Julia Smith shares her Instagram and Lightroom secrets

Where does Julia’s Instagram alias come from? “Humphrey and Grace is a name I’m quite attached to.” Julia explains it’s the name of a web shop she ran when she was a stay-at-home mum with a young daughter. “But people were getting confused about whether it was me, or not me, so I changed it so that my Instagram and my website matched.” 

Humphrey and Grace is now a photography-themed blog with stories, ideas, camera and Instagram tips. Why did Julia make the change towards photography? “When toddlers are toddling it’s very difficult to have a lot of time for sewing and making things! So it evolved at that time into photography and writing, which is perfect for me because it’s something I love anyway.”

Julia had always been fascinated by photography and albums even as a child. At college, she learned about black and white film photography, developing and darkroom work, but it was Instagram that opened her eyes. 

“I downloaded the Instagram app and that sparked me to want to improve. When you see photographers producing amazing photographs you can’t help but be inspired too.” She started taking part in a photo-a-day project. “Having a word or a sentence to work to, makes you think outside the box. It got the creative spark going.”

Julia’s inspirations, planning and camera kit

Julia’s inspiration comes from a wide variety of subjects: “I love shooting landscape, florals and buildings. I’m very lucky. I live in a beautiful county. We have landscapes galore of all kinds, from forests to cliffs to beaches… we have everything.”

Sometimes she plans photography trips, but sometimes she will see a place that’s been photographed on Instagram and be inspired to travel there. “But actually, a lot of the time I’m just photographing as I go. If the weather’s good, there’s a particular light at home when there’s a bit of a sea mist and the sun’s in the right place, then we drop everything and I’m off. My husband is very tolerant!”

Julia has an Instagram following of over 200,000, which she attributes to persistence, consistency and hard work. “Consistency is a really big thing, it is hard work and it takes a lot of hours, networking with other Instagrammers or brands or hubs and talking to people. If they leave comments, reply. It can be time consuming but it’s just basic manners and I think people engage with that.”

She shoots with a Canon EOS 7D and her go-to lens is the Canon 17-55mm. “It’s a lens that I love and it tends to be on the camera all the time. I tinker more with the exposure and the f-stops than I do with anything else. I’m very much a try-and-see photographer.”

Julia’s Lightroom tips

A common theme is emerging amongst our Instagram interviewees, for whom colour – and Lightroom’s Color panel – are a central part of their particular ‘look’. “I rely an awful lot on the sliders in the Color panel,” Julia says. “I like to play with the saturation and luminance of colours – I think it brings photos alive.” She also shoots in RAW. “Sometimes there’s a lot of information in the file but it looks quite flat on the screen so I like to make that come alive again.” 

Julia’s been using Lightroom for 18 months now, and her response? “I love it. I’m very much a learner by using, and online resources have been helpful, like Adobe TV. Those coffee break tips that you do [on Adobe’s UK YouTube channel] are really so helpful… so I’m learning all the time.”

Julia starts by cropping her images: “My favourite format is 4x5”. Sometimes shots taken late in the day can look a little underexposed so she may push up the exposure a little and then, as she puts it, “I start backwards by working with the colours. Sometimes what the camera records is not exactly what I’m seeing, so I put it back in my mind to how it should look.” 

She also pays great attention to curating her Instagram gallery and how she edits an image. “There’s a certain colour palette that’s in my Instagram gallery and I need it to fit within that.”

And Julia’s dream project? “Big question. Travel, it would always be travel!”

Next time we talk to London photographer and Instagrammer Ryan Howard

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