Hints and tips covering all areas of photography – my passion!

Why I’m Using Instagram Stories

I have long been a fan of Instagram, but as a person who doesn’t necessarily like change, I was somewhat sceptical about Instagram Stories. I’ve never been a fan of SnapChat – apparently the closest thing to Instagram stories online…

Why I’m Using Instagram Stories

Having said that I have been pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment to be had from viewing and uploading these stories. It can be a bit of a challenge, there is something much more spontaneous about a story. It is less ‘polished’ and pre-planned, more instant and informal! I am still trying to work out how to approach stories, and how to use them to compliment my normal Instagram feed and grow my following. However, here are a few initial thoughts…


Instagram Stories allow users to create a ‘story’ of images and videos that is automatically deleted after 24 hours. You have the option to draw on photos and videos, and add text and filters. The basic concept is to document and share pictures and videos of your daily life (usually uneventful, hence why being deleted after 24 hours isn’t a problem) without clogging up your main Instagram feed.

To view someone else’s story, just click on their profile photo, and their story will appear, showing all the stories they’ve posted in the last 24hrs. Stories are shown in chronological order from oldest to newest. You can’t like a story, or place a comment on it but if you want to comment on something you see, you can tap and send a private message to that person on Instagram Direct. As with SnapChat, you can tap to move forwards to the next story or swipe back to move to someone else’s story.

Instagram Stories for Small Businesses

This is a new way for users to post content on Instagram. For example, you can post about limited edition offers, products or services as your story disappears after 24 hours. Instagram stories also provides opportunities to post behind the scenes content at events, run takeovers or partnerships with influencers, communicate more informally and quickly on a 1:1 basis by running live, real time and completely up-to-date content.

It also provides a clever opportunity to ‘beat’ Instagram’s new Facebook style algorithm which upset so many users, helping your images and videos to be viewed instantly and chronologically!

I’m hoping to get to the point where I post at least one photo and one story per day! What’s your story? Are you using Instagram Stories? I’d love to hear from you!

Please do connect with me on my Instagram feed, I’m looking forward to seeing your stories!

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5 Reasons an Olympus PEN is THE camera for Bloggers

There has never been anything like it! One camera has literally taken the blogging world by storm, and now every blogger wants an Olympus PEN, not least because this stylish camera has become THE camera for bloggers! But does it live up to all the hype? I’ve been doing my research online, with Olympus and via blogger friends!

I’m not an official expert on cameras, but my journey as a photographer and blogger has been immense, and I feel I’ve come a long way since one of my earliest posts on photography for bloggers! So, here goes…

5 Reasons an Olympus PEN is the camera for Bloggers

Instagram Friendly!

The Olympus PEN’s built-in Wifi connectivity and synchronising phone App mean that it literally takes seconds to post your photos on Instagram and Twitter. If you are on WordPress, as I am, you can also import pictures straight into a WordPress app, writing and building your next blog post as you go, completely on your phone. You can (how cool is this…) also adjust your settings to take square shots on your PEN, ready for posting to Instagram.

Handbag Handy!

An Olympus PEN is THE camera for Bloggers
Designed for bloggers!


The Olympus PEN isn’t a compact camera, but it’s light weight and compact size make it very so easy for you to carry it around with you in your bag, much easier than a hefty DSLR!


There is no denying that this camera has bags of style and is photographed by bloggers almost as much as it is used by them! It’s become the ultimate styling prop for flatlays, largely due to its chic and retro (but very ‘contemporary’) style! The cream/white version of the camera seems to be by far the most popular!

Screen Sirens

The Olympus PEN has a flip down screen, so clever, and absolutely perfect for selfies and videos!

If you want to find out more about this amazing camera, then you can view the product description here.

So, is it the ultimate camera? I would argue that if you want absolute quality you will never beat a full-frame DSLR, but I do believe that the Olympus PEN is an amazing camera and does everything a busy blogger wants, whilst producing fantastic images!

