Kids high fashion fairytale in a home studio with @Pepper.Pics
Many Insta moms dream of turning their kids into celebrities and growing their little family hobby into a business. However, not so many realize how much work it actually takes. Today I’m talking to Bonnie Vangeel - a multitalented pro, who is blending the skills of a photographer, a stylist, a set designer, and a retoucher to turn the life of her 9-year-old daughter into a continuous fashion fairy tale. When you look at her images, you’d never guess that they were made by just one person, not a whole team! No wonder why Bonnie and little Pepper started attracting the attention of high fashion kids’ brands early on and today successfully collaborate with many of them. I’m Dasha Pears, and you’re listening to my Inspiration in action podcast. I hope you enjoy and learn from this episode with an amazing mom, who is known as @pepper.pics on Instagram
What we talked about:
- Story of an Instamom turning fashion photographer
- Photographing your child - pros and cons
- Organising fullfledged fashion production on your own
- Working with brands, should you keep your own style or go with their philosophy
Sugar kids, child model agency in Spain
Le Coyotes De Paris, brand Bonnie would love to work with
Mini Maven, fashion magazine for kids
- Tell us how everything started?
- I’m a graphic designer and I work as a freelancer, I always had interest in photography and fashion. When Pepper was born I slightly changed my interest in fashion to her and I was asked to do weekly blog about child’s fashion in Netherlands. She was 4 so it was just putting an outfit on her, putting her against white wall and taking the picture with my iPhone, nothing big. I got noticed, I think it was mainly because of styling, and then I was making my pictures look differently than on other blogs. I knew hot to use Photoshop so I thought it would be nice to have it all combined and make it special. It’s been 5 years since I started so it changed a lot. I’m gaining at fine art, I don’t want it to be just styling and kids’ fashion, I want to inspire of course, make a nice picture.
- Who are your inspirations in photography?
- You are. It’s mainly accounts like yours that really inspire me. I’m not a photographer so I don’t know all the details in photography, I’m just doing what I think is best, I don’t work with studio lighting, it’s just me, my camera and Pepper. I’m really fascinated by photographers that know how to work with lights and everything. So it’s mainly photographers on Instagram.
- It’s weird that you’re saying you’re not a photographer, of course you are! Maybe you didn’t start as one, but now you have years of experience!
- Well, yes, that’s true but I still have a lot to learn. It’s important to never stop developing and that’s where I’m right now, going more into that fine art direction.
- What are the areas you think you have to learn?
- I think I need to develop in every aspect of photography. Now I can’t take a picture and post it, it needs a lot of editing so maybe if I learn more about lighting it would be easier to have a perfect picture and then start editing.
- Have you ever worked with other children?
- Yes, I have. But it’s different. I worked with Pepper’s friend and it went pretty well. But with other children it’s so different, Pepper knows what I want and what I expect from her and I know what she can give me.
- Is it easy to work with Pepper?
- Not always, she’s a child and she also had bad days and sometimes she just wants to play and if she’s tired it just won’t work. I narrowed it down to 1-2 times a week for about an hour or so and the rest of the work is for me without her.
- Does she ever come up with her own ideas?
- She does, they are not always the best ideas. She’s more involved nowadays. I’ll take a picture of her idea first and then do my thing. She’s learning. And there’s a difference between now and when we started, now you can ask her to do things, to pose certain way, it’s getting a lot easier.
- Is she now in any child model agency?
- She’s in Sugar kids in Spain but she mostly works with me. She worked with others and she loves it, it’s different, the whole studio, people, somebody is doing her hair, somebody is doing her makeup, it’s special. She often tells me she wants more people involved so we can do better.
- You work alone?
- Do you shoot in your home studio?
- Yes. Sometimes I wish I had someone that could help me with things.
- How did the collaborations with brands started?
- It was because of the blog. Brands started to contact me themselves asking if I’d work with them.
- Do you work only with brands that you find interesting?
