My Top 3 - Photo Editing Apps

Today, I wanted to share with you my top 3 apps for editing photos on my phone. It's something I find myself repeating when I'm talking with people about Instagram so thought I'd jot them down here. If you follow me on Instagram already (@joannehawker if you don't) you'll know that I absolutely love it. I take 97% of photos for my feed on my little iPhone SE and edit them on there too. I'm not really a fan of the standard Instagram filters, so I sought out new ways of getting the photo quality I wanted. The photo above was also taken on my phone, (well, it had to be because my camera was in the picture!) and edited using the apps I talk about below. So, here we go, what's on my phone?

1. Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom has a whole ton of editing options and you can quickly brighten up that dull, dark, poorly lit shot with its range of editing options. There are also plenty of presets/filters to play with, although, I don't use these as much. My favourite thing about this app is how easily I can whiten images and pull up the exposure without completely killing the rest of the image and that the shadows and blacks are two different things. I do like really bright shots and this my little secret weapon for that. It takes a bit of experimenting to learn what you can get away with but it's most definitely improved the quality of my images by far. This is my number one go to app for fixing photos.


This is my go to if I feel there is something missing from my image or if I feel it needs a filter of sorts. There are a variety of free filters and then there is the option of buying even more if you're after something very specific. There is also a whole range of editing options here too, some of which I'm still experimenting with. The skew one for sure. I love that this is an option, I just haven't found a reason to properly use it yet. And straighten! (although you can do this in Lightroom too) I'm very good at taking wonky pictures if I'm in a rush or being impatient. Best of all, this app is completely FREE. You can also post your images to a VSCO feed, which is pretty cool and isn't something I've properly explored yet but it seems to be a good way of discovering some great new people to follow.

3. Layout

This app is by Instagram itself and in my opinion, one of the better apps for creating a collage of images. One of things that really make me cringe is badly formatted collages or ones with ugly backgrounds and weird shapes. It's all about clean, well put together, good fitting shapes for me and layout definitely delivers on this front. You don't even have to do much. Just select all the images that you want from your camera roll and layout shows you all of the different arrangements you could have with your photos. Once you have selected your arrangement, you can then move the images around inside of their boxes so that the right parts of the photos are shown. If you're not happy with that image you can just tap replace and swop it out for another, or mirror or flip it. My favourite bit and this is going to sound really silly, is the simple white borders that you can add to divide the photos. If you've ever tried to do that in photoshop then you know how annoying it is to get that dead right. This app does it perfectly at the tap of a button. I actually used it to make all the collages above. Again this is completely free and I wouldn't use anything else.

Quick recap!

So, these are the little icons that you need to be looking for if you wish to have a closer look at any of these apps in the app/play store. These are just the apps that I personally use and who knows, there might be better out there, but I just wanted to give you an insight into how I create the images for my Instagram feed. If you've read this far, thank you and I hope that some of this might be useful! If you've got any good app suggestions for creating content I'd love to hear about them.

Etsy Captains Summit 2017 - Etsy HQ, London

In march I was invited to Etsy HQ as part of the Etsy Captains Summit. Team captains from across the country were invited to London for a whole weekend of networking, talks, tea drinking, eating amazing food and workshops. I've been asked numerous times how I got on and what I got up whilst I was there. So, I thought I'd do a little post on it so you can find out a little more.

Firstly, let's start with what a team is for anyone new to this. A team is a group of people who sell through Etsy and who have come together with a common interest. Teams can be regional, or have set focuses like advertising and promotions. My team, the Somerset Etsy Team is a regional team for people who live and run their Etsy shop from Somerset in the U.K. We come together each month to help each other in various aspects of our shops or to just chat about everything small business and Etsy related. We also talk and support each other within a closed group on Facebook where everyone is free to ask questions and chat. More of this later on in another post!

I ventured up to London on a Friday afternoon where I met up with the lovely Merseyside Etsy Team captain, Becka Griffin. Saturday morning soon came around and we wandered on down to Etsy HQ where we were greeted with a breakfast that catered for all, and tea on tap! I won't lie, despite Internet appearances, I was terribly nervous, because to me, meeting new people is incredibly daunting and my mind just goes blank and nothing comes out of my mouth! Luckily, everyone was really friendly and Becka already knew most of the people there and introduced me to lots of other captains from across the country.

One of the things that I noticed first about their amazing offices is, not only are they playfully decorated and have puns for meeting room names, but they are also fully accessorised with handmade products from the site itself. I recognised a number of prints on the wall and even the mugs we drank our tea from. It's great to see that level of support from such a big company.

