Monday 8 October 2018

Tips and Tricks for Taking Part in an Instagram Photohop

If you are a sewer and on Instagram, chances are that you've taken part in at least one photohop. These usually take place over a month, are themed (e.g. quilting, dressmaking, sewing) and you post a daily photo following a daily prompt from the organiser and have a hashtag so you can search and meet other people taking part.  There may be giveaways and prizes which are sponsored by fabric shops/companies/designers as an incentive for taking part and aiming to complete all the prompts.

This September, I co-hosted the  #GreatBritishQuilter photohop with Sarah Ashford.  This involved us each posting a daily prompt at 8am plus posting our personal response to the prompt, whilst also prepping the images and texts for a month of prompts and giveaways! September was a busy month for me so I knew I had to get organised and along the way, I discovered some tips and tricks that were helpful as a participant as well as a host. Instead of my previous photohop experience of scrabbling around on the day of a prompt trying to create a particular image, getting frustrated and usually abandoning the photohop or posting intermittent responses, I felt more relaxed, I could actively read comments and 'meet' the other people taking part and I really enjoyed it!  Here are my tips and tricks...

1. Print and Plan
Before a photohop starts, the organisers post an image with all the prompts.  For the #GreatBritishQuilter I posted a PDF in a blog post so this could be printed off at a large size.  If this is not the case, screenshot the prompt post and print it off so you can write on it and plan your photos.  This may sound time-consuming but a little time spent doing this before the photohop starts will save you time and stress on those difficult days when the unexpected has happened and finding an image of your favourite fabrics is not going to happen!
Read through the prompts and have your phone/tablet/laptop/desktop or wherever you have the majority of your photos stored.  The likelihood is that you'll already have some images that will work for the prompts- I've shown these below with an asterisk.

Now you don't have to use these older images, you could take a new one, but it's good to know that if push comes to shove, you have at least something to hand.  I did this mainly on my desktop computer so I made sure that all the photos I thought I might use were copied into an iPhoto folder.   For example, I found a photo from a family holiday in Amsterdam a few years ago that was perfect for prompt 27. Show Us a Rainbow:

This image ended up as one of my most popular posts!  Although there's no fabric, there's a definitely a rainbow and it was a great example of how quilt inspiration can be anywhere! 

Next, look at either a week or 10 days ahead at the photos you will need to take.  These are marked 'To Do' on the prompt sheet above.  This gives you a focus so that you can think, ok, on the next day with good light, I need to get my fabrics out and take a pic, or,  I need to walk to my local fabric shop and take a photo of the outside.  If you can get ahead,  work out what you have and what you need, a photohop becomes so much easier!

2. Cloud Storage: Dropbox
I found straightaway with my old photo search that I had some images on my phone, and others on my desktop (they'd been long deleted on my phone).  Because Sarah and I were co-hosting, we also needed all the prompts and text files in a place we could both access and Sarah had already done this using Dropbox.  I already the free version of Dropbox as Cloud storage for files on my desktop and I have the app on my phone, so we had a GBQ folder for the prompts images and text files, and we separately had our own folders for our personal images- for me this was KGBQ.  I copied all the photos I thought I might use into this from my various photo devices and numbered them to correspond with the prompt number. On the Dropbox app, when you open an image and hold your finger on it, an option comes up to 'save to camera roll' - this is on an iPhone, I assume a similar/same option for Android- and then the image on your phone and easily available to post on Instagram. 

There are other Cloud storage websites and apps, choose the one that works best for you.

3. Utilise Current Projects

I was making a quilt for an exhibition in September so I maximised the number of prompts that this project could cover, it was 7. My current WIP, 11. Project Last Finished, 20. Walking Foot, Free Motion or Hand Quilting, 28. Quilt Basting,  with different photos as appropriate. 

4. Get Creative
Some prompts can make you scratch your head- how will I show that in photo form.  For me this was 'Quilty Quote'.  I didn't want to repost a meme I'd found on Google images, so instead I used the Over app and wrote a quote from one of my favourite sewing songs, Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton.

On many of the prompts, people came up with all sorts of visual and linguistic interpretations and it was part of the fun of reviewing each day's responses!  Don't be afraid to get creative with a prompt!

5. Try Something New
There's usually a prompt in a photohop that may mean you need to try something new- whether this is   creating a Boomerang video or working out what a 'Flatlay' is.  Google is your friend here,  do your research, google what it is and have a go.  Some of the first time Flatlay images in #GreatBritishQuilter incredible!

6. Instagram Drafts
I had no idea about Instagram drafts before co-hosting #GreatBritishQuilter and when Sarah mentioned it and how helpful it could be, I was straight onto Google and working out how to do it- this video tutorial is helpful.  This a relatively recent addition to Instagram and now I've found it, I use it all the time!  It allows you to prep a series of posts, edit them as many times as you need to and save them as drafts.  When it comes to posting, you tap drafts instead of your camera roll photos and you can post quickly and easily.  A revelation!  The carousel feature which allows you to post multiple photos in a single post is also very helpful if that's something you've not found yet- example of how it works here

7. Use a Photo Editing App/Website
Sometimes you want to add something extra to your prompt image like additional text, or collaging a series of images and there are lots of websites and apps available for this, many offer basic features for free.  I use Picmonkey and Layout App and Kim recently suggested Canva which is a free app to create images and designs.  I made the first image using Canva for the first time!

8. Use the Suggested Hashtag
Follow your hosts and use their preferred Hashtags.  It means they can find your posts, like and comment on them, and other people taking part can do the same.  Photohops are all about finding new people in your tribe.  I met loads of new-to-me quilters in #GreatBritishQuilter, found out new tips, shops, books and so much more.

I hope these have been of help and also encourage you to get prepared and take part on a whole month of photo prompts.  I found #GreatBritishQuilter got me through an emotional month as our daughter got ready to leave for University and gave me fresh creative inspiration.  If you have any additional tips, please share in the comments!


  1. Thank you for this great post! I only recently opened my Instagram account, and haven't one any posting or searching using #hashtags yet. This gives me insight into the possibilities!

  2. Thank you very much for this. xx

  3. I'm at the same stage as TB Lisa, except that I do search #hashtags. Very useful for me as well and I have bookmarked your page. Thanks for taking the time to put this post together.


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