The Photo Station: Where the fun happens!
The Life & Times of a Beauty Blogger
I think one of the most popular question I get via email is regarding beauty blogging: how did you get started, how do you get readers, how do you take photos, how do you balance school and blogging, and so on and so forth. I find that a lot of the answers and advice I give are redundant (which isn’t a bad thing), but I think it’s time to have a nice post to refer others to, as well as give you a more behind-the-scenes look at how life goes by here at Temptalia.
Note: I take blogging seriously–to me, even though it is a hobby and passion, I want to be the best that I can be. I’ve always been this way with my hobbies. I take great pride in what I do, particularly since it is public and once it’s on the internet, forever.
What my typical blogging day looks like…
- 6:00AM: Wake up, check e-mail and Twitter on my phone, then head to computer.
- 6:10-6:45AM: Approve comments and reply to quick questions asked via comments on the blog. (Yes, the more complicated or difficult your question, the longer the response time, since I have to either research, reference, etc. But I do try to get everything answered as quickly as possible.) Check Facebook Fan page for any questions to answer.
- 6:45-7:15AM: Read, send, and reply to email–this includes replying to pitches from brands/PR, replies to readers’ comments and questions sent via email.
- 7:15-11:00AM: Write 1-2 posts for the day’s postings. Reply to comments, questions, etc. on blog and YouTube. Either photograph/swatch products to review or crop and edit product/swatch photos so they’re ready to be used in a review.
- 11:00AM-12:30PM: Walk Mellanhead & eat lunch!
- 12:30PM-5:00PM: Try to do a look and film it as a YouTube tutorial, then hand it off to the boy for editing. Then test and write notes on various products. More photographing or editing of photos, sometimes writing a post or two. One or two days out of the week, I spent 1-2 hours watching TV with Mellan during this time.
- 5:00PM-6:00PM: Eat dinner.
- 6:00PM-11:00PM: Read, send, and reply to urgent emails. Reply to comments. Write 1-4 posts for the next day. Try to log off the computer by 11PM!
Keep in mind, this is a blogging day, which is when I don’t have school. I typically have school in the mornings on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays for 2-3 hours and then again in the evenings on Mondays and Wednesdays for another 3 hours. On days when I do have class, I will spend less time taking or editing photos. I do all my schoolwork on one day when possible. I usually take part of Friday or Saturday to spend reading next week’s assignments and doing any homework. I know how to speed read (one of the most valuable skills I have ever learned), which has helped me immensely in every aspect of my academia. My weekends are often considerably less intensive, though sometimes more so, depending on how I feel and what we do–we often visit with our friends/family on the weekend and then relax together on the other day.
My schedule is flexible and that’s how it should be. Even though the above is my approximate schedule, it is a flexible schedule. Sometimes we go out for lunch or dinner, and we don’t rush through it so I can stay on schedule. Sometimes we go for walks, head to the mall, do grocery shopping… dessert runs, coffee runs… whatever! I frequently take 5-10 minute breaks to go play and cuddle with Mellan. Sometimes I’m tired from not sleeping well and will just take a break–watch some TV, go for a walk, whatever. There are always areas where you can scale back for a day or two without anyone noticing, and it is important to allow yourself breaks and some fun when you need them, so you don’t burn out.
The Hows & Whys of Blogging…
Blogging for Love, Not Money
It is important that this your motto. The majority of successful blog I’ve seen and read, not just in the beauty blogosphere but in general, have one thing in common: passion. The authors of successful blogs have an obvious passion for the topic they blog about. They are passionate about learning more about their chosen topic and passing along that knowledge to their readers. It is not about the bottom line.
Where I Began
Many people reach out to be for advice on how best to start their blogs and how can they get a lot of readers quickly. Just like most get-rich-quick-schemes are scams, get-readers-quick-schemes are also scams. There is no right or wrong recipe for gaining a readership, but the key is to blog honestly, passionately, and always be yourself. I would also say there is an element of luck to it as well.
