A Little Note About Self-Love

I know a lot of the time the things I talk about are pretty superficial. I am a photographer, after all. Photos are only the surface layer of who people are, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a deeper value.

A friend of mine recently shared a quote with me that gave me shivers it was so accurate.

“In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”

Sometimes photos of us aren’t pretty. You know, the camera adds ten pounds. Sometimes photos make us look amazing – so amazing that our Facebook friends look and them and think, “man I wish I looked like that.” How do our Facebook friends look so good all the time, by the way? Fun fact: it’s because they only post those happy moments and pretty pictures.

Truth is, we’re ugly most the time. We do things we regret, we wear things that are questionable, and we stumble into work with bags under our eyes. Life isn’t pretty all the time, it’s messy and it’s ugly.

Photos are only tiny fraction of what happens in our lives. The true beauty of them is not the fact that they can make us look good. It’s that they remind us that despite those baggy eyes, those regrettable moments, and those horrible Monday mornings, we are beautiful anyway.

We should know that we are always beautiful, but in reality it’s a hard truth to admit to ourselves.

Let’s scrap the old “true beauty is on the inside” gimmick. It’s on the outside, too. Sometimes it just manifests in different ways. Stretch marks, stomach rolls, tired eyes…All are beautiful. These physical features show your strength to the world. They are badges of honor. Wear them proudly.

So, next time you get your photo taken, or even just snap a great selfie, I want you to do something. I want you to remember that you are that beautiful all the time.

I want you to be rebellious and love yourself even when you don’t want to. Even when others don’t want you to.

Rebel and love yourself anyway.

 

Love,

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Reflecting on 2016 (in photos!)

It’s over, it’s finally over! Last night I closed a very hectic year with my best friend, some spring rolls, and champagne. A lot of craziness happened this year: I had a completely booked fall season, I started working out more, I deleted almost 2/3 of my Facebook friends and web presence, and I started thinking intentionally about who I wanted to be as a photographer and person.

This year gave me so many difficult challenges, but as each one passed I became a stronger person. I want to share a few photos from this year–all of which involved many stressful moments to make. In the end, I am so very happy with what I’ve created and everyone I spent my year with. I cannot thank everyone enough for being supportive, for being outspoken, for being creative, and most of all for being there for me!

January

Nicole by Francesca Blue Photo
Nicole by Francesca Blue Photo

I started off 2016 being obsessed with sunsets and natural backgrounds. Towards the end of the year I veered towards more unnatural, bright colors. Once spring comes around I know I’ll be ready to get back to the great outdoors!

February

Mia by Francesca Blue Photo
Mia by Francesca Blue Photo

I continued this nature obsession into February, where I spent the unusually warm days at the river with some friends, a guitar, and my camera.

March

Melanie by Francesca Blue Photo
Melanie by Francesca Blue Photo

Remember that shift away from nature I mentioned before? Well here it is! In March, I got a little more creative and a lot more obsessed with bright colors, glitter, and rhinestones.

April

 

Jenessa by Francesca Blue Photo
Jenessa by Francesca Blue Photo

While I pursued a very colorful new perspective, I also took the time to revisit something a little simpler. This particular photo means a lot to me. My subject, Jenessa, is a very vibrant person. In this shoot I decided to place her in a very natural environment, unlike many others she had shot in with me before, and she simply…GLOWED!

May

Spring Fever by Francesca Blue Photo

Ok, this photo was technically taken in April. HOWEVER, it took nearly a month to fully complete this styled shoot and another two months to see it featured online. I pulled from some of my favorite photographers from the late 1960s-1970s to create this look.

June

Surprise Engagement by Francesca Blue Photo
Surprise Engagement by Francesca Blue Photo

In June, I hid in the bushes, got eaten alive by mosquitoes, and photographed a surprise engagement by the river. It was worth the bug bites!

July

Annie by Francesca Blue Photo
Annie by Francesca Blue Photo

I’m melting just looking at this picture! I didn’t shoot very much during the dead heat of summer for a reason. Also, at this point in time I was a on an anti-studio kick so, thus…

August

Girlfriends by Francesca Blue Photo
Girlfriends by Francesca Blue Photo

More outside magic! This is still one of my favorite photos. We had a lot of fun pouncing in what was left of the wildflowers from spring.

