Posts in Blog Bits & Bobs
Photo Backdrops • The Edit - Grey Planks

The last few days, few weeks really have been one of the most exciting and nerve wracking times in the life of my blog. I have finally, after almost two years (it might actually be almost three but that sounded so ridiculous) of fiddling and faffing with an idea, launched a product on a brand new new look site!

I have been so fortunate that this blog has led to some wonderful photography work, loyal clients where I feel like a remote but very real member of the team. I have spent the last few years getting to know my camera. I slap my own wrists for not reading the manual that still sits in the box in my office, but I have learnt what it can do, settings that feel like second nature, and each year I hope you see a little improvement in the quality of the imagery on this blog. 

I want to help others like me who often work from home as well as professionals who shoot for a living. People who might be like you, who take photos just for fun, style flat lays of pretty things, arrange products you have been sent to review, showcase gorgeous recipes you've made or take photos for a magazine or blog feature, stop motion videos or just generally have a good faff.

I've started with a first collection of textures and surfaces that I have photographed and made into vinyl backdrops that you can wipe, roll and store in the tube they get delivered in. I live with dented cardboard and foam boards and realise I spend more time editing out little marks and scratches sometimes than I do editing the overall image.

I share my work space with my boys and a lot of the time it's littered with Lego. I need to be able to set up a scene while they are at school and then whip it away for when they get home. And not have masses of enormous boards wedged behind my desk or under the sofa. 

Head on over and let me know what you think! What you love what is on your wish list for Father Christmas and what you think is missing. Tweet me, tag me, leave a comment. I want to develop the next collection with you in mind.

I don't want to flood the store page with too much information that it feels overwhelming, so instead I am going to share a series of blog posts here where I show you each backdrop in the range, one by one and some different edits. All my photos are taken in natural light and these have been edited using one of my favourite set of Photoshop Actions from Sarah Gardner.

Introducing the Grey Planks....

I spotted this set of planks hidden behind an old door in a garden section of a scrap yard at the back of an Antiques emporium. It has texture and age but was almost in pristine condition, protected from the weather by a peeling painted door in front. It can feel cold and moody or cleaner and airier depending on the light you are shooting in. 

My favourite detail is the subtle ombré effect from natural exposure to sunlight. You can't recreate this on a computer. Well I don't think so anyway. The planks aren't too close together to be real, I have photographed them true to scale. There's a slight variation from the original in the final printed version but I don't think you can notice it in your photographs. 

Smooth vinyl, but with texture and depth in the image. 

What feels more like you? My natural style fits with the first images, but I love how you can change the atmosphere of a photo with some simple edits. 

I've realised more and more as life gets busier and busier with after school activities, homework and party invitations I need a way to create general images for my social media accounts. I am most active on my Instagram feed and these style photos help let my gallery breathe. 

They give my more hectic captures space. Sometimes I look back at what I've posted and it's a mass of full frames, no negative space (which we all know the good people of IG love) and each one is practically fighting each other for your attention. Plus taking even five minutes out of a day to create something is good for my soul.

Next up I am going to show you one of my favourites, my old marble table that is currently drowning in paperwork, Christmas cards to write, car keys and uniform to stuff into pe bags tomorrow morning! 

It is such a pleasure to have this collection live, there's a few tweaks and bumps to iron out but it is such a thrill to see people ordering them! If one is coming your way with the postman next week I would love you tag me and use #cblbackdrops if you share a photo. It's like seeing your babies fly the nest! 

Happy shopping and happy snapping!

A Conscious Uncoupling - Christmas 2015 Me And Mine

Heeeeeelllloooooo! Is there anybody out there?!!!!

My brother said to me the other day, "Wow you haven't posted in ages!!" And it's true, I'd believe you if you thought I was never planning to post again it's been so long! In the lead up to this Christmas time I knew I needed a rest. I needed to let my mind rest, if that makes any sense. Totally indulge in family time and eating and drinking without pausing to snap every moment and lose track of time.

Just before Christmas we went on a family holiday to the most spectacular mountains. I can't wait to share it all with you but it would have all been too rushed in the week of Christmas. It's funny because I thought that I had come back with a different feeling to our summer holiday. That my tired legs from shooping down the slopes had overshadowed that post-holiday relaxing glow that shone out of us all when we landed from Greece. People had said to me and I've said it in the past myself, that a skiing holiday isn't the same sort of relaxing as a beach trip, but it turns out I was much calmer than I thought!

We landed on Sunday 20th to a week of loveliness. A visit to Father Christmas with best friends and Sammy's sweetheart, then a big family party in Oxford, and then it was Christmas Eve! 

