Summer 2017 Recap

Charuk Studios Summer 2017 Recap

Where did the summer go?! I can’t believe it’s September already. This summer has been fun and eventful, and filled with lots of travel. 

I purposely packed my schedule for July and August because this time of year I can loose motivation, so I prepared myself by booking lots of work, trips & events ahead of time. 

In case you were curious, here’s a little recap of what I’ve been up to these past couple months.



I drove up to Ottawa to visit my sister for Canada Day, and this year it was Canada’s 150th, so there was lots going on in the capital. We even lucked out and got on Parliament Hill to watch the concert and fireworks! 

I then travelled to St. Saveur, Quebec to attend the Maddy K Inspires retreat. I went last fall and had a wonderful time, and this year I sponsored the event as their photographer! Everything was amazing; the inspiring speakers, the gourmet food, the luxurious accommodations. I also met the lovely ladies that attended the event and had an impromptu photo shoot with them by the gardens.

From there I drove back to London and had my first mastermind session. Three other business owners plus myself started our own mastermind to help strategize and support each other. We meet online weekly and have had some really productive sessions so far!

A couple days later I flew to New York City to sponsor the first annual Wild Hearts Conference. This event was stunning and sooo well branded. There was a Narcisco Rodrigez perfume bar, disco balls galore, a photo booth, and during breaks attendees could help themselves to rosé, cotton candy and snow cones. How cute?!



Afterwards I flew back to London, and I had two and half weeks left in Canada before embarking on my trip to Europe. In that time I squeezed in several photo shoots. I worked with a talented team for Teased Bridal’s brand film, photographed Crown & Pride’s new collection, filmed Youtube videos for Spoof, photographed blogger Pix-elated Passion, and travelled to Montreal to photograph a personal brand photo shoot for a mother and daughter. 

I drove back to London the night before I left for Europe, so I packed furiously, had dinner with my family and called it an early night. My sister and I flew out the next evening and landed in our first stop, Iceland!

We were only in Iceland for three days, but we saw a lot in that time. We saw basically all of Reykjavik (it’s quite small, you can walk around the whole city) and we rented a car and drove across the island to see the breathtaking landscapes, waterfalls and canyons. We ended our visit in Iceland with a trip to the Blue Lagoon (classic tourist spot!), which I highly recommend as a way to relax before a flight.

After Iceland we flew to London, England and during my first week I was busy working on editing the videos for the Creative Brand Summit. My sister and I didn’t see much of the city besides our neighbourhood in which our Airbnb was located. We had a chill week, I worked mostly but we also went out to a few local restaurants and stocked up on groceries. The Creative Brand Summit was a huge success, it was a whirlwind leading up to the event, but it was super exciting to be part of it!

Now these last two weeks of August I’ve been touring the beautiful London, England! We met up with two friends that moved here recently and have been spending our afternoons lounging in parks, sipping cappuccinos at café’s and admiring all the touristy sites.  

We have 15 weeks to go on our Europe trip, I’m sure time will fly but I’ll be sure to document our travels through my blog here and over on Instagram. Be sure to follow along!

Brand Photo Shoot for Dannie Fountain

I'm excited to share another project I wrapped up this Spring with marketing strategist, international speaker, passionate traveller and creative council chair at the Rising Tide Society (this lady truly does it all) Dannie Fountain!
Dannie flew in to Toronto early April and I had the pleasure of touring her around the city (Soho House, Glory Hole Doughnuts, Sugar Beach & the Distillery District were just a few of the places we went to) AND we also organized her personal brand photo shoot during her visit! (travel becoming a business expense, UH yes please!)

"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."

We started photo shoot with an appointment at Blo Blow Dry Bar on King St. West to get her hair and makeup done. Then we captured some amazing views of Dannie in front of the Toronto skyline, the Flatiron Building and the Distillery District to tie in her passion for travel into her brand photos.
I also got several amazing photos of her working in this rustic urban coffee shop & bar complete with a glass of whiskey (how appropriate for this whiskey connoisseur) and we ended the day by indulging in the most delicious burgers. Photo shoots really do work up an appetite!

If you’re just as in love with these personal brand photos of Dannie as I am, I highly suggest heading over to her Instagram to give this lovely lady a follow because:

1) her Instagram feed is a *gorgeous* curation of black & white photos
2) she isn’t afraid to be real about her business, life and travel escapades
 (hallelujah for not sugar coating the unglamorous moments!)

