Smorgasbord Sundays: From Mary’s Desk – Pictures & Swatches (Part 2)

Swatch And Learn From Marys Desk Part 2 Smorgasbord SundaysWelcome to the second installment of From Mary’s Desk, a series focusing on issues that bloggers face on a daily basis. (See Part 1 here.)

Even if you’re not a blogger, I urge you to read this because it’ll give you a little peek backstage.

This time, I tackle the pressure of taking pictures.

Although I’m not a professional photographer and I haven’t taken any photography lessons, I’ll share basic tips and tricks that I’ve learned since the beginning of Swatch And Learn.

I hope that veteran bloggers will chime in and share their experiences when they first started out so that this may provide comfort and reassurance to new bloggers. And, I hope that new bloggers will say what they’ve been struggling with to help others realize that they’re not alone.

The underlying theme of the From Mary’s Desk series is that learning is a two-way street. And on that street, there’s a streetcar named Desire. And in that streetcar is Marlon Brando. And…wait a minute, stop distracting me! 😉

Warning: This blog post is text heavy!

Dealing with Insecurity

When I first started blogging, I was only comfortable showing makeup swatches on my arm or hand. It took a lot of internal convincing for me to post Eye of the Day looks later on. And nail swatches? Ha, at one point, I decided never to show photos of my nails on here!

Obviously, since then, I’ve changed my mind.

Showing the world how I polished my nails with up-close photos that magnify every little imperfection made me feel self-conscious and inadequate. After all, I wasn’t a nail pro. I was just a nail-polish nutcase.

Why would anyone want to look at nail polish that was sloppily applied or a manicure with dry cuticles? Or worse yet, what if the photo quality itself was blurry or not colour-accurate?

Polishing my nails was a relaxing activity. Looking at my painted nails made me very happy. But now just thinking about sharing my love with the rest of the world was making my stomach twist into a knot.

Something wasn’t right.

New Goals: Happiness & Progress

The more I added fuel to the fire that was my insecurity, the more I questioned why it would be so terrible if my photos weren’t perfect. Talk about a first-world problem! Is anybody perfect? (Don’t answer, David Beckham!) 😉

Although I’m always silly, at this point, I felt even sillier.

People weren’t going to throw their bottles of polish at me in contempt even if my photos were crappy! (Although, if they did, hopefully they would be hard-to-find ones that I’d been lemming.)

Even if people didn’t like the colours I wore and liked or even if people thought my photography skills were substandard, at least I was challenging myself to grow creatively. At least I would be able to express myself in a new way, too. And along the personal journey, I’d constantly be pushing myself to improve with a handy method of documenting my progress!

Plus if I loved wearing a manicure, nothing that anybody could say about it would detract from my happiness. I wasn’t about to let anyone pee on my parade, even if I swam in their toliet every Saturday. (Wait, what am I saying?)

It was at this point that I threw caution to the wind. (Sorry, Wind, but I know that you can blow off a lot of things that are thrown at you. Hope I didn’t hurt your feelings.)

Despite the potential negative repercussions of what people might think or say, I thought that sharing was worth the risk. Sharing is what makes me happy, and I love also looking at stuff that people share with me.

So, I picked up my camera and snapped away.

Had I never come to this conclusion, you may have only seen photos of just my arms, which aren’t nearly as exciting as nail polish…unless maybe you’re a doctor or a person with an arm fetish.

Swatch And Learn From Marys Desk Part 2 Smorgasbord Sundays

Me with my old (but beloved) Sony Cyber-shot digital camera

It’s Not About What You Can Buy.

It’s About Using What You Already Have!

You don’t need a fancy DSLR camera to take great pictures. Since I started blogging, and up until just recently, I was using the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC W200 point-and-shoot, which is about 5 years old. (I had to replace it because the well-used and beloved camera would ‘die’ after every handful of shots. There were also adapter issues.)

Unless you can factor it comfortably into your budget and you can justify splurging on an expensive camera for use on your blog and outside it, I suggest using what you already have. You can “make it work” as Tim Gunn always said.

When you become more comfortable taking creepy up-close photos of your eye, nails, etc., then you can consider making an investment purchase.

It’s a good idea to get a feel for blogging before committing because blogging definitely isn’t for everyone. Give yourself time to see how you like it and if you find it enjoyable or a hassle.

Plus even if you splurge on a DSLR, it doesn’t mean that instantly your photographs will look incredible. The learning curve still applies, and you’ll need to build your skills.

*~* Photography Tips *~*

Here are just a few things that I learned:

Macro Camera Setting

Before blogging, I hardly fiddled around with camera settings. Now, I enjoy messing around with the functions! (Sometimes, adjusting your camera settings can actually be more efficient and less work than altering your photos with a computer-graphics program after the fact.)

One of the things that made the biggest difference for me was using the macro setting on my camera. (It’s usually indicated by a flower.) This setting is specifically for taking photos of objects that are close, like a butterfly on a leaf or a butterfly manicure.

