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Monday, 9 October 2017

How I Take and Edit my Blog Photos

How I Take and Edit my Blog Photos
*This post features sponsored content by Panasonic.

Since I started my blog in 2013, using a combination of my smartphone camera and my beloved bridge by Fuji, cameras have come a long way. The world has gone from 'revolutionary' HD video to shooting 4k from the palm of your hand on cameras like the Panasonic CSC Camera*.

This, paired with the the rise of insta-fame, seems to put a lot of pressure on us bloggers to get things right. I see so many tweets with bloggers beating themselves up about their photography or even refusing to take photos because they've 'only got smartphone'. Do you know how powerful any camera can be when used in the right way?

Today I'm talking you through how I take photos for my blog. It's evolved quite a lot in my 4 years blogging and I'm hoping to pass on a few of the tips and trick I've learnt along the way. For more blogging and photography tips, please visit my Blogging Hacks page.

Step 1: Planning

It's a good idea to have a general idea of your shot before you set up to take it. Do you have all the products you want to showcase? If you're taking lots of photographs using soft boxes or ring lights, things can get very cramped - and very messy - very quickly! Planning ahead means you can focus on whats important: the shoot, rather than wondering where you hid your marble tray!

What about props? Blog photography props don't have to be expensive. I don't think I've ever bought a 'prop' just because it will look great on camera. I much prefer using objects I genuinely enjoy and have purchased for my home, like baskets, blankets, trays, candles and other makeup. Alternatively, you can opt for a cleaner, more minimalist set up like I did briefly below. It's entirely up to you! Your styling can switch from post to post. Variety is encouraged.

'Bare it All' with 'Rock Solid' Nails by Leighton Denny

Once I've looking through my lens (an important step!) and made the necessary adjustments making sure all product labels and colours can be seen clearly, I'll start snapping away. I'll take 20-30 photos with minimal changes before changing up the shot in front of me by changing my perspective or switching around objects. Typically, the last few shots I take of a particular set up are going to be the best, so I've started honing in on them on Lightroom first.

Step 2: Getting the lighting right

Lighting is so, so, so important when it comes to photography. Many bloggers I know strive for daylight and batch photograph in front of a large window on weekends, during the darker nights. If you're serious about your photography, or low on time, you can also look into purchasing a ring light.

What you're aiming for here is nice, bright white light that fills the space your photographing. That's not to say that beautiful fashion shots can't be achieved during the golden hour or crisp autumnal snaps using candles and fairy lights - it's just a general rule of thumb for product shots.

Camera Lenses

Step 3: Editing

I like to edit my photos before I begin my post, where possible. I use Adobe Lightroom to do this but, in the past have used: Photoshop, Gimp, Polarr, Canva, PicMonkey and Picasa, to name but a few! The main things I check for are the focus - is the main object nice and crisp? - and the temperature - is it too green or too yellow? I shoot in my office and know my magnolia walls tend to tinge everything a little warm and a little green. It's this learning that allows me to quickly and efficiently go in and make quick changes to the photos before the real editing begins.

Before I knew how to properly use programs like Lightroom, I used to just play around, make changes and undo things if they weren't what I was looking for. It's how I learn my way around and I highly recommend you to do the same!

Beauty and Makeup Haul, Barry M, Makeup Revolution, L'Oreal Makeup Forever

My Photography Journey

When I was growing up, it was the height of the disposable 35mm camera. They were expensive, time-consuming and a perfectionist's worst nightmare. So, it wasn't until digital cameras came in that I began to fall in love with photography. I borrowed the family camera before purchasing a few brick-like point and shoots in my early teens, trading up to a bridge camera, snapping shots for Instagram on my Galaxy S3 and, eventually, purchasing my DSLR. I've used everything from Paint to Lightroom to edit my photos and many of the tools I started to learn on aren't even available anymore! I've spent weeks agonising over the slightest changes and trying new techniques - even if, looking back, I cringe at the final product!