September

Raegan by Francesca Blue Photo
Raegan by Francesca Blue Photo

In September, I purchased a new 35mm lens and immediately fell in love with sunset/dusk lighting again. This was also the beginning of what would soon become an incredibly hectic fall!

October

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Adrienne and Frederico by Francesca Blue Photo

One of my amazing high school teachers married the love of his life, how beautiful!

November

Crista by Francesca Blue Photo
Crista by Francesca Blue Photo

Wow, this feels like yesterday! Relationship Coach Crista Beck embraced the chilly November weather and looked like a total goddess. This shoot signaled a slightly less busy December, thank the old gods and the new!

December

The Girl Who Fell For Disco by Francesca Blue
The Girl Who Fell For Disco by Francesca Blue

A great end to a great year! This shoot was a fun collaboration between some of my favorite creative ladies.

Well, there you go…my 2016 in photos! This year was full of growth and new experiences. I can’t wait to embrace 2017 with a wiser brain, a kinder heart, and a cleaner camera lens haha.

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Why I Love Prime Lenses

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Hello all!

It’s been awhile, which in photography time, is basically forever. Summer was a nice opportunity to step away from photo-taking side of the business for a bit and focus specifically on marketing. Although I happen to be fond of photography, social media, and wide range of other marketing activities, each of these can become quite draining. Whether I’m spending four hours each night retouching photos or four hours in the morning working on marketing content, the result is the same: I’m BEAT!

As a little refresher for those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook, this fall has been full of both photography and marketing. However, since the fall is a very busy time for weddings, engagements, newborns, and holiday cards I’ve been putting a lot of energy into client photography.

Which leads me to a fun little rant about my favorite versatile tool for portraits: prime lenses.

As a quick overview, you can think of most lenses as falling into two categories: prime or telephoto. Telephoto lenses allow you to “zoom in” without physically having to move close to the subject—making them great for wildlife photography and even portraits.

Prime lenses, on the other hand, do not have the zooming feature. If you want to get closer to the subject, you must physically move closer to them. Since you aren’t zooming, you retain incredible photo quality that is often lost in telephoto lenses. These lenses also do well in low-light situations like weddings.

Some other perks:

  • You can find many prime lenses for very cheap, but make sure it has an AF function. Manual focus can be tricky on some of these
  • They are LIGHT WEIGHT! I shot almost all a wedding recently with my 35mm and boy are my arms happy I did!
  • Prime lenses (specifically 35mm) are great for tight spaces where you don’t have a lot of room to back up
  • Once again, image quality is great especially for portraits

I happen to be quite fond of primes because I started out shooting on film with a 35mm prime lens. I now shoot digitally with a 35mm prime and it makes so oh so nostalgic!

If you’d like to see more blogs or tutorials covering lenses, please let me know in the comments below. Next blog: Some shots from a beautiful Austin wedding.

Happy shooting!

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Scoot Over, Senior Portraits. I’m Back! Sort Of.

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When I meet people around my hometown, they usually follow it up by saying “Oh, Francesca Blue?” referring to my Facebook name. I’m in no way social media famous, quite the opposite actually, but within my little tiny circle my clients have made my name clear. Which is how I get most of my business, word of mouth. Thanks yall!

But I’ve been struggling lately

My “reputation” for senior portraits gets me valuable business, but it’s not my passion. At the end of the day I love fashion photography. I love styling vintage-themed shoots and coordinating hair and makeup artists.

Thing is, that passion costs me. 

It doesn’t pay and I’m often whipping out hundreds of dollars just to get my film developed.

Some of my potential customers may even be turned off by the fashion work. I’ve shot plenty of nude and more revealing work, and it seems ridiculous for me not to just because it might scare some people away. No one should be scared of feeling sexy or seeing someone be confident. That’s not really my place to determine, though.

So I’m trying to figure out my branding…

Artistic or standard? Money or passion?

I know there are plenty of artistic photographers out there who get paid well, it’s just crippling to get to that point. Musicians, actors and artists of all kinds have the same struggle. Then there’s the other guys. Some of my favorite local artists seem to have endless funds, endless time and no secret job footing the bill. Maybe that is because they’ve already reached a comfortable point of success.

