2 Year WordPress Anniversary!

2 year WordPress Blog Anniversary

After 2 months of research I made the big move from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress sight and 2 years later I’m so glad I did! While hosting my own site has it’s special set of challenges, it feels amazing to be able to focus on CONTENT and less on tweaking my site. I have to thank Blogger for all the coding I learned though, because it sparked my interest and led me to choose coding as my main course of study in Uni! I have learned SO much about running a blog in the last two years and have enjoyed growing, even through the tough moments! To celebrate this 2 year Blogaversary I’m sharing a few blog-related facts you may not know about me!

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New Social Media Updates & How to Use Them!

How To Use The New Pinterest & Instagram Updates

 

Pinterest and Instagram have rolled out a few new updates in the last month that I see being very beneficial to bloggers and influencers looking for new ways to connect with their audience. Pinterest’s new features include a scrolling “Showcase” header and a “Tried It” tab.

  • To set up a Showcase click the pencil next to the featured boards option on your Pinterest profile home page.

How To Set Up Featured Boards on Pinterest

  • From this screen there’s an option to add up to 5 boards to your Showcase. You can change each one individually or clear them all and rearrange the order in which they appear. Right now you can’t drag and drop the boards to reorder how they appear but I think if this feature gets used a lot Pinterest will make this option a little smarter.
    • This is especially helpful for people who monetize their Pinterest or rely on Pinterest to drive traffic to their blog because you can use your analytics data to put boards in front of your audience that will keep them clicking on and pinning through your boards longer! I chose 5 boards with topics that are always popular with my followers during the last week of December and first week of January: NYE inspiration, Winter Holiday inspiration, Healthy Eating, Valentine’s Day inspiration and Fitness/Health.

How To Set Up Featured Boards on Pinterest

  • The new Tried It! tab is where you can save your opinions and reviews for content you’ve “tried,” e.g. books you read, movies you watched, makeup looks you attempted and DIYs you succeeded – or failed – at!

Why You should be clicking your own blog pins and adding them to your "tried it" Pinterest feature.

I blogged a tutorial that ended up being pinned thousands of times explaining how to contact your favorite preppy companies to request free stickers. I went back a few months later and updated the blog post with more information. To give the already-pinned content a refreshing boost I added it to my Tried It! pins with a little note. As someone who loves seeing those “Pinterest Fail” round-ups on Buzzfeed it’s nice to see what people actually think of Pins they attempted. The Tried It! feature is a great way to find that info without having to hunt down reviews outside of Pinterest.

Why You should be clicking your own blog pins and adding them to your "tried it" Pinterest feature.

Since Instagram was taken over by Facebook I’ve been waiting to see if they would start rolling out some similar features on the app.  Thankfully they recently added 2 Facebook features and one of my favorite YouTube features. The reason I like these three features is because they add another level of personalization to Instagram that I think has been lacking. Because most people follow thousands of accounts, plus comment on and like hundreds of photos each day, it’s sometimes difficult to let people know you appreciate their attention to your content or interact with every post you would like to.

  • Liking comments
    • You can now click the heart next to comments you appreciate and a notification will be sent to the commentator. Being able to “like” other people’s comments, vs. posting a new one saying the exact thing someone else has already voiced, allows you to interact on another level.
  • Replying to comments
    • Instead of having to memorize and type in the name of someone you want to reply to 64 comments up you can simply click the “reply” button under their comment and type away! Answering a question, or interacting in the comments section has never been easier! (I used to get discouraged and delete my own responses to someone if I realized I hadn’t typed in the correct username the first time, then I just wouldn’t comment again because it was too much time/trouble to track down their comment again and get the username right!)
  • Turning off/on commenting (click the three little dots next to your post to choose this option)
    • Although I rarely see anyone using this feature sometimes it’s necessary to shut off commenting for a certain photo. People tend to get a little crazy on the internet and it’s not always the best choice to allow everyone to voice their opinion on everything you want to post. Since it’s your Instagram I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say what you want without necessarily having to hear everyone’s thoughts on the subject! If you change your mind you can always turn the comments back on!

Why you should be happy about the new Instagram updates!

How to Use the New Instagram & Pinterest Updates

What are your thoughts on these new updates? Do you like them and find them useful or do you wish the Internet gods would just leave everything alone already?

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9 Things On Every Bloggers Christmas List (A Parody Gift Guide)

Have you ever wondered what bloggers want for Christmas? After talking to a few bloggers, and stalking the wish lists of dozens of others, I found a few commonly coveted items and linked them here (with additional commentary!) for your perusal! If you want to see the eyes of your family member/co-worker/Facebook friend blogger light up, give them literally anything on this wish list …or a Starbucks gift card… and they’ll totally Instagram it and tag you in their thank-you-shout-out.

9 Things On Every Blogger's Christmas Wish List in 2016
this post contains affiliate links.9 Things On Every Blogger's Christmas Wish List This Year