By simply using the macro setting that’s on pretty much every digital camera these days, you’re one step closer to producing better-quality shots.

Swatch And Learn From Marys Desk Part 2 Photography & Blogs

Consider Your Lighting

Digital cameras often display ISO values, and you can fiddle around with them manually, too.

The ISO value is important to pay attention to because it can mean the difference between a sharp photo and one that’s so grainy, whole-wheat bread gets envious.

“Always let your ISO be your guide!” Jiminy Cricket sang in Pinnocchio. (Okay, he didn’t sing that. Conscience? ISO? Close enough. :P)

My new camera displays the ISO value right on the screen. I try to photograph things when the ISO value is at 100, 200, or 400. Anything higher than that gets trickier.

Although, of course, since I don’t have a proper lightbox set-up, sometimes I have to take photos in less-than-ideal conditions. (When the ISO value is really high, I use the flash.)

Consider playing around with the manual ISO value on your camera. Take a few pictures of the same thing with different ISO values, and keep track of which is which. Then upload your photos onto your computer to compare and contrast the bunch. Trial and error is the best way to learn photography.

  • Sunlight: This is by far my favourite lighting because colours tend to appear more accurate. Although, keep in mind that sometimes overly bright direct sunlight can wash out colours. Also, sunlight at different times of day can look very different. E.g. Early morning sunlight can look much yellower or dimmer than sunlight at different hours.
  • Flash: This is great for showing off the base colour. The flash can overexpose a colour, but it can come in handy, especially if you’re photographing one of those near-black hues and want to show that the base is actually a plum or green.
  • Daylight: I also like photographing in daylight or ambient natural light because sometimes it helps you see the individual pieces of glitter in a polish. (Sunlight makes all the glitter sparkle like crazy, which can make it hard to see the fine details.)
  • Artificial Light: This is my least favourite lighting condition. I try to avoid it if possible because I don’t have daylight-balanced lights. Regular light bulbs tend to make things you photograph look yellower than they actually are to the naked eye. (Whenever I’ve photographed my skin under dim artificial light, I can’t help but think I have jaundice!) If you find yourself taking photographs often when the sun’s down, you may need to invest in special photography lights.

Take Photos from Various Angles

Play around by taking photos from different angles, especially when it comes to pictures of your nails. If you’re wearing a duochrome, multichrome, or other polish that catches the light, photographing it in different angles will help you better show off its personality. Also, certain angles may reduce the glare on your nails, which makes the actual colour easier for people to see.

Stabilize Those Shaky Hands

I’ve always had shaky hands when it comes to taking photos. If cameras didn’t have image stabilizers built in, everything I snapped would be a blur.

You could invest in a tripod. (I have a cheap one, but I never really use it just because I’m stubborn like that!)

If you don’t have a tripod, there are still some things you can do to reduce extra movement that could cause blurring. Here are some things that I do:

  • Lean your hand (the one you’re taking a photo of) against a wall. This will allow you to concentrate on steadying just the hand you’re holding your camera with instead of trying to steady both hands simultaneously.
  • Alternatively, you could plant your elbow (the one on your ‘camera arm’) onto something like a desk to stabilize it. Then you just have to focus on keeping your featured manicure steady.
  • Or…you could stop being stubborn like me and just use the tripod! 😉

Take More Photos Than You Think You’ll Need

You may think you ‘got the shot’, but sometimes it comes out blurry. If you take more photos, chances are that at least one from the bunch will come out as expected.

It’s better to have more photos to weed through and then choose which make the final cut rather than to be limited to a small handful of blurry pictures. When it comes to photographs in this case, less isn’t more.

Just to give you a better idea, for each nail ‘swatch’ blog post, I take around 100 photos. Then I choose just a few to show. If the polish I’m wearing is a duochrome, multichrome, or another finish that’s harder to capture, I take even more to increase my chances that some will turn out okay.

Remember, though, that those 100 photos include pictures I’ve taken in different lighting conditions, of just my thumb, of just my 3 fingers, of the ingredients label, of the nail-polish bottle, etc. If you’re concerned mainly with photographing just your manicure in one type of lighting, you can easily get away with taking fewer photos than I would.

Also, if you’re a better photographer than I am, you may not have to take so many images for more to turn out! (This is just what I do and what works for me.)

Swatching vs. Wearing

I continue to be impressed by bloggers who are able to swatch entire collections for one post. Painting your nails, photographing them, removing the polish, and repainting all in a single day is a lot of work!

You don’t have to swatch.

You can wear polishes like you normally would and photograph them as you wear them. This is what I do because I don’t like swatching polishes. (I just call the photos of my manicures ‘swatches’ on here because that’s the lingo.)

I prefer to wear them for at least a full day and often longer. I feel like if I started swatching lots of polishes in one sitting, I would get burned out quickly. I want polish to always bring me that carefree joy.

If you prefer swatching, go for it! Remember, the goal is happiness. 😉 What works for me might not work for you.