I haven’t decided to go full-fashion or full-standard/lifestyle photography yet. My hope is to keep on going on this path of straddling both until one day I’m at a crossroad where I can make the decision that makes my soul happy.

So I suppose the point of this rant would be:

Keep going.

It’s so so so SO hard to keep doing art when you don’t have the time or money. It’s important to keep trying. It’s not certain if you will get anywhere with it or if people will like what you do. The only thing that is certain is that you will get nowhere if you don’t at least try.

xo,

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Interview with Mia Green

Last week, I sat down with local singer/songwriter Mia Green to talk about how media has changed the way she approaches music. Whether you are a musician, photographer, designer or entrepreneur, media plays a crucial role in the way you share your talents with the world.

Not to mention, in creating this quick video I used a few great media resources myself. While searching for some fun b-roll for my video, I came across the best site for public domain video and audio (seriously). It’s called Archive.org, and trust me, you will be forever grateful to have this website in your Bookmarks tab.

Without further ado, here is my quaint little interview with Mia Green.

Jenessa + Austin Fashion Week

Hello again fellow artists! It’s Fashion Week here in Austin, Texas and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than by sharing some of the spring photos I’ve been taking this week. If you are a fellow Texan, I encourage you to check out some of the amazing (and FREE) soirees local shops and salons will be hosting for Fashion Week. There are also numerous runway shows, but those can cost upwards of $100. So if your a budget fashionista, I encourage you to check out the free events happening this week and to also visit your local shops to give them a little love!

It’s been a busy week for photos. I shot one of my favorite models, Jenessa Cruz, then followed that with another photo shoot I had a huge team for. I can’t share that shoot, since I’m submitting it to a magazine but I’m more than psyched about my session with Jenessa. She’s one of the main reason I photograph people. She’s strong enough to share her vulnerabilities with the world in a beautiful and unique way. It is seriously one of the most inspiring things to photograph.

I’ve had a pretty strong presence in the LGBTQIA community for a while now, which is pretty much the norm for photographers in Austin. Photography isn’t the reason I’m involved, of course, but it does serve as a way for me to empower an amazing community of individuals who live in a state that largely does not treat them equally. My brother’s experience growing up gay in rural Texas really shaped my perception of discrimination. I distinctly remember a day he came from home from school and told us about how the school director instructed cops to empty out the personal belongings in his locker, suspecting that he was responsible for a school crime. Funny thing is, he had no involvement and the school had no reason to believe that he did.

Jenessa is just one of those subjects that never fails to inspire me and I think that much is obvious in these photos. I mean, look at her, you see power.

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Until next time,

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2 Easy Photoshop Edits That Will Make Your Photos POP!

When I started using Photoshop back in 2006, I was a complete mess. If you haven’t been playing around with Photoshop for too long, chances are you’re still figuring how in the world to edit your photos. Luckily, there a couple tools photo editors of ALL LEVELS can use to make their portraits go from “eh” to “KABOOM!” I won’t waste anymore time chatting about it. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

I’m going to use this photo I took of a friendly little butterfly at the Cockrell Butterfly Center in Houston, Texas. Feel free to use any photo you’d like. These tools will apply to all types of pictures, but aim to use an evenly exposed photo for the best results.

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I’m going to make my photo a little more “vintagey” during this tutorial.

Curves

This is one of the most fundamental photo edits out there: adjusting the highlights, midtones and shadows until they are just right. There’s a few tools you can accomplish this with. Some people prefer the tool Levels, but I find the Curves is where all the fun is at.

For most computers you can get to the Curves tool by clicking Image > Adjustments > Curves…

Now this is the fun part! The easiest way you’ll start to understand the Curves tool, like almost anything in Photoshop, is by messing around with it yourself. Adjust the light in the photo by clicking and dragging sections of the horizontal line up and down. 

You’ll notice that the left-most end of the horizontal line represents your shadows. The right-most end represents your highlights. The middle section is midtones, as you’ve probably already guessed.