I'm not declaring myself an expert here, just expressing a keen interest in a hobby of mine and passing on the wisdom that these things rarely happen overnight. So, if you're a new blogger, agonising over the photos you see on your Instagram feed, remember we all had to start somewhere and I hope these tips help guide you into finding a style of photography that suits you.


Thursday, 13 July 2017

When's the Best Time to Tweet?

When's the Best Time to Tweet - Blogger Help, Small Biz Help, Twitter Help

In this post, I talk you through how to find the best time to tweet on your social channels, including how to stay on top of it for free in a matter of minutes.

So, when is the best time to tweet? It's a question I'm used to seeing all the time on social media and am asked frequently in my role as a Social Media Executive. Here's the honest truth: the there is no best time. It depends on a lot of variables including your following, their hobbies, demographic and living situation, even popular television shows like Love Island can create a spike in when your followers are most likely to be online. Consequently, when the optimum time is for you, is likely to vary ever so slightly week upon week.

But why is tweeting at the right time so important? Firstly, because it's when more of your followers are online and therefore you get more exposure for your 140 characters and secondly, because of this algorithm your best chance is to hit people when they're online, and not compete into thir 'what you missed' box.

How do you find it this magical information? We're going to use Followerwonk. Followerwonk is a fabulous social media analysis tool by Moz. I use it in my job as a Social Media Executive to figure out my posting schedule each week, use snippets for reporting on monthly performance and run regular, basic competitor analysis. What makes it even better is that, as a blogger or small biz with a limited marketing budget, you can do all this for free if you spread out your research over a few days to avoid reaching their daily cap of 2 search queries.

To find your best time to tweet, head over to Followerwonk and click on the Analyze tab. Or, if you're lazy, click right here. Alternatively, if you've already granted Followerwonk access to your Buffer or Twitter account an account you can visit and swap out you username to view an instant report. Or, have a cheeky peek at how your competitors are doing.

On the Analyze tab, you'll need to type in your username and select the 'analyse their followers' option from the dropdown. This is important as you want to make sure your schedule fits best to your followers and not who you're following. Though, this is valuable information to know too! Click the 'Do it' button and watch in awe as your Followerwonk report is generated. Go on, have a play around! This blog post will still be here when you get back.

The third section down: 'Most active times for your Twitter followers' is what we'll be using to create your own schedule. If you're on Buffer you'll notice there's an automatic scheduler under the graph, simply select the number of times you'd to post on Twitter per day and Followerwonk will overwrite your existing Buffer schedule with a series of optimum times.

When's the best time to tweet, Followerwonk, Charleylucy

If you're not on Buffer - why not? It's fabulous! - you still can use the data from the graph to collate a social media schedule. As you can see, the majority of my followers are night owls, but I also make sure to include slots in the early morning, lunchtime and after work to make sure I reach a wider audience. In an ideal world, I'd revisit this tool every week, but I don't always have the time, so aim to revisit and rejig my social schedule once a month to keep my exposure at its peak.

There you have it, you now know the best time to tweet. For me, it's between 8-9pm so I've adjusted my blog post schedule accordingly and automated my new post social too as an added bonus. I'd be interested in reading yours in the comments below!


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Car Boot Haul: Cameras Lenses, Alex Drawers & Gel Polish

Ever since I was little, I have loved going to a good car boot. They were a Sunday morning ritual at my house, even if I did tend to moan about the lack of lie-in! From getting secondhand kids toys to a library's worth of books, clothes and home ware for my student house. I have always loved hunting for a hidden gem.

Though, since I move to Hull I have yet to find another car boot quite as good as the ones that surround my hometown. So am always grateful, when visiting my parents, of the 6:30am start and it looks like I'm not the only one from the amount of you who liked my tweet!

Here's what I bought this past week.

Car Boot Haul - Camera Lenses, Manual Focus Secondhand Lenses, AF Canon Lens

Camera Lenses

Over the past five or so years, I've amassed quite the collection of manual lenses, usually from film cameras, collected from the car boot. Buying good quality second-hand lenses is a great money-saving hack when it comes to photography as you can often cheat the look of a much more expensive auto-focus lens by using it's analogue counterpart and an adaptor. Top tip: If you can't get to a car boot, there's always a selection on eBay, but beware of bidding wars with camera nerds like myself.

