An email landed in my inbox a couple of weeks ago with a brief for a campaign attached. They wanted the influencers, including me, to make a video in which they show themselves potentially in gym gear, with natural hair and makeup and “well kept, elegant nails.” Now I’m not sure about your reaction, but when I read this my mind instantly jumped to the classic blogger images you see on Instagram; lean, gorgeous women, smiling into an acai bowl with an ethereal glow that quite possibly came from FaceTune. It’s the kind of content that comes up on my explore tab, beautifully shot and perfectly poised. All power to those women; they’ve built incredible careers off their passions and I’m one hundred percent here for it. However, when I opened that email I couldn’t help but wonder, “do they think we’re all like this?” Is this the vision of the standard internet woman that the people working in influencer marketing have?
Because I am not even close to that woman, and I don’t think many of my fellow female creators are either.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a mad fan of loads of personal style bloggers who post wonderfully shot and styled photos across their socials. Whilst it’s definitely a jump from the fitness and travel bloggers I referred to before, the well curated, high-quality street style shots are a classic staple request in the emails I get when someone wants me to do some paid work. And being real, I don’t blame them as I LOVE that kind of content. I love opening Instagram and seeing Sophie Milner, Lizzy Hadfield and Liv Purvis’s ridiculously beautiful photographs. How they keep up with the number of shoots they must need to do in order to stick to their schedule is an art in itself. However, whilst these women, along with the travel and fitness bloggers, are very visible on Instagram, they make up a small proportion of the women I actually see day-to-day using social media as a creative platform. I’m also seeing women like Chidera from The Slumflower, Brittany Bathgate, The Halpin Sisters and VintageDollRisa disregard the status quo, opting for mirror pictures from their iPhones, new angles, macro shots and body positive swimwear shoots. Does this expectation for typical blogger imagery affect how they produce content? Do they consider conforming to the expectations of a brand in order to avoid losing a source of income? I find it weird that the brand expectation has shifted to a very specific style of street shooting when there’s so much creatively possible within the world of blogging and Instagram.
I too often want to conform to this style of shooting, despite being well aware that it wouldn’t work for me. I’m too awkward in front of the camera; I look like I’m actively posing and I can’t keep a straight face. Again, I have a lot of respect for the women who make it appear so effortless, it’s 100% more work that you might assume it is. I think a lot of it has to do with my feelings of worthiness too – I assume that unlike the seasoned bloggers, I’m not entitled to be an authority on style as I’ve only just started writing and posting about it. I’d feel embarrassed asking someone to photograph for me even though there’s no good reason for me to feel that way.
It also reminds me of when I started YouTube, and I was seeing videos from lots of other small creators mimicking the style and intonation of their favourite vloggers. I wonder if other people feel this struggle too in finding their own style on Instagram and so co-opt an already popular but very difficult one to emulate. I am certainly finding it hard to work out a balance. I love street style photographs, but it doesn’t suit the way I want to portray my fashion sense.
I think seeing that brief in my inbox, as well as giving me a big enough moment of panic to make me write this post, has helped me realise that there are many ways to talk about and visually portray my fashion, beauty products and lifestyle. Even though I feel a strange social pressure from brands and popular media to create high-quality editorial shots, it doesn’t necessarily suit me and that’s absolutely fine. I’m happy to leave the women who are great at them to continue their immaculate feeds and pursue a different way of conveying my new favourite jumper and the moisturiser I love.