Saint Peter John / Instagram
Want to Instagram like a fashion influencer? You're not alone. These days, it seems like celebs, Instagram models, and all us normies alike are turning their photo feeds into something increasingly artistic. Instead of just snapping a selfie, users are scouting cool backgrounds and locations — like the famous "pink wall" in Los Angeles. And some Instagrammers are even making a career out of their photos, hawking products like weight loss drinks, meal delivery services, and clothing brands in their posts.
While many of the new influencers are fresh off The Bachelor set or from an MTV reality show, others are relative unknowns who've built up a following through hashtags and word of mouth. To get the best tips about how you, too, can Instagram like an influencer, we reached out to fashion photographer Saint Peter John, the cameraman behind The Fashion Funeral who's worked with reality-star-turned-fashion-influencers like Are You The One's Gianna Hammer and Nazy Farnoosh, one of the stars from the E! show DASH Dolls about the employees at the Kardashian-run boutique.
What's the best app to edit photos?
In the past, you would always need a fancy camera to take good photos — but tech these days has bypassed that, says Peter. "Believe it or not, there are amazing fashion influencers on Instagram right now who just use their iPhones... The new iPhones really take amazing pictures, and with some easy editing tricks you can really create some great content. The VSCO app for editing is a fashion blogger favorite and a must-have for most. You can pay to unlock all the filters, and really use it to create some great, high-quality photos. And then just get out there and shoot!"
Once you've started to develop your feed, you reach out to influencers in your area that you look up to and admire and see if they'd be interested in collaborating on a shoot. Making friends with fellow influencers is also a good strategy for growing your respective audiences. "Instagram creatives tend to always be looking for people to collaborate with so they can expand their digital reach and build their portfolios," the photographer shares. "You can really do a lot creatively without spending any money."
What are some pose ideas for Instagram?
A good photo is all about the pose — or lack of pose when it comes to fashion photos. If you're showing off an outfit, candid shots work best to really give them life. And Peter loves to try something called the "Blogger Walk." "[It's] a staple on any fashion influencer's Instagram," he explains. "In this type of photo, the blogger just walks casually without looking at the camera, and you catch the shot while they are in mid-stride. [That way] you can clearly see both legs and showcase the lines of the garments they are wearing." It also just happens to look seriously cool and dynamic. How do you capture that pose? You have to get low. "A fashion blogger favorite is for the photographer to kneel down low and shoot a full-body shot aiming the camera from a low to high angle. This angle tends to be slimming and give the illusion of longer legs and height, as well as giving the blogger a strong presence in the photo."
How do you find Instagram worthy places for a good background?
If you don't already know somewhere you'd like to shoot off the top of your head, a quick drive around the city might help you discover some scenic spots. You can also do a quick google search to see if there are any cool murals or nature views in your area. Different Instagrammers have different aesthetics, so find the kind of backdrop that's right for you. When working with an influencer, Peter likes to work from the outfit background, meaning he'll choose a location based on the look of the clothes — and, of course, the look of someone's Instagram feed.
"Do they like natural backgrounds, cityscapes, bright colors, earthy textures, neutral tones, etc." he considers. "I look at the backdrop as a compliment to the outfit, so I try to make sure the colors, mood, and themes of the background match the outfit in a subtle but artistic way. I look at the picture as a whole, so the outfit is just part of the overall picture, so it should all feel like it ties in together naturally and tells a visual story."
The lighting is also super important when it comes to taking your photo. If the natural light isn't working, you may want to try coming back to that spot another time — and finding somewhere else to shoot in the mean time. "You should be adaptable, don’t get fixated on one background. If the natural lighting isn’t quite working, just keep walking and find something else in the area that works... Some of my favorite locations were found by accident because the original plan didn’t work out and we just walked around... The adventure of exploring a neighborhood to find cool hidden gems to shoot at can be the most fun part of a shoot."
How do you pick which photo to use?
Sometimes it seems like the key to getting a good shot is to take about a thousand pics and hope something works out. But looking through all of those later can be a little overwhelming. The photography itself can be a challenge, but the expert says the hard work actually comes after you're done snapping shots. "Having to go through hundreds of photos, selecting your favorites, and editing them can be a really time consuming and tedious process. But with more experience I have learned the importance of having a process that is as streamlined and efficient as possible, which helps me to not get overwhelmed or behind on projects."
Find something that works for you — whether that's the VSCO app that Peter recommended, Photoshop, or simply just tweaking Instagram filters to your liking. And once you find that process, stick to it. Not only will it help you create a more unified feed where your pictures flow together, but it'll also keep you from spending all your time hunched over your phone instead of strutting your stuff out and about.
How do you come up with your Instagram aesthetic?
These days, with so many influencers trying to make their mark, it can seem harder than ever to break into the scene. To get ahead, tailor all your content to your specific vibes. "Aesthetic is everything," the photographer admits. "You should start to look at your Instagram grid as a whole, and no longer as just individual pictures. The best fashion bloggers right now have mastered the art of creating one seamless grid of photos that has a very continuous aesthetic and theme. You can achieve this by picking a few main color tones you like, and making sure those colors are continuously featured throughout all of your Instagram pictures, so when you look at your Instagram grid as a whole - it all ties together."
And if you're looking to actually become an influencer, and not just post like one, that can help attract brands' attention, too. "[If you're] only posting content that communicates your style and vibe... when fashion brands that match your style see your Instagram, they can imagine you organically representing their brand... It’s more valuable and tangible to a brand if you have 20k followers who are engaged and there specifically to be inspired by your fashion choices, rather than 200k random followers with no specific focus."
How do you start collaborating with others?
Start small by simply finding other influencers or Instagrammers whose accounts you like. The Fashion Funeral founder says your feed is like your business card, so make sure yours represents you well — and make sure someone you want to collaborate with has a similar style. Then, you can just reach out through a DM and see if they'd be interested in working together. "I think in the fashion blogger community, people like to have a sense of creative trust by having seen consistency in your work on Instagram and knowing you have worked with somebody else they admire. So collaborations with like-minded creatives is a great way to get started and get involved in the fashion blogger community."
Reaching out is easier than it seems, too. And once you've developed a network of friends and collaborators, people might even start coming to you — like Gianna did with Peter. "I think Gianna saw some of my work on Instagram because she follows some of the fashion bloggers that I shoot with, and then reached out to me to collaborate. She liked the pics I was shooting with other fashion influencers and was interested in shooting a similar style of fashion content for her own Instagram."
He started working with Nazy simply because they were already friends. "[She was] the first influencer I collaborated with... Nazy and I had been good friends for several years and she wanted to start shooting more fashion related content for a fashion blog, so we decided it would be cool to collaborate and began shooting fashion content any chance we could." It was that partnership that helped both of them improve professionally. "Since then, we have grown a lot together creatively, and still shoot weekly. That collaboration really helped get my work out to the fashion blogger community and other influencers began to reach out to work with me."
When it comes to working with other creatives, whether it's as a co-collaborator in a shoot or taking the pictures, communication is key. Share your ideas ahead of time, but remember to be flexible on set. Life is always going to throw you a curveball, whether it's construction in the area you planned to shoot, the light not cooperating, or a friend who isn't quite on the same page. "I never hesitate to just take a few photos and give [whatever the other person wants to do] a try," says the photographer. "If they insist on shooting something that just isn’t working, I’ll try to make slight adjustments so we still capture their overall vision but work together to bring it to life in a way that makes for the best picture... You just always want to make sure you get a good variety of shots with different backdrops and angles, so you know that at the end of the day you will get some great shots you can both be happy with."