It's a strange feeling to consciously stop yourself from blogging. If you are a blogger reading this you will know exactly what I mean. It feels alien, almost frightening. What if no one comes back to read when you finally feel ready and refreshed?! I want to have albums bursting with photos like my mum has of us, but when I really thought about it, those albums don't have 30 pictures of the christmas dinner from every angle, they have one. There isn't endless pictures of us opening our presents, there's the shot of our tradition - laying the stockings in the lounge, and then there's the big family shot. The albums are full of people, smiling faces, piles of excitedly torn wrapping paper. They weren't photos taken for a blog post, they were photos taken for her, for us.

There's one of the Christmas table, eyes under paper hats too big for little heads. There's the tree, the games and cousins all lined up in a row. All the things that are most important to me are there and this year I tried to do the same. The moments I loved. Making pizzas before Grandma and Grandad arrived on Christmas Eve, my favourite new decorations hanging from the mistletoe from the school Christmas fayre. The year Sammy discovered cheesy jokes and thought they were hysterical, making up his own puns for the crackers and the little things that spark so many memories. The kindness of a stranger, well not a stranger but a lovely new friend, who slipped the boys a couple of vintage lorries with a little tree on top as I shopped for my festive flowers. Making our own mini trifles, taking time to lay the table with the ivy from the garden, sprinkling feathers collected from a wonderful new friend all around the house and snapping the most precious moment, cousins feeling their new cousins who we will meet in 2016.

On Christmas Eve, I should have shared a post in collaboration with a fantastic family brand I am representing this year, Slumberdown. They promote all the same values as I hope I do, and in the haze of cleaning the house ready for our Christmas visitors, signing for very last minute deliveries at 2pm, flinging cheese and salami around in the kitchen, racing to the village crib service to light our Christingle candles, then home for a "The Holiday movie" style disco in the living room, I ran out of minutes to open the laptop. The post was all about our Christmas traditions, traditions that when I scrolled through my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds I could see were in almost every house in the land.  

The plates of mince pies, the carrots, the handwritten notes, the Twas the Night Before Christmas bedtime stories. The flour and sugary snow sprinkled lovingly by fireplaces and front doors, little traces of magic and glitter for wondrous eyes in the morning. Everyone was busy making their own beautiful special memories and I realised it was so important to make ours instead of hiding away on a laptop writing about them. So I'm sharing this post, a snap shot of our Christmas, the little things I will remember from 2015.

I couldn't think of a better phrase to describe this festive period for me than conscious uncoupling. It might sound terrible that I needed to practically force myself away from the laptop but I did. Bar a couple of photos a day, and sometimes not even a couple to Instagram, I have taken a wee break from the internet. The holiday was the kickstart I needed to a real family Christmas. My brother and sister in law flew back from America on Christmas Day night and we had 4 days of absolute quality time. We build up my brother's trips back home so much that often we burden ourselves with expectation. I do it so often, build events up in my mind and almost give Rich and the boys, unachievable goals! Nothing is perfect and nothing has to be perfect. Kids will still spill drinks all over your beautiful table display but so what?! The boys will still have a meltdown, even on a day when you can't imagine that they would have anything to argue about. The dinner won't be served on time. Or in my case, even with preprepared veggies and microwavable bread sauce and gravy, you will still sit down an hour and a half behind schedule!

We save the presents under the tree until after the Queen's speech. We always have and always will and this year by the end of the seemingly endless pile from friends and family the boys opened our big present. And do you know what? The reaction was priceless. "Oh ok, a games table..." 

Admittedly it was still in the box, and maybe had it all been made up ready to play they would have been jumping around like the fleas we discovered on the dogs on the 27th! Urgh - I will spare you the details but in 7 years we have never experienced those pesky bugs on the dogs and hopefully never will again, but it taught us a lesson.

It had all got too much. Present opening had become about opening, not about what was inside. So as mean as it may sound, we have returned the table and perhaps in a couple of years will buy it again. 

In these days between Christmas and New Year the boys have played and played. We've sat on the floor with Disney movies in the background, singing along to the Little Mermaid and Aladdin, been splatted with squirty cream whilst playing Pie Face and I have soaked up the memories of watching my brother lie on his tummy making Hot Wheels sets and rolling around with the little nephews and niece. 

We are away in my happy place, down at my family holiday flat in Southbourne with best friends and their boys and tonight we will stand on the balcony with sparklers and mis matched glasses of bubbly and toast the new year and I couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather be.