Two words of caution though… A camera (any camera) is only as good as the lenses you use with it, so make sure you invest in a couple of really good lenses! I’ll be posting some lens recommendations in another post shortly!

Secondly, the flip down screen does make me a bit apprehensive, you do need to be careful with this and I strongly recommend you buy a good quality camera strap and bag, this camera isn’t as robust as a DSLR and it needs careful protection.

Have any of you bought or used the Olympus Pen EPL-7? If so, what did you think of it?

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NB – This is not a paid for or sponsored post, and all opinions on the Olympus PEN are my own.

How to use Hashtags on Instagram

Hashtags have long been a tool used to ensure that people can find specific content on various social media platforms. They work exceptionally well on Instagram, and can make a real difference to your ability to be found and connect with other Instagram users.

How to use Hashtags on Instagram

The secret to using hashtags well is to make sure you use them sensibly and responsibly. One of the ways people find content and contributors they enjoy on Instagram is to search with often very specific hashtags in mind.

How to use #hashtags on Instagram
Hashtags on Instagram

Each Instagram post can be accompanied by a short caption and a few hashtags. For example, a florist might post a picture and then use #flowerlovers #handmadebouquets etc.. when it’s uploaded to Instagram.

By using these two hashtags, the image is catalogued so other Instagram users who enjoy looking at flowers or floral bouquets can find them, even though they don’t yet follow the florists company’s Instagram feed. Interestingly, when someone shares your Instagram content to Facebook, the Instagram hashtag is also published along with it, unless specifically removed.

This means your content has a much better chance of being discovered by other people who have not seen it on Instagram.

The most common mistake is to use too many or irrelevant hashtags. I tend to think that the optimum is around 3-5, any more and your feed can look a little ‘spammy’!

Many businesses and high-profile bloggers have had great success by using popular hashtags sparingly, often creating new ones that are uniquely related to their brands. For example, my other blog is Backpacks and Suitcases, and I use #backpacksandsuitcases as my ‘trademark’ on my @backpacksandsuitcases Instagram and it provides an easily identifiable hashtag for followers to find and use.

Please be aware that you cannot ‘refresh’ older posts by adding new hashtags in a comment. Instagram has implemented a new update which means that no matter when you add them to your photo or video, it will appear in that hashtag feed with other photos and videos posted at its original posting time. No more ‘bumping’ posts!

Do you regularly use hashtags as an Instagram marketing technique? Do you have your own or do you get inspiration from and use other popular ones – there are some lovely ones to follow if you want to engage with like-minded Instagram members! I’d love to hear from you!

Happy tagging!

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Top Tips for Creative Flower Photography

I often see lots of lovely ‘nine by nine’ grids appearing on Instagram, especially at the end of each month! These montages are beautiful, and other Instagram users have inspired me to create a few of my own Instagram grids on a regular basis.

I love photographing flowers and most of my flower photos end up on Instagram, and so I thought I’d start this post with two Instagram ‘nine’s’ of my favourite 2015 flower photos. Generally speaking I find flower photography quite straightforward, but thought I’d share a few tops tips for creative flower photography with you…

How to achieve those gorgeous shots!


I use my iPhone for my Instagram feed, so these tips are practical and work well for all phone photographers rather than the more technical tips I’d be giving to those using a DSLR!

Top tips for Creative Flower Photography
Experiment and practise!


Top Tips for Creative Flower Photography

1. Angle – Once you have chosen your flower to photograph, decide on the best angle to show it off to its full advantage – sideways, straight on, or from above. For example, Daisies and Gerberas lend themselves to ‘looking down’ flat-lay shots, yet lilies and daffodils look better when photographed from a ‘sideways’ angle.

2. Distractions – If you are photographing flowers in a garden or park you’ll need to move around and make sure other distractions e.g. a tool shed or fence are not in the picture. Sometimes you simply need to zoom in and have a tighter framing of the flower.

