Riding a vintage bike through the side streets of Paris.

Nate and I were dying to get out of town this summer, together –  without kids.  It had been six whole years since we had gone away alone so when I was invited to attend Paris Fashion Week (that’s a story for another time), we felt like this was the summer it would happen. This bucket list item needed to be checked! So we packed up, had both sets of Grandparents come over to babysit and the two of us took off for ten days.  It was glorious.   

But I was thinking a fair amount before we left. What was I going to do with the IG account? Would I refrain from posting all together? Would I ‘share’ when I felt like it? Candid? Curated? What was I going to do? In the end, I wanted to keep a relatively natural flow going, similar to what I’ve done at home and in the past on other vacations. Not going crazy but sharing some of our fun and perhaps unique moments that correlate to what is going on in real life. Having said that, I’ve personally found that attempting to create good concept ideas can be exhausting even in your own element (for me that’s at home indoors), but even more so when you are unfamiliar with your surroundings while vacationing. So I wanted to share what I found worked for me and what you can do to find your own rhythm while also enjoying your adventure.

So, let’s discuss how you can get creative with your pics.  Let me set the scene.  You’ve most likely seen the multitude of beautiful Parisian shots on IG with the picture perfect scenery – you know the ones I’m talking about.  An example would be the pretty girl sitting on the ledge of the Trocadero stairs, gazing out beautifully at the Eiffel Tower.  She’s probably in a long flowing dress of some sort with flowers in her hands.  It’s a stunning pic – every, single, time you see it –  maybe even hundreds of times you see it because… hmmmm…, there are exact replicas in your explore page that are pixel for pixel in relation to the one you’ve seen before.  It’s a sad but true tale on Instagram.  Someone takes a really beautiful picture and that shot or concept gets re-created a million times.  The picture unfortunately then becomes stale and ‘over-done’.  Viewers or even your own followers may start to roll their eyeballs when they see yours (perhaps its even the original) because they’ve seen 100 just like it already that week.  I’ve personally had it happen to me more than once and it’s frustrating as hell (especially since Instagram doesn’t seem to have any qualms about people stealing other folks intellectual property).  But I digress. Again – that’s a story for another time… 

So how can you creatively be YOU?  What I wanted to share with you guys is how to think outside of the Instagram box and still create some fascinating pics that can keep your account unique and different than what you see online.  Whether or not those shots get ‘copied’ afterwards is totally out of your control, but what you can do is set the trends and make your content and account different than anything anyone has seen before. 

*BIG TIP*  As tempting as it is to replicate a pic that you love or admire, I would strongly recommend resisting the urge.  The IG community is tight and when you set your reputation up for for being known as a copycat your credibility among the community slides – and for good reason.  If you feel inspired by an artist, make sure you aren’t recreating the idea pixel for pixel – throw your own flair into the pic and be sure too shout it out from the rooftops in your caption so you can redirect traffic to THEIR account.  It’s easy and you’ll definitely gain points and respect with the other creator and other accounts following you.  It’s just the right thing to do.

So, let’s get to it!  Here are my top tips for creating unique content on IG while vacationing.

Tip #5 :  Find the quiet places that seem vacant and ‘dull’ to others

These little hidden gems are everywhere.  We found many absolutely gorgeous side streets leading us along, eager to present quaint little doorsteps that were painted drool worthy nudes, vibrant reds, subtle shades of blue and mint greens that look like they could be ice cream.  We even saw dusty rose ombre doors!  I’m sure I was extremely annoying when we were trying to go see a particular landmark but I wanted to stop every few minutes to take shots of the walls, benches, doors or windows.  There is obviously endless beauty in the city of Paris, but your own city or hometown may have little nook and crannies that you haven’t yet discovered.  Look closely for the beauty in the ordinary and get out there and explore!  Find a street that you believe has yet to be discovered and deserves to be photographed.  Focus on a small aspect of that street, stand in front of that spot and get shooting!  If there is something that you find unsightly in your shot, try turning your camera around to another angle and think about levels and planes.  Bend your knees, stand on your tiptoes – see how that element looks from another direction.

 

Turned a quiet corner and BAM! Found this gorgeous outdoor cafe in Palais de Tokyo

Tip #4:  Shoot at a similar landmark to the world famous one.

