Every since I shared how I grew on instagram in this post: Blogging Outside The Lines, you guys have been asking for more behind the scenes blogging posts about tips, tricks and my process!
So today’s post is a little bit different, instead of fashion, I’m super excited to today to talk to you about photography, styling, and branding. Additionally I’m going to take you through the BTS of my photoshoots and what goes into every photo we create and share on instagram (not blog posts, we’ll chat about that later in another post).
For your reference, these photos are unedited (I usually boost the color for my feed & blog) and some are even zoomed out so you can really see what we were working with on this shoot.
As you guys know, my job is to create original content that centers around color, vibrance and positivity. Color to me isn’t just in the pantone and primary sense, it also a way of life, an energy and an element of fun that I infuse into everything I do – hopefully today you’ll be able to take a little of that away along with some fun tips and tricks.
Okay so for photos, we shoot almost every day at all times of the day here in New York and beyond – we do everything from iPhone photography and simple snap/insta story uploads, to high quality videos, digital DSLR photos, stop motion vides made from a serious of raw photos, and everything else in-between. Between me and my boyfriend Paris (@parisims) we create about 95% percent of the content you see. Sometimes, I’ll do a professional photo or video shoot with a camera or crew for a specific product, for example I just did one with maybe line and seventeen magazine thats been running on social all this week (#colormeseventeen) and over the holidays we shot a really fun video with Nordrstom Rack. On rare occasions when Paris isn’t with me, my mom, brother, friends or even my Uber driver will take my photo. No lie, in my early blogging days when I was living in NYC and had no friends, I had a homeless guy take my photo in exchange for McDonalds lol – but thats a story for another day!
The best part about photography right now is that cameras are so advance and user friendly, that actually pressing click and capturing the picture might be the easiest part. We shoot most of our photos on a Cannon 80D with Sigma 18-35 mm Lens, or lately, we’ve been using the google pixel phone because it has an amazing camera in some cases the photos turn out better! Because these cameras are super easy to use, I spend the most of my time with the curation process such as choosing the location, picking the theme, finding the outfit and more!
The Feed @colormecourtney
If you look at my instagram feed @colormecourtney (shameless plug) you’ll see its very bright, very colorful and also curated. I don’t post two pink background photos back to back but you see lots of pink in the feed, I actually try and make them land in fun patterns because I’m OCD like that. I have a lot of other rules I try to follow, like not posting the same outfit on top, or right next to each other in the feed, not featuring paris or waffles my french bulldog back to back, not doubling up on flatlays, the same location, same brand or even the same face to make sure the feed brings variety at all times. I also don’t like “white” photos because I want things to always be bright and colorful. All of this is easier said than done and takes more work than you would think. I sometimes wish I had a non curated “post anything” kind of feed, it would be a lot easier on my end – but instead I work really hard to bring a unique experience to my feed and save my “post anything” non curated pics for other platforms like stories or twitter – which you can also follow me on @colormecourtney another shameless plug 😉
SO here’s the process I go through before I create each photo, and the questions I ask myself before publishing
“What’s the Point”
As in why am I creating this post, the answer could be to promote xyz product, to share my #ootd, to ask my readers a question or all of the above. The photos we’re using here are for a sponsored collaboration with Papyrus, where I was hired by a third party to help promote the launch of their Taylor Swift collection, you can see the ad published here.
“What’s the story”
I like to make up a story behind every post, some are really straight forward and clear and others are elaborate things I’ve created in my head that probably don’t ever translate but just are used for inspiration. So for each post I try and figure out a fun & creative way to portray that point, whatever it maybe. Sometimes it’s pairing things with a preexisting idea I already had, and now have the platform to portray it. For the example we’re sharing, I had been dying to do a monochromatic post with balloons, and this gave me a great opportunity to do so!
“But what will I wear”
(ten points if you read that in the Grinch voice)
On to outfit – this is one of the most important parts for me because iIm first and foremost a life and style brand! For the example post we’re reviewing here, I knew wanted a pink dress to match the product. So I went to my closet (which is organized by color bc I have a problem) and looked at my pink dresses! Luckily I had this one that I wanted to shoot and share anyways, so I decided to use it! Plus, it matched the card more perfectly then I could have imagined! Sometimes I don’t have the perfect piece in my closet, so I’ll go shop searching for what I want. // shop this look at the bottom of the post.
“Location, Location, Location”
After the outfit is nailed down, I’ll start to focus on background, specifically – what will compliment the look & tell the story? Do I want to do something monochromatic or contrasting? Do I want it to be graphic or “New Yorky?” Do I want it to be self explanatory or evoke intrigue – all important questions. For the pink example, I essentially wanted to recreate the card, so I wanted it AS PINK AS POSSIBLE! But I also wanted it to say “hey, i’m happy & I like to party” instead of being super posed in front of a totally pink solid wall. By opting for a pink restaurant, I think the walk-in down the street on my way to my besties birthday party thing totally comes though here, plus it feels like a sweeter, sex & the city moment so I’m totally on board with that!