Creative flower photography tips and tricks...
Think about angles and focal points…


3. Focal Point – Decide on your focal point and/or point of interest.. What attracts you most to the flower, the stem, colour, texture, petals, shape etc…? Once you have identified this you can photograph your flower for maximum effect! Remember to tap on your phone screen to ensure your image is in complete focus if you are focussing on a specific area.

4. Specimens – Choose the best specimen! If you have a bunch of flowers and you want to photograph one, make sure you choose one which is unblemished and has no petal discolouration.

5. Background – Think about your background when photographing picked flowers too. You might need a plain background for an elaborate flower, or choose something patterned yet complimentary for a more simple flower. Sometimes this is simply a question of taste and preference rather than a photography issue. Distressed wood works well for flower photography, as do different papers and fabrics!

6. Experiment – When photographing flowers don’t rule out a dead or dying flower, they can make the most amazing images!

7. Light – Always work in good natural light, it makes all the difference as it gives you a truer colour, and you don’t have to worry about using a flash!

8. Be creative – try ‘abstract’ and unusual shots – if they work they can be amazing, and if they don’t  – at least you tried!

9. Practise, experiment and practise some more!

I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about flower photography, and would love to see some examples of your own work too! If you love photographing flowers too, then get in touch!

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Trees For Trees Campaign

I’m popping by this morning with a brief post to share the wonderful Trees For Trees campaign. It’s such a worthy cause and absolutely perfect for this time of year!

The Heart of England Forest love trees – and that’s why they are planning to plant a whole forest in a day. That’s an incredible 10,000 new trees growing right in the middle of England! They’re doing this to raise awareness of the lack of woodland coverage in England, and everyone can get involved!

Trees For Trees Campaign

Simply share a picture or a photo of a tree with #treesfortrees on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and they’ll plant a tree for you on 2nd November 2015. It’s as easy as a click, a tap or a tweet – one message and you’ll help make England a greener, more beautiful place.

Trees For Trees


Plus, one lucky contributor will be selected to name the forest! How exciting!

So why not join me and do something amazing today – be a part of the #treesfortrees campaign and watch a forest grow as they plant a real forest on the day, and a virtual forest of all your images too.

I’ll be posting a few images on my Instagram feed over the next few days, so please take a look if you want some tree inspiration! The colours are amazing right now, so this is the perfect time to get out and take some photos. As always, my Instagram feed is from my iPhone photos, as is the image above.

Have fun!

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Magical Makelight Weekend

I’d waited a long time for this to arrive, and the Makelight Weekend with Emily Quinton, Ruth Garner and four fellow bloggers/photographers really didn’t disappoint! I’m forever mentioning how great Emily’s London Workshops are, and I couldn’t wait to go on something a little more substantial! So after waiting a few months, I had the amazing opportunity to spend the weekend in a beautiful beach house in Winchelsea.

Our house in Winchelsea
It was called (unsurprisingly!) Wynchelsea

Magical Makelight Weekend

I literally had the luxury of being able to spend the whole time taking pictures, eating, talking and sharing stories, ideas and photos!

Beautiful vintage furniture…

The house was bathed in light for most of the day, and was perfect for natural light photography.

Lovely kitchen area!

The house itself was beautiful and full of vintage charm! It was an amazing space to live in and was just perfect for all our photography projects which were ongoing throughout the weekend.

Lovely bathroom too!
Sociable living…
Glorious weather!

We managed an afternoon excursion into the beautiful bustling town of Rye for some prop shopping in the local antique shops, and I had my first foray into the world of foraging with one of my ‘partners-in-crime’ – I mean fellow bloggers!

Great props too!

I was the last to arrive at the house due to some family issues the day before, and was feeling somewhat nervous! I hate to be late or the last to arrive at events, as it always makes me feel somewhat awkward. I’d also never been away for a weekend with people I didn’t know before, and never been away from my husband and two young children for an entire weekend! I had nothing to worry about though, as everyone was warm, friendly and welcoming and I soon felt as if I’d known them all for much longer than a few hours!