You can create a variety of shapes with this tool and a lot of crazy photo effects. I personally like my photos to have kind of a “film” effect to them (lighter shadows, darker highlights, bright midtones). You can see some of that below…

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To really get the hang of the Curves tool, you’ll need to use it yourself and find what you like.

Selective Color

Now, here’s a tool that I happen to LOVE, but I also know many photographers who only use it sparingly or not at all. Even if you don’t end up using it a bunch, it’s worth a try. It’s a big factor in making those photos go “kaboom” especially if you captured a shot you maybe thought looked good conceptually, but weren’t a big fan of the colors. Selective Color adjusts specific colors in your image, so it can solve any issues you have in camera concerning color and sometimes exposure. Simply click Image > Adjustments > Selective Color.

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You’ notice that there is a drop-down menu of different colors to adjust. Each section allows you to adjust the amount of Cyan (turquiose), Magenta (purple-pink), Yellow and Black for each color in your photo. Toggling to the right will add more of the specified shade, toggling left will add more of the opposite color. I’ve listed the opposite colors with their corresponding sections below. You’ll see as you toggle left and right how these colors will stand out.

Red ———– |———— Cyan

Green ———– |———— Magenta

Blue ———– |———— Yellow

Black ———– |———— White

In the above GIF I am adding less “Cyan” in the Red section of my photo, thus making the reds more…red! I then added more depth to the greens in my photo by making adjustments in several shades of that section. Play around with it, you’ll see what I mean.

My finished photo is below. I’m going to say these edits took me less than 15 minutes to complete, so if you’re looking for something quick look no further than the Curves and Selective Color tools!

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There we go! A vintage butterfly.

Cheers,

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Photographing Nature

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It’s spring time which means I’m spending my afternoons desperately attempting to finish up work so I can photograph all the new blooms and nature trails. And sometimes, I actually have the time to get outside and do it!

Last week my boyfriend and I took a sunset walk through one of my favorite natural areas in Austin. Much to my excitement, my boyfriend took the camera from my hands to begin taking some photos of his own. Since I’m a big fan of only shooting in manual, I was able to practice my photography teaching skills in the moment.

Which got me to thinking…

There’s such a wide range of nature photography. By virtue of it being nature, every scene is completely different. One nature photo will be of an ocean shore with bright blue skies. Another will be rolling fields of green during sunset. These scenes are all unique and require their own settings. I can’t type out all of the exact settings for each nature scene, but I can offer a nice set of general rules to follow when you photograph nature.

Since I’m a born and raised river baby, I’m going to focus primarily on natural settings that include heavily shaded areas, water, mixed light and lots of vegetation.

Time

If I had to choose the most important thing to consider when photographing nature (or anything outside, for that matter) it would definitely have to be time.

If you ever want to watch a group of people griping about the sun, just hang out with some photographers. The sun is like this almighty power that fuels every good photograph but hardly likes to comply by your rules. I suppose that is the way of all nature.

When fall hit, I was scrambling to get all of my shots in time before the sun sped down the horizon two hours earlier than what I was accustomed to. The same thing happens during the spring. Daylight savings may seem like nothing but an afterthought, but if you really care about your photos you’ll want to start paying attention.

Why is this so important? Well Golden Hour, of course!

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Seriously, if you don’t know what Golden Hour is, I promise you’ll want to. To put it in simple terms: it’s the time of day surrounding sunrise and sunset. It’s just this beautiful mix of orange and pink lighting that gives your photos power. I personally find that the hours immediately following sunset and immediately before sunrise to be the best. You should play around with it though!

Back to that time thing

Now that you know why I’m so hung up over time, I can share with you a couple suggestions on how to master it.

  1. Check what time the sun rises and sets online. Just do a Google search of “what time does the sun set.”
  2. Pay attention to the weather. When it’s cloudy, you’ll usually get a pretty dull sunset. There’s always exceptions, though, so watch the sunsets and sunrises throughout the week so you can see what you’re working with.

Shoot in RAW

Almost every professional photographer I’ve talked to berates me for not shooting in RAW. I’m not opposed to it, but it just doesn’t happen all the time. And listen, it’s not always necessary but it does make a difference in quality.

What is RAW?

