One of the questions that fellow influencers often ask me is how I create content that looks so editorial. Doing this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re solely positioning yourself in the luxury market, especially when mid-tier to premium brands are beginning to demand this level of high-quality imagery.
It’s essential on two levels – as the value of social engagement fluctuates and marketeers are constantly unravelling what a good ROI actually means, paying for beautiful photos that tell a story is incontestable. Secondly, upping your creative game is essential to being taken seriously as a creative, rather than purely as an influencer.
More and more of us look to the same photographers to help us create our imagery, so now it’s easier than ever to look generic. And if you needed any more convincing, the influencer market is maturing from infancy. We’ll soon be expected to be more versatile and up-skill amid the constant influx of new talent – especially for those of us that intend to make a career from this.
1) Edit on desktop
I used to shoot with my camera and edit on iPhone via a card reader; it was my must-have blogger tech. When more changes happened on Instagram and our engagement was suffering, I took the opportunity to switch things up. The best change I made was to create new presets on Lightroom desktop and stop editing on the go.
It’s worth the inconvenience and extra hours. First of all, you’ll notice that the same image can look different once it’s imported to your smartphone. Various models have different colour temperatures. If that wasn’t annoying enough, the severity of your backlight is a huge variable in the appearance of your photos.
Editing on your desktop eliminates these inconsistencies so you really get a clear and cohesive editing style. Plus, you can control the file size of the image, whereas editing and saving on your phone is limiting.
This leads me onto actual editing. Scan your eyes over the front covers of a newsstand of high fashion and design mags. They’re crisp, not too desaturated and the skin tone is natural.
You may argue that Instagram is a playground for creativity and we shouldn’t adhere to anyone else’s style. But how unique are we when many of us are simply buying pre-made presets off our favourite influencers? If you’re serious about working with premium brands and creating appropriate content, keeping it natural is best. Or at the very least, have your own filter. After all, you’re creating your own brand.
3) It’s not about what you have it’s how it makes others feel
A lot of people have the misconception that high-end content needs to feature the latest ‘it’ bag or the most coveted shoes. If you really consider what luxury is, it’s more of a feeling and an experience than a price tag. Heritage, escapism, quality, an artful kind of minimalism, inspiring – all of these things help your feed and content to feel more expensive, even if you’re wearing head-to-toe Zara. How do you achieve this? Two things:
Location is key. Make an effort to uncover places in your city that don’t solely involve a floral façade or a pink wall. Everyone may love them but ‘everyone’ is not a premium brand’s demographic. You can keep it relatable with your personality in your captions and engaging your audience with behind the scenes via Stories.
Props are a great alternative to an accessory if you’re beginning to exhaust that one Prada bag you bought on the Farfetch sale (ahem, that’s me). In art, every part of a painting had some kind of symbolism. Understanding the background of fruit, flowers, materials may seem superfluous and overly intellectual. But references to culture helps a product shot become premium. Even bubbles have meaning.
4) Create a moodboard
As seasons change (and therefore colours) or I know I’m about to embark on a content trip, I create moodboards. It doesn’t need to be an undertaking the size of Picasso’s Guernica. Basically a moodboard is a small collection of reference images that keep my style and vision grounded.
Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people that has a really strong single aesthetic or even photography style. I love experimenting. If you can relate, you need something that keeps you consistent while branching out and trying new ideas. This also means that you’re researching backdrops and poses, so you can be super-efficient and leave some more time for that post-shoot coffee.
See below for examples of my moodboards.
5) Styling tips
As I said before, high-end content doesn’t need to feature designer everything but you’re mistaken if you think cute jeans and a t-shirt in every shot is going to make waves. These are my three tips to make your style instantly look high-end, even on a budget:
- Visit a haberdashery and pick up quality ribbon like velvet and grosgrain, which are frequently seen on couture runways or lovely buttons like horn, tortoiseshell and crystal. I used to do this when I first started my blog as a student and couldn’t afford to pillage sample sales all the time. For example, if you need a simple shirt to look a little fancier, tie a bow around your wrists. Alternatively go for that Attico vibe and do the same around your ankles. Swap nasty plastic looking buttons on a coat for expensive-looking natural materials.
- Structured silhouettes and neutral palettes make everything look more premium. Monotone outfits can be done via high street purchases alone. The best example of this is @frassyaudrey who almost always wears affordable pieces but makes Primark look like Marni.
- If it fits poorly, it’ll look cheap. Even if it isn’t. If you know you’re not going to take it to the tailor, just don’t buy it.
6) Angles and camera tricks
I used to shoot models for the Abercrombie & Fitch castings. It really wasn’t very glamorous. Anyway, I was trained to hold the iPhone at chest-level because the camera is at the top so holding it at eye-level makes the subject look stunted and it’s unflattering. We always told the girls to put their weight on their back leg and push their other one forward. This is how you take your basic OOTD picture. You don’t want to do this unless you want some dubious detox diet teas flooding your inbox.
In general, when shooting you’ll be looking to make the subject look taller, whatever it takes. This is not about unrealistic beauty standards, it’s about flattering and creative angles. I’ve had photographers on their backs because of all 5’1 of me (I’m a delight to work with). If you’re using a flash, try shooting the subject from above. Contours will be exaggerated because of the light and shadow. Playing around with a prism, flowers or sheer fabrics like lace and chiffon in the foreground. The rule is, if the person with the camera isn’t getting a proper glute and ab workout from the shoot, someone isn’t trying hard enough. You think I’m joking but I’ve saved some ladies from expensive gym memberships.
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Andrea Cheong is a fashion journalist and an Evening Standard Top 25 Influencer. Based in London, you can learn more about Andrea and her services at thehauteheel.com or follow her on Instagram @fleurandrea