Once we'd all scoffed down our breakfasts and had a good chat we moved into the main offices where we got to sit on super comfy wheelie chairs. I LOVED these. I love wheelie/swirly chairs anyway, but swirly chairs on a wooden floor = fun... The team at Etsy introduced themselves and we jumped straight into ice breakers and talks. Jessika Hepburn of Oh My! Handmade delivered a great talk on 'the power of when people get together'. This was incredibly interesting because it made me realise all of the things that we could do if we worked together on our Etsy team. We can help each other grow and succeed. We can share our knowledge and fill skills gaps. We can overcome obstacles and help to grow each others confidence. We can create a support network that helps people to feel less lonely and more connected.

After lunch we did some more community activities and Etsy updated us on a few more things, but I was much more excited about something else. The amazing Rachel from OH NO Rachio! came to do a little ceramics workshop with us all. I've wanted to have a go at something ceramics based for so long, so this was fantastic. Not only that, but I'm a big fan of Rachel's work and she is just so full of energy and super friendly!

In the evening we were all taken out to Only Connect for food, where the Fabulous 698B not only served up some amazing food but also put on an incredible show. It's difficult to describe how amazing the show was. Imagine desserts being created in front of you via theatrical performance and then you get to eat the results of said performance!

On Sunday morning, we all popped back down to Etsy HQ for another great breakfast and another day of great talks, tea, cake and activities. I left that evening feeling very inspired about the things I want to do with my team and how I can best help them. Speaking to other team captains has given me lots of new ideas and ways to get the most out of the team and I can't wait to get started on implementing them. One of them was taking on a team leader, which I did as soon as I got back and it's helped make things so much easier. Luckily, the lovely Joanna from Adventures And Tea Parties said yes!

I can't thank Etsy enough for inviting me. They are such a friendly bunch of people and they looked after us so well. If we had a question, they did their very best to answer it. They also took note of all suggestions to feed back to the relevant people. It's not just another selling platform. It's a whole community and I feel very grateful to be a part of that. Many people don't realise this, but being a team captain isn't a paid role, it's voluntary. We do it because we love it, and want to help people and create our own local community of makers. And I felt we were really appreciated for this. So, thanks for having me Etsy, I had a great time and met some amazing, inspiring people along the way.

5 Things I Learnt From #MarchMeetTheMaker

#MarchMeetTheMaker came and went in the blink of an eye and before I knew it, it was over. For anyone who doesn't know, I set up the Instagram challenge in February of 2016 to give people a solid month of content and so we could all get to know each other a bit better. It started off as a bit of fun and snowballed into something much bigger, quicker than I could have ever imagined. People from all over the world joined in and it really is a great community to be a part of and I've met some amazing new friends through it.

So what did I learn?

1. The power of social media is so much greater than I have ever given it credit for. This challenge wouldn't have the following that it does without the power of the regram or friends tagging other friends to take part. I owe all the success of this challenge to people spreading the word. Without them, I'd be doing it on my own. It actually blows my mind if I try to imagine it in numbers.

2. Preparation is important, like really important. I photographed most of my images way in advance because I knew that I would be away visiting Etsy HQ for a couple of days and I'd orgranised a surprise day out for my family. This took off so much of the stress of finding something interesting to post about and I found it actually made my posts a bit more interesting to read. Probably because I had to really think about some of the prompts. During the first year I'd spend at least an hour every night trying to do the round up and trying to scroll through everyone's images. This time I found it better to check several times throughout the day. This way I didn't have to spend so much time in the evening doing it, and it meant I got to see so much more content. Also, it was much less stressful.

3. That you can't please everyone and you can't like everything. At the start of challenge, I was trying to reply to everyone and trying to like everything posted to the point that Instagram blocked me from liking posts for an hour. I wanted to thank everyone for their help and for taking part but it got to a point that I was finding it really stressful and felt anxious every time I picked up my phone. It took me a while to realise that it just wasn't possible to like everything and thank everyone (even if I did try my best to do so). I also realised that I had to switch off otherwise I would do no work, no orders would get made and I'd waste hours online stressing. I don't allow any push notifications what so ever on my phone so once I'd closed the app, that made it a lot easier to try and get on with things. Although there was always a niggle in the back of my head telling me to go and like more.