In this particular haul I picked up two film lenses and two dated AF Canon-compatible lenses to add to my collection:

  • Front left - Super Paragon F2.8 28mm Macro Lens (£1.50)
  • Front right - Canon EOS Zoom AF Lens 55mm F4.5-56 II (£5)
  • Back left - Quantary AF 77mm F3.5-4.5 Lens (£5)
  • Back right - Hanimex Tele-auto F3.5 135mm Lens (£2)

I've yet to play around with them properly but can say the auto-focus on the old digital lenses just about works on my - only slightly less dated - Canon 600D, though I occasionally need to switch to manual before taking shot. I'll be taking each of them out for a proper whirl next week, follow my Instagram to see the results.

Elite 99 Gel Nail Polish

Elite 99 Gel Nail Polish

As I talked about here, I've recently purchased a gel nail kit and am loving the non-smudge effortless nails that last two weeks. When rummaging in one of the beauty bins at the car boot - I'm nosy okay? - I saw a handful of Elite 99 gel nail polishes and purchased a bundle of mattes, shimmers and glitter top coats for £3. It might not be the bargain of the century, but I doubt I'm going to be able to pick up another for 30 pence anytime soon. It's just the find I needed to expand my small gel nail polish collection.

IKEA Alex Drawers on Castors

Photo credit: IKEA

IKEA Alex Drawers on Castors

Admittedly, I picked up the IKEA Alex Drawers en route home from the car boot after I spotted them in the window of a local BHF Furniture shop on clearance for £30. They were in in such good condition, bar a little crayon. I couldn't just leave them, so plan to purchase new set of wheels and place them next to my clothing rail, making a flexible dressing room space in my small, L-shaped office and doubling as a blogging flatlay set up that gets great light from the nearby window. I'll be sure to take a snap on my Instagram once they're in place.

With the added value of the drawers, my total spend was £46.50, which is more than my typical week but less than half of the IKEA price tag alone. So, I'm pretty chuffed. Let me know what your best secondhand car boot and charity shop buys have been in the comment below!


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

'Bare it All' with 'Rock Solid' Nails by Leighton Denny

'Bare it All' with 'Rock Solid' Nails by Leighton Denny

No, I'm not talking about that brand new summer bod. I'm talking about expert nail brand Leighton Denny's line of nail-enhancing polishes that are all about the base. Promising to strengthen, perfect and repair your nails.

Rock Solid Strengthening Treatment & Base Coat by Leighton Denny*

Rock Solid Strengthening Treatment & Base Coat* promised just that: rock solid nails. Which, as an ex-nail-biter, is very much appreciated. It's a clear, one coat strengthening treatment for all nail types that can be built up over time or applied underneath polish. I did the latter and finished off my at-home manicure with a couple of coats of Bare it All CC Base Coat in Beige*. But before I began to cover it up I noticed just how damn good my nails looked. My ridges appeared reduced and the glossy finish was just so classy.

Though I unfortunately just had the time for the one treatment before my at-home gel nail kit arrived, further fueling my current nail obsession, I only had one minor nail breakage that week, which is a win in my book. This is definitely one of those subtle polishes I'd recommend to those of who are still in school or who are unable to wear brightly coloured nail polish to work.

Bare it All CC Base Coat in Beige by Leighton Denny*

After reading that this nail polish was perfect for concealing discolouration, I'd expected the finish would be sheerer, so was impressed when the coverage of this cc base coat packed a punch when it came to pigmentation. The formula is one of my favourites in a nude - I generally find them too gloopy, too watery or unable to dry? - as it leaves you with a smooth, high gloss, a salon-worthy result that lasts a good few days without a chipping. On my fair skin, the tone sits a few shades darker than the colour of my nails but wouldn't look amiss as a lighter nude on a deeper tone.

The secret ingredient behind all this is allegedly Marula Oil which locks in moisture and smoothes the surface of the nail for an almost gel-like finish. Note to self: buy more Marula Oil-based polishes.

