When Did Influencers Become Public Enemy Number One?

Paris Photography

Being a digital influencer is one of the most talked about new career paths of the past few years. As social media exploded and brands began directing significant portions of their budgets towards influencer marketing, more and more people began entering the industry with hopes of becoming Insta-famous. The market is so saturated and there is so much competition, not unlike other highly in-demand fields. However it seems that no other legitimate profession is met with such vitriol.

Portraits in Paris Photography Session
Sunset in Paris Photo Shoot
Sunset Photo Shoot in Paris

It seems like every day there is another negative news story about influencers. In the past week you may have seen headlines about “influencers” taking inappropriate photos at Chernobyl, but when you read the articles and click on the photos in question, it’s obvious the photos were taken by normal tourists, not influencers. When Payless had a marketing stint pretending to be a high-end boutique “Palessi,” so many headlines focused on how influencers were duped into wasting money on cheap shoes. There was almost no mention of the fact that influencers in attendance were invited and in some cases paid by the brand for their participation! They were just independent contractors doing a job they had been hired for, yet the mass media ran with the negative coverage. Instead of focusing on the brilliant event that Payless threw, it became all about how silly and shallow influencers are. And not to mention Marissa Fuchs’s “surprise” proposal, which went viral for all the wrong reasons. In my opinion, she came up with a brilliant way to create some fresh content that hadn’t already been done to death, and professionally pitched the business opportunity to brands. I find it hard to imagine a world in which marketing professionals would publicly share and make fun of a pitch deck that had been sent to them confidentially by a media agency or other brand. Why should an influencer (especially one with legitimate reach and a highly professional pitch and marketing strategy) be treated differently?

One of the biggest examples of influencer hate came out around the Fyre Festival scandal, and resurfaced with the Netflix and Hulu documentaries this year. So much focus was on how influencers promoted the event and convinced their followers to attend, but none of the drama was their fault! They were presented with a paid opportunity that many of their colleagues were also involved in. All of the influencers that posted were managed by big, experienced teams that would vet any potential partnership. The only mistake made in many cases was that some of the influencers failed to disclose that they were paid for the promotion.

However, the Fyre Festival case really only proves that influencer marketing works! The goal of tapping talent in a coordinated effort was to sell tickets, and that is exactly what they did. A consultant or independent contractor wouldn’t necessarily have access to the logistics and details of the event, and their obligation ended with them posting when asked.

I’m not a full-time influencer and don’t aspire to be, but I can’t help but notice the amount of hate and criticism directed at people that are essentially entrepreneurs building their own personal brand. Yes, there are a lot of influencers with loose ethics that are dishonest with their audience and brand partners, but is there any industry that is completely free from corruption?

Why Does Everyone Hate Influencers

If you are someone that loves to hate on influencers, I would LOVE to know why that is! And if you are an influencer and feel like you get a lot of unfair criticism and hatred, let me know why you think that is and how you handle it!

Photo Shoot Fresh: How to Get Perfect Travel Photos

Eiffel Tower Paris

Instagram has definitely had an impact on how people travel and document their adventures. There are Instagram hot-spots all over the world, with hundreds of tourists being inspired by (or downright copying) their favorite travel influencers. It’s easy to understand! Travel bloggers have feeds full of gorgeous imagery from far-flung, exotic destinations. I have definitely made efforts to elevate my travel content over the past year. It takes a bit more planning but I think I’ve got a formula down that helps you get gram-worthy photos without compromising your vacation time.

Paris France Photography Tour
Fashion Photo Shoot Eiffel Tower
AirBnB Experiences Paris Photo Shoot

Find an affordable professional photographer

I know it sounds like diva behavior, especially for a normal tourist, not blogger. But pro photographers are fast and know the best locations! I have found that in spending 1 hour shooting with a pro, I can get enough content to last at least a week, if not more! That means I never have to worry about bugging my friends for photos, or spend time editing while on the go. I’ve worked with professional photographers in Savannah, and most recently in Paris and it was amazing. My photos were way better than anything my friends or bf would have taken, and because pros can be faster than the average person, I was able to squeeze in multiple outfits and different locations. I usually shoot the first or 2nd day of the trip just to get it out of the way, and because the photographer may take a few days to send the pics. AirBnB Experiences is a great place to jumpstart your search, and I’ve also had luck on Groupon Goods when browsing in the US!

Plan Your Outfits Accordingly

Instagram photo magic doesn’t just happen! Half the battle is having the photographer, and the other half is the person in the picture. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing something glam or eyecatching when traveling, just bring extra photo shoot outfits so you can change just for pictures. If you are shooting with a friend, try to coordinate but not 100% match, and don’t forget to finish your look with the right hair/makeup.