4. We're all in the same boat and have A LOT in common. I noticed so many similarities with other creative types during this challenge. One of the things I noticed the most is that we all seem to like the colour yellow (my favourite), stripes (another favourite) and denim dungaree dresses (I still can't find one in my size!), we love working in our pjs from time to time, and that's just the start of it. I also noticed a number of people saying how lonely it can be running your own business, especially when your friends and family don't quite get it, so having this opportunity to make friends with like minded people was a really good thing. I also had an overwhelming response to this post:

Day 30 | Top tip – I had decided on something completely different for today’s post but last night I had a sudden change of heart. My top tip for today is learning to believe in yourself (something I’m not great at doing). Social media can be bit of a buzz kill when it comes to being creative. You get sucked into all the pretty, well composed posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, and before you know it, you’ve lost all enthusiasm to do what you set out to do because everyone has ‘done it better’ or you don’t think you can reach some ridiculous high standard you’ve set yourself in your head and you just sit there in a ball of stress. Step back from those images. You ARE good enough. You know you are really, but because you’re comparing your start to someone else’s middle it doesn’t feel like it. After all, comparison is the thief of joy and all that. Those beautiful images don’t show you, the hard work, sleepless nights, worries, balance of two jobs and stress that goes on behind the scenes. All you get to see are the best bits. So, my tip is, when you find yourself getting sucked in, switch it all off. The longer you stay comparing, the worse you’ll feel. Turn off those push notifications, make yourself a brew and relax. You are good enough, you just have to believe it. #Marchmeetthemaker #toptip #believe #believeinyourself #youaregoodenough #comparison #comparisonisthethiefofjoy #youcandoit #positive #youvegotthis #encouragement #easiersaidthandone
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As creative people we're constantly looking at what other people are doing and we seem to compare ourselves to each other and it usually ends up leaving all feeling a little deflated. From time to time we let comparison be the thief of joy and that's just not cool.

5. Creative people are really friendly and will help pick each other up. This is the best thing that I learnt over the course of the whole challenge. I saw a few people who were genuinely nervous about taking part for various reasons and strangers on the Internet would help to give them the confidence boost they needed to get going. There was no bad vibes, no horrible criticism, no competition, just positivity, confidence boosting and friendliness. Day 10 was a great example of this because that day was all about recommending a fellow maker or small business. Everyone gave glowing reviews of whose business they were particularly loving at that time. Imagine the love those recommended people must have felt, especially if it was completely unexpected. Day 14 was all about creative friends, and again, that feed was rammed full of love, positivity and people bigging each other up. Day 30, top tip, was definitely my favourite though. There was so much helpful advice, positive messages, and people coming together. There was no competition, it was a very 'real' day if that makes sense. We have the tendency to only show off our highlight reel on social media and here people were very real about their struggles by sharing their experiences or how they were feeling that day. It really was a great day to be part of such a great community.

I can't wait for #MarchMeetTheMaker next year. The community has had lots of great ideas of what they'd like to include. I just need to sift through them to make the final plan! Keep your eyes peeled for February 2018 for more on the next challenge.

20 Things About Me

Recently, a '20 things about me' quiz has been doing the rounds on Instagram and I was kindly tagged by Joanna from Adventures and Tea Parties. So, if you want to know 20 random facts about me, then do read on.

  1. I've lived in Somerset my whole life... except for that time I moved to Cardiff for 3 years to go to University to study BA Graphic Communication.
  2. I really dislike driving. Traffic lights make me feel really anxious as does going to new places.
  3. My little car is called Bug
  4. Public transport also makes me anxious.
  5. I'm nearly always early for everything.
  6. I'm growing my hair for charity. It’s really annoying and I want to chop it off now, but I also want it a bit longer. Gah!
  7. I pull funny concentration faces.
  8. I try to visit a new country every year.
  9. I am exceptionally good at killing house plants.
  10. I regret not doing French at A-Level but I could only choose 4 so Business, Fine Art, Product Design and Geography won.
  11. We’re getting a rescue dog soon (once we’ve redecorated the hall) and I can't wait!
  12. I'm always cold and my feet are often numb.
  13. I am obsessed with Disney’s Moana at the moment and can’t get enough of it.
  14. Not a day goes by where I don't speak to my online business friends, Tanya (from Tanya Garfield Jewellery) and Becka (from Becka Griffin Illustration).
  15. I find it easier to talk to animals and bugs than I do new humans. I talk to all of my neighbours cats (the partially blind one is my favourite) and the spiders in my downstairs toilet (Pirate and Rayna). Sadly, Lanky got squashed by someone.
  16. I'm very shy, nervous, don't know what to say to new people and can find social situations a bit awkward. (A lot of people couldn't believe this one!)
  17. I swear a lot.
  18. I always get searched at the airport. I must have a dodgy face or something. Or just bad luck.
  19. I get a headache if I don’t drink at least one cup of tea a day.
  20. If I was allowed, I’d paint our entire house yellow.

