Pushing Myself Out Of My Comfort Zone - Food Styling

Something I have been wanting to do for a while now was enrolling in a course that could challenge me a little bit. Sometimes a project is good to focus the mind and when I saw Catherine Frawley was releasing her Food Styling E Course, I took the plunge and used some of my savings to enrol. I have always admired Catherine’s gorgeous photographs of food and felt this was an area I could definitely do with some improvement.

I thought I would share some pictures I created from the course and the results of me FINALLY shooting with Auto off!

Week 1

Story: Prepping for an Italian Feast

I wanted to bring an authentic feel to the image, rather than it be polished hence the flour. The pan in the top right on hindsight is probably too black and also probably a bit too modern for the shot but I love the vibrancy of the tomatoes even if they did just come from Tesco!

Prepping for an Italian Feast Flatlay

Prepping for an Italian Feast Flatlay

Week 2

Story: Breakfast Flat lay

There are lots of props to convey an authentic breakfast story - jam jars, milk jugs, granola, croissants, coffee makes the perfect Sunday morning shot. Looking back at this image now I would probably lose the teaspoon as it’s a bit too straight and random looking.

Sunday Morning Breakfast Flatlay

Sunday Morning Breakfast Flatlay

Week 3

Story: Stacked Doughnuts

This was probably my favourite challenge of the 4 weeks. I thought long and hard about what I could stack and make look delicious. Pinterest brought doughnuts to my attention and after quick trip to Sainsburys, 12 doughnuts later, I had created these set of images.

Stacked doughnuts and milk

Stacked doughnuts and milk

Zebra doughnut flatlay

Zebra doughnut flatlay

Stacked doughnuts and mug

Stacked doughnuts and mug

Week 4

Story: Sunday Afternoon Banana Bread

So this is where I really pushed myself and actually baked! I’m not much of a baker, cook or domestic queen but everyone reassured me Banana bread was really easy to do. Turns out it was! And it actually tasted nice! A bit of mascarpone dolloped on top and my favourite Mind over Matter mug (a percentage of the sale goes to Mind Charity) filled to the brim with a homemade mocha, the perfect Sunday afternoon was created!

Freshly baked banana bread with mascarpone and mocha

Freshly baked banana bread with mascarpone and mocha

Freshly baked banana bread - Sunday afternoon treat

Freshly baked banana bread - Sunday afternoon treat

I have just seen that Catherine is releasing her last course of the year and if you were considering it, I would thoroughly recommend. I loved having challenges to get creative with, we all need to push ourselves sometimes!

After completing this course, a couple of friends of mine started their own Taco side hustle so it was my pleasure to help them out. Manchester folks make sure you check out No Manches Tacos for upcoming gigs. Here are some of the images I created, really hoping to do more of this. Thanks Catherine - you really got my creativity ignited again!

My Top Autumnal Picks

Photo by  Greg Shield  on  Unsplash

Photo by Greg Shield on Unsplash

It’s only just the 1st September and I know we haven’t had much of a summer but I am a teeny bit excited about Autumn 2019. Today has been typical Autumnal weather and I am looking forward to cosy up my home with this years high street offering. H&M and Zara are the front runners at the moment with their fabulous editorial imagery and affordable collections so here are a few top picks I would buy immediately if I didn’t have a wedding to pay for!

Kitchen

Zara Home Kitchen Editorial shot.

Zara Home Kitchen Editorial shot.

I am in love with this kitchen and the wall colour combination is giving me lots of rustic vibes, making me think twice about painting my cabinets dark. Ribbed glassware, and dark wood spice containers belong in a kitchen like this but would look amazing on any kitchen shelf.

Dining

Zara Dining Editorial shot.

Zara Dining Editorial shot.

This trivet is the dream and combined with a handmade utensil holder and a pop of black ceramic makes the perfect matching. Team with some stoneware plates, light some candles and you have the perfect dinner party setting.

Living Room

H&M Home Editorial Shot.

H&M Home Editorial Shot.

I’ve been banging on about rattan for a while now, and this chair is the stuff of dreams! I am also loving the statement blacks paired with neutrals to give a pop of sass every now and again to the palette of the year. I can’t wait to cuddle up on the sofa with a Netflix box set and a big mug of coffee, candles burning and the weather raging outside - the perfect Autumn activity.

Bedroom

Zara Bedroom Editorial Shot.

Zara Bedroom Editorial Shot.