Practice Art Directing Before You Have Someone Shoot You

If you can’t find a pro or don’t think it’s worth the cost, you can still get amazing travel photos from your friend/travel buddy or other tourists if you are alone. In most touristy sites, you’ll see people or couples taking pics of each other or trying to take selfies. I usually offer to take one for them, then ask them to take one for me. Before I hand them my camera, I demonstrate exactly how I want the image framed and place it in their hands at that exact angle. I know it’s nitpicky, but that ensures I get the image I want, instead of someone’s random interpretation. Half the time they nail it, and half the time they move the camera and miss my angle, or something else goes wrong and I hate the picture. In that case I politely thank them, wait a few minutes until they leave, then try again with someone else. This can take a few tries, but I’ve really never waited more than 10 minutes at a popular tourist site to get the perfect photo.

Pack Your Tripod and Shoot Yourself

I love playing with self-portraits! I always pack my tripod when I travel solo, mostly for cute hotel room shots or if I’m staying at a resort with lots of good photo ops on the grounds. Before you pull out a tripod in a public area or tourist spot, double check the rules. A lot of places, especially rooftops don’t allow them, and you also want to make sure it’s a safe place to set it up. Use your judgement on that front! I usually prefer to pull it out in areas that are quiet enough that I can get a good shot without people staring at me like I’m crazy, but still have a decent amount of foot traffic so I won’t worry about anyone grabbing my camera. Again, use your judgement before trying this approach, and above all make sure it is safe!

Let me know how you guys get travel photos where you are off to next!

4 Ways to Get Perfect Travel Photos

France Lookbook and What to do if Your Luggage is Lost!

French Travel Style

Travel is an adventure and sometimes the craziness starts right at the airport! My trip to France started perfectly normal. I had packed a selection of fun outfits and product for collaborations all edited carefully so it would fit in my carry on. I knew that I would be moving in between several cities over the week so wanted to pack light enough to make all the travel easier

Nice France Travel.jpg

However I couldn't get around the weight limits imposed by Norweigan! Most low cost airlines have pretty strict requirements on size and weight for carry on bags, and even though my suitcase was fine size wise, it was about 4 pounds over the weight limit. Their weight limit is only 10kg, which equals around 22 pounds. And that has to include both your carry on and personal item! The gate agent made me check it and I wasn't too worried since it was a direct flight so less chance for it to get mixed up or delayed. Little did I know, there would be some major logistic issue with the baggage carousels. When I landed in Paris, an agent at baggage claim informed me that over 150 bags from the LA flight had been misplaced!  Normally, if I plan to check luggage, I would have an extra outfit or 2 in my carry on. But since I was rushed and made to check last minute I didn't take anything out of the suitcase. Big mistake, I know! So there I was in Paris with the clothes on my back. Luckily I kept my toiletries and makeup in my carry on so I could still keep my face and hair together!

Making the situation even worse, our flight was an hour and a half late, which meant that by the time I could get from the airport to the city, all the stores would be closed. I only had one day in Paris before heading to Nice so my boyfriend helped with the missing baggage report and as soon as I landed in Nice I needed to shop! At that point I had spent 2 days in my airport leggings, crop top and dad sneaks and it was starting to get funky. 

Tips for a Lost Luggage Complaint

If you didnt know, airlines are responsible for reimbursing you if you need to purchase replacement items when your baggage is delayed or lost. The exact amount and procedure for filing a claim varies, but in the European Union, airlines can be liable for up to 1300 euros! At that point I assumed my bag would be retuned in 2 or 3 days, but I also knew this was my only chance to shop. After Nice I would be spending 3 days in the French countryside, with plenty of vineyards but no malls! I decided I needed to get clothes for 3 days and 1 dress that was glam enough for a night out in Monaco. And I hoped that my luggage would be sent to the residence in the countryside no problem. 

Satin Polka Dot Dress
Classic French Inspired Style

Remember, just because the airline is liable for reimbursement, that doesnt mean you get to go crazy.  Skip Gucci and shop sensibly! I opted for Zara, H&M and Mango. Check out some of the looks I pulled together below! I was able to find a lot of the exact items on the US site, luckily, and included some alternatives as well!

Pretty good choices right? I also picked up some basic undies from H&M and the tote bag was necessary to use for travelling the rest of the week, since I couldn't lug around shopping bags. However my luggage did not arrive in the country as expected since the Courier said it was too far from the main city and they needed a 3 to 4 day window for that region (which was 2.5 hours from Paris, 30 minutes from the local airport in Bordeaux so go figure). So I had to handwash and line dry a few pieces country style and wear them again as I headed back to Paris! My bag was finally delivered to my hotel on the last day of the trip!

Lost Luggage Claim Tips


So if you find yourself in a missing baggage situation here are my tips for getting through!