Let me know in the comments below that nail varnishes you've been loving recently, especially if they're gel!


Monday, 10 July 2017

Travel-Friendly Summer Skincare - whatever the Weather!

We Brits know that summertime doesn't always equal sunshine and with the ever-changing forecast, it's difficult to know what skincare products to pack for a summer getaway. Do I need a higher SPF? Can I handle foundation in this heat? What is my skin doing in this weather?!

In this post I talk you through three travel-friendly skincare products that I've been using in a rotation with the weather to keep my skin feeling moisturised, looking radiant and, most importantly, protected from the sun this summer.

Nivea Daily Essentials Tinted Moisturising Day Cream in Natural

During my teenage years, I was obsessed with the Nivea Young range's tinted moisturiser, that saved me from precious months of Dream Matte Mouse cakeyness. Back then I was blessed with almost acne-free skin and my basic makeup routine went something like: moisturiser, a dab of concealer, powder to set and a flick of mascara. It was a simpler time.

During the UK's recent heatwave, I couldn't stand the thought of wearing a heavy foundation but wanted a no-fuss product to help cover up any unevenness, so nipped into Boots to see if they still made it. Now repackaged as part of their Daily Essential line, Nivea's Tinted Moisturising Day Cream with SPF 15 is my favourite sunny day skincare solution, leaving my skin looking radiant and healthy and feeling moisturised. If you're jetting off on holiday this summer, I'd highly recommend taking their travel-friendly 50ml in your makeup bag for those no-makeup-makeup days sitting by the pool.

Piz Buin Ultra Light Dry Touch Face Fluid*

The Piz Buin Ultra Light Dry Touch Face Fluid* does exactly what it says on the tin. The formula is impressively matte and quick drying without leaving a white cast to the skin. Making it ideal for wearing underneath some light, summer makeup and, at 50ml, very beach-bag friendly. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the scent reminds me of summer. If I shut my eyes, I can almost imagine the sand beneath my toes...

Caudalie Vine Active 3-in-1 Moisturiser*

After raving about the Caudalie Overnight Detox Oil* a few weeks ago, I tested out the anti-pollution Caudalie's Vine Active 3-in-1 Moisturiser* from the same line. Designed for all skin types, this summer skincare product is a great all-rounder that works on normal to combination skin as it's lightly moisturising, sinks in fact and doesn't oxidise or move my makeup. However, I would advise those with dry skin to supplement it with a rich and nourishing night cream and I've experienced a few areas of flakiness. TMI?

What summer skincare would you recommend? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!


Monday, 3 July 2017

The Foam Roller Workout for Chronic Pain

The Foam Roller Workout for Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia

As a spoonie, I understand the struggles of exercising with chronic pain. But what if you could reduce pain whilst working out? I talk you through my experience with a foam roller and just how much it's helped my pain and activity levels.

Recently I attended a chair pilates class to build up my muscle memory and improve my flexibility. As someone who has fibromyalgia, I find it difficult to get motivated to exercise and can sometimes suffer painful consequences as a result. But the class, held by my local Pain Clinic, really helped build my confidence and left me able to do things, like empty the bin, without getting the pain that usually follows. I even built a few cabinets on my own! If you're a spoonie too and can access a pain service where you live, I'd highly recommend enquiring what services they offer.

From the class, I was given a fitness band that I use to help stretch out my shoulders, arms and legs and have progressed to doing some light yoga stretching on my mat each week. But I wanted to try something more, I just wasn't sure what I would be helpful. It was around this time that a Youtuber I subscribe to, Invisible I, posted a video about how foam rollers had helped her fibro foot pain so I purchased one on Amazon and Youtubed a quick workout by Christine Salus to try.

The foam roller workout consists of rolling your body across the foam roller to provide relief from tension as the different, usually textured, areas of the roller work your muscles. I now use my foam roller whilst I'm catching up on my Youtube sub box for around 5-10 minutes every other day or when I notice a tight or aching sensation in my legs or lower back, where my fibro pain usually sits. I usually notice an immediate relief after my session, with the pain in my legs disappearing altogether. Although I haven't been able to master the movement to help my target area of my upper back, for that, I've always got my percussion massage and TENS machine.