A bouclé blanket, some spiced honey bedding and a textured wool rug can cosy up any bedroom for the Autumn/Winter months. Bedding and cushions are my weaknesses - there’s just something about new bedding which can transform the space with very little effort.

Hope that has given you some inspiration for refreshing your home ready for Autumn, now if September wants to throw an Indian Summer at us - I have no complaints!

60k & What I learned Along The Way

Celebrating 60k followers on Instagram. Bought myself some ridiculous balloons to celebrate!

Celebrating 60k followers on Instagram. Bought myself some ridiculous balloons to celebrate!

This week I reached 60,000 followers on Instagram. That is massive for me - I started my styling account on Instagram in 2016 and never dreamed I could get it to where it is now. To celebrate I bought myself some ridiculous balloons and decided to shout about it. People say numbers don’t matter and of course they don’t in real life but I am proud of what I’ve managed to achieve working full time in a “proper job” and running this little side hustle on evenings and weekends.

So whether you have ambitions for 100 followers or 100,000 followers, I thought I’d share some of my journey and some tips I’ve learnt along the way.

Inappropriate Balloons are a must for the gram! ;)

Inappropriate Balloons are a must for the gram! ;)

1. Hashtags - Are they important?

I would say yes, they still are important. Here was my first ever Instagram post - I used a total of 6 hashtags. I achieved 11 likes. Granted it’s not the greatest post ever produced but when you are just starting out, hashtags are the best way to get your page seen. And it still works even if you have lots of followers - one of my latest posts this week reached over 20,000 people from hashtags alone. This doesn’t convert to likes or followers but it means people are still finding my page and searching via hashtags.

My very first Instagram post for Northern Styling - 11 likes, 6 hashtags

My very first Instagram post for Northern Styling - 11 likes, 6 hashtags

You are allowed to use 30 hashtags per post on Instagram and I cannot stress enough how important it is to USE THEM ALL. Also make sure they are relevant to your post. Don’t use interior hashtags if you are posting a picture of the beach, for example. Have a look at people who have similar successful accounts to what you have or would like. See what hashtags they are using and use them too.

Another top tip would be to mix it up, constantly be on the search for new hashtags to make sure you don’t use the same ones for every post. This means you won’t just be seen by the same people but by more and more new people who have the potential to become followers if they like what they see.

Insights from a latest post and the reach from hashtags.

Insights from a latest post and the reach from hashtags.

2. Planning

I have always been an advocate of planning my grid for a number of reasons. Firstly, working full time during the week means I only have the weekends to create content. Once I have taken the photos, I load them into an app called Mosaico to place them in a grid like format which is linked to my Instagram account. This allows me to move and swap images depending on well they sit together.

Think about the images in terms of how they fill the frame. Some images are fit to burst in the square as they are close up, some have a bit of space as they were taken further away. Some have clean negative space to allow the image to breathe. Thinking about this will allow to balance out the images so visually the grid works together.

Using Mosaico for a consistent grid.

Using Mosaico for a consistent grid.

Other reason I love this app is because it allows you to save and store hashtags in categories so there’s no need to type 30 hashtags every time you post. They are all saved here, in categories relating to different topics and I mix them up whenever it is necessary.

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3. Finding Your Style

Your social media account should represent you and what you like. People invest in people so it always helps if there is a personality behind the account. Instagram is a visual platform which means pretty pictures are always welcome but over the years we have seen stories, behind the scenes, posting what matters and being honest rise in popularity. There is still very much a community on this little app so find your people and reach out to them.

The early days of my grid. It was a bit of mismatch of things but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up occasionally.

The early days of my grid. It was a bit of mismatch of things but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up occasionally.

Getting a bit more consistent with the grid, you can see the theme and style coming through here.

Getting a bit more consistent with the grid, you can see the theme and style coming through here.

This is what I would say is my favourite part of the grid at the moment. Colours are balanced and there’s a good mixture of images.

This is what I would say is my favourite part of the grid at the moment. Colours are balanced and there’s a good mixture of images.

4. Editing & The Magic Healing Tool

Disclaimer Alert - I am not a professional photographer. I take most images on my iPhone and my Olympus Pen camera. Although I have a basic knowledge for composition and a probably a “good eye” picked up along the way from practise and my day job, my skill lies mainly in editing.

The power of technology these days means you don’t need a fancy Mac and a load of expensive software to edit pictures for social media. You can simply download a couple of apps and voila! Instant editing software with a few go to tools that will help enhance your image.