  1. File your claim asap - the representative at the airport can give you the necessary paperwork so they can start tracking the lost luggage

  2. Learn your rights - they vary depending on the origin/departure city but check out what the carrier says and go a quick Google search. Norwegian's website obviously wouldn't say the max they can be held liable for, but researching "delayed baggage compensation in Europe" turned up loads of info from European regulatory sites. If you file a claim and the airline tries to underpay or claim they arent responsible, you need to know your rights to fight for your money 

  3. Shop reasonably - remember it is time to purchase replacement items for your trip, not go on a luxury shopping spree

  4. Save your receipts! And take photos just in case you lose the originals

  5. Include all your expenses - i didn't have to buy toiletries since I had those in my carry on, but if you lost those include them as well. If you have to make international phone calls every day to follow up with customer service, add in the roaming charges! Think about the little things and make sure they are all included

  6. Leverage social media - the Norweigan customer service center was so not responsive or helpful, even though they had English speaking representatives. But when I started blowing up their mentions on Twitter I got more attention. And not just me! I looked at their Tweets/Replies and saw different users airing their concerns and getting responses as well. Help your complaint stay stop of mind by making it visible!

I’ll keep you guys posted once my claim is processed on what the final result is, but let me know in the comments or on Instagram if you have questions in the meantime!

Why I Stopped Working with Photographers

What’s the main tool every blogger needs - photos obviously! In order to create content and maintain your schedule you need a reliable way to get photos for your blog and social media posts. I’ve been blogging for about 3 years now and over the past year I have seriously reduced my reliance on professional photographers to generate content. In this post I outline all the reasons why my content strategy shifted, the pros and cons of working with a professional photographer, and how I maintain my content. Keep scrolling, and check out the photos chosen for this post. They are some of my favorites that I created and edited on my own!

Lifestyle Photograhy Tips.JPG
Portrait Photography Tips
Top of the Rock NYC.JPG

I decided to reduce how much I work with professional photographers for several reasons, but it really all boiled down to one thing - wanting to have more control over my content. I looked at the influencers I admire most, like Asiyami Gold, Mossonyi, Tezza, and Tina from Of Leather and Lace. One thing they all have in common is they are all content creators. Even when they are not taking the photo, they have full creative control over every element of the photo and the final editing process. If you can’t create content without having a pro photographer at your disposal, your creative will always be limited.

Plus the only way to truly maintain a consistent aesthetic is to be in control of all of your visuals. For example, below is a side by side of my feed now, vs in a month when I created and edited all my own images, without using any professional photographers.

Instagram Feed Design.JPG

The left is all original work, shot mostly with friends or other blogger girls and edited by me for consistency. And on the right is my most recent look. As you can see, things got a little disjointed! I worked with a few different street style photographers for pictures in between shows, then peppered in some original work for a sponsored project, and then pics from my trip to LA. I’m hoping to get my look back on track in the next few weeks, so will be going back to more of my own work.

The only way to really keep a consistent look and work with a pro is if you always use the same one. Plenty of influencers have a photographer on retainer, which can get expensive! If it’s not in the budget and an Insta-Hubby isn’t an option, take it into your own hands by working with friends or other bloggers in the same situation.

Lighting Tips for New Photographers.JPG

Creating your own content becomes especially important when you begin doing more brand work. Negotiating sponsored posts with brands can mean they also want rights to use the photos, which technically the photographer would have the copyright to. If you want to truly own your photos and be able to license them to brand partners, you need to either have your photographer sign off on that, or you need to own that content!

I anticipate this year I will create about 65% of my content on my own - enlisting a pro really only on travel when my friends pics may not cut it, or when the wardrobe/location calls for one. And even then I plan on being super vigilant about color, lighting, editing, etc to make sure the my visuals stay consistent no matter who is taking the final shot.

If you are a blogger let me know how you handle getting pictures, and if you plan on taking more content creation into your own hands. And for those who want to take the DIY approach, check out my post on mastering the self-portrait!

content creation tips for bloggers
Working with Blogger Photographers

How to Beat the Instagram Algorithm in 2019!

Pink Tulle Dress

Ever since Instagram implemented the algorithm, there have been countless posts about how to beat it. From quick and easy hacks to complicated, time consuming strategies, everyone is trying to find a way to beat Instagram at its own game. As an influencer, part of your success depends on your reach and the engagement you get on your posts so performance is critical. I’m far from an Instagram expert, but I have learned a few things on my journey as a microinfluencer, so I’m sharing some of my tips for how I’ve managed to maintain my account, get decent engagement, and keep the algorithm from making me crazy!

Pink Tulle Dress
NYC Photo Shoot Locations
Fashion Photo Shoot Styling

Focus on Instagram Engagement

Engagement is everything! You can’t control who sees your posts anymore, and you definitely can’t control who likes or comments on them. Since this post focuses only on things you can control, when I speak of engagement I mean how you are active and engaging on the platform. You can’t just post once a day, disappear, then expect your account to get traction. I spend about an hour a day on Instagram, engaging with new accounts and people that follow me. Yes, I go through my followers list and like, comment, watch and Insta-story or something to let my followers know I pay attention to them! If you are engaging with their accounts they are also more likely to see your posts in their feed and engage on yours!

