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Behind the Instagram: @serainasilja

You can’t avoid it: when you’d like to market your business or services, Instagram is one of the easiest tools to show what you’re offering in just a few pictures. Although it looks quite easy to maintain an account; developing an accurate, aesthetically-pleasing and successful online identity isn’t a cakewalk. As we’ve managed to surround us with a community of creative all-rounders (who often maintain a well-curated Instagram-feed), we thought it might be interesting to ask them a few questions on how they successfully developed their visual identity on the image-based app.

We’ll kick of this series with Seraina Silja, a professional visual content creator from Switzerland who’s now on a 12-month-journey around the world. She isn’t doing the typical backpacker’s trip through Asia or South-America, but lives in 12 of the world’s most livable cities for 4 weeks each instead. So far, she stayed in Auckland, Melbourne, Tokyo, Vancouver, Berlin and Budapest, and is currently residing in Amsterdam. She gathers the imagery on a seperate Instagram account and makes fun movies about her experiences.

But even though her surroundings change every 4 weeks, Seraina managed to keep her Instagram feed as minimalistic and recognizable as before. Instead of focusing on the differences, she focuses on the similarities and differentiates in the details. Design, coffee, food, bikes and typography are some of her main subjects, and her feed is a mixture of black and white, with the occasional dash of brown or yellow. A quick look on her Instagram-account often turns into a black hole of more than 10 minutes (so don’t say we didn’t warn you...) Here’s what she has to say on her Instagram identity. Enjoy!

ROOMIN: Show us one picture that sums up your entire feed and tell us why.

Seraina: "Last year I'd say a simple flat lay, or a picture with coffee in it. But as I'm changing location every month this year, my feed is constantly evolving as well. So no, I can't just pick one that sums up my entire feed - sorry!"

ROOMIN: What’s your most liked picture? Do you agree with your followers?

Seraina: "Compared to last year, the engagement of almost every post is much higher this year. I guess the whole idea of swapping cities every four weeks is not only exciting for me. This is the most liked picture in 2017 so far. Of course, I like what I see, but I wouldn't say this is 'my best picture ever'. The most liked picture of my entire Instagram feed is this one. The idea is so basic and simple, but I think that's what still works best on Instagram: straightforward, self-explanatory and aesthetically pleasing content."

ROOMIN: Do you still take pictures with your iPhone, or do you only use a DSLR? And how do you edit them?

Seraina: "I only use my iPhone for Instagram stories. The pictures in my feed are taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark iii on a carbon tripod from Manfrotto. I edit the content in Photoshop. This setup is mostly over the top for Instagram, but I usually don’t shoot just for Instagram. Clients, magazines or online collaborations acquire high-res quality."

ROOMIN: What would you consider the best image in your feed, and why?

Seraina: "Every image hides a different challenge, that’s why it’s hard to pick one. But I love the light in this picture of a cute store in Tokyo. The challenge behind the image? Talking with hands and feet to the shop owner in Tokyo. I wanted the artificial lights to be turned off to capture the beautiful window light falling in. Sounds easy, but wasn’t easy at all!"

ROOMIN: You’re a flatlay-expert! Any tips for people who want to give it a try?

Seraina: "It took more than three years of 'flatlaying-around', but now I know a thing or two about it. For almost every flat lay in my feed, I used a tripod and a junior geared tripod head from Manfrotto that allows me to finetune and control the right height and angle to the object, always straight top down. I only work with daylight, which gives every picture a more natural feeling and shows the objects in their original colour or material palette. It depends on the lighting, but sometimes I use a diffuser to soften the light and the shadows. If possible, I always try to stick to a focal length of 70mm, which is necessary to get straight lines. Besides these basic technical tricks, the arrangement of the things is equally important."

ROOMIN: How important is a well-curated feed for you? How do you keep up with it?

Seraina: "Curation is everything! Even though it sometimes limits me, I want to think ahead and see the whole feed as a story."

ROOMIN: How do you cope with the expectations of the Instagram community? Curating an Instagram feed is one thing, but it often leads to curating your life...

Seraina: "I don't feel any pressure from or expectations of the Instagram community. But maybe that's because I was never interested in living my life as a function of an app. I see Instagram as a filter of my business and creative life, if you want to call it that way. You don’t get to see or know everything if you follow me."

ROOMIN: What’s the best part about Instagram?

Seraina: "The community! I am surprised (over and over again) how it enables me to get to know like-minded people, brands, places in every city — first digitally, but also in real life."

ROOMIN: Which picture holds your fondest memories?

Seraina: "So many memories are made and squeezed into every single picture from 2017. Pick any image this year, and I can tell you so much more about the memories behind it."

ROOMIN: What are your five most favourite Instagram accounts and why?

Seraina: "I loved NY-based @sundaysuppers from the beginning. Clean, inspiring and simple visuals. We all know how ugly food can look like, but they manage to make every dish look fresh and tasty in a very aesthetical and unique way. I admire @verdenius for the same reasons. Marieke's pure settings and simple dishes are the perfect everyday food inspiration for me. After meeting Marieke several times in Amsterdam, I like her feed even more. Furthermore, I think @renee_kemps, who's located in Amsterdam and London, has just a keen eye for everything and knows how to capture beautiful moments in her every day but also professional life. At the moment I enjoy @cafespontane a lot. I was lucky enough to attend their latest gathering in Amsterdam. I just love the idea of organizing culinary gatherings in different locations, bringing people together and eat good, local, seasonal food. The two brains behind Café Spontane, are inspiring, passionate and dedicated ladies. An idea I completely support, for sure! From a visual perspective, I like the well-curated feed of show brand @theynewyork. Scrolling through this feed is pure eye candy."

ROOMIN: Do you have any advice for people who’d like to start freelancing and promote their work, or brands that are about to set up their very first Instagram account?

Seraina: "I’m not sure if Instagram is still the go-to tool if you haven’t started by now. But if you want to start anyway, I would say try to be authentic. Instagram tends to be this perfect-world-only, but sometimes it’s necessary to share honest words as well while keeping the visuals on a high level."

ROOMIN: Instagram has lots of fancy features, like Instagram Stories and geotags, but what would you still like to add to the app?

Seraina: "I wish they'd add a better search tool! To have a genius little 'Google' inside of Instagram would be very helpful to find places that I want to see, visit or experience in a new city."

ROOMIN: Thanks for your time, Seraina!