To put it plainly it’s a photo format you can change on your camera settings that allows for much greater editing capacity post production. If you’re going for a really dramatic landscape scene, I would suggest using RAW. I would also suggest it for close-up photos of flowers and bugs.

Now that brings me to my next suggestion, which I find to be equally as important…

Post Production

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I get it, retouching and photo-editing isn’t every photographer’s cup of tea. Thing is, when it comes to nature photography editing opens so many doors…oh and it’s really, really fun!

The photography standard without a doubt in the world is Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. If you don’t own either, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial. Adobe offers the newest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom for $10 a month. You can purchase the Photographer’s Plan on Adobe’s website.

If you’re not looking to pay anything for software you can use free programs like Pixlr or Gimp. I’ll be honest, Pixlr has pretty much crushed Gimp’s user experience. Gimp is nice because it’s actually a computer program, but it’s pretty annoying to figure out. Pixlr is just easier. Even so,  Gimp is a nice program to have.

I want to emphasize that no free editor on this planet will be like Photoshop and Lightroom. I’m sorry to my frugal friends, but it’s true. Nothing that good comes cheap! However, there are ways to obtain Photoshop free and legally. Versions older than CS3 will be cheap to buy. For standard photo editing it should do the trick. I’m not going to lie I used Photoshop 7 for many years. I don’t even want to share with you how old that one is…

That just about wraps up my nature photography overview! Tune in for my next blog. I will be showing you a couple easy Photoshop tools that will make your photos pop!

Until next time,

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Blog Review: Peter Tsai

Click to see the blog

For my first blog review, I’ve decided to check out local photographer, Peter Tsai, who is based in Austin, Texas. After scrolling through a few different photographers I landed on the bright red and white colors of Tsai’s blog. The different array of topics and helpful gear reviews inspired me to dedicate this post to his website. So, as promised, here is my review of the Peter Tsai’s photography blog.

Design

I think this might be my favorite thing about the blog. The layout is both eye-catching and easy to navigate. It blends the right amount of design and simplicity.

Also, Tsai isn’t doing that thing a lot of photographers do where they literally just photo dump from their recent shoots in every blog post. Instead he has helpful articles mixed with appropriate photos. It’s a nice balance.

Content

The content of Tsai’s blog, as mentioned above, is a mix of reviews and helpful articles. You can tell Tsai has thought through his search engine and web presence.

It’s refreshing to see a local photographer share some insights about gear, shooting and locations. Although I appreciate hearing the same information from photographers all over the world, it’s a bit exciting to learn it from someone shooting in Austin. We have our own flavor, you know?

Every blog post is also accompanied by social media sharing links. Which is just a nice touch.

Overall

Peter Tsai’s blog is bold, inviting and interesting. His writing clarity makes his blog helpful and understanding for photographers of all levels.

I look forward to reading more of it.

Before you go…

I’ll stop pluggnig this soon, but someone in my family was struck by a hit-and-run driver while he was riding his bike in South Austin. Anything you can donate is worth a million to us. Oh, and, donations over $50 qualify for FREE headshots by me. That’s a steal, so if you’re looking for headshots on the cheap and doing some good head on over to our GoFundMe page.

Until next time,

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4 Steps to Instafame: A Photographer’s Guide

I personally have a love-hate relationship with the popular photo app known as Instagram. It’s an amazing platform that focuses on my favorite thing: photos! However, reaching people can be a real challenge. Not to mention a whopping majority of the crowd that uses the app is under 35 (90 percent, to be exact). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you are trying to market something like, say, family portraits you’re not in very good hands.

Despite the challenges Instagram presents, there are also a lot of opportunities. I’ve seen countless photographers rise to stardom just by using Instagram.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking it will be easy. It’s going to take a lot work and a little of luck to climb the social media chain. With a little branding, intentional posting and plenty of relevant hashtags
you’ll be well on your way to Instagram success. Let’s get started.

1. Follow, then be followed

The first step can be a challenge, but it’s made easier with the wide spectrum of apps available to smartphone users. You’ll need to download an app that can track who follows, unfollows or doesn’t follow you. My preference is CrowdFire.

In CrowdFire, you can track exactly who is following and unfollowing you. Plus, you can copy the followers of similar accounts and competitors.