Before & After Editing in VSCO.

Before & After Editing in VSCO.

The first app I use is VSCO. This is preset/editing tool which helps to create consistent images for your grid. There are hundreds of presets to choose from and I mainly stick to A5. This is my favourite because it gives me a bit of contrast (huge fan of contrast) and a mood which I can’t really explain - it just feels like me! I would suggest trying out this app, have fun with it. Try things you would never try and find the preset that speaks to you the most. Once you have found “the one”, you can edit every photo with it and create a unique style for yourself. VSCO also has useful tools like exposure, contrast, straighten. As you can see above, a wonky picture became straight by using the tools available on this app.

I have recorded a quick and dirty video which you can see here of how I edited this particular image.

Using the Healing tools on Photoshop. Ugly satellite dish - now you see, now you don’t.

Using the Healing tools on Photoshop. Ugly satellite dish - now you see, now you don’t.

Another favourite app of mine is the Photoshop Fix app. The healing tools have been my lifesaver over the years. Editing out little imperfections such as a wire or like the satellite dish that was ruining the shot above, I don’t know how it does it but it is magic! And is done all on your phone using your finger and a gentle touch - perfect for on the go editing.

5. Working with Brands

And finally, the last thing I want to talk about is working with brands. As your Instagram grows, it may be an ambition of yours to work with brands and style up some product. When first starting out I would always recommend collaborating on a gifting basis which is where the brand will gift you an item in exchange for you photographing and posting it on your grid. This could be a cushion or a candle, a dress or some food - just make sure it is relevant to your style and ethos. In the early days, it was all about learning and gaining experience. My first ever collaboration was a cushion that was very kindly gifted by Happy & Co.

Very first brand collaboration with Happy & Co.

Very first brand collaboration with Happy & Co.

I spent hours on this photo, trying the cushion in all different positions, bringing in props and trying to coax the cat to pose perfectly alongside it! The final image is pretty ropey but it gained me so much knowledge. How to communicate with brands, how to slot the #ad into my grid, how to sound genuine and not sales pitchy. Over the years I’ve done many gifting collaborations and the one piece of advice everyone always says is “only do it if you like the brand, like the item and feel like it represents you.” It is 100% true. Remember what I said about people invest in people? Well if you’re trying to preach about a loo roll holder when your account is all about travel, you are not only confusing your following, you are being untrue to your page. And people can spot non genuine posts a mile off.

Flower Lounge Collaboration

Flower Lounge Collaboration

As you get bigger and grow, it might be time to consider your worth for working with brands. Especially bigger brands. Shots like this Flower Lounge image above took a full day to set up and plan. This is precious time for me especially working full time. I know I have to allocate hours to this project, hours I could be spending relaxing or spending time with friends. Luckily I love doing it but it doesn’t mean my time is free. Knowing your worth is really important and don’t be afraid to agree a payment if you want. There is a lot of negativity around Influencers and Instagram but it is a highly valuable tool for brands. If there were advertising in a magazine they would pay a fortune for ad space. This is exactly the same on Instagram - it’s ad space and it shouldn’t be something to be mocked.

Tile Giant Flat lay Collaboration

Tile Giant Flat lay Collaboration

6. Over To You

If you have made it through to the end of this post then well done you! And thank you! Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog, follow my Instagram, comment on my posts and likes the images. It really means a lot! And I wish you all the luck if you are trying to grow and find your niche in the Instagram community! Give me a hello on there and I will be sure to follow and support!

My most liked post ever - 17.6k likes, 129 comments, 337 shares & 4.5k saves.

My most liked post ever - 17.6k likes, 129 comments, 337 shares & 4.5k saves.

Keeping Cool In The Summer

Paid partnership with Princess Home

The Princess Home fan in living room setting.

The Princess Home fan in living room setting.

I don’t do well in extreme temperatures. I’m much more suited to the stable grey climate of Manchester than the tropics or Antarctica, which is why I’ve probably never left my home city for longer than 2 weeks at a time. The recent heatwave in the UK made me miserable if I’m being honest. Sweaty commutes, even sweatier offices and then sweaty sleep is not my kind of fun! Luckily Princess Home had sent me a fan the week previous to review and it was a LIFE SAVER!

Sleek design and 3 wind modes make this Princess Home Fan a winner.

