When it comes to modern design, contemporary art and some weird and wacky gifts, the MoMA Design Store is our jam. So is it any surprise that such a creative retailer would be amazing at Instagram, the ultimate visual social media platform? What started out as a pet project for the museum’s store has turned into a tool for connecting with its customers. We talked to MoMA Store’s product photographer/stylist and Insta-master Erin Elise Holland about how to cultivate the most engaging Instagram feed, whether you’re running a business or a personal account.
Give your brand a voice
MoMA Store highlights products for sale as well as objects to see in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, so Erin balances both of these needs on MoMa store’s Instagram feed. However, she tells us there’s more of a storytelling aspect to social media. “Instagram is such a powerful tool for giving brands a personal voice. Our culture is inundated with dry, commercial imagery, and Instagram helps businesses tell the story of who they are.” How to do that? Erin suggests you use the account to inject some humanity into all that retail and take customers on a tour of your business. “Show them your roots, expose your process, pique their interest with striking visuals, offer examples of how to use your product. And honestly, just have fun with it.”
Go Behind the Scenes
Paul McCarthy-designed skateboards are currently for sale in the MoMA Design Store, but Erin didn’t want to just feature glossy, web-ready images on the Instagram account. Instead, she opted for a behind-the-scenes shot of Paul and his son reviewing the designs. “The potential with Instagram is giving customers a more genuine understanding of where their money is going. Hopefully it encourages businesses to source their products honestly and create stories worth telling.”
Go easy on the filters
Shooting glamorous product imagery and taking behind-the-scenes phone snaps are two very different things. Erin prefers to skip all the fancy gadgets (sorry, selfie stick and lighting kit) and keep smartphone shots the way they were intended to be: more intimate and in-the-moment. If you do want to edit your photos beyond just tapping the Valencia filter and calling it a day, try Erin’s latest choice for fine-tuning filters: VSCO Cam (free for iPhone and Android).
But, at the end of the day, take it from a professional: “A good filter won’t do much for a bad photo.” Erin has some great tips for taking better shots, whether they’re ‘grams or higher quality.
Staging a Still Life
“A still life is all about composition,” Erin tells us. “In product photography, keep your product as the main focus and use props that enhance, rather than detract from the focus. Simple, easily recognizable shapes and bright colors always help.” Want to learn more about composition? Check out our photography for bloggers e-class.
Capturing the action
Capturing favorite moments or staging milestone photo shoots can be tricky once those cutie pies learn to walk. It’s a common hurdle when shooting kids’ items at MoMA Store, so Erin says you’ve just got to give them time to do their own thing. “If we see something we like on camera, we’ll have them repeat that motion a few times to get some options. And if all else fails, it doesn’t hurt to have a little candy in your pocket!”
Whether you’re eating a memorable brunch or you made a freaking amazing dinner, Erin advises you keep your foodie Instagrams “Fresh and simple. Remove any extraneous objects from the shot — push your crumpled napkin to the side, and use an angle that makes your meal look appetizing. Close zooms and bird’s-eye views work well.” Check out @bonappetitmag and @davisstreetespresso for some of her favorite examples. If you’re trying to take more professional photos, Erin recommends hiring a food stylist. Better yet, become one yourself!
Thinking about perspective
In other words, think outside the box. Do you want your photos to blend in or stand out in a crowd of hashtags? “Find perspectives that show the most unique features of whatever you’re shooting,” suggests Erin. “It helps to play around a bit — look at it for a while, turn it upside down, consider what other shapes, colors, objects or ideas it reminds you of. Use that as inspiration.”