This wonderful thing called ‘blogging’ (and a passion for photography) connected us all, and it was brilliant to sit and chat about our blogging and photography experiences, hopes and dreams.

My aim for the Makelight weekend was to continue to improve my photography, and to become much more competent at using my fairly new Fuji. I still took plenty of photos on my iPhone for my Instagram feed, and yet had the time to experiment with my Fuji and dabble with a few interiors shots. Emily gave us all very detailed and constructive feedback, and I left knowing I want to continue to practise and improve with every opportunity I get!

Thank you so much to Emily, Ruth and my fellow housemates for an amazing Makelight weekend!

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Audrey Hepburn Exhibition Review

Today I had a rare weekday trip into London with my husband the see the Audrey Hepburn Exhibitiion at The National Portrait Gallery. We’d had the tickets for a several months and had been looking forward to our visit all summer!

Audrey Hepburn Exhibition Review

Audrey Hepburn is renowned for her beautiful eyes, slick haircut, bold eyebrows, and a breath-taking smile, resulting in her having one of the most recognisable faces in the world.  The term ‘icon’ can sometimes be overused, yet since her death in 1993, Audrey Hepburn’s iconic status has shown no signs of diminishing.

This truly fascinating exhibition leads you on a photographic journey through the life of Audrey Hepburn, from her early years as a chorus girl in London’s West End through to her amazing charity work in later life.

Audrey Hepburn by Philippe Halsman


There were more than 70 images on display, some were the famous and iconic images we all know and would expect to see, others were rarely seen prints from the Audrey Hepburn estate and from the collections of leading twentieth-century photographers such as Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson and Irving Penn.

Alongside these prints an entire wall had been filled with vintage magazine covers featuring Audrey, and smaller exhibits were also on display including her ballet pumps, film stills and small family photos from her younger days.

It really is a beautifully catalogued exhibition which captivates as much as Audrey Hepburn did herself. Whether you are interested in photography, portraiture, the golden age of Hollywood or simply a fan of Audrey Hepburn, there is much to see and admire.

You can catch up with co-curator Helen Trompeteler’s Twitter tour of the exhibition below:

The exhibition is on until 18th October 2015, do try to visit it if you can!

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Makelight Food Photography Workshop

As many of you will already know, I’m a huge fan of Emily Quinton’s Makelight Workshops, and have blogged about them with enthusiasm several times already!

Emily’s Food Photography Workshop with Catherine Frawley of Borrowed Light was just too tempting to miss, and turned out to be just what I expected – a beautiful workshop full of food and gorgeous props in Emily’s Makelight Studio in London.

Multiple macaroons!


Makelight Food Photography Workshop

It really was a great day! Part of the fun is always meeting other people and finding out a little more about them, their backgrounds, interest in photography, and what led them to Emily’s courses… I also love getting to meet in person some of the lovely Instagram friends I’ve made, and this time I was thrilled to meet the super lovely Lucy from Capture By Lucy!

The day involved plenty of chatting, laughter and lots of food photography styling tips and tricks, as well as plenty of time to practice taking photographs ourselves! Catherine took us through the various stages involved in setting up a shoot, and it was mesmerising to watch such a calm, creative and talented professional at work!

Lemon Loveliness!
More macaroons – couldn’t resist!
OK, you get the idea!


I really do recommend this workshop – it’s perfect for everyone from complete beginners with a camera phone to more experienced students with DSLRs.

Fabulous fresh food!


I’m really pleased with the photos I took, although most of the credit goes to Catherine for her styling and props, and to my fellow attendees who styled mini vignettes too which we could then photograph!

Beautiful styling ideas from Catherine!


The proof of the pudding is in the eating (pardon the food pun!) so I’m looking forward to going it alone now and trying some of my own food photography!

Thank you Emily and Catherine for a wonderful day!

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How To Organise and Store Your iPhone Photos

I’m on a bit of a mission at present, to declutter and get myself more organised!