Also check out Dannie's two recent press features, How to Create a Sense of Home While Travelling and Packing Light: My Travel Staples. Since this lady is a PR guru I'm thrilled that she jumped right into pitching stories around her nomad life and used her new brand photos too! 


Photography Tip: Location, Location, Location!
A big way to stand out in your business is through impactful photos, but traditional head shots may feel a little dull to showcase your uniqueness to your audience. One way to make photos more personalized to your brand is to choose a gorgeous, on-brand location.
Dannie’s photo shoot is a great example because she described her brand as wander-filled, moody, editorial, raw and adventurous. Yes we made sure her hair, makeup and wardrobe was on point and captured her best angles and natural candid moments, but in my opinion the various locations are the element that capture these feelings.

These photos just showcase the tip of the iceberg of Dannie’s travels as she’s been to 29 countries and counting, but these on-location photos capture her adventurous spirit much better than a studio ever could.

Here's my challenge for you: If you could capture photos of yourself, your products or any imagery for your business, where would your ideal location be? Let’s get dreamy, and real imaginative!

So tell me, what did you come up with?

Dannie Fountain's Brand Photo Shoot with Charuk Studios
Dannie Fountain's Brand Photo Shoot with Charuk Studios
Dannie Fountain's Brand Photo Shoot with Charuk Studios
Dannie Fountain's Brand Photo Shoot with Charuk Studios
Dannie Fountain's Brand Photo Shoot with Charuk Studios
Dannie Fountain's Brand Photo Shoot with Charuk Studios

My Process for Creating a Brand Film

My Process for Creating a Brand Film by Charuk Studios

Brand films are a deep and impactful way to connect with your audience and tell your business’ unique story. They showcase your brand and its core values in a way that is meaningful and leaves a lasting impression on your audience. This emotional connection opens up the possibility of turning viewers into paying customers that are also raving fans of your business.

While they have many benefits to offer, the process of making a brand film is more extensive than that of a brand photo shoot. Additional factors need to be considered when planning a film, such as sourcing music and editing the footage to tell a story. Here’s an inside look at the various steps that go into creating a brand film at Charuk Studios.


Step 1: Answer the Brand Questionnaire

When I am producing a brand film for a client, my first step is to send them a brand questionnaire. This helps me to gain a more in-depth understanding of their business and brand direction.

The whole point of a brand film is to sell the best features of a business to potential clients, so it’s important that it accurately reflects the business, is visually appealing and meaningful, yet strategic in its planning and approach.

Questionnaires help to uncover a business’ desired positioning strategy, identify their ideal client and find out what sets them apart from their competitors within the same industry.


Step 2: Create a Mood Board

Mood boards are used to plan out the visual elements of the film before shooting. This includes things like lighting, colour scheme, textures, location, props and action or movement shots. The photos included on this board will be used to guide the various scenes and visual elements captured throughout the brand film.

Mood boards also help to ensure that both the client and videographer are on the same page in terms of the overall visual direction both before and during filming.


Step 3: Plan the Art Direction & Shoot Details

Once the overall visual direction of the film has been planned out, the next step is to plan the specific details of the shoot, such as where the film will be captured, who will be cast in the video and what they will wear.

At this point, I also need to have an idea of what I want the model to be doing in the shot and what kind of movements they should be making. Hiring additional help or services must also be considered, including makeup artists, hair stylists, florists, models, or any other professionals that may be needed.


Step 4: Plan the Story Line

Brand films all tell a story. This means that however many scenes are shot, and then they all need to flow together in a sequential order of events that makes sense to the viewer.

Each scene should make a smooth, logical transition to the next. The story can also be fairly simple, so long as the flow of scenes makes sense. No matter how well-written a story is, a brand film will not be effective if it is just a collage of random clips thrown together.

This is also the time to plan out the message that you want to communicate to your audience. It is important to think from their perspective and write a story that is not only true to the brand, but also resonates with the audience.


Step 5: Create a Shot List

Once the story line and art direction are in place, I write out a list of all the shots I want to capture. This gives me a guide to follow and helps to organize and streamline the shooting process.

Once you are on set for the shoot, things can become fairly fast-paced, so having a shot list is helpful to ensure you capture all the necessary footage. The various shots can be fairly detailed, so it’s good to have a reference to look back to in case you forget any details or in order to check that you haven’t missed anything.

The shots described in your list should also be somewhat varied. It should include scenes featuring different aspects of the film, such as close-ups on details and shots focusing on the model, highlighting the product or service being described and capturing the scene as a whole.


