Student Stories: A fresh take on flowers /// by Lara Shoop

In honor of the first week of spring, we’re bringing you flowers! We talked with longtime DEFINE student Lara Shoop about her captivating florals (we adore her Instagram series #anotherweekanotherbunch) and what inspired her to start a personal project photographing flowers.

Whether it’s sunny and warm or snowing out your window (thanks, nor’easter), these blooms are sure to brighten your day. And with our handy tips, you can create spring on your kitchen table with one trip to the grocery store, and document it beautifully, too!

Every day is a special occasion, you know? A gift. Flowers just sweeten the deal for me.

It started a few years ago. Rather than waiting to receive flowers for special occasions – my birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day – I simply started buying myself a bunch of flowers every few weeks to celebrate life. Not that it’s all perfect and smooth sailing; just the opposite. Despite all the “stuff” that can happen, every day is a gift.

When I walk into a room and see one of my bouquets, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude for just that simple thing. It brings me calm, making me pause and reflect and refocus.

And so I began to photograph them – just for me – documenting the simple beauty of #anotherweekanotherbunch.


Choosing flowers

When I first started, my budget was $20 to see what I could find and I’ve held to that. Some weeks it’s five peonies, or six bunches of fill flowers. If I’m near Trader Joe’s, it’s an armload of flowers for $20. And when my own roses and hydrangea bloom, I incorporate them into my bouquets as well.

Last summer I planted an entire cut flower garden using Floret seed mixes. I had so many bouquets all summer and into the fall. The best part of that was having enough flowers to share with neighbors and friends.

Tip: Pick up flowers on your normal grocery run – no fancy shop needed. Not sure what variety to grab? Slow down, take a deep breath, and look at all the flowers. Then just choose the ones that speak to you. You’ll have more fun photographing something you’re attracted to and drawn to.


Creating bouquets

I’m always of the opinion more is better, so I use lots and lots of flowers and greens. (I have the same attitude with planting – I don’t usually follow the spacing guidelines and cram every square inch that’s plantable with seeds.) 

I create my bouquets either in my hand and add as I go, or on my butcher block in my kitchen as a flatlay. Sometimes as I’m gathering bunches they just seem to fall into position that says “flatlay” to me. I try not to fuss too much with arranging them – it’s not me. Other times it’s after I gather them into a bouquet that a part of it catches my attention that I want to photograph- the top, side, or the entire thing.

Tip: For a simple backdrop when arranging that’s also photo-ready, I use an artist canvas with a frame that we painted with matte black paint! It’s fairly large; bulletin-board size. You could also easily do this with foam core.


Capturing beauty

My process is simple. My #anotherweekanotherbunch photographs are almost always iPhone images (but I use my DSLR if I’m freelensing), and I use VSCO to edit on my iPhone.

My lighting is natural window light. My house has one huge window that’s southern facing so it gets great light all day. And the back part of the house gets the cooler, more dramatic light if I want that. 

When I’m photographing the flowers I’m constantly moving around them looking at them to see their “best side.” I mostly shoot from above or towards the light source. I love using VSCO to split exposure and focus so I can really drop down the exposure – you can do the same with the native iPhone camera, but I feel like I have a bit more control with VSCO cam.

If I don’t feel what I’m shooting within the first ten minutes, I stop. That’s the freedom in a personal project – there’s no pressure. It’s creating for the joy of it.

Tip: Know the light in your house – it changes daily and seasonally.


Lara Shoop lives in Sonoma, CA with her husband and two teenage daughters. She has taken more than a dozen DEFINE classes over the years, two of her favorites being Awakening the Spark and The Inspired Home. You can see more of her work at and find her on Instagram at @laraaustinshoop.

Our “Student Stories” are just a few of the many testimonials and stories of growth we hear about from students in our community, along with some magnificent work. We hope you’re as inspired by these as we are.


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