Create Compelling, High Quality Content

There are so many influencers and brands posting on Instagram these days it’s impossible to stand out if your content isn’t up to par. Focus on creating content that is in line with your aesthetic, is eye-catching enough to make someone pause on your pic not just scroll past, and has an interesting caption. I admit I am not the best at captioning! I typically schedule my images so the visual flow makes sense, but I don’t caption in advance so I usually end up posting on the fly. I’m challenging myself to work on better captions because I firmly believe they help with boosting engagement and beating the Instagram algorithm.

Collaborate with Other Bloggers in Your Niche

Collaborating with other influencers isn’t just for fun! It can help organically expose you to a new audience and help you create new types of content that engage and excite your followers! I had a blast shooting with some of the Exclusively Social babes around NYFW and I hope to do more partnerships with other bloggers to have fun and help each other grow!

Have Fun and Remember Why You Started

I started my influencer journey to have a creative outlet when my corporate job felt stifling. It became my personal passion project, a place for me to challenge my creativity, make new connections, and post about things that excited and inspired me. So whether I’m posting from far-flung destination or frolicking in a tulle dress in a Brooklyn studio that rivals a Victorian mansion, this is my place to create what I want. Think about what you want, and how you can find other people that want to see what you create!

Instagram can always change their algorithm, and probably has by the time you read this post! By remembering the things that motivate you, inspire you, and challenge you as an influencer will make the journey all worthwhile.

Tips to Beat the Algorithm

Let me know how you are surviving Instagram and your life as an influencer!

Secure the Bag! How to Make Money as a Small Blogger

savage x fenty review.jpeg

So this has been a highly requested post that I was saving for the end of the year! I am going over all my invoices and making sure my accounting dashboard is up to date, but so far it looks like it’s been a pretty good year for the blog! If you are a new blogger or have been struggling to monetize your blog here is what has worked for me as I’ve established myself. I’m still working on it, so please take all of this as inspiration or my personal tips. You should definitely develop your own strategies and test them as you go on your blogging journey.

finance tips for bloggers.jpeg

Have a professional media kit and rate card

Before you can start making money, you have to look legit! Make sure you have analytics for your blog set up, and all of your social networks are Business Accounts so you can get insights. Then design a stellar media kit and rate card. I use Canva since the templates are so easy to work with. You should also do your research on what is a reasonable rate for you to charge based on your following/blog traffic.

Join Every Blogger Agency/Network

There are dozens of influencer networks/agencies that you can opt into. Most of them require you to make a profile and connect/authenticate your social profiles. Then you will either be in their database so they can include you in lists when their brand clients request influencers for a campaign, and some even show you a list of sponsorship opportunities you can apply to. It makes getting your profile and pitch in front of brands so much easier, and they are usually clear about the deliverables and guidelines, so you know what will be expected and when.

Here are a few that I have signed up for:

Social Fabric

Activate

Hashtag Paid

Fohr

Collectively

Clever

StyleHaul

Some have different requirements to join so check out each website and get to applying! The beauty of these programs is they connect you to brands that are their clients, and are super streamlined and easy to work with. There are several brands and retailers that I’ve worked with through these platforms on multiple occasions, so it gives you a library of content that you can use to pitch the brand directly! I do a good amount of my business through Social Fabric and Clever and they are super easy to work with. There are some tips and tricks you’ll need for a successful application in these networks, so stay tuned for a follow up post on that!

Use Affiliate Networks to Drive Sales

 Affiliate networks are a great way to generate revenue from your blog. Companies like RewardStyle, ShopStyle and Amazon all have influencer affiliate networks. The process is pretty simple – once you join the network you can create trackable links to use for products you post about. If someone clicks the link and makes a purchase, you get a small commission on it. If the customer returns the item within a certain window, usually 30 days, your commission goes away. The commission you get on each sale is pretty small, around 3-15%, but the awesome thing is you get commission of their entire order, not just if they buy the one item you had in the post! So if you start out clicking on an eyeshadow palette I had in a Sephora beauty post, but end up buying $500 worth of skincare, I get commission on the $500 total! So when you have good traffic , spendy followers, and post regularly in can start to add up.

For example, here is a shopping gallery where you can see the items I’m wearing in the images above. When an item is sold out or no longer available, like the Manolo sandals I’m wearing, I link to something similar.

If you click the slip and go shop on Savage x Fenty, I will NOT get a commission because that brand is not in the affiliate network. But I still included it because I love the brand and think you guys should check it out! However the jacket and shoes are from in network retailers so I will get a commission. This is not a very big stream of income for me just because the payouts are quite low and I never link to things I don’t actually like. 

brand collaboration tips for bloggers.jpeg

Not Every #Ad is a Paid One, and That’s ok!