Step 6: Capture Footage

The day of the shoot is when all the footage is captured, so there is little room for error. All the preparations leading up to this stage help to make sure that everything goes smoothly.

The focus at this point is to capture high quality footage, meaning the videographer needs to make sure that there is no camera shake, the transitions are smooth, scenes are in focus and that the correct exposure has been used.

While on set, I act as both the director and cinematographer and give the client or model in the film clear and purposeful directions. This helps to ensure that the shoot progresses smoothly and efficiently, as well as enhancing the overall quality of the recordings.


Step 7: Source Music or Record Voice Over

The visuals are only half of a brand film. Before the shoot, it must be decided whether the film will be set to music, a voice-over, or some combination of both, as any voice-overs will need to be recorded on the same day that the footage is captured.

Music can be sourced before or after the shoot, however, it needs to be well suited to the story and imagery in the film. The music or voice-over sets the tone for the brand as well as the overall mood of the film.

Music has the power to completely alter the mood of the film. It can make the story or brand come across as being upbeat and playful, somber and ethereal, or chic and luxurious, so choose wisely.


Step 8: Edit Video

During this final stage, the various components of the film such as the footage, audio and general editing must be completed. You will have a lot of footage from the shoot, so it all needs to be looked through and narrowed down to the best takes.

Once the top clips have been selected, they need to be cut and arranged alongside each other and any audio or music must be added. Then the footage has been edited together in the correct sequence, special effects such as filters or transitions may be added to give the film a polished appearance.

Finally, the brand logo and ending credits are added in and the finished video file is exported using the highest quality settings to ensure that the video looks sharp and plays smoothly.


Have any questions about brand films and how you can utilize them in your business? Shoot me an email and I'd be happy to answer them for you!


If you are planning a brand film or photoshoot download my questionnaire I use with clients to define their brand direction, this is the first step before I create an inspiration board! Sign up below to have the PDF delivered right to your inbox.


How to Organically Grow Your Instagram Following

How to Organically Grow Your Instagram Following by Charuk Studios

These days it seems like everyone on social media is on a mission to get as many followers as possible, but is that really the goal? Even if you’ve managed to gain a ton of new followers, if they aren’t part of your target audience then they won’t actually contribute to your business. This only creates the illusion of success rather than the real thing.

Growing an organic Instagram following requires two phases of action. The first involves creating a beautiful space that people will actually want to be a part of and follow. The second phase requires that you put yourself out there in order to increase your social visibility.

With Instagram in particular, it’s crucial that you complete these steps in the correct order, since attractive visuals are a major component of growing your audience. Remember, paying for followers or likes won’t get you the new clients you’re looking for, so focus instead on growing a real and engaged audience organically by following these 12 steps.


How to create a beautiful & welcoming space


Step 1: Write an informative bio

Prospective clients are going to want to learn more about you through your Instagram profile, so it’s important to include a bio on yourself and your business. Write a description of the products or services that you offer and who your target customer is, but make sure to keep it short, sweet and to the point so that readers don’t get bored or overwhelmed with too much information.

You want people to be able to contact you if they’re interested, so you need to provide basic information in the description, such as your email address and the city where your business is located.

Tag lines can also be used to give this section a little extra flare, so feel free to include it if your business has one.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to get a little personal. People enjoy learning cute little facts about you, like if you’re a dog lover, recently engaged or a coffee addict, so feel free to include anything that really resonates with you, your lifestyle or personality. These kinds of details make you seem more relatable and approachable for potential clients and gives them the impression that you have something in common.


Step 2: Have a Theme and/or Colour Palette

Whether you’re creating your Instagram presence from scratch or just revamping it, it’s important that you make a decision on the subjects you’ll be posting. Will you share aspects about your business, lifestyle, fashion, travel, recipes, inspiring quotes or some combination of these topics?

I use Instagram as a part of my business, so I make sure that everything I post relates back to it in some way. If your business is the focal point of your social media presence as well, then you want to make sure to focus on it as much as possible. In my case, I post client work, but I also share photos of myself, quotes and mood boards that inspire me and photos from my stock shop.

Because Instagram is such a visually-dependent platform, choosing and sticking to a colour palette will also be a significant factor in your success. This helps to keep everything looking uniform and makes your content look more visually appealing when someone scrolls through your feed.