  1. Literally anything velvet… chokers, booties, bombers… we’ll take it and make it work just like we did at every middle school dance in 1999.
  2. The entire MAC Holiday Collection. Even if we don’t like the color pink, MAC makeup or Nutcrackers, we still need it all for props in our Christmas outfit flat-lay pics, like, yesterday.
  3. All the marble things. Especially if, in real life, marble would never be able to take on that shape… like for example covering the outside of our extreme-breakage-prone Macbooks.
  4. All the lighting equipment and a collection of totally natural looking backdrops. That whole “making six figures just by blogging my daily outfits” thing didn’t work out last year, so now we aren’t home in the middle of the day to take advantage of the natural light and we have to film, like peasants, after our 9 – 5 job, in the dark of Winter.
  5. Gold handle scissors… because one day we’ll probably do some DIYs like no other DIYs any other blogger has ever done and the more gold tools involved the more legit $47 worth of craft supplies (to make a bracelet you could get at Charming Charlies for $5) looks to our readers.
  6. A totally chic tumbler from Ban.do that we will never put anything in for the “coffee & werk” selfies that we take on Sunday afternoon, and post on Monday, so you think we do in fact blog for a living. Let’s not ruin the fantasy for our readers. #livingmybestlife.
  7. The teal blue Lisi Lerch earrings (none of the other colors). They look like something our grandmothers would have worn in the 60s, but somehow they totally work, and they’re a steal at $98 for a few dozen seed beads that weigh 3lbs each.
  8. Even if we’ve never been on a plane we must have a hat representing the airport code of our favorite airport. “Like, OMG, the Starbucks before security at BNA makes the best PSLs — scroll back three months in my Insta feed and you’ll see my review.”
  9. Diptyque candles are something bloggers need at least two of at any given moment — One that’s already been burned through which we now use to hold things like brushes in on our vanity or pencils in on our desks, and another to use as a candle that we place carefully in Instagram photos of our rose petal laden bath.

Merry Christmas & Thank You Readers for putting up with our Gift Guides every year!

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How to Get Perfect Blog Photos Using Your Smart Phone!

The most frequently asked question I get on social media is, “how do you edit your photos?!” I get asked this a lot because I’ve mentioned several times that I take all my blog photos with my phone! I’ve been doing this for years because I’m a one-stop-shop kind of girl! I like being able to take, edit and upload my photos all in one, easy-to-use place — and that place has been my phone since 2010. Below I’ve outlined details on my favorite apps, editing tricks, set up tools and more! I hope this answers some of your questions and gives you a little more confidence when it comes to creating your own photographic masterpieces! {this article contains some affiliate shopping links. All opinions are my own}

Blogger Tips For Taking Perfect Photos with Your Phone!

Below is a little “behind the scenes” peek at what setting up the perfect shot typically looks like. My must-have elements for the perfect photo are:

  • Light source (I prefer natural light, usually near a window)
    • I prefer a natural light source usually near a window
    • Or, THIS light kit from Amazon
  • Clean background (my favorite is a small, white, faux fur rug like THIS one)

Must - have props for setting up the perfect photo

Before I take a photo I enhance the exposure value in my camera settings to compensate for low light conditions. This option can be found under the “light balance” option.

Set your phone's White Balance to get a perfectly lit shot in a dark room

After getting the perfect shot I use a combination of 3 different apps to get them publish-ready.

Most Used Apps for Photo Editing

If I’m sharing a photo straight to Instagram I use Facetune to rotate, crop, brighten and edit out slight imperfections, then I share straight to Insta.

Steps to editing the perfect Instagram

If I’m taking photos of myself, or need to take photos from a distance for some reason (usually to avoid my shadow showing up in a photo!), I’ll use the following tools:

If I’m taking photographs where both my hands need to be in the shot I set a 5-10 second timer so I can get into position and have my hands free for holding objects.

setting-a-timer-for-styled-photos-where-you-need-your-hands

If you already have a tripod you can just get one of these screw-on attachments that hold your phone like a camera. I found a bundle on Amazon that includes a tripod, bluetooth remote and phone attachment if you are just starting out and don’t have a camera tripod yet. Otherwise, I’d suggest shopping for the phone attachment and remote separately because they will probably be compatible with whatever camera tripod you already have.

Tools to Take the Best Photos with Your Phone

I’ve mentioned this selfie ring light before, but I can’t stress enough how useful it is!

Tools to Take the Best Photos with Your Phone

To keep my phone’s memory clear I upload everything from my camera roll to Dropbox.com, so I can access photos from my laptop, and edit on PicMonkey.com.

Tips for Using PicMonkey to Edit Blog Photos

These are the tools I use most in each app:

Facetune: (phone only)

  • Whiten (highlight nose bridge and cheek bones on selfies)
  • Smooth (naturally blur minuscule imperfections like pores)
  • Refine (reshape things like flyaway hair)
  • Patch (erase an unwanted object in a photo)
  • Blur (take focus off unwanted stuff in the background)

PicMonkey: (phone or desktop)

  • Brighten (whiten an entire photo)
  • Highlight (enhance the amount of natural light)
  • Eye Brighten (enhance detail on the edges of objects)
  • Clone (erase an unwanted object in a photo)
  • Dodge (bring white light only to a specific area)

The screenshot below illustrated a use for the Eye Brighten tool.

Eye Brighten tool in PicMonkey

I use the Clone Tool for “erasing” elements in an image I don’t want.

how-to-use-the-clone-tool-in-picmonkey

Dropbox: (phone or desktop)

  • Store all raw photos and videos from camera roll as well as all edits

Camera app:

  • Take all photos and video

All of this equipment and editing is useless though if I don’t have something of quality to take photos of. When choosing my subject I follow my own “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” rule and include at least two of those elements in every photo! For example, you will rarely see any photo of mine without something organic because I’ve noticed flowers, food and textures lend eye-drawing element to photos, and help boring things (like a laptop and a few makeup brushes) seem luxurious and interesting!

For example, Let’s say I’m blogging a review about the makeup brushes in the photo below — imagine how boring they would be all alone on the white fur background. But, add in a “mineral” (sparkly “diamond” necklace!) and a vegetable (okay, the roses are a plant, but you get the picture!) and suddenly you have a fresh, colorful, interesting and eye catching composition!

Pins of the Week

I hope those tips and tricks helped you get some inspiration for your next photo shoot! Leave me a comment below if there’s anything else you would like me to dish on! I love sharing my finds and discoveries!

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P.S. Yes, I even shot every photo in this blog post on my phone and everything was edited between PicMonkey and Facetune 🙂