Boston from the sky & the ramifications of an expat life

I’ve been living the expat life in London for four years now but my next trip to Boston is never far behind.  Every four months I’m back in Beantown making the rounds visiting family & friends and some of my long running favorite dining establishments.  I’m home often but my last visit surprised me deeply.

Continue reading Boston from the sky & the ramifications of an expat life

Life after instafame: on making Instagram’s Suggested Users list

Earlier this year I thought I was the victim of a major spam attack. It was on a wintry January morning while I was on holiday in Prague when I logged on to Instagram and noticed an unusual amount of likes/follows on my notifications tab.  Then I really woke up…. How did my follower base triple overnight?! I must have been spammed! Someone must have accessed my login details and …. got me more followers … then I realized the logic didn’t make sense.

Candidsbyjo-suggested-userOnce I checked my email and saw one from Instagram It finally dawned on me that I’ve made the coveted Suggested Users list.  I whooped so loud that I startled the still sleepy Brit.

In a matter of two weeks, I went from 1,500 followers to gaining a reach of over 100k. While it’s incredibly exciting to have such a large audience it was also a good dose of feeling overwhelmed (managing the influx of spam comments & creepy tags of random topless guys and making sure I’m replying to legitimate comments/questions from real people) and a bit of second guessing (is this photo good/consistent enough) not to mention having to deal with the new abundance of hater comments and being accused of buying followers (little do they know how tightfisted I am).  Over the last few months I’ve learned to laugh at the stupid and even mean things and more importantly to lighten up on questioning my own style and vision, Instagram is supposed to be fun after all!Georgetown-cupcakes-candidsbyjo

It’s been a whirlwind of activity for me since January.  The support, access and opportunities I’ve received has been tremendous and I’m grateful for every bit of it. I’ve been able to work with Vogue, Time Out London and collaborate with specialty brands that I love.  What has not changed is the consistent inspiration from and my awe of the people who use it. I’m so drawn (read: addicted) to this community of creatives, travelers, makers and well … eaters! It’s been great fuel for the right side of my brain and I imagine that will continue.  I’ve also probably met more likeminded people in London these last four months than I have in the last four years I’ve been living here!

So by now you’re probably wondering how one gets to become Instagram Suggested. At last weekend’s Hive Conference in Berlin, the community manager from Instagram Germany offered a few suggestions:

- take good photos
- be active on the platform and engage (like/comment/respond)
- participate in events such as local instameets 

I can’t help much with the last two tips but for those looking to improve their mobile photography I’ll be teaching a few workshops in London. I’ve teamed up with Sarka Babicka to co-teach a food & lifestyle photography workshop in May that includes a session on mobile photography, you can find details here.

Source: Sarka Babicka
Source: Sarka Babicka

In June, Ceri Jones will be teaching a blogging masterclass at Made In Hackney and I will be offering a 1 hr mobile food photography session within it.  More information on this course can be found here.

For those who like to learn on their own pace and time, here are two resourceful posts on tips to take better Instagram photos and how to edit them by my fellow expat friends and bloggers, A Lady in London and Urban Pixxels.  Happy ‘gramming!

London Food & Lifestyle photography workshop with Sarka Babicka & Joanna Yee

I’m excited to announce that I will be teaching a food & lifestyle photography workshop in London on Sunday May 31st with friend & fellow photographer, Sarka Babicka. We have a lot of great things in store for the workshop, including a styling session with food stylist & writer, Olia Hercules.  Spaces are limited to 10 participants so book early to guarantee a spot at this intimate workshop!  See below for details:

London Food & Lifestyle photography workshop with Sarka Babicka & Joanna Yee

Date: Sunday, 31 May 2015
Place: Lyle’s | Tea Building | 56 Shoreditch High Street | London E1 6JJ
Time: 10 AM – 5 PM

Image by: Sarka BabickaJoin us for a creative & inspired one-day photography & styling workshop in London’s Shoreditch.  Using the beautiful space at Lyle’s we’ll cover our approach to food & lifestyle photography including:

  • composition
  • working with natural light to create different moods
  • selecting & working with props
  • the process of telling stories through images
  • mobile photography tips

Olia Hercules, Leith’s trained chef, food writer and stylist, will also be providing practical tips on food styling and demonstration.  You will gain hands on experience styling and shooting based on what you learned at the workshop to create a small portfolio of work.  There will also be an opportunity for you to get a private critique of your existing work from Sarka or Joanna should you opt to.  