So I am going to end this year of Me and Mine with all of mine. These are my favourite people, the ones I want to sit and do nothing with, eat cheese at 10 o'clock at night with, people I love who aren't even here yet. Sammy asked us how you know when you love someone the other day. And we turned to each other and said what we have said for years to each other. You know, because when you touch that person, when you brush up against them, when you hug them hello or hug them goodbye, or hug them in the middle of the day for no reason at all, you feel something. In your chest, it makes you feel happy to be next to them, to cuddle up under a blanket. And that feeling that you can't quite describe, is love.

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas, an exciting, healthy and adventurous new year. Writing a blog is a privilege and a pleasure, that people want to read about your plans, that I get to record the places we travel to, the people we meet, the things that excite me and the companies I discover. I am so proud of the Me and Mine Project. Years now of family photos I absolutely would not have without the encouragement and camaraderie of my fellow hosts Lucy, Katie, Jenny, Fritha and Alex

I can't wait to share in their journeys next year, the new baby joining the Mummy Daddy Me family and share the new additions to my family. A little niece to be born in America and a little niece or nephew due in just 3 weeks! We won't be adding to our brood but we may add to our furry baby brood... my mum bought me a fabulous book for Christmas - a guide to keeping micro pigs! 

Come and share your family photo, and if in the madness of Christmas you missed snapping one, take this post as the perfect excuse and capture one today!

How to develop your Instagram style & grow your following #BlogCampVibe Part Three

An Update (22/11/15)

I would like to reiterate that these How to Develop Your Instagram Style & Grow Your Following posts (parts one, two, three) are a summary of my talk at BlogCamp Vibe, which was a development of my earlier guest post at Ebabee about Instagram, and my sessions at BlogCamp River Cottage, as well as being informed by other guidance on Instagram published online.


It has been such a pleasure to share this mini series with you. Today is the final post and it's full of hints and tips that I hope will help you fall even more in love with your Instagram account. But I think the important thing is to stay in love with it. Like any social media platform, there are peaks and troughs in excitement and interest from both us and brands alike and right now it feels like the world has gone Insta crazy! 

I think this is a craze that has been around for a long time, I've just been late to the game. Finding a way to be truly myself online has been a revelation. In some ways I feel I can be myself more on my Instagram feed than on my blog. If I feel like sharing a photo of some flowers I can, if I want to ignore the washing up, the mountain of ironing, the pile of wrestling boys in the corner and the muddy paw marks all over the carpet I can, and in an instant I can share a photo of a little corner of my home that makes me smile and boom, I connect with a whole lot of people who appreciate my random moment in time. 

This post is a beefy one, which is why it's taken a while to write. On my new year's resolution list is to get better at shorter posts - I just don't seem to have mastered it. I have so much to share from the last couple of months, yes months, but each post has 50 or so photos for me to choose from and I find it so hard not to want to share it all!

So here goes... let's talk about hashtags.


Who doesn’t like a hashtag?! Well apart from Facebook and Pinterest of course where they just seem a bit odd. There’s a definite best practise for using hashtags that can help you connect with and reach your target audience. BUT GENERIC hashtags are hopeless! They will not help your #yummy #yum #yummyinmytummy #foodie #dinner be found. It’s too general!


Be more specific, be relevant - you want your photo to be found not lost in a sea of other images, and seek out new community hashtags that interest you. So one of the ways I have grown my following in Australia is joining in with the hashtag #7Vignettes. A wonderful monthly styling challenge with 7 days of daily prompts hosted by a leading interiors blogger @interiorsaddict. It's a specific community who love the same type of photo styling that I do, has a good number of people who join in and there is an opportunity to be featured on the host account who has 63k plus followers. But I join in because I love finding new accounts to follow, I comment on posts I find through the general #7Vignettes stream, I hope I am a supportive member of the gallery, I make time to seek out images that catch my eye, find beautiful new inspiring accounts to follow and spread the love. 

It's simple really, support the people you love and admire, support the brands you want to work with and highlight the brands whose products you buy without hankering for a freebie. 

There are some hashtag communities that I am very loyal to. That I naturally think of when sharing my photos.

I have had great support for #capturingcolour over the last year and more recently, several new colour loving hashtags have sprung up in my Instagram circle. Now I could pretend they don't exist, be unsupportive of friends and accounts I love, but I choose to do the opposite, and I tag their hashtags with mine. So you will often see me post #capturingcolour followed by #colourmyjoy #InspirationIsColour #BBColourful and #colorcolourlovers. It's good to share the love!

Hashtags are a great way to look to work with brands that will naturally fit into your feed. The worst thing about using your Instagram feed as a commercial extension to your blog is to make the sponsored or featured content feel alien. By joining in with a brand's unique hashtag your photos become part of their feed and most brands repost the images that catch their eye. Let that be yours!