These were just a few things that I’ve been wanting to share with you ever since my previous From Mary’s Desk post. I hope that you found some of it helpful and some of it amusing. 😉

What’s your biggest struggle with your blog? Were you shy about sharing photos of yourself on your blog, too?

More From Mary’s Desk:


68 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Sundays: From Mary’s Desk – Pictures & Swatches (Part 2)

  1. Sophie

    Hello Mary,
    and thank you for this new post on blogging! I was looking forward to it. The only two things that are keeping me from starting my own blog are my small and old stash of mainly German drugstore brands, so that most polishes I could show aren’t available anymore, or at least hard to get… The second thing is the time investment that blogging takes. Because when I do anything, Iwant to do it right ^^ and I think that will clash with university.

    I have played around with my camera settings already, so although I don’t have a blog, I can give you a tip on indoor photography: there is a setting called “white balancing” or similar. This setting tells your camera, which combination of colors it should take as “white”, it will recalculate the other colors based on this setting. Perhaps this can help you achieve better results 🙂

    Much love, Sophie

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Sophie!

      You’re welcome – glad that you liked reading it. Ever since I wrote Part 1, I had lots of ideas for subsequent posts. For some reason, every Sunday, something came up. It’s a bit embarrassing that it took me MONTHS to get to Part 2. So, thank you for your patience!

      Your stash of German polishes sounds intriguing! I haven’t heard a lot about any brands from over there, so I would definitely be interested in seeing your blog posts on them. 🙂

      As for blogging being very time-consuming, it definitely is, but the great thing about it is that you can set your own pace. You don’t have to blog daily – just when you have time. Quality posts are appreciated much more than sheer quantity.

      Thank you so much for mentioning white balancing! I’ve been playing around with that custom setting, but I’m not comfortable with it just yet. More practice is necessary! I think your suggestion of white balancing is the best photography tip because you can use it in any light setting to correct any yellowish cast, etc.

  2. Ashesela

    @ Mary: This is a fantastic post!!!! So many helpful tips!! I know that you are going to help out a lot of people with these posts. 🙂 I heartily agree about taking a LOT of photos and weeding through them. There are quite a few that I take and I think one will look fantastic and then when I see it it is so blurry! It is so wonderful how encouraging you are to your readers, and you take out a lot of guesswork by addressing those problems that everyone faces with blogs. I am a really shy person, but I am so glad that I took the plunge and started blogging. What a wonderful community to be a part of!!

    @ Sophie: Good luck with university!! If you do get around to making your own blog, I would love to see it! 😀 Also, don’t worry about posting mainly German brands; it would be great to see them and also to see if there are any dupes available around the world!!
    Ashesela recently posted: Glorious Haul!! 😀

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Ashesela!

      I second what you said to Sophie! That would be cool to see what kind of dupes there are around the world. Then maybe it would help some from paying inflated prices on eBay when they can find something similar in their local stores.

      Thank you for your support and for representing the beauty community in a positive way. When people see that there are warm beauty bloggers, I think that’s what encourages others to follow suit, start a blog, and not focus so much on the negative points. 🙂 Be good examples to others…

  3. Kimberly

    If I got wrapped up in trying to get perfect photos or a perfect manicures, I never would have dared venture into blogging. I wonder if there are many would-be bloggers out there that would like to jump in but worry about not being good enough. I thought I was in my own little world blogging until I started checking out other nail/beauty bloggers. Wow! There were tons of totally awesome ones! I tell myself almost daily to be inspired by them and not intimidated.

    I started running last April. I do it because I can (I had a hip replacement 4 years ago.) I thought it would be cool to run a 5K, and I did! Two of them, 8 months after starting to run. What I didn’t expect was that while I was running, there were people WALKING faster than I was running! That stung. But, it takes time and practice to get better (and faster). I don’t have all the fancy running gear but I do acquire some things as I grow with my hobby.

    All this ties back to nail blogging…even though it seems to be human nature to compare ourselves, no matter where one starts, there are tons of people out there that will help and encourage us. Mary, you do a great job with sharing what you know. I hope this gives newbies and wantin’-to-be bloggers the courage to add to the community and just plain have fun. 🙂
    Kimberly recently posted: Don’t Use Your Sleeve Or…What I Saw Today

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Kimberly!

      You have a very upbeat attitude that I admire. It’s a healthy mindset to think of others as inspiration rather than as competition. And I actually like how you started off ‘in your own little world’. There are several levels of ‘the real deal’, but I think that when you venture out without being as influenced by others, it’s really organic…authentic. I respect that a lot! It also shows that you are very courageous and willing to try new things even if you don’t know others who have walked the same road. Kudos to you!

      Thank you for sharing that background about yourself and running. I can’t even imagine how much of a daily challenge it was for you to go through a hip replacement. Geez. And running a 5K? Kimberly, that’s the most impressive thing I’ve heard all week! I’m going to remember what you’ve said whenever I feel discouraged or like I want to give up. Your story inspires me.