Image by: Joanna Yee
Image by: Joanna Yee

This is a workshop for those who are looking to learn or improve their food & lifestyle photography and styling skills.  We hope you can join us for this creative and inspired day where you will leave with valuable tips & insights to execute on your own.

Cost: £300
Includes: tea, coffee and a light lunch will be provided

Equipment: bring a camera, fully charged battery and memory card(s)
Maximum of 10 participants
Tickets are non-refundable


Sarka Babicka is a London based food and travel photographer. She works with clients locally and internationally on a variety of editorial and commercial assignments. Her work has been featured in publications such as Forbes, The Times, The Telegraph, Woman and Home, Bon Appetit, CNN Travel, The Huffington Post and more.

Joanna Yee is a London-based freelance photographer specialising in food, travel and lifestyle photography.  Her work has been featured in Good Things Magazine, Vogue Instagram, The Huffington Post and Time Out London.  She is currently shooting a cookbook ‘Summers Under the Tamarind Tree’ by Sumayya Usmani.

Olia  Hercules is a Leith’s trained chef, food writer and stylist.  Olia grew up in Soviet Ukraine and Cyprus.  She honed her cooking skills in the fiery kitchens of Ottolenghi  and later working as a recipe developer and stylist for a variety of food magazines, including Sainsbury’s and Jamie’s. Her recipes are regularly featured in 10 Best column of The Guardian’s Cook supplement. Olia’s first cookbook ‘Mamushka’ will be published on June 1st.

Tips on winter travel in Iceland

“I don’t know why people come to Iceland in this weather!” our car rental mechanic exclaimed when we were forced to take our car in for an emergency service on the 2nd day of the trip. The plastic underside of our Toyota RAV4 was hanging onto the car for dear life, scraping the pavement as we drove while collecting chunks of snow and ice. When and how it happened we don’t know but within 10 minutes he temporarily patched up our car with plastic ties and sent us on our way. Continue reading Tips on winter travel in Iceland

See, eat, stay: Reykjavik

For a city that has a reputation for late night parties, Reykjavik has a pretty relaxed and dignified vibe to it.  Iceland’s capital is easily walkable and depending on where you are you can get a panoramic view of the North Atlantic Ocean along with the snow capped mountain behind it.

We based ourselves in Reykjavik for three out of our four nights stay in Iceland but only spent a day in the city since we preferred to explore the martian-like lands outside the capital.  Here’s what I recommend in Reykjavik: Continue reading See, eat, stay: Reykjavik

Postcards from a wintry Iceland

Our recent long weekend trip to Iceland could be regarded as a failure. The land of fire and ice has been a long standing destination on my hit list, mainly for the chance to see the rhythmic dancing green of the Northern lights. It turns out we arrived just in time to experience a windstorm so severe that Continue reading Postcards from a wintry Iceland

Afternoon tea :: Sanderson Hotel London

Afternoon tea is an age-old tradition in England that has withstood the fast-paced nature of the modern world and I’m just beginning to understand why.  I’ve always been a coffee and pastry person, it’s quick, casual and satisfying, but as the days seems so much shorter and a to-do list ever longer, I now see the draw of taking the time to enjoy a pot of tea along with a selection of sweet & savory finger foods.  An experience that should always be enjoyed with a friend.

Luna & Curious afternoon tea set Continue reading Afternoon tea :: Sanderson Hotel London

adventures of a London food & travel photographer