I am always conscious of photographing products or events or press days in my style. So that when I link up my post with the hashtag being used for a specific campaign it stands out as mine. Do your research, check out the other posts linked up, look at how you can see a different angle, show the wider Instagram community why they should click and like your photo instead. 


At events don't be afraid to take your camera rather than your phone. I am ALWAYS the one dragging a DSLR to events and I never regret it. Don't ever be embarrassed to want to shoot the highest quality imagery you can. 

I want to share where I buy home accessories, where I buy the children's clothes. It helps followers get a feel for who we are as a family, the kind of home we live in and I look at the hashtags those companies use on social media. When I share a photo that features one of their products I have bought I tag them both in the photo and in the comment line. People don’t always tap the photo as the little tag icon as it is quite subtle and I've formed some great new contacts this way. Remember lots of brands don't monitor their Instagram feed at weekends and the posts you see may be scheduled. So if you share over the weekend, tag them in the photo on the Monday so it pops up in their notifications when their social media guru is in the office!

I've cultivated lots of very natural working relationships with brands that are in my home. It's not been a calculated process, we have sort of found each other if that makes any sense. I like their products, they like the way I share their products, it's a natural fit.

Look at the type of photography your best loved brands share, does yours fit in with their feed? If it does then make sure you join in with their hashtags! 

And remember... if you auto share to Facebook 6 hashtags can look a bit silly. You know the ones... #drink #cocktail #chocolate #love #lovecocktails #nightin #nightout on a Saturday night. No one will see it! 

The number of hashtags is a good debate subject. I did a lot of research for this presentation, looked at lots of advice shared by great Instagrammers and 11 seemed to be a consensus. I know some have heard from Instagram officials that a smaller number is a better strategy but, I have a set 10 or so that I like to join in with, that fit almost all of my photos, so I use the first comment line instead of clogging up the caption and then as lovely followers leave a comment, my raft of hashtags disappear. But the thing is, often I want people to see them, I want to shout out about these niche emerging mini communities within the wider Instagram community. So I will often add a few into the caption line, with no shame whatsoever! 


At the heart of Instagram is the want to create a meaningful user experience in a passionate community environment. I feel it took me a while to “get it” but now I couldn’t imagine life without it. And when you are genuinely passionate about a platform it shows.

You can see when people are inspired, and more importantly it's obvious when they are not, when they are posting for the sake of posting. Resist the urge. 

Its not just about beautiful photos it's about engaging the people who follow you and letting the people who you’d like to follow you, know are there!

Find and follow people. There’s this kind of assumption that a lower following count is impressive and that might work on Twitter but it’s not like that on Instagram. You know there are bloggers who purposely keep their follow number disproportionately low, or suddenly have a cull! I'm not so keen on that. One minute they follow thousands the next a few hundred. It doesn’t show you are embracing the community. So whilst you don’t have to follow everyone back, showing you are engaged with the community is so important.

Make time to comment - I heard Ella Woodward - @deliciouslyella speak at a conference back in the summer and she said it’s hard to explain to “outsiders” that she often spends 3 hours a day replying to comments. but it has absolutely helped grow her highly engaged audience. 

I feel like it seems easier to comment on Instagram don’t you?! It feels easier to reply to comments too? So set your notifications so you don’t miss comments on older posts too. 

I know bloggers group reply to general “that’s a lovely photo” type comments with a thank you or comment at end of the thread saying thank you and then replying specifically to questions, that need an individual answer, like where did you buy that, or how can I make that etc. And I think that is a great practise to follow.

Do you read the official Instagram blog? If not why not?! There is a wealth of information, you can join in with their WHP (weekend hashtag project) themes I am constantly finding so many new accounts to follow through that hashtag!

Find out when the Insta meets are and go along! They all love it as much as you do remember.


I think Instagram is a unique way to be able to have a direct communication with a brand. If they don't follow you they do have to accept your message but if they are socially savvy they will be checking their messages.

Lots of brands are still figuring out Instagram message and there are bloggers with incredible followings that are much larger than some national and international companies. So check out who you want to work with, can you come up with a creative Instagram campaign? Instagram takeovers seem popular now, but think of what else you could do? How can you connect your readers with their products? Look at their most liked photos, what do their audience seem to love and how could you adapt that to your style?


Be a courteous user - if something inspired your photo let that person know! People like to know they are inspiring other people. It’s not copying, it’s being inspired and taking an idea and making it your own. 

I loved joining in with the magazine Oh Comley's perfect strangers project. A parcel swap for £10 with readers of the magazine. But I realised, whilst taking part, that actually making the project more accessible to my readers, making the budget a little more affordable and bringing mu audience together through a different take on a swap project was a way I could take that idea and make it my own.