There doesn’t seem to be any area of life I’m ignoring, and sorting my iPhone photos has become one of my top priorities – especially as both my husband and I take a huge number of photos daily!

We all know the feeling of having to rummage through countless files on the computer or phone, looking for that one particular photo which we know is ‘somewhere’ Having a system for keeping your photos organised is the first step to actually getting them printed, displayed and enjoyed!

Getting organised

So, when thinking about organising photos, the big question to address is, ‘Where should I store them?’

There are a few ways to do this…

How To Organise and Store Your iPhone Photos

All iPhones have a Camera Roll and can also have My Photo Stream enabled. If you have ever wondered what the difference is between the two, the Camera Roll is unique to your phone, and the Photo Stream is in the cloud and syncs with all your other devices. For example, if you take a photo on your iPhone, it immediately saves to your Camera Roll and is visible only on your iPhone (unless you’ve enabled My Photo Stream).

Enabling My Photo Stream is a great way to back up photos, mine go straight to my iCloud account.

I also use an Instagram folder on my iPhone and my Instagram images automatically go in here, a quick way to retrieve the fully edited versions of images I’ve used on Instagram.

Photos which I take and don’t use on Instagram either sit in my Camera Roll or are put into a new folder if they are from a special event or holiday and there are lots of them!

Storing your photos online is another great way to backup your files. Services like Flickr or Photobucket allow you to have peace of mind knowing that a house fire or a lost or stolen phone won’t result in lost photos too.

If you want to keep your folders in tact, you can use a cloud option like DropBox or Google Drive. I have Dropbox installed on m iPhone and every month I transfer images straight from my iPhone into ready made monthly folders – it makes them so easy to retrieve! Online storage means you can also access your photos from anywhere the internet is available.

Has that helped? It’s not that hard! It just takes a little bit of decluttering, some purposeful planning (and maybe a few hours getting your head around folders and putting your current photos into the right files) and then you can breathe a sigh of well organised photo contentment.

Next time I’ll share my tips for printing and using your newly organised photos so you can really enjoy them!

Happy organising!

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Marvellous Makelight Workshops

Last week I was lucky enough to attend Emily Quinton’s Level 2 Makelight Photography workshop, having attended her Level 1 workshop last year. As you might remember from my previous post, I’m a HUGE fan of Emily and of her photography, and was really hoping Level 2 would live up to my expectations…

Marvellous Makelight Workshops…
Marvellous Makelight Workshops

Armed with a notebook, a fully charged phone/camera and my own DSLR (much less daunting than my husbands pro Nikon cameras!), I arrived at the workshop venue in Shoreditch…

Emily’s lovely flowers couldn’t fail to inspire…

As an experienced blogger and self confessed Instagam addict I was especially interested in developing my style and getting a little more help on setting up and photographing moodboards.

As always, Emily brought along a lovely collection of objects to group/arrange and photograph – all of which reflected her unique and unmistakable style. We even found a few props in the studio too!

Some studio props, and Emily’s lovely bloom sign!

Throughout the entire day she supported, encouraged and guided us with her natural warmth and humour, walking around the room and chatting informally and demonstrating her approach to using props. This time she was ably assisted by the super lovely Ruth Garner of Gathered Cheer…

So true!

Blogging is quite a solitary pursuit and it was also lovely to meet and chat with other bloggers. It was also great to meet (in person) a few of my all-time favourite Instagrammers too!

An added bonus was having a child free environment where I could set up a couple of props, wander off for inspiration and return to find them still there! At home they would almost certainly have disappeared and been ‘acquired’ as new and fascinating play things!

Just gorgeous!

I’ve since been practising setting up mini moodboards and developing my style…

Thank you Emily for sharing your expertise, for your encouragement and for sharing so much loveliness! To quote a well-known phrase ‘I’ll be back” – I’m seriously tempted by your food photography and styling course now!

