Spoonful of Sarah: “There is always much more behind the scenes”

Lawyer turned blogging buff Sarah Holloway uses @spoonful_of_sarah to promote feel-good vibes without a sensationalist agenda. This girl has the art of keeping it real firmly down pat, reminding us daily that the best accessory for any budding influencer won’t come from the depths of a department store – it’s all about being authentic and free of façades.

Her vibrant grid houses a delicious spread of food, travel and outfit snaps – each radiating the good life. After pouring over Sarah’s Insta, we decided to chat with this go-getter and learn more about her organic outlook on influencing…

What camera do you use and why?
I actually use my iPhone most of the time as the camera quality is so good these days and I can avoid looking like a crazy tourist like I do when I whip out my SLR. On the occasion that I do feel like a bit more depth of field, I use an Olympus OMD. I used to use a huge Canon, which I loved, but it was so bulky and I wouldn’t take it travelling with me – so I needed to find something more compact.

Do you make the most of the ‘magic hour’? How do you work with lighting?
Sometimes I do, but mostly I just photograph whatever inspires me at the time inspiration hits. I try not to force my photography at a particular time because I generally lose my creativity. I just make sure to use the lighting as best I can and avoid too many shadows or too much exposure.

Do you strive for a certain aesthetic on your grid?
Yes, I definitely try to keep things pretty clean and balanced in terms of colour and composition. I like to group particular colour schemes together, avoid anything too busy, and use similar colour washes in each photo. But then again, I also dislike ending up trying to fit my whole life into my feed so try not to get too picky about it – although sometimes my OCD wins and an otherwise good photo won’t “make the cut”. I LOVE those minimal, white sleek grids – but I could NEVER make my life look that way and wouldn’t end up posting anything. I like to keep a level of flexibility and reflect reality as much as is reasonable, so I aim for a particular aesthetic but try not to be too rigid.

Who is your biggest source of inspiration? What accounts are you lusting over right now?
All the people who show the less glamorous sides of their lives, particularly those you wouldn’t expect it from. I think it is TOTALLY natural and understandable to only post the highlight reel of your life on social media because we all love to put our best foot forward – but it can lead to distorted thinking and unreasonable comparison if you lose perspective and forget that there is always much more behind the scenes. So, I LOVE the accounts that give me a little reality check and show the tougher, less aesthetic, more authentic snippets of their lives. I try to do be a good role model and do the same, posting my “blooper reel” of photos that didn’t make the final cut or showing comparison photos at the gym highlighting the difference between a good pose and good lighting. Stuff like that inspires me to be a more real, confident and down to earth human.

How do you edit your photos? Do you have a favourite filter that you like using?
I have a blanket rule against changing the SHAPE of anything in my photos unless it is clothing or hair related, because let’s face it – that would be opening the floodgates. But I do love a good filter or a change of brightness/contrast/sharpness etc. I love VSCO Cam (H1 filter especially) and Snapseed (desaturating the background) for that kind of thing. I also do a little “quote of the day” project and I use Phonto to create the text images. Instagram itself also has a pretty solid range of functions for editing within the app – sometimes that’s all you need.

What’s your dream shooting location?
That is SUCH a hard one! Probably somewhere like Joshua Tree or Santorini where EVERYTHING looks good no matter what you do.

Do you adhere to a strict schedule for posting or take a relaxed approach?
I think balance is important in everything you do, so I have an “ideal” schedule in my mind but I relax it when real life gets in the way. I can assure you, however, that this is something I’ve learnt through experience. I used to get WAY too consumed by sticking to strict rules for growth and engagement, especially when we first started our businesses and when Instagram was our only form of marketing. But you realise over time that while it’s a WONDERFUL tool, it can become a bit too consuming if you don’t have boundaries and remember the real world. Now we still stick to peak times, but use scheduling tools or delegate posting when we can’t stick to those ourselves.

What do you do when you’re in a rut/are struggling to create content?
Ahhhh the endless struggle! Generally, I work best when I just take a break from it all. The more I try to push through, the less I produce content I’m happy with – so it’s a pointless exercise because I can’t get enough perspective to achieve anything. Even if it’s for a few days, taking a step back always helps refresh my inspiration.

What do you think makes your feed unique? What are some tips for finding your ‘niche’?
My personal page became a thing without me realising, and it still doesn’t really have a “main focus” other than just an expression of my personal life. But I do love to share messages of empowerment and self-belief and make a particular point of replying personally with meaningful feedback and positive encouragement to all messages and comments. Plus, I LOVE to make fun of myself which is always enjoyable to observe, so I guess not taking myself too seriously is my “niche”? I don’t know, really. I’d be so interested to see what my followers would say to that.

What’s your most-searched ‘Place’ on Instagram?
Matcha Mylkbar!

Who would you love to collaborate with?
Oprah! Or Bieber…

With endless notifications and a flowing feed, do you ever manage to completely ‘switch off’?
It is an EVERLASTING challenge! Turning notifications off is a big leap of faith that I took recently but that changed my life. Also setting time boundaries and “phone-off zones” in our calendar has become a big priority. It’s so hard, especially now the algorithm is changing constantly and none of us are really sure how to maintain our momentum and engagement – so the temptation is just to stay on it as much as possible. But it can really distort your perception of reality and keep you “over-connected” and wired, so it’s important to be able to get some distance and space.

What’s your current goal for your page?
Authenticity. It’s one thing I value so highly and never want to lose. I think the social media environment needs more of it, but I can’t demand it of others if I don’t do it myself.

What are your top photography tips for capturing the perfect image?
Lighting is so important! And focus! There’s nothing worse than having your face blurry but the background in focus. I think using other people’s feeds for inspiration helps a lot with getting used to composition and styling so you can gradually build up your own technique. Especially with flatlays. It takes a long time to work out what looks good in a photo that doesn’t necessarily match up in real life. I used to just screenshot other people’s photos that I liked and go from there.

And lastly, can you give us five tips for how to nail Instagram?

  1. Find your point of difference
  2. Be consistent
  3. Be authentic
  4. Create high quality content
  5. Post regularly and at the most effective times.

All images via: @spoonful_of_sarah | Interview by: Genevieve Phelan

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