- Yes, but also I don’t have to find the whole collection interesting, I can find few pieces and already think of styling them, making an idea. I can work with a lot of brands, there’s almost always something that I like. Sometimes some brands are in conflict with brands that I’m already working with then I say no.
- Is your work with Pepper a full time job or are still doing something else?
- I’m still doing my graphic design work. It’s half half.
- Is there any dream brand that you’d want to work with?
- I have few. I’d love to work with Les Coyotes De Paris, it’s a dutch brand. They’re more focused on teens so Pepper is too young, but maybe in a year or so Pepper can do something with them. And there are so many more, and of course I’d love to work with bigger ones as well.
- How do you get ready for your shoots? Do you make nay sketches?
- I have a lot of images on my computer and phone that I really love and are my inspiration. When I have an outfit or an item then I start to think what I can do with it. But it mainly starts with the picture in my head. I’m working a lot with stock imagery so I browse through them a lot and see what I could work with. And them I combine everything. It mainly happens in my head. If I had to be working in a team I think I’d be working more with mood boards.
- When you work with a brand do you also work with their philosophy?
- I always try to do something different, they ask me for the picture and if I did a picture what fits in their things, for me it’s not being creative. I also think that’s the reason they ask me because I do something different and I always ask them if they want something special or have something on their mind and if I can be completely free. I think it’s been once or twice that they ask for a specific things, but mostly they say I can do whatever I want.
- Do they use the pictures afterwards?
- Yes. They can use it however they want to. So sometimes they put it on their websites and, of course, on their social media.
- In what format are you shooting? Horizontal? Vertical?
- Almost always I shoot vertical, I don’t really know why. Maybe because Pepper is standing so image is already vertical and with horizontal you have more empty space. But of course, if they want to use in on a banner or their website it has to be horizontal.
- Have you ever worked on magazine editorial with Pepper?
- Yes. For Mini Maven, and American fashion magazine for kids. And yesterday I was contacted by another one, but can’t give the details.
- Would you consider making prints of your work?
- People often tell me I should print it. I don’t think I’m ready for it as I’m not there yet but it’s something I’d love to do one day. I think picture looks so different on print than it does on the screen.
- What you be your long term plans and goals?
- That’s a good question. It really depends on what Pepper wants. Because of Pepper I work with child fashion, but it would be great to work with adults too one day, I think it’s a lot easier to work with adults that with children. With child fashion you can be crazy and with adult fashion it’s a bit different.
- Was there ever a situation where Pepper refused to wear something?
- No, Pepper wears anything. She’s known as girl that dresses differently. She’s also very lazy and ask me what to wear. She’s already 9 but doesn't pick her own clothes.
- Do you have any tips on how to shoot with kids?
- With Pepper it’s different because I can tell “c’mon, we have to”, I can tell her a lot of things. But with other kids it’s different, if they don’t want to you can’t really say to a child you don’t know “you have to!”. And you have much more patience with other kids than your own.
- How does Pepper reacts to being kind of famous?
- She really didn’t know she’s famous but then few years ago we were on playtime in Paris and as here a lot of people know she’s on Instagram and has many followers but it’s not a big thing, but then she noticed that everybody knew her. Now she says she’s a model, she knows people know her. But I tell her not to say it too much because some children might not like her because she’s bragging about being a model.
- What makes a good photograph?
- The whole thing together. I’m really focused on details so details so have to be good. The whole thing has to work.
- What’s the most favourite part of your job?
- That’s a question I get a lot, I think it’s really hard to answer because I like a lot of aspects, styling, thinking what I want, editing. I think that the part that it’s my least favourite is photography itself, the whole thing around it is my favorite part. And I think it’s because it’s the part I’m not so secure about.
- Do you have any editing tips? Presets?
- I always work with Photoshop, I think it’s the best. I never work with presets. I’m working with raw images then balance everything and start editing. Every picture is different, some pictures have 2 layers, some 20.
- Do you ever edit Pepper’s face?
- A little bit. Sometimes I make her cheeks look softer but I never do big editing.