Blog Stuff: Let’s Talk Photography

I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I was working on some photos, and that I would be putting up pictures that were taken with my phone and with my Nikon.

I was then asked if I could tell the difference between the pictures, and which was better.

Honestly? Both are awesome. I got my Nikon to do YouTube with (I know, I promise I’m working on some videos for y’all!) but I use my Samsung (Galaxy 4, soon to be upgraded to a 6) for a lot of my pics too. I think that the key to using either is all about learning your functions and using light to your best advantage.

The second part of a good picture is editing, if that’s your thing. Some pics I edit for color and clarity, and sometimes I just let it be what it is. I’ll talk about what I use to edit my pictures with in a moment. First up, let’s talk about cameras.

So, here are two pictures. Which is my camera, and which is my phone?

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Option A

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Option B

Anyone? If you’re having a hard time, that’s my point. I’ll tell y’all which was what at the end. πŸ™‚

It’s all about setting and lighting. You can take digital quality pics on a camera phone if you work it properly. Don’t get me wrong, there are some pics I adore my Nikon for. For example:

Gorgeous view, right?

Man…

My phone can take pictures NEARLY as crisp, but not this crisp. Maybe when I upgrade, that could change. But this Nikon is everything, and when I do my outfit posts I prefer it.

Since I don’t have a tall tripod (yet), using the Nikon for everything is difficult. Hard to take good pictures one handed. Here’s where the phone comes in. For the majority of my nail posts I’m using my phone for the pics, because I can control it with one hand. To make them look super good, I change the mode of the camera. This is best illustrated with selfies.

So, on my Samsung, I have a mode called “Beauty Face.” If you like to Photoshop your selfies a bit before you post them, this mode handles that for you, and all you have to do is pose and snap. Example:

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My eye bags are WAY more pronounced in reality…

See? I look all glowy and smooth, and let’s be real. I had no sleep the night before and no water, so I wanted the extra boost. Fly picture in no time.

And to answer which pic above was taken on my phone? It was this one:

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Taken with the Rich HDR setting on my phone.

Surprised? See, told you quality pics were possible! The makeup pic was my Nikon.

Now, let’s talk editing. I don’t use Photoshop because I didn’t want to pay all that money for it. I do have something quite similar that’s awesome and free: GIMP. Now, I’m still learning how to work it, so if you’re tech challenged, it may not be for you. I will say there are many tutorials out there if you want to learn more (and I’m taking full advantage of what’s available.) For quick editing (as in, click and fix, or some cropping) I use Picasa (also free.) This is easier, and you can do color and shadow tweaking as you need.

If you’re on the go, and can only edit things on your lunch break (me), then there’s Afterlight. It’s a dollar, and you can do everything that you can do in Picasa (shadows, highlights, temperature, etc.) plus some preset filters (like stuff you’d find on Instagram) right on your phone (available for Apple and Android.) I have it on my iPad, so I put my pics on there and do editing when I have time. Afterlight is just awesome. Want proof? Here’s the before and after of one of my shots. These shots were done on my Galaxy:

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Before..

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After.

So, I wanted everything brighter, with an emphasis on the bracelet. I increased the temperature (it warms up the colors in your photo) and increased the shadows. Since I used a circle light (aimed over my hand), it looks like I put a spotlight on the bracelet. Pretty cool, huh?

Whew! This is a lot, right? I’m still a novice, so I’m still figuring stuff out as I go along. Most of this was trial and error and playing with settings and thinking I broke something. But you can’t be scared of that–I didn’t know how good my phone camera was until I started looking through the different modes on there. Same with the Nikon: there’s preset functions, but play with the settings till you find something good! That’s really best way to find out what your tech toys can do.

Hope this helps anyone looking to get some good pics for their blogs!

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Blog Stuff

Tales From Retail: Why I Stick Around

I know I tend to make y’all laugh and shake your head at my stories every week. And I bet a question sits in the back of your heads:

“Why does Char even stay?”

Well, for one: paycheck. Eating and having an apartment is a good thing. But that’s not the sole reason or I’d probably be fired by now.

For every horrid customer, I have at least 20 nice ones. It’s just that the bad customers do things so egregious I can’t help but share them with y’all. So, to help balance out the foolery (and kick off my birthday week), let me share a story of a really sweet customer I had.

Picture it, NYC 2012. The rush hour is starting to calm down and I’m cleaning up and restocking products, and this lovely woman walks up to me to ask for mascara advice.

I’m giving her some suggestions, but I notice she looks really sad. Even though it isn’t my business, I still ask: “Is everything ok?”

Her: “No. I just got some troubling news, and I figured spending money would fix it. Well, not really, but I needed a distraction? I don’t know.”

