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Last June, we put two of our top Instagrammers head-to-head for a 30-minute photo challenge. The results? A team floored by the amazing images produced in such little time.

The inspiration behind Insta-Off came during a lunch break when The Charles team browsed each other’s Instagram feeds. Some were architecturally driven, some were colorful and clean, and some showcased meals to every foodie’s delight. All of them offered something new and unique. It wasn’t long until we all starting brainstorming on how to showcase the best photographer and came to the idea of Insta-Off: The Charles’ photo challenge.

This wouldn’t be a mediocre attempt to photograph NYC, but rather this was to be a real face-off with pressure that would made photographic diamonds. Insta-off would be the Battle Royale of photography for us; we knew we had to make it happen.


In June, our Junior Creative, Sianna Stewart, and our Summer Intern, Lia Sang, were chosen as the first Insta-Off contestants. These creatives possess distinctive techniques and styles, and we were ultimately ready to see how they would match up.

One of the most challenging parts of Insta-Off is the 30 minute time limit for the contestants. They had to be strategic about their shots, and figure out how to spend their time. “My eyes were looking for interesting spots, colors, people, movements–all at the same time under the short time constraints,” says Lia. Sianna added, “We had to balance that time between taking pictures, looking at them, reframing to rephotograph, and moving on if it did or didn’t work.”

At the stop of the clock, Sianna and Lia came back to an agency considerably excited about the photographs. The contestants introduced their top nine photos to the entire Charles team for judging.

Sianna and Lia had a very close matchup, but in the end Lia took the title Insta-Off Champion for her bold ties of color and composition.

“I’m super excited to see how the next challenge between the other team members are going to come out because we are a very diverse set of people,” says Lia. “It’s nice to have won as an intern. It’s gratifying to have my photos appreciated for their aesthetics and meaning.”

The first Insta-Off challenge shows the strength of diversity The Charles is equipped with. It has opened our mind to embracing our personal styles and has inspired us to take it one step further by experimenting with new concepts and ideas.

The next Insta-Off is up and coming. A new location, a new set of contestants, and a new opportunity to the claim the title of Insta-Off Champion. Stay connected to our Instagram, @thecharlesnyc, to see who will win the next challenge.