Instagram Image Making With Beauty’s It Girl Of Millennial Minimalism

Freelance social media image maker Gabriela Parada is all over your Instagram feed.

Gabriela Parada is indie beauty’s go-to photographer and stylist for cultivating a millennial minimalist aesthetic on Instagram. The sparse sophistication that’s pervaded beauty aisles is embodied in the packaging of emerging brands such as Herbivore Botanicals, Reverie, Terra Luna Beauty, Habit Cosmetics and Kosås Cosmetics, all of which have turned to Parada for her signature graphic simplicity. Beauty Independent reached out to Parada to learn about how freelance social media image makers like her operate and the ways brands can best tap their sought-after skills.

Autonomy (within reason)

Gabriela Parada is largely given free reign over the photographs she snaps, but is happy to obey brand guidelines. For example, she obliges if a brand prefers its products captured in boxes or with caps. On smaller projects limited to social media content, Parada shoots in her New York apartment on sunny days to take advantage of natural light. “Natural light is my best friend. It can make a photo look like you took it in a studio,” she says. On bigger projects for photos intended for websites and packaging inserts as well as social media, Parada ventures out to a studio, and uses controlled lighting, custom props and extensive retouching. Her turnaround time generally ranges from a couple days to two weeks.

Content costs

It’s getting rarer, but Parada says social media photographers can still be convinced by free products to create content if they’re passionate about a brand. Usually, though, she remarks they’re compensated at rates that rise up to roughly $7,000. Parada pleads with brands to pay fairly. “Content creators can be taken advantage of,” she says. “Brands need to remember that this is very time consuming and takes a large portion of a person’s resources.” Parada emphasizes creators are a good deal compared to a more traditional professional photography route she surmises regularly set a brand back $5,000 to $20,000. She figures brands should expect three to five photos in exchange for free products and, when the work is paid, the number of photos climbs to 10 to 20. Parada takes around 40 photos for every one that’s a winner.

Pictures with many purposes

Savvy beauty brand leaders don’t think in isolation. They’ll secure content with plans to seed it throughout their digital footprints. Parada notes Herbivore Botanicals puts her photos on its website and on social media platforms in posts and advertising. “Their channels are very consistent,” she extols. Parada likes to know where her photos will land before she shoots to tailor images for specific platforms. She often shoots several variations of a photo to give brands options of slightly different images for Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and more. The price of her work will increase if a brand uses it for multiple channels. No matter where her photos land, Parada is adamant they are properly credited. “The only reason many of these content creators are agreeing to do certain partnerships is the exposure. So, when you are not tagging them correctly, that’s a fast way to burn bridges,” she says.

Endemic aesthetic

Gabriela Parada advises beauty companies to hone their aesthetic as early as possible in the process of brand development, solicit content creators that fit with that aesthetic and make sure to stick to it religiously across various platforms. “Figure out what your brand values are and what that means,” she recommends. “Terra Luna Beauty’s focus heavily on particular ingredients. So, if there was a rose in the product, I’d feature rose in the photo.” In addition to photos, captions are underused tools for conveying brand values. Parada suggests brands employ them “almost mini blogs” with insider tips, compelling stories and product reviews. In social media feeds, aesthetic slipups can cause consumer confusion and social media follower declines. “Looking at your Instagram, followers should immediately understand what your brand is. You need to commit to your aesthetic,” says Parada. “If you have one great photo and everything else is blurry or dark, you are not going to get the following you want.”

Social media shifts

Gabriela Parada senses nostalgia is seeping into Instagram images. She points to grainy photo treatments, warm lighting, and 70s- or 90s-era props as indicative of the throwback trend. Abstract cropping is another trend Parada detects seeping into beauty photography for social-media platforms. Examples include a close-up shot of a hand to zero in on nail color or a zoomed-in image of a part of a model’s face to concentrate on an aspect of a look rather than the entire look. In general, social-media feeds will become less static. Over the next year or two, Parada predicts beauty Instagram accounts will become filled up mostly with video snippets, stop-motion clips and GIFs. And feeds will increasingly represent a variety of human experiences. “We’re already seeing the embracement of diversity, but I think that will continue to grow,” says Parada. “Culturally, we are moving toward a focus on individuality and uniqueness.”