  4. Frosso

    This was such a great post. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve actually been having a lot of camera issues lately and i’ve been getting really frustrated with blogging. I even bought a fancy new camera, but then quickly returned it after scolding myself for buying a $350 camera I don’t really need *shakes head*. My biggest issue is color accuracy. On my blog, you will not see any red or pink polishes, because my camera simply wont photograph them accurately 🙁 now I’m starting to have the same issues with purples which sucks because I loooove purple polish. When I photograph red tones it turns my whole picture an orangey color. My camera just won’t read it well 🙁 I usually have to swatch in artificial light because I dont have any access to natural light except on weekend mornings..which is not always guaranteed now that its winter. I’ve even bought a lil light tent , but it does not help with the color accuracy in red and purples. I’m so at a lost because I have so many polishes I want to swatch and review, but I know I can’t review them because they wont be accurate. I have a nikon coolpix S630 thats probably 4 or so years old. It takes pretty good macro shots which is why I’m having a hard time letting it go, it’s just the color accuracy. Plus its on its way to a slow death as it freezes if i put it down and it taps a hard surface at all.
    Hah, i just ranted…sorry but i’m desperate! If anyone has any suggestions for fixing my color accuracy please share! I will probably end up just buying another nikon cool pix in the future, but I don’t want to have the same issues with colors!
    Frosso recently posted: Nicole by OPI Party in the Penthouse

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Frosso!

      No problem – I like to share, but I have to say that it does make it a whole lot easier when the audience is receptive and warm. So, really, thank you for not bashing me! 😛 (I was really hoping that people wouldn’t read it and think that I sounded like a snob when I’m trying to be helpful. Sometimes there’s a fine line when it comes to interpreting stuff like this.)

      Have you tried playing around with your camera’s white balance feature? Sophie mentioned it in her comment, and it’s one of the best tips! (I have tried it out a bit, and it helps, but I still need to practice more.) Maybe this will help you show off your lovely reds, pinks, and purples! It’s worth a shot, right?

      No need to apologize for saying what’s on your mind. It’s not like you slapped me across the face with leather gloves and then threw rotten fish at me. 😛 I love it when my readers leave thoughtful comments like yours, even if it’s about concerns they have. And, who knows? Maybe someone has some specific photography tips to share with you that may help. At least you’re open and putting it out there. 🙂 That’s already commendable because I know it’s not easy sometimes to talk about things that bother us.

  5. Marisa

    These are such great tips Mary!! Thanks do much for sharing. I was never really worried about sharing photos. My main concern is always that the color is accurate and I get it in different lighting. I am always trying to take better photos, there is definitely a learning curve.
    I had no idea you didn’t swatch. I do both.

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Marisa!

      You sound much more confident with yourself than I was when I started blogging. (Haha, I was full of insecurities and horrendous What If Scenarios – pretty comical when I think back.)

      Your photos make me see polishes in new ways. Honestly! Do you sprinkle some pixie dust over your camera? I need to know…hehe, because sometimes I never pay attention to a certain colour. Then I see the lovely shade on your nails, and it makes me want it! You’re doing a whole lot of things right! 😉

  6. maddy

    I don’t have a blog but these are great tips. I usually take pictures of my manicures cause I want to remember them if I like it or want to do it again. I don’t swatch unless my friends are over for a painting party and they want to see what a color looks like. I usually wear my manis untill they start getting really noticable chips.

        1. Mary Post author

          Ten days for those strips – impressive! For some reason, I thought they wore worse than regular polish. (Never tried them.)

  7. Melissa

    This is a great in depth post, Mary! I’m sure someone who is new to blogging will find it very helpful. I for sure did! It took me a while to jump into blogging because I was really insecure about showing my nails. I’ve been a biter all my life, but when I stopped I wanted them to get to a length I was okay showing. Some days they’d be long but then a break would happen, so I’d have to wait again but finally they got healthy with a length I was comfortable sharing.

    I’m still trying to get the hang of taking pictures. I’ve had my camera since I was about 15 or so, but I’ve only ever really used it was for stuff like camping at the beach or when I’m on vacation, and taking pictures of nails is completely different. Before I started blogging, I had this notion in my head that I needed a new camera because I wanted to get amazing pictures and mine just wouldn’t do the job. It’s not a terrible camera, so I’m not sure why I thought that. It’s a Kodak EasyShare Z740, with 10X zoom and 5 megapixels. To me, 5 megapixels isn’t ideal, but I’ve learned to work with it. It took a lot of picture taking to learn what settings get me the pictures I want, although I still have a ton of room to improve. One day I will get a new camera but I’m not going to spend the money right now when I have a great camera with tons of life left in it. I’m just working with what I have. Speaking of macro shots, my camera actually has all of these different features you can use in certain situations and one of them is a flower and it says “close up.” I always wondered if my camera had a macro setting, so that must be it! I’ve been using that feature from day one of blogging because it gave me the best results.