Unfollowers

I think it goes without saying that there’s no reason for you to be following an account that has unfollowed you. That user has indicated that they are no longer interested in what you have to offer, so it’s on to the next one!

Nonfollowers

These are people who you followed, but they never followed you back. I have quite a few of these on my Instagram accounts and it’s not a problem. Thing is, not everyone is going to follow you back and that’s totally ok.

However, if you followed that account in the hopes that they would follow you back you can unfollow them in a snap using the CrowdFire app. If that’s your method, make sure you give the user adequate time to follow you back before you unfollow them. One to three days should do it.

Also some of your unfollows might include feature accounts, but we’ll talk more about those later.

Copy Followers

I’m a big fan of this one. Using CrowdFire, you can copy the people who follow your competitors. Maybe just maybe they will follow you back!

Pro tip: Follow people who have more people they follow than followers. They are much more likely to follow back.

2. Use hashtags

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This is probably the most common tip you’ll hear about expanding your Instagram reach. That’s because it is highly effective in generating likes. Follows? That takes a bit more effort.

When you post a photo, think about where it belongs. Is it a travel photo? A portrait? What kind of people would like this?

Now, if you’re thinking “older people would prefer this” you might want to hold off on Instagram this time because you’ll be preaching a great image to an empty room. Take that image to Facebook or Twitter instead.

You want to use basic tags like…

#photography #portrait #sunset #model #nature

Then add a few trending tags like…

#instagood #selfiesunday #wcw #ig{insert your city} #featureme

One really good tag that works in almost every city is #IG{your city name} Since most cities have an feature Instagram account with many followers, you’ll have a great opportunity to be mentioned or viewed. Be sure to tag images relevant to your city, though. A plain studio portrait isn’t exactly what defines a place like New York.

Hashtags are very effective with likes, but remember they do not necessarily generate followers. Followers come from having a consistent, high quality feed. Oh, and feature accounts…

3. Feature Accounts

This one is super popular among photographers and that comes as no surprise. Feature accounts are what get photographers noticed by a lot of people. But the competition is steep, so make sure you are putting out only your best work.

There’s no simple way to getting featured, but I will say most of the feature accounts tend to be biased towards things like…

  • Travel photography (very, very popular)
  • Emotive/Exaggerated portraits
  • Nature/Macro photography
  • Film photography
  • Simple photos with little color (see more about this below)

Follow successful photographers, see if they are tagging any feature accounts and if they are, follow those accounts!

4. Simplicity and Saturation

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My last tip is personally the most frustrating one for me. Unlike Facebook, Instagramers aren’t as interested in bright, detailed and colorful photos.

They like simple, modern, saturated, natural light photography. What does that look like? Things like…

  • White backgrounds
  • Only a few subjects/eye catchers (so don’t put a busy or messy background behind your subject!)
  • Looks like film
  • Sunsets (always a hit)
  • One little pop of color
  • But a generally saturated photo
  • When in doubt, think “Southern California in the 70s”

Just so you can get a peak on how these perform, here’s a photo from my Hung Up series shot on 35mm film, which got a good amount of engagement. I don’t have the whole saturated thing going, but since it was shot on film, had vintage style and featured nature it did pretty well. 

Shot on 35mm film
Hung Up by Francesca Blue
Instagram posts with a lot of comments are usually a sign of success

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, of course, this is just what trends. There are plenty of photographers with successful feeds that are nothing like what I just described above.

And yet…

This style is so popular that apps like VSCO Cam have risen to fame because of it. So it’s worth giving it a try. Maybe someone will stumble upon your feed and decide you’re worth a follow!

Now get out there and start posting!

You are one step closer to Instagram success every time you post, just make sure you’re not posting more than a couple times a day. Be sure to bring your camera when you know you’ll be exploring a new city, travelling, camping or eating something beautiful. Trust me, it pays off!

One last thing…

A couple days ago a very unfortunate thing happened. My mom’s partner was struck by a hit-and-run driver while he was riding his bicycle to work. The impact of the SUV caused him to fly across the road, leaving him with broken bones and a severed leg. Any support you can give means worlds to my family. Donations over $50 qualify for FREE headshots done by me. Click here to donate & learn more.

Love and Light,

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