as the last group of girls. Everyone was wearing essentially the same outfits, doing the same poses, and felt like they needed 37 versions of each pose. As irritated as I was by this, it wasn’t what annoyed me the most. With all the “influence” in the room, no one seemed to be having any conversation of substance.”
Editing for Instagram
For the editing process, I collaborated with Creative Director, James Garside. James has extensive experience in advertising: something that has become synonymous with Instagram feeds. He also had a cool Wacom that I wanted to play with! I was very clear with Katie: while images would be edited to give them more punch there would be no airbrushing and no nip/tucking. I’m deeply against this editing approach and, thankfully, so was Katie.
For cropping, we went for the standard 8×10 frame Instagram uses. We felt, considering it was a damp, grey day, that a warmer color tone would give the photographs more life! We brought the exposure up and decreased the contrast, giving the set a cleaner and softer look. As with all my images, I reduced the saturation and vibrancy a little. For me, this makes images more natural, and less overpowering on the eye.
Shooting this was a whole lot of fun. It certainly put me out of my comfort zone and got me thinking about little details I normally wouldn’t when shooting street photography. I became uber-sensitive to things like out of place hair, creases in her clothing, and each object in the frame. Because of this, I felt much sharper at spotting issues as the shoot went on. I would have liked to have been more methodical with my shooting. However, with the rain pouring down, we had to act as quickly as possible. It was great to collaborate with a creative team, so thanks to both Katie and James for their involvement. And although I’m positive Katie enjoyed herself, I don’t think she wants me as her boyfriend anytime soon! Never mind: onwards, and upwards!
Lead photo by James Garside. Used with permission.