    As for swatching vs. wearing, that was a concern of mine! When it comes to wearing nail polish, I’m use to wearing a color for at least a week or less. I’m not really use to putting on a color, taking pictures, and then removing it. I like to actually get wear out of the colors that I post. I was kind of worried that it would affect my blog, but some how I’ve managed to make it work by posting fillers between each manicure.

    Thanks again for this post! I think it’s very helpful.
    Melissa recently posted: Revlon Street Wear Witchy

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Melissa!

      First of all, congratulations on nixing the nail-biting habit. It’s not easy! And now you have gorgeous polishes to enjoy and share with others.

      You’re a really good photographer – just looking at your photos, I wouldn’t know that you were using a camera with 5 MP! IMPRESSIVE!

      I’m glad that you mentioned wearing versus swatching. I’m in the same boat – when you have other posts in between manicure posts, it’s easier to not have to swatch. You can actually wear the polishes. 🙂 Not sure how swatchers do it – that takes quite a lot!

  8. Carmela

    Thanks for the great insight, Mary! I really do look forward to more of this series. I think you share a lot of valuable information that most new bloggers would have to learn the hard way otherwise. I know I had to. 😛

    This is one of the best things about blogging that I truly appreciate: learning new skills and discovering a passion for them. I’ve recently been more intrigued with photography and have been wanting to learn so much more about it. I’ve been debating taking at class (I’ve seen Henry’s/Black’s offering some) but I’m not sure if I’m ready to take that leap. Thus far, I’ve been trying to read as much as I can on the net and various photography forums. A lot of that reading comes in handy when taking photos for the blog.

    I’ve recently upgraded my camera myself and I’m still learning about it. You’re so right about that learning curve. I find that the way I’ve been using my old trusty point and shoot just doesn’t translate to a more powerful camera. You’ve got to really get into the nitty gritty of settings and know the lingo: ISO, aperture, white balance, etc and how they affect your photos. It does have an intelligent function that’s much like the auto setting on a point and shoot but because the lenses are different, I also get such issues like vignetting and jitter. A tripod really does help to reduce camera shake/ blurriness but it can also be limiting depending on your set up.

    As much as I would rather stay away from post production, it really does help a lot with color accuracy. I’m a stickler for trying to show the color as I would see it in person so I’m not averse to playing around with Photoshop or Gimp to make sure it’s accurate. When older cameras spazz out and have trouble taking the correct color, a bit of tweaking will allow you to get the color just right. You might end up having strangely colored skin in the process, but hey, all for color accuracy, right? I don’t usually have to do this but I do like to up the contrast and sharpen photos (as I find out of camera photos usually look soft) apart from checking color accuracy.

    As for swatching vs. wearing, I’d really rather just wear than swatch. But some circumstances (like my in-laws visiting and having a packed schedule for 6 weeks) urge swatching so that I’ll have enough material to blog with throughout the time I won’t be able to photograph my manis. I also like to have at least a few polishes already swatched as a buffer just in case circumstances work against my plans. Mostly, to make sure I don’t sacrifice my blog schedule/content. You’re right about swatching = burnout. When I did some marathon swatching to cover the 6 weeks, I really didn’t feel like wearing polish for a week after. And it felt like I was putting in way too much effort for something that was supposed to be fun. Definitely a low point in my young blogging experience.

    Sorry this got so long. 😛 Happy Sunday to you and the Cheshire Cat! 😀
    Carmela recently posted: Orly Luxe wishes you a luxurious year ahead!

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Carmela!

      Wow, thank you for writing such a thoughtful comment! 🙂 (Happy Sunday!)

      Do you remember how much the photography classes were? And was it one class or were there a few lessons?

      My goal is to change the features on my camera as much as I can so that I won’t have to do much post-production tweaking other than the usual sharpening. I’m still looking into messing around with histograms, and I may start using my in-camera cropping feature so it’s less work when I import them onto my computer. If I paid for all these features, I may as well try them out and see if they save me time, right? 😉

      Carmela, I still can’t believe you swatched enough polishes to cover a 6-week period! You are a star trooper fo’ sho’! Don’t think I could ever do that. Knowing me, I’d fall in love with a colour, get distracted from swatching, and just wear that manicure before remembering that oh, yeah, I was supposed to be swatching not wearing.

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Sophie!

      CONGRATULATIONS! I’m excited, too – hope you enjoy your blogging journey.

      (I just joined your site as a Google Friend Connect member.) 🙂

      Ashesela is very sweet. Glad that she gave you the encouragement you needed! 🙂

  9. All Things Shiny

    This post is wonderful, thankyou! I have just started my blogging journey in the last few months. I started out being very so worried that my pics were so shitty, that anyone who saw them would scream in horror. But i love painting my nails so much, and i enjoy taking pictures to look back on to remember how much i loved/hated that polish. So i have pushed myself to post my pictures, even if im the only one who looks 🙂 Everyone who has commented on my posts has been so nice and suportive. It really does feel great to feel a part of a community that shares and encourages one another without negative attitudes.
    All Things Shiny recently posted: Chemistry 522 – Holographic Pink Nail Polish 🙂

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey All Things Shiny!