Sleek design and 3 wind modes make this Princess Home Fan a winner.

Ever since I’ve been a teenager, hay fever has plagued me especially in the evenings so I have always had a fan in the house. Although he did the job well enough, he was hardly Instagram worthy! So when Princess Home promised me a really good fan with a sleek design, I went for it wholeheartedly.

Close up detail of the control panel.

Close up detail of the control panel.

Features of the fan include being able to control it from your phone or your smart speaker, set timers and change between 3 different wind settings. The natural mode is designed to mimic a breeze from the beach and it is definitely my favourite one - quick blasts of wind every now and again help to channel my inner Beyoncé.

Looks great in the bedroom too!

Looks great in the bedroom too!

And it looks good! The tall, slim design means I can slot in anywhere it the house where needed. It pretty much spends the daytime in the lounge and then we take him to bed in the evenings! I would highly recommend this product and you can get one for yourself by clicking here.

There is also a competition currently running on my Instagram account to win one for free. The winner will be announced on 9th August 2019.

Fits in anywhere with its tall, thin design.

Fits in anywhere with its tall, thin design.

How To Dress Shelves For An Instant Refresh

Some people think updating their homes means spending lots of money on repainting or buying a new sofa. I find that simply moving objects around really helps the home feel fresh. I have updated my shelves in the dining room and I’m going to show you a few simple tricks and tips without spending a penny. I have just used items already in my house, had a little faff and found the room looked instantly new!

Before

There’s nothing wrong with the shelves how they were, they have just been like that since January and I decided to change them up a little bit.

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First things first - strip the shelves completely. Sometimes I do just swap one object here and there so it’s not necessary to strip it every time but I really wanted to go different so all clutter had to be moved away. I didn’t take a shot of the dining table during this but it’s not for the fainthearted!

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During

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The main reason for updating the shelves was to make a feature out of some of the prints we’ve collected from our holidays recently. The Bull print is from Malaga 2018 and the Pinxtos print is from our very fabulous weekend in San Sebastian at the beginning of June.

The diagonal line in which I’ve laid these prints out is intentional, it spreads out the bulkier elements so the unit doesn’t feel too heavy. I’ve added in my little plant that my best friend gave to me - he’s growing so so slowly but he’s still alive which is good news!

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Next I wanted to move a plant from the kitchen shelves to be more focal here and also to keep adding pops of green. Plants really help bring a space to life and if you can keep them alive then I would highly recommend having them in your home. It’s not secret about the well-being and health benefits plants give us too.

As a rule of thumb, objects look better in groups of threes. I’ve brought in my Chemex and Ikea coffee pot for no other reason than I love these as objects and shapes. The green vase kindly gifted from The Flower Lounge also helps the continue the “green theme” and the bulbous shape also goes with that of the Chemex.

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Next comes the books. Mixing in cookbooks and normal books help tie the dining room and kitchen together. Are you even an ‘Instagrammer’ if you don’t have the pages facing forward?!? I love the neutral tones it brings to the shelves instead of the colourful spines but it’s also to hide all the dodgy books I read -twilight anyone?!?

You can see I’ve add my wooden Nkuku star on the top shelf here too, I love this star but it is really big so by putting on the top shelf, it doesn’t dominate the whole unit.

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Time to bring in a few more finishing touches. These Denby bowls tie in the blue/grey feature and also add an eclectic feel. You don’t have to match everything if that’s not your bag, you can just go with whatever you like and it really brings out your personality. Don’t be afraid!

I also love this menu print which was here before, the brown against the blue, for some reason just makes me happy so I decided to bring it back. Framing menus is one of easy ways to create artwork and you can read other tips here.

After

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The finished article. A couple more books, a photo of me and Ben, and my beloved dried hydrangeas fill in the gaps. Also bringing my Jasmine plant from the other side of the fireplace gives the sense that it’s always been this way.

My 1986 print from Toodle And Pip now sits on the mantle and voila it’s done!

My Top Tips

  1. Dress one shelf at a time but constantly take a step back to view the unit as a whole so everything looks balanced.

  2. Use the rule of threes as base. Objects always look better in threes but don’t be afraid to occasionally break it as I have done on the 2nd shelf.

  3. Choose objects that you like as well as functional objects. Add in prints, pictures and books to give your shelves a touch of your personality.

  4. Have fun re-homing the other objects that were here before. That’s the great thing about refreshing one area, most other areas get a mini refresh too!