Falling in love with photography…

In the meantime, I really do recommend Emily’s Makelight Workshops to anyone interested in falling in love with photography and learning to take beautiful images with whatever camera they have.

Time to experiment!

Happy snapping! You can also see some #makelightworkshops images on my Instagram feed too!

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Top Instagram Tips and Tricks – Part One

As an enthusiastic ‘Instagramer’ I have picked up lots of great hints and tips for taking and posting great Instagram photos, and today I thought I’d share some with you – especially as Instagram recently had a great makeover with lots of new features!

It’s often said that the best camera you’ll have is the one you have with you, and Smartphones have revolutionised our ability to capture special moments and share them instantly with whoever we want! A few simple tips will easily take those photos to a new level!

Top Instagram Tips and Tricks Part One – some technical tips!

1. Instagram tends to work best with a square crop… Lots of Smartphone cameras let you set the crop or aspect before you even take the photo, so you can see how your photo will look even before you open it in Instagram! I always use my camera phone (rather than the Instagram camera) and then edit in Instagram or similar app such as Pic Tap Go.

2. Avoid the temptation to centre your images. Professional photographers use the rule of thirds. Use the square grid on your phone and place your subject on an intersection if you can, this is widely accepted to be more pleasing to the eye!

3. Make the most of the Instagram tools, they really can improve your images. I almost always use the straightening tool to make sure horizons are straight on landscape photos. If you have a picture involving lots of shapes and buildings then your priority should be to ensure you have straight verticals.

Use the straighten tool to ensure your horizon is straight…

4. Filters are great for adding mood and atmosphere to photos, but it is a question of preference. Some people don’t use filters at all, others almost always use them. I always treat every image separately and only use a filter when I think it adds a new dimension to the image. You can now control the strength of the filter too, so you can make it as subtle as you want.

Subtle filters often work best…

5. Keep it simple! Try not to overcomplicate images, less is often more and one item photographed cleverly can make much more impact than a busy picture with too many items.

Keep it simple…

Whatever else you do, make sure you have fun and connect with other Instagram users who will inspire you.

If you are looking for a focus for your pictures, why not join in my weekly ‘Family Friday’ competition. Each week there’s a theme and you simply post a picture on Instagram and then tag it #familyfriday, with a second tag directly related to the theme. The ‘winner’ is announced on my blog the following week and a small prize sent to them. Other wonderful images are shared too!

Please ensure images posted are your own and are taken during the week if at all possible. You can find out more from my Instagram feed.

Carol x 

Makelight Photography Workshop

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend Emily Quinton’s Makelight Photography Workshop in London. As you might remember from my previous post, I’d been looking forward to it for what seemed ages, and was really hoping it would live up to my expectations…

Armed with a notebook, a fully charged phone/camera and my husbands rather professional DSLR (which has far too many buttons and settings for my liking!), I arrived at the workshop venue… As an experienced blogger I was more interested in the photography aspect of the workshop – especially being able to use my camera(s) to better effect, and setting up and photographing mini styled shoots.

Emily brought along a lovely collection of objects to group/arrange and photograph – all of which reflected her unique and unmistakable style. Throughout the entire day she supported, encouraged and guided us with her natural warmth and humour. It was a privilege to be able to tap into her wealth of knowledge and expertise.

There were plenty of beautiful objects to photograph during the day!

Blogging can be quite a solitary pursuit and it was also lovely to meet and chat with other bloggers in the ‘real world’, sharing tips and learning from each other.

I’ve since been putting lots of Emily’s advice into practise – I’m regularly posting on Instagram, finding inspiration (and sharing it too!) on Pinterest, and experimenting with mini shoots at home! I’ve started using some new APPS recommended by Emily, and have been ‘borrowing’ my husbands DSLR (don’t tell him!)

Thank you Emily for sharing your expertise, for your encouragement and for sharing so much loveliness! To quote a well-known phrase ‘I’ll be back!’

In the meantime, I really do recommend Emily’s Makelight Photography Workshops!

Carol x