I wanted (quite badly) to get a shot in front of the Arc de Triumph, mostly because on our first trip to Paris ten years ago, we didn’t get a chance to take in the landmark at all.  So this time around I wanted to visit it, see the museum inside and climb the little stairwell all the way to the top of the observation tower (which we did).  However, when we got to the base of the monument, I was totally shocked at the amount of people trying to capture the same picture that I was trying to get.   Also, the hundreds of cars that always seemed to be in every single shot which I can completely understand because there are twelve radiating avenues all around this thing.  It would have taken hours of Photoshop all of the cars and people out with skills that I still have yet to aquire.  So, I found a similar arc later that day and we played around with various poses.  It turned out to be some of my favourite pics of the whole trip and I’m so happy we were able to shoot there.  This particular arc was found at the Louvre!  It’s literally called Arc de Triumph du Carrousel!  It’s definitely smaller but I just fell in love with the lines and the detail and as an extra bonus, there were no cars driving around with the potential for any subjects to get hit!  HAHA! 

Have you heard how many people have been injured or even DIED trying to get a photograph for Instagram?  It’s actually horrible 🙁   So, stay safe and find something similar – life is too precious. Plus, you never know – it might be even better than what you had expected.

Tip #3:  Use different props that you haven’t seen before. 

A macaroon beret perhaps?   Or maybe a bottle of wine in your bike basket instead of flowers.  If you want to keep your pics unique, think about the items that you have in your life and use on a daily basis or want to utilize.  Think of a creative way to include it as a prop in your shot to really stand out from the rest.  As for poses, I just HAD to have this very famous street in my photo album for home but I was eager to make it uniquely me.  As a dancer I just played around with some different moves and love the final product.  Even though I don’t share them all on IG, it’s so nice to have them to look back on in the future.

Trying a few different colours for the Macaroon beret! Shot at our first hotel La Comtesse

Tip #2:  Don’t underestimate the power of the self-timer

When I first started to gain a bit of momentum on Instagram, I was told constantly ‘hire a photographer, hire a photographer…’ over and over again.  While I can TOTALLY see the value of a professional photographer, ( I have hired and paid for them as well), I knew that I wanted to take that particular role myself and dive into my ideas head on from behind the lens.  So, I started using a self-timer when I stepped into some of the shots.  What happened was I was able to let go of my fear of someone else looking at me from behind the lens and just play around – like get really into it.  I wasn’t trying to look a certain way for someone, because I knew that it was just going to be scrolling through the shots at the end.  It sort of unlocked a door for me and gave me complete artistic control.  Again, I know how valuable a professional photographer really is and we will hire them again in the future, but for my own creative account, the majority of the work that I present comes from me.  Leave a comment below if you need help figuring out your settings on your self timer.  I can have a look at a screenshot and try to help you out.

After the Ballet at our second hotel – Hotel Chateau Frontenac Paris

Tip #1:  Use humour to assist you during your shoots

I’ll be the first to admit that taking pictures in public can be kind of embarrassing.  One of the reasons I photograph at home indoors is that I often feel that people are staring and judging me when I’m shooting outside.  Now add a busy metropolitan city and that insecurity is amplified quite a bit as there are so many more eyeballs looking at the ridiculous things you may be trying to accomplish (running back and forth from a camera timer for example).  I’ve definitely gotten over some of the embarrassment as the years have gone by – I just tell myself that I’ll never see these people again – but there is still something slightly cringe-worthy about watching an ‘influencer’ walk 1/3 of the way across the street while the cars are stopped at a stop light, flicking their hair while posing in seemingly awkward angles. They then walk back (with their regular daily walk versus the strut they were using for their shoot) to the person taking the shots and with very critical/negative eyes say ‘delete delete, no I don’t like that one.’  All the power to those influencers – I am not knocking the hustle, I’ve done this too – however the ‘act’ often rubs me the wrong way.  The authenticity of it doesn’t seem to exist even though for some incredible reason their final products look completely legit.   I think instead what I try to personally do is make light of a situation and have fun, crack jokes and live in the moment with the person that you are with!  If you didn’t get the shot, who cares?!?! Laugh about!!!   Obviously feel free to try again if you want to or have the impulse, but know that it’s ok to leave without having the perfect picture for Instagram.  

BONUS TIP: Don’t use Instagram as the main source of your Inspiration

Read a novel, go to a museum, look at a magazine, build on ideas from a kids story.  Inspiration can come from ANYWHERE!  Something your child says or a movement that the grocery store clerk did while checking your food through. An interesting person you see on the street, a conversation you heard at the restaurant. It’s all something we can use to build on.

Here, Nate and I are goofing around in front of the glass pyramid at the Louvre.  He’s sneezing mid shot (self-timer) and it’s frickin’ hilarious.  I love the expression on his face and I’m definitely keeping all of them for our photo book at home.

Completely unedited shot of the Iron Lady – there is beauty in the RAW.

There it is!  My top tips to keep your IG uniquely YOU while travelling.  Hope you guys enjoyed.  Next up – a Coles notes guide to Champagne France!