This next one is optional, but I more is more I usually say yes! Here I’ll ask, Do I want a prop? Usually, I opt to prop because I think its more fun and exciting, all parts of the color me brand! If you want strictly outfit photos, the photos on my blog usually do that – but since on instagram, I have to tell a whole story with one shot (and I usually have ALOT to say) I want to make sure each photo has something extra – like a BIG GIANT balloon (or three) to make the card come to life.
After I have the photo idea, location, outfit and all of these important details nailed down, I have to take a step back and make sure what i’m going to create fits my brand.
So many bloggers ask me questions like..
- how do you take on sponsored collaborations and stay authentic?
- how do you build a consistent blog and brand?
- how do you evoke a clear message to your followers?
The answer to all of the above questions, lies in the next step. I have 5 key “things” or courtney-isms if you will that make me, me. Everything I publish on Color Me Courtney has to check 4 of those 5 boxes, otherwise its not worth sharing. My 5 things are – color, confidence, fun, dress outside the lines & unapologetic.
Color – This doesn’t have to be literal. It could refer to a colorful personality, place or feeling.
Confidence – I want everything I post to evoke confidence & positivity in one way or another. The post itself could be about body positivity or overcoming an insecurity, or maybe just has that overall vibe. It doesn’t mean I’m a 100% confident all the time, but when I’m not, I talk about it and help inspire others to become a little bit more confident.
FUN – sometimes i post about sad stuff, like when my dog got paralyzed, but i always end on a positive glass half full kind of note because this is a place for positivity even in darkness.
Dress Outside The Lines – This is my blog tagline, and at the center of almost everything I do. I like the content I publish to be unique, different and a bit outside the box.
Unapologetic – I’m me, to a tee, I keep it real because thats all I know how to do and i don’t apologize for it … because you shouldn’t have to for being yourself. I want to make sure that comes through in every post!
After I know what we’re going to create is on message, we move on to the actual shoot. During the photoshoot, I share my ideas with Paris but I also like to hear from him, sometimes he’ll have a new idea we try on the spot which is always fun! Some of our best ides come from being flexible and thinking on our feet, so although we like to be very prepared, we like to be open minded as well.
On set, I dance, sing, and have fun – people stare, laugh and sometimes take photos but I play along. Hopefully my photos look like I’m having a good time because 90% of the time I am! Even when its cold or raining or miserable, I try to smile through it! When we’re shooting Paris and I will fight, play fight, or crack jokes the whole time – we try to stay in a good mood because when we aren’t it shows lol.
In this photo, we were trying a bunch of things to get as much pink in the background. I sat, I stood, I went to the other side of the building all to get the balloons, my look and the pink background all into play, while still showing off the card (since that’s what the pst was for). In the end, we got the money shot where Paris balanced on a the concrete ledge of a light pole to get the perfect angle, THANKS PAIR!
Once we’ve captured the photo, I review it once again as we narrow down to make sure the pics align with 4 out of 5 of my courtneyisms. We review these on our phones or on the camera, once we snap something I don’t like to reshoot under any circumstances and try my best to avoid a do-over.
It’s not always a science like this, or this order sometimes I plan my look based on the location – like the flaming photo where I dressed (you guessed it) like a flaming … although its important to note that Paris was wearing flamingo shirt as well and he did not plan it! Sometimes a situation just aires, like the this trolley photo, here a trolley pulled up and we ran over, we had like 60 seconds to snap the a pic before the Opportunity ended. This photo is not perfect, I have a serious pooch and upon further examination I missed a button on my jeans hahahaha but HEY I like it. Curated does not mean fake, it just means thought out, well organized and professional; and since my blog is my business, and these photos are things that brands pay for – I hope people appreciate how much work goes into the content we create and how seriously we take it … all while having a lot of fun along the way.
Edit and Organize!
So now the photo is taken, boom! Next I edit it in snapseed and or color story, then I upload to planoly and move things around until I know where I want it to be in my feed. I try to plan this 24 hours in advance but that doesn’t always work out. Sometimes I’ll take a post a photo on the spot – but I’m never flying blind I always know what I’m looking for — “like I need a blue backdrop”, “I need a Courtney & Paris lifestyle shot” or I want a shoefie with my #colormemani in it!
Then I craft a caption! This often comes to me mid edit or sometimes even mid shoot and I have to stop and jot things down real quick. Other times I’ll think of something in the early phases and write it down in my phone – you guys should see my notes section it’s bananas! After It’s written, I’ll add emojis to make it more me and get ready to publish!
Before I actually publish, I’ll link my photo with Liketoknow.it or through ShopStyle at colormecourtney.com/shop so my look becomes shoppable. If I’m going to use hashtags, I’ll prepare them in a note as well. If I’m going to use hashtags, I want to publish them in the first comment right after I publish the photo – so I’ll add the photo, tag, geo tag (this is very important and can really improve your engagement), go back and copy the hashtag, share the photo and then paste the tags into the first comment, woooo that sounds like a lot, but it’s not that bad I promise!
After the photo is live I try and respond to all of the comments, this takes a bunch of time but is a great way to connect with my followers, so for me its worth it! Plus is boots your engagement for a post and helps it get seen by more eyes – so if you find yourself struggling to get seen, give it a try!
SHOP THE LOOK