For me, I lucked into having a natural readership because I used to post my looks everyday on the MAC Cosmetics Livejournal community, so I had a place where people already knew me, my style, and those who who interested, could also follow me on my blog–which at the time, was more of an archive of my looks than what it is today–so I did not start at ground zero. I also lucked out in terms of timing. I did not start blogging at the beginning of time, and I am, by no means, the first or even one of the first few beauty bloggers. However, I was able to start blogging when blogging was becoming more accepted and blogs were being read by more and more people, but the beauty blogosphere was not crowded, either.
By providing useful content and information, readers stayed, continued to visit, and referred their friends or linked to the site as a reference. You have to provide value to your readers. Value does not have to mean something new and different, either. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you post!
My Blogging Advice
- Always be you–even if not everyone likes you, your style, what you say or how you say it–be yourself. You would be surprised just how much is picked up between what you say (or don’t say).
- Enjoy it–you have to enjoy it, because blogging is very much a labor of love for the majority of bloggers. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. If you’re bored with your blog, take a break. If you have writer’s block, take a break.
- Figure out what you can do better than anyone else–it’s important to find some sort of signature item that you can have on your blog. Just something that makes the blog you.
- Write original content, because nobody wants to read a regurgitation of other people’s work or press releases all day.
- Take your own photos. Adding something visual to your post to complement the writing can go a long way in making it relevant and interesting. Stock and promotional photos can be great tools, but they should be more of a supplement than the majority of your content.
- Remember, Rome was not built in a day. Cheesy and overused, I know, but it’s true. Many successful blogs were not overnight successes, so don’t get discouraged if it takes you months to gain even a small readership.
- Don’t let other people get you down. This is a hard one, and it is one that I’ve struggled with time and time again (though happy to report, nobody’s made me cry with their internet insults in well over a year). You just can’t. There will always be those who don’t like you or what you do. They may genuinely dislike you (it’s not always jealousy). They may make assumptions, some may even make up “facts” about you. You can’t always change them, but you can try by doing your best and being yourself. If you do your best, you’ve done all that you can, and there is nothing to be but proud of yourself for it.
The Photo Station
For two years or so, I’ve been using a Nikon D90 DSLR. I use both a kit lens and macro lens for photography. I don’t use a lightbox. I have made my own lightbox in the past, and I’ve purchased lightboxes as well, but I have never liked the results. I always ended up going back and just laying a product on top of the lightbox (rather than in it) and shooting that. In an effort to be more organized and keep things in one place, I have a simple white table I purchased from Ikea for about $20 that I use as my “background.” It’s in front of a window, and I use the light that streams in as my lighting. It’s not fussy, and it didn’t cost me much at all.
The most important piece of advice I can ever give you about photography is to read your camera’s manual, regardless of whether it’s a point and shoot or DSLR. Read it. Learn it. Understand your camera, what it can do, what each setting is capable of doing.
Next, I recommend reading photography blogs like DPS. Even though I surely don’t know very much about proper lighting, how to set everything up just right, and such, I have tried to garner a basic understanding of photography principles and incorporate those into how I take my photos. If you’re shopping for a camera, make sure you read reviews before you buy. And you don’t need a $1,000 camera to take good photos. Many point and shoots are amazing and go for $150-300. I would not invest $1,000 into a camera if you’re only just starting to blog.
When it comes to beauty, it is most important to take color accurate photos. A swatch is only as good as it is accurate. The best way to work on accuracy is to take photos under different conditions and settings–just test it out. See what part of your house seems to generate the best lighting for photos or what settings result in the best images. Digital photography makes it so easy to take a thousand photos and view them–don’t like ’em? Delete ’em.
How do you stay motivated?
My readers motivate me! Everyday, my readers push me to be better and to do more. It’s humbling to have anyone come to you for advice, even if it is just about makeup and not how to solve the crises of the world (please don’t come to me for those, I have no solutions!). Everything Temptalia is today is a result of the readers that support it with their comments, questions, and loyalty. It would be nothing with each and every one of you.
I also have an amazing support system from my friends and family. They get blogging, and they don’t see it as frivolous. They support me whenever and however they can, whether it’s as a sounding wall, shoulder to lean on, or simply to get some feedback from. Their support is invaluable to me!
I hope some of this was informative, even if it was about ten thousand words longer than I intended or wanted to be. If you made it this far… kudos!