The fact is not every partnership is going to be a paid one, but free stuff is fun too! The fact is a lot of brands do not have influencer budgets, or only spend on bigger influencers or celebrities. However some companies do very generous gifting or products and experiences! I’ve gotten amazing skin care and beauty sets, clothing, complimentary salon and spa treatments, access to exclusive events, and even free travel! If you are new to brand partnerships, working in exchange for product is a great way to get experience creating branded content. It also really helps to offset the amount you spend on things you will use anyway. Plus there is always pressure on a blogger to have new items to post about or review, so having connections to brands that will gift will enrich your content and expand your reach and experience. If you are still struggling with pitching, here are some networks that specialize in getting you freebies!

Influenster

Octoly 

Bzz Agent

6 ways to make money blogging


Pitch Brands Yourself 

Once you have your banging media kit and successful examples of brand work from agencies or free collaborations you may feel ready to start hitting brands up yourself! The art of the pitch is really something that deserves its own post, so more to come. However, the best way to negotiate your projects and payment on your terms is to work with the brand directly. Typically when you get a gig through an agency, the brand went to that agency with a total campaign budget that also included agency fees. If a third-party isn’t taking a cut, you can definitely get a higher rate! I usually send an introductory email with my stats attached and a description of the project or concept and ask if they would like to work together. I usually pitch about 4 to 6 weeks out, so started holiday in October, Valentine’s Day right after New Year’s and am now working on ideas for Spring Fashion in March. The timing gives me time to get my pitch list and concepts organized and ready to go. Plus, you need to get in front of brands before budgets are allocated! Most brands have an influencer marketing budget that they break up seasonally, so you should get on their radar before plans are locked-up and other influencers cast. 

 Create a Product You Can Sell

A lot of bloggers and influencers also earn money selling products. The most common ones I’ve seen are presets for photo editing or e-courses. Some also do merch like mugs, t-shirts, etc. If you feel like you have a service to offer that your audience would be interested in think about selling it on your blog. I’m personally debating putting together an e-course, so let me know in the comments if you’d be interested! 

And Remember - It’s ok to Say No!

Just because you are new to the game and trying to secure more partnerships does not mean every opportunity is right for you. It could be a question of timing, deliverables, the pay being really low, or it not being a brand you vibe with. Personally, I say no to a lot of projects if the I feel what the brand is asking is taking advantage. Because of my background in marketing and my experience in campaign production, I can easily call bullshit when a brand asks for certain terms. I have said no to brands asking for an unfair exclusivity term, image usage rights I was uncomfortable with, and when they ask me to not disclose our partnership. Every influencer and brand knows the FTC requires disclosure so it’s a dishonest practice that will get you fined for not obliging. Evaluate every offer carefully, and do some research in blogger groups or influencer platforms to get a better idea of what is and is not standard to ask in a partnership.


If you are a new blogger or influencer reading this and are hoping to start cashing in, I hope these tips helped! I’ll be continuing this series with posts like the below: 

 

  • Contract Negotiations with Brands so you can get the most out of all the sponsorships that will be rolling in!

  •  Tax Tips You Need to Know for Your Blog

  •  Content Creation Strategy

  •  Double Duty – Managing a Blog and a Full Time Job

Making Money as an Influencer

 

 

Is Rent the Runway Unlimited Worth It?

rent the runway gown rental

Ever wonder how bloggers seem to have an endless assortment of designer clothes and accessories for the perfect #ootd or glam night out? Well the secret isn’t necessarily an unlimited budget! Rent the Runway has been one of my go to sources for formal events or weddings for years, but I recently decided to give an unlimited membership a try. I was gifted a code for a free month after attending one of their events at WeWork, so decided to give it a test run in December. My schedule was pretty full between holiday parties, photo shoots, and traveling to Art Basel. I definitely needed a collection of Instagram worthy looks at my disposal but was absolutely not going run up my credit card bill for the gram. Here are some of the looks I rented and my thoughts on whether or not Rent the Runway Unlimited is worth it, and getting the most out of your membership!

rent the runway unlimited review

Rent the Runway Unlimited isn’t technically unlimited! You can have 4 items out at a time, and you are encouraged to return multiple items in one shipment to reduce the environmental impact. However you can swap out items as often as you want! The processing time is super fast - usually my items were received the next day and I could order my next round. And if you order before 2pm and ship to store they usually arrive the same day. For the looks below, I ordered them a few days before I had my holiday shoot scheduled and shipped them back when I was done.

Holiday Looks from Rent the Runway
Holiday Gowns from Rent the Runway

The membership also came in super handy before my trips to Savannah and Miami. All my summer clothes were packed away for the season, so renting was a perfect option. Here are some of the fun looks I rented for travel to warm weather destinations.