      Actually, if someone screamed in horror, I think you should also take that as a huge compliment because having that reaction to just looking at nails is a pretty big deal. It means that you really made an impression on that person. Haha! 😉 Maybe a really bloody, gruesome Hallowe’en manicure?

      Thank you for being a friendly member of the beauty community! 🙂 (I saw 2 of the holos you posted, and oh my goodness, GORGEOUS!)

  10. Conni

    What a great post, thanks for all the good advices! My husband and I bought a quite expensive camera few years ago, to photograph all the handcrafted jewelleries we make. However, I never took the time to get to know the camera, so it is always on “automatic” – and that’s a big waste of such a good camera. Most of these pictures are shown on my sales blog, but there a only a few of them that I’m kind of proud of! But now you’ve just encouraged me to actually READ the camera manual – I’m pretty sure I might learn some valuable stuff! 🙂 Nice to hear, that I’m not the only one struggling with both tehcnical issues as well as getting used to publish pictures of myself – as for the latter I’m NOT there, yet. But I’m sure it will come in time! Btw – the picture of the streetcar with Marlon Brandoe in it seemed to develope as a quite nice movie inside my head – hahaa! 😉
    Conni recently posted: WantThatOne #4

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Conni!

      I’m so happy that you’re going to read your camera’s manual. Well, okay, manuals are never fun to read (much like how the dictionary isn’t a party to read), but I just mean that I’m excited that you’re going to try to unlock the cool features on your camera! 🙂 Hope you have fun and end up developing a new love for photography!

      Hehe, glad you liked the little Marlon Brando imagery. 😉

  11. Sarah

    I have been following you for a few months now and I really love your blog. I have recently, and by that i mean this month, started my own blog. I use doing my nails as my time to myself. Being a mom of a 2 year old I don’t get a whole lot of that. I started my blog to share this with others. I just posted to today and was feeling very self conscious about the pictures so it very refreshing to see others feel the same way. Both of your post have made me feel better about blogging so I just want to say thank you and I look forward to more wonderful post from you!!
    Sarah recently posted: New Year, New Blog!

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Sarah!

      It must not be easy to make time for yourself. I can just imagine how much work a 2-year-old is to take care of. The closest I am to seeing that is when I see my nephew, who is not 2 yet, and his parents. 🙂 It’s good, though, that you ARE able to make SOME time for yourself. That’s really important!

      You’re very welcome! I enjoyed writing this post, and I’m pleased that you found it helpful. (So happy that you didn’t demand 5 minutes of your life back for the time you took to read it…hahaha…I’m being silly…)

      P.S. I’m honoured to be your first Google Friend Connect member. 🙂 Enjoy your blogging journey!

  12. Jessica

    Wow! I had no idea so much work went on behind-the-scenes. I know that sounded silly, but your entries always make everything look so effortless (in a good way!). It’s great that this has been an enjoyable journey for you so far, and I look forward to seeing even more great swatches and posts 🙂

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Jessica!

      My blog is pretty small, but for those who maintain the bigger blogs must REALLY have their work cut out for them, especially because they swatch entire collections at once. They must have an outstanding work ethic! 🙂

      Thank you for the high praise! 😀 I’ll take it…hehe, especially on days when I’m not feeling so great, I’ll remember your kind words to boost my spirits.

  13. Kristina K

    So much fun reading it, it was if I was to have written it myself. I recognize eeeverything, still havent moved on to showing my face though. But getting there!

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Kristina K!

      Hehe, maybe you did write it in your sleep. Then the sneeky Cheshire Cat made like a thief in the night and stole your manuscripts! 😉

      Showing your entire face is a big step on your blog. For me, it was the most challenging, but I made a compromise by not posting my face everywhere and also not posting my face in a size that can be printed out as a poster. 😛 (I still have personal limits that I’m sticking to.)

  14. Marta

    Mary this post is awesome!
    I truly appreciate you speaking so openly about blogging, what it should be about and sharing your valuable insight and suggestions. It is true, blogging is time consuming but can also be very rewarding if you do it for the right reasons and stay true to yourself.

    I was so immersed in reading that it didn’t even phase me when the macro-setting on the camera spoke to me! 😉

    I truly respect your honesty and openness and your kindhearted willingness to help!

    I have been blogging for almost a year, and I enjoy wearing my manicures, not just posting on them. That is what makes me happy, and it is challenging not to get wrapped up in needing to post manicures daily etc… Each post takes a lot of effort and heart to put together and I keep checking in to make sure I am still loving what I’m doing. Otherwise this hobby isnt worth it 🙂

    And I especially appreciate you talking about having doubts about being judged etc. it is true, we put ourselves out there for evaluation and we have to be kind to one another and respect that there are varying opinions etc 🙂

    Thank you again! 🙂

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Marta!

      Having a friendly and open audience also helps! 🙂 Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read my long posts like this and to leave such encouraging comments.

      The macro setting is a hot head. He’s always trying to get fresh with the ladies. 😉 I’ll have a word with him.