Have you used a foam roller in your workout before? Let me know in the comments below!


Thursday, 29 June 2017

Your Klout Score: Measure your Social Media Influence

Klout: Measure your Social Media Influence

I’m back at it with the blogging help posts. Today I’m teaching you all about Klout. Klout is the social media ranking tool you didn’t know you needed - it will help you forge brand partnerships, improve engagement and share original content.

I first stumbled upon Klout back in my early blogging days but didn’t realise just how influential your Klout score could be until I was asked by a trustee at my organisation to keep a record and report month-on-month. Since then I’ve moved jobs but still rank Klout as one of my most-used social media tools, especially when it comes to influencer outreach. Why is this you ask? Using over 400 different social media factors, Klout’s algorithm ranks individuals between 1 and 100. A that represents your influence across your social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. You can read more about your Klout score here.

Klout score from a blogger perspective:

Your Klout score is a fantastic piece of information to include in your media kit to show how engaged you are on your social channels.
It shows that you’re social media savvy and you know what you're talking about when it comes social, which is handy for sponsored posting.
You can build relationships with other bloggers who have a genuine passion, interest and following.

Klout score from a brand perspective:

As a business, I’d be more inclined to get in touch with a microinfluencer with a high Klout score and a slightly smaller following than a bigger blogger, as it shows they’re passionate about their niche and engage with their following.
As a social media manager, you can sometimes get a lot of tweets and simply can’t give each one the love and attention it deserves. Your Klout score shows me at a glance how beneficial it would be to engage with you so the higher it is, the more likely I am to strike up a conversation.

The best part is that, with the Klout Chrome extension, also available for Firefox, you can view other Twitter users’ Klout score right there in your timeline. You don’t have to search for it manually. Though, if you’re like me and have a keen eye for social stats, you can always check up on how your Klout score has progressed over the past 30 days using their Measure tool and the influence each social platform contributes to it.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

How to Maximise your Productivity as a Blogger

Productive Blogging, Blogger, Time Management

Like many bloggers, I put a lot of pressure on myself for not being productive. For me, that means posting every day, replying to e-mails and mentions the same afternoon and producing Pinterest-worthy photos. This is probably why I've been known to fall out of love with my blog from time to time. I dislike the feeling of walking through the door and knowing, after a long day at work, I still and have posts to write, e-mails to reply to, photos to edit, SEO to fix, social to check and schedule before I can even think about having some down time.

Recently I got a new job and have found myself with oodles of spare time - alas, taken from my sleep schedule - on my commute, before work and during lunch time spare. So, instead of letting it go to waste I purchased a Chromebook and vowed to do better as a blogger. I seized those little bits of nothing time and turned them into something productive: a post schedule, a clean inbox, a bunch of new Twitter followers and some SEO-optimised copy. Want to find out how you can do this too? Keep reading.

The Alarm

Let's start easy: use this time to check what's trending on social media, reply to your notifications. In bed, of course and ideally with coffee in hand.

The Commute

If you commute to work via train or carpool, you can maximise this time by taking 10 minutes to jot down as many blog post ideas as you can. Think keywords, products you've just hauled, posts from other bloggers that have inspired you. Some ideas will be golden, others you'll never work on again. This way, you've always got a bank of ideas to reply on when the blogger's block hits. My favourite place to do this is the digital-hipster cafe a few minutes walk from my office. Watching others be creative is one of my favourite ways to get motivated.


Level 1: Check Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and any other social media platforms your blog is connected to. Being responsive is a big social media turn on.
Level 2: Use this time to check your phone and reply to blog-related e-mails in the hopes that you'll have a response by 5 pm that day so you can crack on with your latest collab that evening.
Level 3: If you own a portable laptop, tablet or bluetooth keyboard you can connect to your phone and are lucky enough to have an hour-long lunch break why not use this time once a week to write a blog post? I've found a spot just outside my office by the river works best. The lack of internet connection and time limit does wonders for your productivity and keeps procrastination levels to a minimum. No funny cat GIFs here.