Miami Art Basel Outfit Ideas
Yellow Dress on the Beach
Outfit Ideas for Savannah Travel
Orange Ruffle Dress

Plus they have more than just formalwear and fancy dresses! I rented this statement coat because I was bored with my winter rotation, and this casual sweatshirt for weekend brunch.

Star Print Faux Fur Coat Rent the Runway
CaliYork Sweatshirt Rent the Runway

So is Rent the Runway Unlimited worth it? I say yes if you are someone who goes to a lot of events on a regular basis, or if you are a blogger and always need fun items to shoot! It’s also great to activate your membership during busy times, like for wedding season or during the holidays when you have a lot of parties. Then you can freeze or cancel for the months when your schedule is lighter and you don’t need to rent as much.

Let me know if you try it, and here are links to the items I had in rotation!

How to Get an Unlimited Wardrobe




Selfie-Queen! How to Step Up Your Photography Game

You may have noticed something about my pics from my recent Spain trip. I was alone in most shots. Even though I was travelling in Mallorca with a few friends, neither of them were big on photos and I knew that neither of them would be down to play insta-wife for the week! Obviously, I still wanted great travel photos, but I didn't want to be the annoying brat and constantly pester my friends. And sometimes when you want something done you've got to do it yourself! So I came prepared to do a lot of my own photos to make sure I had content I would be happy with. If you have an upcoming trip coming up and you want to guarantee you'll get the photos you want, check out my tips below!

Self-Portrait-Photography-Tips

1. Pack the right goods!

I'm a huge fan of my tripod! It's lightweight and highly portable, but unfolds to a full 50 inches! I was nervous about it fitting in my suitcase since I only took a carry-on, but it wedged in perfectly and added basically no weight. I also shoot on a Canon G7X, which is compact but takes great photos and videos. The flip-up screen also comes in really handy when you are trying to take self-portraits, so you can see yourself in the screen at different angles. And when I'm shooting a lot of looks in the city, I often carry around a portable pop-up tent. I didn't travel with one of these, but a blogger friend of mine does so she can shoot extra looks when she is out and about and there are no public bathrooms to change in. 

2. Be Safe

Since you have to set-up your tripod and camera then run into the shot, you want to make sure you are shooting somewhere that you and your stuff will be safe. I took a lot of my photos around our resort, so it was restricted just to guests and staff. I would never pop-it out on a busy, main street where someone could grab it and run off! 

Poolside Summer Mornings

3. Get Up Earlier

If you want scenic pictures without a lot of people in the background, you have to start early in the morning. I started shooting these pool pics around 8am, so I could have it completely empty. As you can imagine, having a bunch of families and kids splashing around would have ruined the shot! It's also nicer to shoot when no one is watching you, especially if you can be a little shy or self-conscious. People will definitely look at you like you are either crazy or completely self-absorbed, but don't let them bring you down! 

Travel Self-Portrait

4. Have Fun and Get Creative

When you are in control of your shot, you can take more time and get more creative than your friends would if they were snapping you quickly. You can play with different lighting and angles, try shooting close-up and from a distance like in the photo above, and get the exact scenery and angles that you want in the shot. After all, it's your photo so have fun with it! 

Let me know your ideas on getting good travel pics, and check out more of my pics from the trip on Instagram, @malikahkelly! 

 

Insta-Famous! Social Media Tips for New Bloggers

Instagram Social Media Tips for Bloggers.jpg

So let me preface this post by acknowledging that I am FAR from Instagram famous! In the grand scheme of things my following is tiny, but I am so proud to have grown it to what it is and am celebrating crossing the coveted 10k threshold on Instagram!

I've put a lot of effort in and learned a lot along the way and I wanted to share it with my blog family. Hopefully it helps you on your road to social media stardom, or something like that. 

Be a storyteller

I found that engagement on my posts increased significantly when my captions got longer- giving insight, inspiration, background to the photo or my mood that day. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a beautiful caption can only enrich the story. Give people a reason to be interested, and they will be. 

Be authentic

My most watched Instastory of all time was one of my showing my aloe vera and coconut oil pre-shampoo treatment. Most of the pics on my feed are of my hair styled super polished, and I had been long-term protective styling so that was the first time many people had even seen my natural hair. I think that viewers appreciated little sneak peek into my all natural, undone self. And while that will probably not become a regular trend, being more open only make you more human. I know there is so much pressure to curate the perfect feed, but nothing beats showing off who you are and what you stand for. 

 

Diversify Your Platforms

Instagram may be a big, wildly popular social network, but it's not the only one! As much as I love the gram, I split my time between Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, and my blog, the only platform that is truly mine. Remember, a platform as popular as Vine can disappear overnight, crushing the careers of tens of thousands of influencers. No matter how big your Instagram following is, you don't own that audience. Think about your website, your email list, and other ways to build your brand, outside of one social network. 