And the website was born. I blogged about my inspiration and now my swap project is in it's third season the #autumntimesurpriseproject! 

Look at starting your own hashtag or if you run a linky on your blog look at how you can ping that over to your Instagram feed. I find it so much more inclusive to make it as easy to join in with a linky as possible.  Look at collaborating - #capturingcolour started as a collaboration between 6 bloggers. Talk to the people you trust the most in the blogging world, people you would like to join forces with. Pitch to them.


Spread the word - has anyone seen this trend coming through in blog design to have your Instagram feed as your blog footer on your homepage? Everyone is doing it from American interiors and fashion blogs to UK parenting and lifestyle blogs.

And it's really effective. So much more engaging than squeezing it into your sidebar like I have at the moment!

Add it to your newsletter if you have one, tweet out a few times a week letting people know how to find you.

The accounts I love are the ones that post regularly and tell stories, I can spot their photos a mile off and I actively search for them when I go to bed iPhone in hand. 

They are accounts that have established and developed their own aesthetic and are really proud of it. And so they should be. 

Keep in mind that original content is what makes the world a more inspiring place. You can be whoever you want to be on Instagram. You can be in front of the camera or inordinately successful staying firmly behind it. For me, I would never flood my feed with selfies. It feels almost cringey to take endless pictures of myself. Eek did I actually write that... don't shoot me! We have all done it, take 10 until we have the one we like the best. But am I the only one who by the time you get to the 10th feel so silly you never actually post it?! I agree you need a balance of you and the world around you, but for me, I am so much more engaged with a person's observations, their creative photographic eye, rather than what-I-wore-in-a-mirror type shot. 

Be mindful that people are following you, and filling your feed with “found on Pinterest” posts loses that connection with you. If you want people to follow you on Pinterest great, promote that, but think about your Instagram feed as it's own platform, in it's own right. 

These are some of my personal favourites - distinctive, natural colours, high quality sharp images, people who curate their feed. And its not that they contrive a fantasy life, they are consciously creating a nicer experience for you. 

Go find and follow them ;)


I am absolutely convinced that your following can grown organically and consistently if you really love it. Don't try too hard, don't force it.

If you feel in a rut create some content in advance, schedule it and take a break. Come back when you feel refreshed!

Don't try and force yourself to to be someone you are not. It's easy to be "inspired" by your favourite accounts and emulate them for a period of time but finding your own way of telling your visual stories is so much more engaging, even if it takes a little longer to gain some traction. 

There are some accounts lucky enough to be hand picked by Instagram to be one of their suggested users and their followings have shot up! BUT look at the engagement - because it’s not an organic growth their likes to total followers is below 1.5% which is an indication that their following is not as engaged as you might hope it to be.

Don't chase that illusive suggested user status. I don't think that's what decides your Instagram fate.

Be consistent, be supportive, be you. If you want to start your captions with single words with whimsical connotations then great but do it all the time. If you find your audience respond to you posting first thing in the morning and last thing at night be smart and schedule your posts. And if you feel strongly about something or someone, don't be afraid to share it. I know my following love home interiors and florals but I still want to share all the aspects of my life that make my gallery mine. They might not get as many likes but it's important to me. Not to just go for numbers. To take people on my journey. Some will stay, some won't and I've learnt to be ok with that. 

And if every you just need a good laugh or popular content ideas check out @socalitybarbie! Embrace the clichés, embrace the community, embrace the wonderful positive and inspiring community that is Instagram. 

I've shared a lot of information over these three posts, nothing is gospel, you can pick and choose if any of it is relevant to you and remember these are my opinions, based on all that I have read and experienced. You don't have to agree with it all! But if there is anything you'd like to know and I might be able to help, just leave a comment, let's all help and inspire each other. 

People say knowledge is power but I think it's much more powerful to share what you know.

There are people that are really generous with their advice. I read as much as possible before the session, looking at common themes, tried and tested tips from those who have built up incredible accounts, looked at Pinterest tutorials and slideshows. Here are some great resources for Instagram advice - Annie shared how you can find your photographic style, Emily Quinton - who runs a Makelight taster course, Sara at Me and Orla who shares The Insta Retreat both of which I hugely respect and admire. Latergramme shares invaluable help from their social sessions, the Kissmetrics blog shared this great post on how to boost your brand with Instagram, The Sit Girls blog has some fantastic posts on growing your following and photography, Super Spicy Media shares great knowledge about all the platforms, Wonderlass has a wonderful post on 11 ways to grow you Instagram, Love Plus Colour has some great advice to find your Instagram voice as has World of Wanderlust.