How to Create A Curated "Aesthetic"
Today we've got a little bit of a different post going on, but as no surprise to anyone, I wanted to shake things up a little bit today. I thought this would be a fun, exciting, and hopefully interesting topic to get into, as it's something that I know I loved reading about a year ago. So today, I'm talking about ~*aesthetics.*~
One question I get asked all the time is, "Hannah, how the hell do you find so many grey walls?"
And the question always makes me laugh. My love affair with the color grey is eminent, especially if you follow my Instagram. In the likes of Fergie circa 2006, I'm tempted to describe it as "greyalicious", but i'll spare us from that (too late?).
Anyway, creating a curated "aesthetic" or "feed" requires a little thought and careful planning- but at the same time, isn't too difficult to obtain... depending on the color you're choosing. If you're choosing something like neon pink, that's going to be a lot harder to curate than grey or even white, but truly any color is doable.
When it comes to picking a color, I recommend picking one (or two) and sticking to them. For example, my main color is obviously grey, but sometimes I will veer off-course a little bit and choose a white background, if I see one I like. One of the major benefits of picking your color and sticking to it involves branding. While it may seem superficial on the surface, by choosing a particular color scheme, it makes it easier for people to identify / notice your work. It brings consistency, and allows people to further identify with your "brand". Not to mention, if you get to the point where companies want to work with you, it'll be easier for them to know what they can expect from you, and if your quality of work will align with their specific branding. For a long time, I disregarded this, and thought that the people saying this were just being too nitty-gritty, which is why if you travel far enough down my Instagram feed, you'll see a bunch of photos without those clear grey tones that are present in my newer ones. Once I made the switch to developing a clear aesthetic (which I'll talk more about how I did that in a minute), I not only noticed an influx of followers, but suddenly, my inbox was flooded with emails of brands wanting to work with me. I noticed the shift almost immediately, and to me, it was absolutely crazy how something as simple as a shift in color palette can make such a monumental difference.
But with that said, don't feel like you have to be rushing to find all the grey walls in your neighborhood. Grey is just what works for me, but there are a plethora of other colors you can choose. For example, here are some of my favorite feeds to follow on Instagram. As you can probably see, there's not a hint of grey in sight for any of them. But, their color palette and curation are equally as effective.
From left to right: @tcslater, @ashkaraperkins, @_tashbaker
Now with all of this said, how does one go about creating this sort of "aesthetic"? There are several ways to do it, and I'm sure every article you read on this subject will describe something a little bit different. But again, this is just what has worked for me personally.
The first thing- alongside picking a color- is determining accessibility. For example, if you choose the color "white", you'll ideally want to live in close proximity to somewhere with a lot of white buildings, like Los Angeles or Santa Barbara, for example. But if you live, say, in San Francisco, where there aren't a lot of white walls, it's going to be much, much harder to maintain this aesthetic (take it from someone who tried it... it was so difficult and involved a lot of Photoshop.) And since that is a complete pain in the butt, it's a lot easier to just pick an aesthetic that's in line with what's readily available for you. Going back to me for a second, grey walls are everywhere in the Bay Area, which makes it super easy for me to maintain this aesthetic.
The next thing to determine is if you're able to edit your own photos. Now if you're a photographer and you take all of your photos yourself, then this is an easy fix. But if you're a model or a style blogger or someone who works with a lot of different photographers, this can be a tough fix. Now, there are two things you can do. The first (and probably easiest), is to develop a relationship with a photographer whose style is closest aligned with your liking, and just work with them exclusively. For example, when I first started to create my "aesthetic", I shot exclusively with a good friend of mine, Julia O Test. Her dark, moody style was exactly in-line with what I liked, and fit the mood I wanted for my photos.
However, while I still work with her, I've moved on to the second thing you can do, which is editing your own photos. I recommend learning how to use Lightroom, and taking as much creative control over your photos as you possibly can. It's only $9 a month to get Lightroom and Photoshop, and the payoffs of using these services to create your curated "aesthetic" can be well worth that price. Anyway, download Lightroom, look up some tutorials on how to use it, maybe even download a preset you like, and start learning how to edit photos. Once you've come to a "formula" that you like, ask your photographers that you shoot with if they'd be comfortable handing over the RAW files after the shoot, and letting you do the editing. However, keep in mind that unless you can truly prove that you know what you're doing, most photographers will say no to this. Why? Because no photographer wants their name on sh*tty editing. I know that personally, as a photographer, if a client came up to me and asked for the RAW files, I most likely would say no, unless I knew them well and knew they could work their way around Lightroom, or unless they were a good friend who also happens to be a photographer.
I think, generally, the best way to work around this is to not only prove you can edit, but befriend and earn trust in your photographer. The more they trust you, the more likely they'll be to hand over their RAW files to you. It's kind of like if an author has an unfinished novel and someone wants to edit it. They won't just hand over their hard work to anybody- they want someone who is going to treat it with care, and photography is the same way. But with that said, don't make friends with a photographer just to get the RAW files, because there's no guarantee that they'll let you edit their photos. But, all I'm saying is that it could help influence their decision, if they trust you.
Once you have your photographer situation settled, it's all in your hands! A good place to start- if you have absolutely no idea where to start, are presets. Presets are a collection of edits, bundled together by photographers and often sold to create "one click" edits. Presets can really help you to create a body of consistent work while you learn more about the backend of Lightroom. I know that a lot of people love VSCO presets, but I also love looking on Etsy for some. Depending on your budget, you can find some from anywhere between $5 and $50+.
And that, my friends, is essentially how you create a curated aesthetic! Sure, it's a lot more photography and labor intensive than just taking a photo and throwing an Instagram filter on it, but like I said, the payoffs, to me, greatly outweigh the costs.
If you have any other questions about "aesthetic" curation, etc., feel free to leave them below! And if you want to tag me on Instagram @theroadtohannah, I'd love to check out your beautiful feeds.
Happy creating! And good luck. xx