Rush Hour

I detest slow moving cars almost as much as I detest slow walking people. Pop on a podcast, you can find my recommendations for bloggers here, and try and learn about a new technique, network or scheduling tool whilst your engine is idling.

The Evening

I'm a big believer in rewarding yourself after a busy day so grab a cuppa tea and put your feet up for a bit. No doubt, like me, you are hooked on the latest Love Island drama so pop on the tele, crack out the laptop and get to business. All the technical bits like SEO, alt tags, SPG and formatting can be checked later. See that? The hour you'd have wasted snuggled under a blanket on the sofa had just become your most productive blogging time today.

Schedule and edit what you can and then head to bed. Blogging should be fun and not seem like a chore. If you want a day off, take it!

The Weekend

Take all of the batch photos when there's good lighting. You'll thank yourself later.

I hope this post gave you a few ideas on how to maximise your productivity as a blogger. It's intended as a list of tips than a guide. I don't think I'll ever be able to live up to this standard of blogging goals every single day and I'm not sure I'd want to! I appreciate my downtime too much. Netflix anyone? But a solid two or three days a week using this method, and recycling wasted time, can transform your blog and social.

Be prepared, new content is on its way.


Tuesday, 27 June 2017

RiteTag: Supercharge your Social Media Hashtags

RiteTag Twitter Hashtag Search Social Media Marketing Tool Free

Ever wonder what hashtag to use on Twitter to give your content the best exposure? I'll show you how using RiteTag, one of my favourite free social media marketing tools for bloggers and small biz.

As a blogger, you're probably reading this and rolling your eyes wondering what hashtags could provide more exposure than the standard #bbloggers tags or chats like #TheGirlGang. Both are filled with like-minded, passionate individuals who are interested in your niche - a great for recipe for views and engagement. But, when it comes to real people and some brands, chances are they aren't clued up on our new-fangled blogging lingo. They might not even know what a hashtag is! So, how do you get your blog noticed by them? Easy. You stop thinking like a blogger.

Thankfully, I have a free tool to help you with this - don't I always? Head over to the website RiteTag, log in with your Twitter or Buffer account and I'll walk you through it. RiteTag is a service that find you the best hashtags to use from a given keyword. As someone who manages social channels for a living, I cannot begin to explain just how time-saving this is. Once you're logged in, you'll notice you are able to a search for a hashtag in the top left of the screen. Let's search for #beauty.

RiteTag Search Beauty Hashtag

This will generate a long list of hashtags, organised by the average exposure they are likely to receive. Hashtags in the green group are great if you want to be seen my lots of people but don't necessarily result in lots of engagement as they have the tendency to be over-saturated - meaning your tweet might get overlooked. The blue group indicates hashtags to use to be seen over time - I recommend this is where you look to find people who are genuinely interested in your topic and are likely to see your tweet. The last group is grey and displays the hashtag graveyard. You shouldn't waste your time using these, they're not worth the characters.

Each individual hashtag is displayed next to its stats, the on-average number of tweets, retweets and views that particular term receives per hour. You can also see the breakdown of how many of these were photos, videos and mentions. But the clued up of us will already know that a winning tweet occurs at least 2/3 of these things.

From this list you can easily 'bookmark' a list of hashtags to use or compare at at later date. On the paid plan you can delve deeper into a particular hashtag by clicking 'View' to find out its:

  • Popularity over the last 30 days
  • Daily averages from the last 4 weeks
  • Hourly averages from the past 7 days - separated into unique tweets and retweets
  • Popular related accounts that are worth following
  • Geographic distribution by country
  • The languages it has been written in
  • Recent images that have been tagged
  • A web of hashtags to check next and their degree of relatedness to your original search term

Though RiteKit, their parent kit is a paid social media tool, the basic functions of the hashtag search above are available on RiteTag for free. Along with RiteTag's also have a Google Chrome extension for easy tagging, which you can download here.


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