Shop UO UO Blog

UO Feature:

A Beautiful Mess

Elsie and Emma run the uber-popular lifestyle blog A Beautiful Mess. Here, they give us the greatest gift of all: tips on taking perfect Instagram pictures.

Interview: Katie Gregory    Photo Credit: Ryan Strong

We asked the girls to give us their tips for taking the perfect Instagram pictures, and they accepted our challenge!

Pet Photographs

Much like human photos, pets are flattered by natural light like the window light in this photo! Avoid using the flash unless you want demon eyes in your photos. :)

Hi, ladies! Can you introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about what you do?

We are Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. We're sisters and we co-author the blog "A Beautiful Mess." We blog about crafts, home décor, recipes, entertaining and a few fun lifestyle type features. We are also the creators of the photo app A Beautiful Mess. And we have a photography book coming out this summer. We like dogs (we both have pugs!), sun dresses, whiskey, food trucks and BBQ sauce. I think favorites list just turned into a long list of food items there. Hmm... let's not read into that.

Your photography book named after your blog is available to purchase this month. Can you guys tell us a little bit about what we can expect to see in it?

The book is filled with tips and ideas to help anyone who loves photography take better photos of their everyday life. We love snapping photos of everything from special events (like vacations) to daily life. The book focuses on tips and tricks that can work for lots of different types of cameras, including DSLRs as well as smartphones. We also share a bunch of step-by-step tutorials for making craft projects that display photos around your home.

Food Photos

Have you ever wondered why so many food photos on Instagram look kinda, well, gross? It's mostly about the lighting! Only photograph food in bright natural lighting. Be aware of the background and composition of your photo and always take your snapshot before you start eating!

Were you girls always interested in photography, or did that interest come after starting a blog?

We've always loved taking photos. Before we ever blogged together we had a small business doing wedding photography. But we were pretty bad at that so we started blogging. It's surprising how much photography has contributed to the growth of our blog. We've always taken all our own photos of every feature we create for the blog.

Who are some of your favorite photographers?

We love Annie Liebovitz and Dorothea Lange. I guess that's kind of a "no duh" list but we love how both these women approach photography (in such different ways, too).

In the introduction of our book we talk about how one of our photography heroes was our late grandfather, Norman Patterson. He took photos as a hobby throughout his life and because of his passion we have so many beautiful glances into the everyday lives of our grandmother and our mother growing up. We cherish these photos so much! Lifestyle photography wasn't as popular during his lifetime but his hobby captured so many beautiful moments of his family.

What were some challenges you faced with the book that you didn't face with the blog? How was the process different from blogging?

Writing a book is kind of like blogging, in a lot of ways. You create content via photos and text. The brainstorming process is very similar, although you get to work with an editor and your literary agent so it's fun to have that added perspective. Also, when you write a blog post it might get published later that day or the next day or something. When you write a book it comes out a year later, or so. And that's really different. So, I guess the waiting for the book to come out period was kind of hard/different. We can't really complain though. ☺

Home Photos

Don't be afraid to share snapshots from your home! Your friends will love taking a peek into your daily life. When snapping home photos I tend to stay close and focus on details, like this dresser top, or stand back and capture an entire wall!

Speaking of photography, what are your favorite Instagram filters? What filters are a big no-no? Do you hate Kelvin as much as we do?

HATE Kelvin. Glad we all got that off our chest. I guess we like Valencia and Walden the most. Feel kind of nostalgic about the Nashville border every time we use it or see it, which probably makes no sense.

Honestly we don't use tons of the Instagram filters anymore, though. We tend to edit our photos and then drop them into Instagram.

Try Something Offbeat

Try using found objects wherever you are to create a funny pose. I took this photo of Emma in a diner one morning!

You guys have a huge following online! Do you get a lot of amazing fan mail? What about gifts? Any fun fan stories?

Yes, we do sometimes get kind emails or letters from people who read our blog. It's awesome! Everyone is SO sweet. We have a collection of drawings/painting that people have sent over the past couple of years. We'd like to make a gallery wall in our next studio. Which is probably really narcissistic. But we can't just throw away everyone's stuff they sent us. How rude!

Are you planning to go on a book tour?

We will be doing a book signing at UO in Nashville on August 24 from 2-5pm. So if anyone's in the area they should come by!

I guess that's not really a "tour" since it's only one stop. Let's call it a super tiny mini tour.

OOTD Photos

Have you tried sharing "Outfit Of The Day" photos? It's really fun! Try to find a colorful, simple backdrop that lets your outfit be the focus. I found this fun teal wall next door to the spot we were having dinner and snapped a quick photo!

Favorite apps?

Afterlight, VSCO Cam, and A Beautiful Mess. Not necessarily in that order. But maybe. We'll never tell.

The Perfect Selfie

The perfect selfie is interesting and unique! Try playing with creative crops, like just half the face in this photo! Black and white photos can look amazing with a pop of color added with an app, like A Beautiful Mess!