      Your blog is one of my favourites, and I can always tell how much hard work you put in. Your photos, your nail stamping, the shape of your nails, your friendly personality, etc. are all reasons why I love visiting and why I’m so thankful to have you as a great friend. 🙂

  15. Trang

    Hi there!

    Thank you for providing such honest tips and tricks in your post. It has given me inspiration to keep going with my blog because at the end of the day, although my blog is not well known, I get a sense of happiness doing a blog about what I love. It is lovely to see what a great ‘online community’ we have here!


    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Trang!

      You’re very welcome – I’m always happy to help. 🙂 Makes me feel good if even one person finds this post useful.

      Oh, if you comment on here again, feel free to check the little box at the bottom of the comment section that says “CommentLuv”. Then when you leave a comment, it’ll include a link to your latest blog post. This will help make your blog more visible! 🙂

  16. Kelly

    This is freaking awesome!!! You should consider writing an e-book with all the tips and knowledge you have. I read part 1 first then just read part 2. I can totally relate to being self conscious about taking pics for FOTD’s or EOTD’s. Still to this day I wont do FOTD’s, but I can believe you out of all people were scared to show your nails. They always look so perfect, Im glad you stopped caring about that or we wouldn’t be able to see all your beautiful swatches.

    My main issue with taking pictures of my nails is lighting (like you said), unless the sun is out I dont bother taking pics. You really take over 100 pics for each post? Wow, that’s dedication right there. Im so glad your doing this new feature bc you have so many great tips to share. You should definitely be very proud of your blog. I can only seeing it get better too! 🙂

    Kelly recently posted: NOTD: Sally Hansen’s Flirt + Big Money- Sponged Mani

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Kelly!

      Aww…you’re so kind! 🙂 Thank you for saying that! I just enjoy sharing what I’ve learned so far because if can help even one new blogger, I think it’s worth it. Plus I deal with a lot of blogging insecurities that I feel other people can relate to. Once we address these issues, it can sometimes make them easier to deal with. And sometimes we just need a kind, supportive comment from someone to motivate us. 🙂

      P.S. I replied to your e-mail. Hope it went through and didn’t get stuck in the junk folder by accident!

  17. Joy Ella

    This article is so awesome! I’m so glad I found it today! I’ve been obsessed with nail art for almost a year now and got really into reading all the nail polish blogs before starting a tumblr blog of my own which is currently evolving into a blogspot blog and etsy store (I started a new job a few weeks ago though so I haven’t had time up update it in a few weeks and I’ve got a few manicures that need to be posted to catch up!).
    I use my canon point and shoot from 5 years ago for my mani photos (it’s really close to the same model you mentioned above lol). Apart from the same battery issue you mentioned, it does the job.
    Thank you for addressing the insecurity issue. As a new blogger who has been obsessively reading all the great nail blogs for months, it is hard not to feel a little intimidated as I work through my trials and errors. On top of being new to the nail blogger community, I’m also such a perfectionist that I will spend forever trying to take and edit the perfect picture to try to ensure I get the most accurate depiction of the color. I currently have photographed all my swatch nail wheels in various light settings and camera settings and need to post them but I’m so OCD about getting the color tweaked just right before posting them.

    I’m with you on the swatching v. wearing question. I’ve swatched all of my polishes on nail wheels. I do change my nail polish almost daily but can’t imagine doing my nails more than that! I do have all the respect in the world for those who do take all that time and effort for their fellow nail polish addicts. I know I always google swatches of polishes I’m considering while shopping for new polishes before I commit to buy so kudos to those who swatch so I can wear. ;D

    I love your blog and I’m excited about getting more involved in the nail polish/art community. Thanks again for this great article (and blog)! 😀

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Joy!

      I just checked out your blog – great manicures! And that floral one has an awesome vintage vibe to it. 🙂 Just left a little comment and joined you on Google Friend Connect.

      Hope that you’ll stick to it and that you’ll continue to love blogging and sharing your perspective with readers. 🙂 Blogging is truly rewarding, and once you get into the groove, it almost becomes like second nature.

      I wish you the very best, and I hope that you’ll meet many encouraging and creative people in the nail-polish community!

      Thank you so much for the heartfelt words and for opening up to me. Please come again soon – I try to update daily so there’s always something new to see.

  18. Gosia

    Mary! Thank you so much for these posts!!! (part 1 and 2). As a beginner blogger I have all the insecurities you wrote about… who will read me… am I interesting enough? my cuticles look like crap… my pictures are not good enough.. people will get bored… etc, etc…

    I do love writing about nail polish though, and polish is really like crack to me LOL. So I will continue to blabber on my blog because it makes me happy!!!
    But I wanted to thank you for reminding me that I’m not the only one with these problems!!!


    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Gosia!