You can use other colours outside your palette, but generally speaking, try to keep it looking fairly consistent and balanced. For instance, my feed is bright and colourful, but fuchsia tends to recur throughout my photos. To balance this out, I try to include white images more often to make it easier on the viewers’ eyes.


Step 3: Post high quality photos

Quality communicates professionalism. Don’t bother posting any poorly photographed or blurry images. Maintaining a high standard of quality is especially important for businesses, as they need to be taken seriously by current and potential clientele.

You can take high-quality images on a professional DSLR camera or even a cellphone with a high resolution camera. Whatever equipment you choose, just make sure that the photo is well lit and properly composed, the focus is sharp and that there is no grain in the image.


Step 4: Curate feed to be balanced and cohesive

Managing the quality of your photos is a basic rule for success, but quality alone is not enough to grow your following. You must always keep in mind the appearance of your feed overall, since that will be the first thing users see when they visit your account. To create a visually-appealing Instagram feed that creates a positive first impression, you need to check for errors or inconsistencies in your posts.

Avoid posting overly similar photos next to each other and make sure that your colours, compositions and subject matter are evenly spaced out. For instance, don’t post three photos of yourself in a row, or place multiple images of the same colour right next to each other. Colours and the brightness or darkness of images all carry visual weight, so they need to be distributed evenly and strategically. You can use apps like Planoly or Plann to help you plan out the arrangement of your feed before you post it.


Step 5: Write meaningful captions

Captions are a great opportunity for grabbing the attention of users and turning them into fans of your business. However, it’s not enough to just post any caption.

Provide added value to your audience with helpful tips or advice to help them out in their own businesses and daily lives. You should also try to be as authentic as possible. Social media users, and millennials in particular, can see through insincere marketing attempts in an instant and they reject them entirely, so don’t let this be you.

Make yourself vulnerable by speaking about your obstacles and experiences. Sharing this kind of information about yourself makes you more relatable and gives your audience a more personal impression of you.

Now, as relatable as sharing your challenges can be, you don’t want to be totally down on yourself either. Be inspiring and share a positive story or message which has helped you to grow and become stronger. You also want to mention your business occasionally, so weave in aspects about it without making your captions all about selling either.


How to increase visibility & engagement


Step 6: Use Hashtags

For those of you who are new to hashtags, they’re basically how Instagram users search for specific posts, accounts or topics. For example, I use #torontophotographer and #brandphotographer on all of my posts so that when people who are in need of a photographer are searching for one using hashtags, I will instantly pop up in their search results.

Think about who your target audience is and what sort of topics or services may interest them. Once you know what they are likely to search for, you can use these topics or key words in your hashtags to bring these people to your account.

If you’re not sure where to start, try looking at the accounts of popular people within your niche and see what kinds of topics or hashtags they use to increase viewer engagement. Once you’ve got the hang of using hashtags, you’ll probably realize just how useful they can be in growing your following. They’re especially great because they help to bring your target audience directly to you!


Step 7: Ask your audience questions

One new challenge that Instagram users are facing is the platform’s change to a different algorithm, altering the way that users see posts. This has made it so that users will only see the accounts on their home feed that they are most interested in. In this case, interest is gauged according to accounts a user likes or comments on.

Therefore, moving forward, it will be crucial for businesses and bloggers to find new ways of getting users to comment as much as possible on their posts, if they want to remain visible. One way to accomplish this might be to ask a question at the end of your caption in order to encourage your readers to leave a comment. Whatever question you choose, try to pick a topic which is highly engaging and likely to generate a response.


Step 8: Reply to all Comments

Another simple way to increase reader engagement is to reply to comments left on your posts. If your readers have taken the time to leave you a thoughtful comment, then you should try your best to reply to as many of them as possible. This kind of attention to followers on an individual basis makes your audience feel special and as though their thoughts are actually being heard. This also encourages other users to comment and helps you to connect with your audience as well as foster a sense of community.

With that said, not all comments are worth responding to. For instance, don’t bother with any spam items posted from bot accounts as these will be of no benefit to your business.


Step 9: Post consistently

The best way to stay relevant and maintain your brand awareness is to publish new posts consistently. Only the users who can maintain this level of activity will be able to build their own tribe of followers. You need to give your audience a reason to visit your page again and again, so you’re going to have to share fresh, new content on a daily basis if you want to keep people interested in what you have to offer.

Step 10: Leave genuine comments

While replying to people’s comments on your own posts is helpful for creating close connections between yourself and your followers, this alone isn’t enough to get your brand out there. A great way to increase your brand’s visibility is to comment on other people’s photos, especially if they happen to be someone you want to foster a business relationship with. Doing so also opens you up to their unique group of followers and makes it so that they can easily access your profile with the click of a button. Liking photos is fine, but keep in mind that you’re not as likely to get people to notice you and click to your account as if you leave a comment.


Step 11: Post on Insta-stories

Insta-stories are the perfect place to be real and unscripted with your followers. They give you the opportunity to share your story without having to worry about details like whether the photos or videos you’re using are well curated or high in quality. This casual storytelling medium is an excellent way to show your followers the behind-the-scenes details of how you run your business as well as show off your unique and quirky personality.


Step 12: Cross Promote with related accounts

Sometimes it’s useful to reach out to others within your industry and team up in order to work towards a common goal. Giving other businesses a shout-out on social media gives you exposure to their audience, making it an excellent way to gain increased visibility. You can do this quite naturally by simply tagging them in a caption and talking about the details of your meeting or collaboration. This could be as simple as mentioning a meeting over coffee, a project you’re both working on or the story of how you first became acquainted. I like to think of cross promoting as ‘spreading the love’. This is because if I know an amazing business owner, I want to share their awesomeness with everyone I know!


What are your tried-and-true strategies to grow your Instagram following? Comment below!

Brand Film & Photography for Hairstylist Gretchen Cruz

I'm fortunate to work wonderful clients, each one inspires me and impacts my life and business in a unique way. One of those amazing clients I had the pleasure of working with was Gretchen Cruz, the owner of Gretchen Cruz Hair Artistry. 

I first met Gretchen over 2 years ago when I was still in university, and she styled hair for a photography project of mine. (I love when past relationships come back into your life!) Fast forward to this past month and I got to create something beautiful & custom for her brand!
Every industry can be broken down into more specific niches, that we as consumers probably don’t know about. For Gretchen, she knew she wanted to specifically style hair for boho brides, so we designed her brand photo shoot to attract that type of client. (Knowing your ideal client is essential, remember serving a niche is better than being a jack of all trades.)

When I think boho I imagine a bride that is laid-back, effortless, natural, with a bit of a hippie vibe. So the goals of this brand photo shoot was to communicate that style while capturing various hairstyles that showcased Gretchen’s expertise. I love how the hairstyles Gretchen chose had this whimsical look to them, the kind that are low maintenance to wear on your wedding day.
To pull the boho bridal look together we styled the photo shoot with a vibrant bouquet, vintage dresses, a crown made of greenery and soft makeup that accentuated the models natural features. The white brick loft and large windows of course helped create that gorgeous airy look to the photos. Also Gretchen loved rosy hues and shades of white and cream, so for her wardrobe she picked out the perfect blush ensemble and a few gold accessories to match.

Gretchen is now in the process of having her website designed, and I cant wait to see how she incorporates the film and photos! In the meantime to see more of her work visit her Instagram here.

We made sure to capture photos that showcased the detail of texture of the hair. Also I am loving how ombre hair looks in this braided style!

We made sure to capture photos that showcased the detail of texture of the hair. Also I am loving how ombre hair looks in this braided style!

I really like the leafy crown, a new take on the popular flower crown for a more subtle approach.

I really like the leafy crown, a new take on the popular flower crown for a more subtle approach.

This studio had such gorgeous natural light!

This studio had such gorgeous natural light!

Love those whispy tendrils framing her face.

Love those whispy tendrils framing her face.

Such a gorgeous smile!

Such a gorgeous smile!

This photo will be great for ads that require type because of the negative space. Also I can't get over that bouquet!

This photo will be great for ads that require type because of the negative space. Also I can't get over that bouquet!

Capturing Gretchen styling away to showcase her creative process.

Capturing Gretchen styling away to showcase her creative process.

We needed a nice surface to store all her hair products for the shoot so we used a gold bar cart.

We needed a nice surface to store all her hair products for the shoot so we used a gold bar cart.

Love her smile here! Gretchen looks radiant. And this head shot will be great for her about me page and any press features.

Love her smile here! Gretchen looks radiant. And this head shot will be great for her about me page and any press features.

How fun & romantic right!? This photo definitely took a few tries to capture ;)

How fun & romantic right!? This photo definitely took a few tries to capture ;)

Are you wanting to freshen up your brand image? View the brand photography packages offered at Charuk Studios, or send me an email here to inquire.