Every September, showrooms across the capital open their doors for London Design Festival, a rolling programme of talks, events and workshops which celebrates the very best our homegrown interiors industry has to offer. The festival often kicks off with Focus/18, held at Chelsea Harbour’s luxurious Design Centre, which plays host to a wide range of high-end brands such as Mulberry Home, Osborne & Little, Nicholas Haslam and our very own Victoria + Albert Baths.
Making its mark on the Focus/18 calendar, Victoria + Albert invited the UK’s number one interiors blogger – Kate Watson-Smyth, of Mad about the House fame – to discuss the importance of Instagram to today’s market. Alongside her was leading photographer Paul Craig – who has shot for the likes of Designers Guild, John Lewis and publications such as Livingetc, Homes & Gardens and Essential Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom – to talk getting the perfect image, how to build a brand on Instagram and other secrets of the trade which they have both proved to implement so well.
Over 50 guests were in attendance on the day, ranging from bathroom designers to budding influencers, all of whom were captivated by Kate & Paul’s advice.
Here, we bring you the pair’s top five tips to overhaul your grid and set your Instagram on fire:
Find your look…
…and stick to it! Your grid is a representation of you and your style, so show it off to its best effect. Kate prefers to edit her images on VSCO, and has now preset her filters to ensure all of her images have the same feel and ‘glow’ which has become synonymous with her feed. Others may prefer a white border or regular use of a certain colour to ensure their grid retains consistency.
Style, re-style and style again
“The key to any good shot is styling,” comments Paul. Consider this the first rule of Instagram. Take the time to style your shot properly – but not too much. “You don’t want it to look like an estate agent’s shot.”
Ensuring you have the right amount of ‘stuff’ can be tricky, but consider what you actually need in the shot. It needs to feel lived in but not messy. Shooting in your bathroom? Remove the dirty washing and baskets of toiletries, leaving just a neat pile of towels. In living rooms, you may like to leave an open book on the sofa or a coffee cup on the table. Make it feel comfortable, but don’t clutter the shot too much. “Keep it real, but with that little bit extra!”
Algorithms – what are they?
Fancy yourself as a budding influencer? It’s all about the algorithms.
“I post at the same time every day – my fans wake up, scroll through their feed and can guarantee they’ll find one of my shots there. This way your audience don’t need to find you. If you don’t have time, host a mini photoshoot and take five or six images over the weekend, then have them drafted and ready to go each day so you can send them live on the run,” Kate advises.
There is scheduling software available to help you time your posts, but neither Kate or Paul use these. If you do opt for a platform such as Hootsuite, ensure you mix up the hashtags rather than opt for a copy-and-paste job. Instagram has a tendency to think you’re a robot, so set your hashtags in different orders to ensure your account won’t be blocked.
Compose the shot
When it comes to actually taking the photo, there are numerous different elements you need to consider; lighting, shadows, angles and so forth.
Most smartphones offer a ‘grid’ setting on the camera, which allows you to line up the verticals and horizontals when taking a photo. This is of paramount importance to ensure you are using the space correctly.
We also have a natural inclination to take an image at eye level; for professionals, this is an absolute no-no. Hold your phone slightly lower, allowing you to get a better perspective and more of the image in shot.
Lighting can also be problematic. If you’re shooting in a dark room with big windows, the varying highlights and shadows can wreak havoc on your chosen image. “Always shoot where you can with natural light. It has the right temperature [for the shot] and I love how it falls through windows,” states Craig. “If you must shoot with the lights on, take the temperature down. Use the Warmth tool on Instagram to give your pic a warmer or cooler feel.” This can be done simply within the Edit menu in Instagram – don’t just settle for a filter!
Of course, there are certain stumbling blocks which can’t be avoided. The biggest problem when shooting bathrooms? “Mirrors!” laughs Craig. If you can’t move the mirror or want it in shot, set your phone on a timer and prop it up against something to ensure you have enough time to dash out of view.
And finally… don’t settle until you have the perfect image
“You have to take lots of pictures to get it just right. Take a look at the little elements you need to tweak – is a book too close to a cushion? Fiddle about until it’s just so,” recommends Kate. “I take at least 20 or so images and choose the one I want to post”.
Don’t shoot from just one angle, too. Move about the room – take an image from different perspectives, both inside and outside the room, perhaps with the door slightly ajar. Bear in mind also that this will help create a bank of images which may be suitable for use at a later date and make your life easier overall!
Keep an eye on the blog for further highlights throughout LDF over the course of the week.