Instagram Shadowban Meme.jpg

Don't Sweat the Algorithm

Yes there is an algorithm. Yes it changes whenever Facebook or Instagram feel like it, often dealing a crippling blow to engagement. It's a widespread problem that everyone in the industry is aware of. Instead of going crazy over the thing you can't beat, focus on the things that you can. You can always create high quality original content. You can always find a way to engage with your audience and potential new followers. And you can find brand partners that will evaluate you as an overall package, not just how many likes you average on each post.

Know the Rules (and follow them)

Shortcuts may be tempting, but taking them will only hurt you in the long run! Every aspiring influencer can get frustrated with growing at what seems like a snail's pace, while you see and hear stories of other people skyrocketing overnight. And you never know what tricks someone may have up their sleeve, so you really can't compare. But stuff like buying likes and followers is never kosher, and will come back to haunt you the second you start trying to pitch brands for sponsored work. Most companies use analytic tools like Hypr, or Fohr Card to get the scoop on an influencer's following and how authentic it is, so if you cheat you will get caught at some point. Your reputation is all you have and it can be destroyed in seconds if you are caught buying likes or followers, so just don't do it!

Keep it Up!

When I did my first shoot with a pro for my blog he asked me my goals and what I planned to do. I just said I was going to give it a try for a year and see what happened. His response was, "why only a year"? And if I would have stopped after a year I would have just given up thinking it was impossible to get past 500 followers! Yes it's a different ball game than it was a few years ago before all the platform changes, but that doesn't mean you can't do well with hard work, patience, and the right strategy! 

Pin this for reference later! 

Pin this for reference later! 

Get Camera Ready! Photo Shoot tips for New Bloggers

Image by Julius July

Image by Julius July

Spring is almost here! Creating content is soooo much harder in winter, especially trying to shoot street style looks in the cold.  Some of you have seen my behind the scenes insta-stories, and seen the kind of freezing, icy, snowy conditions I've shot in! As  blogger you are constantly in front of the camera so it's crucial to get the most out of your photo shoot session. Here are a few of my tips for killing it at your shoots. If you are a new blogger or just looking for some tips to slay a shoot with a pro, this list is for you! And for this post I'm using a few of my favorite images, more on my Instagram story

Image by Milli Stephania

Image by Milli Stephania

Control Your Image

I'm a blogger, not a model. That distinction means that decisions made on a shoot (location, styling, makeup, how I pose) are pretty much mine.  Even when you are working with a brand, they've hired you because they like your organic content and style, so you have creative freedom. So don't feel pressure to do anything, wear anything, or try anything that you have doubts about. You want to make sure you feel 100% confident on camera. Style your hair in a way you know you will like, and don't try any new trends or makeup that you are on the fence about. If you have any kind of doubt or insecurity about your look it will show on camera and you won't be happy with the end results.

Image by Jack Soltysik

Image by Jack Soltysik

Be Prepared

I do a seasonal mood board that helps give me general direction and inspiration for my upcoming shoots, and helps me keep the feed cohesive. It also is a helpful reminder of what content themes I may need to fit in - trends, upcoming holidays, events, etc. Spending a little bit of time to get organized before a shoot will help make sure you get the content you want. And if you are shooting multiple looks in 1 session, make sure you have undergarments that go with each look! You don't want to forget you need a strapless bra or change pants and see a ton of VPL! 

Spring Fashion and Beauty Ideas

Practice Makes Perfect

If you have never had a professional shoot before, you may want to spend some time practicing before you get in front of a pro! I shoot myself using my tripod sometimes, and it would def come in handy to get a feel for your best angles on camera. Even better if you can do a fitting/styleout the day before a shoot and actually practice how you want each shot in each outfit to look.

Image by John Hibionada

Image by John Hibionada

Plan in Advance

As a blogger you are always under pressure to keep creating new content, but you have to make sure you are managing your timelines and expectations. Most photographers aren't going to give you photos back the day after your shoot, so save yourself the stress by planning a few days in advance. I try to give them at least a week or 2 to turnaround photos, even more during peak times like engagement/wedding season when photographers tend to get busier. 

Image by Eddie Woods

Image by Eddie Woods

Have fun!

Let's be real, it can be stressful and time consuming, but getting dressed up and having amazing photos taken is a ton of fun! Loosen up, smile and enjoy it! 

If you are a camera ready pro feel free to weigh in with your tips as well! And photographers, anything else you'd like to share about prepping for a shoot? 

blogger photo shoot tips.jpg

Net Neutrality - What it Means and What You Can Do

Image by WIni Lao

Image by WIni Lao

I got a few questions about my Instagram post on net neutrality, so I wanted to take the time to post a quick blog post on what this issue is and why it matters. There are tons of articles about this from various tech experts, so if you want more information I'll include a few relevant links throughout. 