So there we are! 20 random things about me. If you haven't been tagged yet, why not give it a go?

#MarchMeetTheMaker 2017 Free Planner

Like last time, I like to be organised, so I designed another little planner to help me to plan ahead for my #MarchMeetTheMaker Instagram Challenge. A number of people found this useful last time as it gives you a chance to think ahead for some of the prompts that maybe a little tricky. You can also tick off the prompts as you go along (everyone loves a tick list). So, I've made another and added it as a free download!

To download this free planner, simply click here and then download and print or save for later. I've printed mine off and have already started scribbling on it. I hope it helps!

#MarchMeetTheMaker 2017

I can’t quite believe how quickly this has come around. It seemed like only yesterday we were all telling our business stories through the first ever #MarchMeetTheMaker in 2016.

For 2017 #MarchMeetTheMaker has had a fresh new make over and has been completely spring-cleaned to include new prompts and challenges for you.

This challenge is to help small businesses, such as myself to tell the story behind the brand. Because, let's face it, selling online means that our customers don’t always get to see the hard work and smiley faces behind the scenes who create the lovely handmade products. It aims to give an insight into the face, process and hard work that goes into creating all of the beautiful products we have to offer. Don’t be camera shy! This is your time to shine, show off your skills and tell people all about you and your small business.

The challenge kicks off on Wednesday 1st March 2017 and absolutely anyone can join in, in fact, the more the merrier! All you have to do is post a daily photo to Instagram relating to the prompt of that day and tag it with #MarchMeetTheMaker to take part. It’s that simple! Of course, if you’d like to share the challenge with your friends or other creatives I’d love you forever. I can’t wait to see what you post and learn a little more about you and your small business. Have fun!

If you would like to see my posts be sure to follow @joannehawker on Instagram!

Scratchcards & Secret Messages

A card designed especially for mums on their birthday, mother's day or just because you want to send them a her a heartfelt message, a surprise announcement or a special gift. This is also available for stepmums.

Over the year added a whole host of scratch cards to my range (and I'm still adding to it!) and they are still by far my most favourite thing to make. Some of them offer standard messages such as 'will you be my bridesmaid', but some of them are designed to hold much bigger questions or surprises. Since I've been making these, I have written messages for gifts of gig tickets and experiences, to trips to visit Father Christmas in Lapland and even a number of marriage proposals. I just wish I could see peoples faces as they scratch off to reveal their surprises, gifts, secret messages and proposals.

Let me take a moment to introduce you to my 'write your own' range.

These are part of my wedding range where you can create a character to look like yourself to ask your friends if they will be your Bridesmaid, Maid of Honour, Flower Girl or any other role within your wedding party. You have a choice of writing the message yourself or having one printed so these can say whatever you need them to say giving you much more freedom when it comes to asking your nearest and dearest to play a special part in your day.

These are probably one of my most favourites to make at the moment because they feature either a cute little rabbit or polar bear. They're not just for asking people to be Godparents, Godmothers, or Godfathers though! They can also be used as baby announcements, for telling your parents that they're going to be Grandparents, surprising your best friend with the news or even letting your first born child know that they're going to become a big brother or a big sister. They're also perfect for surprising a mother to be with a baby shower! There are so many possibilities with this one!

This one was designed with Valentine's in mind, but as there is no mention of Valentine's anywhere on the card, it can be used for anniversaries, birthdays or just days when you want to send your favourite human a special message or gift. I love the happy faces of these two little love birds.

I've been dying to do some black and white line art for such a long time that I decided my newest botanical range would be black and white with the splash of gold for the scratch off section. There is a hint of colour too, (very pale pastels) but that is hidden until the panel is scratched off. This too is a multipurpose card. Like the image suggests, it can be used to ask Bridesmaids and Maid of Honours to take part in your wedding, but it can also be used as a wedding proposal or to ask someone to be your witness on your big day. Aside from all the weddingy things it can also be used as a more classy gift card, birthday card or secret message card.

The best thing about my 'write your own' range is that you do just that. You can opt to hand write your message yourself so that it is properly a personal experience for you and the recipient or I can print the message for you, the choice is yours. The questions, gifts, surprises and announcements are endless! Should you want to write a special message to someone special then all of the above plus more are available in my Etsy shop. I hope you enjoy them as much as I like making them.