Five Minutes With Siobhaise

Welcome to the first in my series “Five minutes with …” and I am delighted to introduce my first guest, Siobhan Ferguson, founder of the instagram accounts @prettycitylondon and @theprettycities, author of the most beautiful book Pretty City London and creator of her own beautiful instagram account @Siobhaise. What a woman! What an inspiration!

Siobhan, firstly, thank you just so much for kindly agreeing to me interviewing you. Your accounts are truly stunning and a joy to scroll through. I have five short questions that I would love to ask, so, with no further ado let’s do this!

1. What was the inspiration behind @prettycitylondon

Like so many large capital cities, London is a sprawling metropolis, multi-layered, busy and so often hectic. This is largely how people see it ... this is how I saw it myself before I moved to live here almost twenty years ago. I joined Instagram shortly after it launched in 2010. Despite having no photography background I fell for the app almost instantly. It encouraged me to explore London every chance I got and, in fact, to see it in a completely different light. Once I started to explore the local side, the beautiful villages dotted around the capital I couldn’t get over how beautilful it was. While folk continued to complain about the terrible British weather I began to fall in love with how our capital changes with the season. For me nothing beats a walk through Notting Hill on a spring or summers day. I love neighbourhoods like Hampstead and Richmond in Autumn and this time of year I can’t get enough of magical Mayfair. @prettycitylondon champions our charming local Neighbourhoods. 

Photo from  @prettycitylondon  feed

Photo from @prettycitylondon feed

From pastel coloured houses in Notting Hill, whimsical florists in every corner, artisan bakeries, charming bookstores and magical shopfronts I was finding pretty wherever I went. I wanted to share this side of the capital and inspire others too so I created the hashtag #prettycitylondon and was so thrilled at how quickly people started using it. Wanting to embrace the wonderful community side of Instagram I decided to give the tag its very own feed and here almost five years later I am so proud to see how it has grown. I love to read how the page inspires so many people to see London in a different way. I feature other people’s work as well as my own on the feed. At the heart of the page lies a passion to showcase how beautiful the City is and its tone of voices strives to be aspirational rather than ostentatious ... always positive and upbeat.

2. Would you be kind enough to share your top three tips for Instagram?

For me Instagram is a wonderful visual storytelling platform. Once I realised the story I wanted to tell through my images I saw my accounts grow. The story doesn’t have to be over complicated but adding some meaning to your images can attract engagement. Also finding a consistent style, be it through use of colour, filters or theme can make your account stand out. I like the images I share to be simple, every day captures for my audience to relate to. As noted already, the tone of voice on my feeds attempts to be aspirational without being ostentatious.  After that I guess I would encourage others to be true to their own style. 

3. What would your advice be to new Instagrammers?

I guess my top advice for newbies joining would be to use Instagram to inspire but never copycat. Don’t follow the likes it never works. Make a note of what is attracting you on Instagram, styles you like, themes you follow. Engage with the accounts you follow too, the community side to Instagram is one the things I most admire. I have met so many wonderful people through the app so I would encourage anyone joining to embrace that side too. Get personal but in a curated way - if you want to take it seriously use Instagram to create a business profile/portfolio and Facebook to share your story with friends. 

4. Where’s your favourite place to wander around London and photograph?

It depends on the time of year - I love Mayfair during the festive period, Notting Hill and Chelsea during spring and summer, Hampstead, Chiswick and Richmond are simply stunning during Autumn and there is always something to see in Covent Garden all year round. 

5. And, finally, Siobhan, any views on the algorithm that you would like to share?

Don’t over think it - it is what it is - to be honest I have an aversion to those who constantly bemoan it. However, that said, it is useful to understand it a little. Unfortunately, the chronological feed shows no signs of returning so working with the 2018 algorithm would be useful. A few points I would like to emphasise are: 

  • Focus on sharing your best content and embracing the community side by engaging with your followers. 

  • Post regularly but don’t overpost. 

  • Try and like and reply on your comments as quickly as possible- within the first hour at least. 

  • Don’t overuse the same hashtags- although the shadow ban bug appears to have been fixed, it still helps if you mix your hashtags and avoid falling in to a ‘spam category’.  Instagram favours the authentic and personal accounts so give your feed a personality. 

  • Never be tempted to buy followers or likes, there are systems in place to detect the accounts that do and even without any sophisticated software these account are easy to spot. If users can spot them so too can Brands. 

Siobhan, thank you so much! Seriously, your answers have been an absolute pleasure to read. I love how you describe the beauty in London. I think it is fair to say that you have really encouraged just so many of us to see the pretty side so much more. I know I, for one, can rarely walk from A to B in London without stopping to take 100 photos! I love also how you talk about encouraging us to be true to ourselves. I think if you can be encouraged to find your own voice, the rest will fall into place and, particularly, as you say, you strive to be aspirational rather than ostentatious. That will really stick with me. Finally Siobhan, your comments on the algorithm were just what I needed to read. Let’s not bemoan it, let’s work with it and not be hindered by it. That will only starve our creativity and our overall enjoyment of the app to be honest.

Thank you, once again Siobhan and I look forward to seeing more of your positive engaging posts.

Helen x

Links to Siobhan’s accounts can be found here:




Helen Sandle5 Comments