So What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that all web traffic should be treated equally. Basically, an internet service provider can't charge you more to access certain sites or web based services. Because the internet has become an essential part of everyday life, President Obama took steps to have the web treated as a public utility, thus introducing more regulation to protect consumers. Those protections are now at risk. The FCC has a new Trump appointed head that wants to eliminate net neutrality, allowing Internet Service Providers to charge you more to access certain sites. 

How Will This Affect Me?

In so many ways, but here are a few. Do you enjoy using What's App to text, call, and video chat with loved ones abroad? Imagine that capability disappearing overnight, unless you want to pay premium pricing for it. Cancelled your cable since you watch everything on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime? Imagine your internet service provider blocking or slowing all of your streaming, to force you into paying for a cable package. How many hours a day do you spend on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook? Imagine those connections being slowed to a crawl. And think about all the blogs (like this one!!), emerging social platforms, and web based apps you've never heard of that are in the works. Now imagine those never seeing the light of day because the founders can't pay for premium pricing so their websites. If you need a visual example, these photos of service in New Zealand and Portugal pretty much sum up how your internet packages could look. 

What Can I do About It?

Consumers need to band together to make our voices heard! The FCC votes on the measure on 12/14, and there are a few actions you can take to voice your opposition. Call your representative, join a protest in your city, and tell your friends to do the same! A lot of people are unaware of how important this issue is and we need to help spread the word as much as possible and a lot of people are completely unaware. Let's act now and make our voices heard!

Photo-Shoot Fresh! How I Get Camera Ready for a Blog Shoot

Image by Wini Lao

Image by Wini Lao

Say cheese!

One of the biggest parts of blogging is spending so much time in front of the camera. I do at least 2 shoots a month to have plenty of content in rotation, so I had to nail a routine to stay camera ready. Here are my tips for staying productive and ready to slay any shoot! 

Prep starts the night before

I usually shoot on either Saturday or Sunday mornings, so the night before is when the process really starts. I love at home manicures so I make sure I get my nails together, and always do a face mask. My favorite of late is the Hydroxatone Deep Moisture Sheet Mask. They are inexpensive but get your face glowing, which is essential every day, but especially when you are going to be on camera. I also occasionally use a white strip to keep my smile popping, and I pull all my looks and accessories out for easy packing. 

Steam, Organize & Pack

Depending on the season and how many l looks I have, I pack either a shopping or garment bag or a carry-on suitcase. I've been using the suitcase more now because Fall/Winter looks are bulkier and I don't want to kill my back.  Look 1 is always the one that is likely to get more wrinkled if I put it in a suitcase or bag, and the others I pack, usually in order of which one will be next. 

Be ready to change on the move

You guys know I love my portable pop-up tent! It's also easier to change Fall looks on the go since you can layer leggings and a tank under your top or bottom so you aren't getting fully disrobed on the street.  I also like to keep tissues around to change lipstick and hair accessories in case I want to go from hair down to back or up.  A little bit of variety is key!

Fellow bloggers, let me know your tips for slaying all your shoots! 

 

4 Essentials for The Ultimate Bloggers ToolKit

Image by Olivia Kang

Image by Olivia Kang

I am far from a professional blogger. I juggle my side-hustle with my day job and social life and have only been in the game seriously for about a year and a half. However I have learned a lot along the way, and found tons of hacks to make blogging work for me. In the name of sharing the wealth, here are some of my lifesaving gadgets and how I use them!

Portable Pop Up Pod Changing Tent

Portable Pop Up Changing Tent.jpg

I try to get through 3 or 4 looks in every shoot so I have plenty of content for a few weeks. One way to save major time when working with a photographer is this amazing portable tent. I used to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes looking for a bathroom and waiting in line to change. With this baby I can pop it open, change, and fold it back up in less than 5 minutes flat! It's lightweight and easily collapses into a flat circle, and with the handy carrying bag you can sling it over your shoulder like an obnoxious purse.

AmazonBasics 50-Inch Lightweight Tripod

Amazon Basics Tripod.jpg

 

Sometimes if you need a look shot you've gotta do it yourself! The camera on my phone is pretty amazing, so I occasionally use it to shoot my own #OOTDs. I've scouted all the cool walls and backdrops in my neighborhood, so will pack up my tripod and phone early am before leaving for work and nail the shots. I either use the timer or a bluetooth remote to snap the pics. Yes, occasionally people will stare at you like you are crazy, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do! 

A Stylish Desk Calendar

Desk Calendar.jpg

Even though I love digital tools like Evernote, nothing beats having a visual display of your month. I set up an office nook in my living room and plan out my content themes, goals, and to-dos for the month. Seeing a plan helps keep me on track and organized! 

Planoly for Scheduling Posts

Planoly has been a lifesaver! I upload all my content into and it helps organize my feed and captions so they always stay on point! I can even plan out stories in advance! If you don't have all your content shot, you can also add in placeholders so you know what's coming.

What tips and hacks have you used to make the most of your blogging journey? Let me know in the comments!