      You’re welcome – I’m so glad that you’ve found them helpful! 🙂 And thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

      I’ll check out your blog soon. 🙂 You had me at nail polish! 😉

  19. Lacquerliciouslove

    Thank you so much for these posts Mary! I’ve read them all so far and they are really helpful to a beginning blogger like me!! I love the rest of your blog too, it’s great to see a fellow Canadian beauty blogger 🙂

    1. Mary Post author

      Hey Lacquerliciouslove!

      I’m soooooooo happy to hear that you’ve read them all and that you find them helpful! Remember, if there’s a topic that you’d like to see in a future From Mary’s Desk blog post, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m open to good suggestions!

      YAY for Canadian bloggers! 😀

  20. Kelsie Rogers

    Not the first time reading this, but first time commenting. No matter how many years I blog I love to read photography posts from other bloggers. There’s always some small tidbit of info (or ton of info) that I use when improving my own photography skills. Thanks for this!! 🙂

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Kelsie!

      That’s a very good attitude to have. We are constantly learning new things, as long as we keep our minds open and take the time to listen to others’ experiences. 🙂

      It was absolutely my pleasure putting together this post!

  21. Joyce

    I’ve been thinking about blogging a lot this last year.
    I’m still thinking about it, as I’m a lousy photographer, my nails aren’t perfect, etc. etc. but reading your posts and especially this one made me realize the bloggers I look up to probably felt the same way when they started.
    Perhaps I just need to take a deep breath and start thinking of a name for my to-be blog!

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Joyce!

      Starting a blog is the most difficult. After you’ve mustered up the courage, it’s a great and challenging journey from there! I hope that you do give it a go. It’s a great project for self-development, too!

  22. Kim P

    I am not a blogger, but I do post my nails a lot on IG and have a FB page for nail-related items. I still suffer from self-consciousness about my nails (especially when I post a new photo, and the next day I’ve lost 5 followers!!!). But like you said, the goal is happiness. It makes me happy to share my nails. After 30+ years of biting my nails, I’m proud to have overcome that habit, and finally have nails that I can paint pretty 🙂

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Kim!

      Aww, well, maybe think of it like this. Remember that it’s not the number of followers you have, it’s the quality. The loyal readers will stick around, and over time, your readership will grow naturally. 🙂

      I’m VERY proud of you for nixing the habit of biting your nails. It’s not easy!

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Erin!

      Happy to help! 🙂 And thank you for letting me know you found it useful. I need to write the next part of this series soon!

  23. Astrid

    These are great tips! I always take photographs of my nail art and in the beginning I didn’t know how. Now it’s better but with your tips, my pictures are going to be better than ever!
    I prefer wearing too. I don’t need to swatch because I’m not a blogger but I don’t understand how people can paint their nails, take pictures and take it off.

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Astrid!

      I’m so happy that you found my tips helpful! And it’s cool to hear that I’m not the only one who likes to wear the polish instead of just swatching!

  24. Susan T.

    Thank you for the tips! I’m not a blogger but I do like to take the occasional photo and mine are terrible. Hopefully this will help. You swatches always clear and perfect.

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Susan!

      Aww, don’t be so hard on yourself! Don’t think about your photos as being “terrible”. Listen, everyone needs to learn. Nobody takes great photos the first time they pick up a camera. It comes with trial, error, and practice! 🙂 With time, you’ll see yourself improving. I’m sure of it! Don’t belittle your efforts because they are your trail. Think of it like this: One day, you’ll look back and see how much you’ve improved. 🙂

      Keep at it! 🙂

  25. Charity Rutenberg

    I love everything about this post. Thank you for some really awesome tips! I never knew swatching could be so much work, but now with your tips, I think I’ll be able to take some better pics now!

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Charity Rutenberg!

      It’s all a learning curve, and the more you take photos, the more you’ll develop as a blogger, and by extension, as a photographer! 🙂 I hope you have fun playing around with your camera and tapping into your creativity!

  26. Nikolina

    Wow, thank you for all the wonderfull tips in this post! I have an old camera I never learned how to really use, but now I intend to buy myself a new one and get to know it this time! lol

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Nikolina!

      That’s awesome! Once you fiddle around with the settings and test them out with different lighting conditions and angles, you’re on your way to improving the quality of your photos. Have fun!

  27. Martha 10NiceNails

    Great tips! And thanks for the permission to not be a swatch blogger. I don’t do that either because I love to wear polish but I think I’d get annoyed putting it on, photographing then taking it off. And besides, I don’t have that kind of time.

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Martha!

      I’m so happy to hear that I’m not the only nail blogger who doesn’t just swatch polishes. Wearing a full manicure brings me the most happiness! Then, when I share photos and opinions of the shade, that’s also fun because readers always have something interesting to say.

  28. Denise F

    I don’t blog, but I do love posting up pictures of my new mani’s on Instagram. I always wondered how bloggers do it and get such PERFECT pictures. Thank you for all this helpful information!

    1. Mary S. Post author

      Hey Denise!

      Hehe, I still don’t feel like my photos are perfect, but as long as readers find them helpful and as long as I’m comfortable sharing, that’s what makes me feel good!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge