Tell us a bit about you and your creative background.
Being creative and making stuff has always been a huge part of my life. I come from a family of artists, my Dad is a musician and my Mom is a writer, and growing up I wanted to become a dancer and perform on stage. I pursued that dream and a couple of years ago I graduated from Art School with a MA in choreography. After that I almost immediately packed my bags and moved to Stockholm because I met a boy (I know, it’s the oldest tale in the book ;)). Once I was settled into my new home town removed from my familiar patterns I quickly realised that pursuing a career in dance actually wasn’t what I really wanted anymore. It was a painful process to come to terms with the fact that my heart just wasn’t in it anymore, but it led me to start experimenting with my other creative hobbies. First, I started a knitwear business (hence my IG name Kutova Kika, it means Knitting Kika in Finnish).
I started using Instagram to market my knitwear and slowly but surely I got more passionate about the visual storytelling aspect of the platform and photography itself. Looking back. I’m so happy I dared to let go of old dreams and take a leap of faith and follow what for a long time seemed like a very unrealistic goal.
How do you structure your days around coming up with and creating your content?
All my best ideas and work usually happen in the mornings or in the evenings… that’s when I feel most inspired for some reason. I try to structure the process of content creating into the planning, preparation, execution and editing stage. What that means is I might sit an hour in the morning just brain storming and sketch out ideas, then I might go out and buy some props or location scouting. Then the next day I might take the photo and usually try to edit it as quickly as possible after since I want to keep the excitement and momentum of that particular photo idea in motion.
What is your biggest challenge?
At the moment my biggest challenge is time management. I’ve recently started helping a company set up their social media channels, and creating content for both my own and their channel is proving to be quite the challenge.
Do you have any advice for those of us struggling with finding a theme or direction for our work?
When you’re in the middle of trying to build something it can be difficult to see the bigger picture, so finding a way to get some distance would be my advice. The way I usually do this is by printing out a bunch of my most recent work, be it photos or even blog posts, and then spread out the physical prints out in front of me. I try to look at the whole picture and analyse if it corresponds with my vision of what it is I’m trying to do.
Are you able to bring all of your creative ideas to fruition, or do you have any failed attempts you’re willing to share with us?
Oh so many failed attempts, I think for every successful idea there’s at least a 3-4 failed ones. One quite recent one was a photo I tried to do when we were on vacation in Thailand. I spent the entire day collecting leaves from the hotel garden areas (instead of relaxing by the pool), and even though I wasn’t really inspired I made this floral flatlay in the shape of a tiger in front of our hotel room just because I felt I needed to post something. My boyfriend climbed up on a chair and took the photo really late in the evening but it didn’t turn out at all as I had envisioned, and I ended up discarding the photo. The light was very moody, the composition was really flat, and the whole vibe was just off. It’s really frustrating when an idea doesn’t work out, but I always try to just move on to the next thing quickly when that happens so I don’t get too stuck or let the feelings of self doubt creep in.
How do you capture the pictures you’re in?
Most of my photos are nowadays taken by my boyfriend who is also my creative partner in crime, but I also still use a lot of self timer on my DSLR and sometimes my iPhone.
Can you tell us a bit about the relationship you have with your followers? How much time in a day do you typically spend engaging on social media?
It depends, but I always try to spend a lot of time on Instagram engaging and answering comments and commenting back on other people’s photos when I post a new picture. The days I don’t post anything myself I usually check in a few times during the day to see what everyone else is doing. I find it really important to engage with the community and give back the support I’ve gotten myself.
You’ve been featured by Instagram five times! How has that experience been, and how much has it contributed to your fast growth?
It’s pretty insane to think that I’ve been featured so many times, and there’s no doubt that it’s been one of the factors that have contributed to my fast growth. In the course of a year I’ve grown my Instagram account from 1k to 47k, which to me confirms my ultimate belief that when you put in a lot of effort and just keep up with it even though some ideas fail, in the long run you will see the results of all that hard work. I think it’s also made me realise some things about what kind of content resonates with people after analysing which ones of my photos have gotten featured. All of them have very clear composition and an idea with a twist in them, often there’s even more than just one idea in them. I also always try to really focus on a good caption for the weekend hashtag projects and read the theme prompt carefully.
Another thing I’ve noticed with regards to the #WHPs is how crucial it is that the thumbnail size version of the photo is readable and stands out, thinking about using contrasts and colours that pop is really important.
Share with us a favorite Instagram post of yours and the story behind it.
A recent favorite of mine must be the lemon squeezey one where I did a forced perspective shot with a lemon getting squeezed over my head. It was already quite late one evening, and I went out on the street with my self timer, tripod and half a lemon with the intention to take the photo. Using the self timer setup didn’t work at all, and I struggled to find a good background for my photo. I was feeling pretty unsure if the photo idea would work at all and decided to call for backup, and my boyfriend came down to help me. We snapped the photo only a block from where we live and I still wasn’t super convinced my idea would work out. At home I immediately opened the photos in Photoshop and even though I wasn’t sure it was going to work out it turned out to be one of those pictures that was met with love on the platform. I guess the lesson in the story is that even when you’re not sure an idea is going to work out it’s sometimes still worth trying and not giving up too easily.
What is coming up next for you?
I’m so excited for the future because me, my boyfriend and our cats Luna and Bella are all moving to London in September! My boyfriend got a new job there and I’m more than happy to tag along. I can’t wait to meet some of the people I consider part of my Instagram family, especially since so many of them are based in the UK. I’m also planning to start a vlog where I’ll share more of the behind the scenes stuff of my photos and talk about creativity, Instagram and lots more.
Kika is mentoring this week in The Social Gathering forum where she’ll be discussing growing your Instagram following, coming up with creative ideas and getting featured via the Weekend Hashtag Project … click HERE to join us. You can also find Kika on Instagram and at Heartbeats Blog.