I understand the idea of shopping it away. In the end, it really only brings credit card debt, but sometimes it helps you feel better for just a while. So, I went and got her a basket, and we did some shopping.

We went over great skincare, all of the eyeshadow, let me get you some brushes, all types of stuff. We’re just tossing things in the cart and chatting about everything and nothing. I see her mood start to improve.

Sidebar: more often than not, when you work retail, you get to be people’s counselor. You get to listen to their relationship issues, and they want some help with the solutions. I never mind that part so much because I’ll talk your ear off if you let me.

So, once we’ve filled the cart with all type of stuff (including the mascara she came for) I take her to the register, dump everything on the counter, and say “Ok, what are we keeping?”

She’s stunned. “You wouldn’t be upset if I put some of this back?”

Me: “Nope. Sometimes you just have fun throwing it in the cart. I know you wanted the mascara. What else did you want to get?”

Her: “All of it. Ring it up. Doesn’t matter what it costs; I got the husband’s card today!”

She whips out her Black AmEx.

Well, damn.

“Are you sure? Because, really–”

“Seriously! You’ve been so kind to me, and I love all the things you helped me pick out. I’ll take all of it!”

Y’all, that was a $500 purchase.

And she gave me a huge hug before she left and emailed my boss how well I did.

*warm fuzzies*

See, this is why I do what I do. Even though the hours are long, and it can be tiring, and some customers make me want to high five them in the forehead, when I get customers like this–ones who are kind, who are happy with my help and are happy to be helped–it makes the headache worth it. It really does. A woman who had tears in her eyes when she came in left with a smile on her face, and even had she left with nothing I would have felt like I’d done my job.

πŸ˜€ Happy Monday!

Stories

Sparkly Treats

In less than a week, I will be 30.

30.

Whoa.

I love to splurge on myself, but such a special day deserves an extra special treat. I couldn’t figure out what I’d gift myself that would be extravagant. Do I get my first pair of designer shoes? A fancy bag?

And then the lovely folks at Anjolee.com contacted me to see if I’d be interested in learning about their jewelry and designing my own piece.

Ding, ding!

So, over at Anjolee, you can custom design anything they have to your heart’s desire. Lovely ring, but you want a topaz and not a sapphire? Done! You need that necklace to be platinum instead of white gold? No problem! Love the look of that diamond tennis bracelet, but you need another inch or two? Piece of cake!

Speaking of which, I totally decided to get myself a bracelet. I can also tell you it was a hard decision, what with all of the possibilities! I picked out something with blue topaz, because blue is my favorite color. Look at the packaging:

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And how lovely my piece is:

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And the cool part about it is that since you can customize everything down to the length, if you happen to have bigger arms like me, you can add inches on if you needed. Standard length is 7 inches, and I added an inch for a perfect fit (you can even do half inches if you need to.) I used a measuring tape (dressmaker’s, not the retractable) to measure what I would need.

I am so happy with the results, and the quality is superb.

If you’re looking for a gift for a loved one or a gift for yourself (I’m all for personal treats), give Anjolee a try. You won’t regret it!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Anjolee. All opinions are my own.

 

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Tales From Retail: Classism

Picture it, Dallas, 2008. I’ve just started my first retail job, and I’m running the registers like a boss.

So far, all of my customers have been pleasant, and while I made a couple of mistakes, everything is running smoothly.

While walking the floor, I run into this very pleasant lady and her daughter. The little girl is around 10, and she’s doing a little homework while her mom shops. I hear her trying to figure out if the word “everyone” is singular or plural. I had a brand new shiny degree in English I wasn’t using, so I went over to help.

“Sounds like you’re having a bit of trouble there, hon. Anything I can help with?”

“Yes! I have to pick the right verb, but I don’t know if “everyone” is one person or more than one person.”

Common question, since the word makes you think of more than one person. If you’re reading this and feel a bit rusty: everyone/everything and anyone/anything are singular, as they refer to a single group (one unit.)

So, I answer the little girl, and help her with her work so her mom can shop in peace. When the mother is ready to ring up, I go to the front to check her out.

Her: “Honey, you are so intelligent! Thanks so much for helping my daughter out.”

Me: “Thank you so much, and you’re quite welcome. I used to tutor for a spell.”

I keep scanning items.

Her: “You know, you’re so bright. Way too intelligent to be working here. Why don’t you go to school and get your degree? Then you could quit working here!”

*record scratch*

Y’all. Y’ALL. I cannot stand when people do this. College degrees are not indicative of high intelligence. Do not assume the person working in the service industry is unintelligent and retail is their penance. At the time of this incident, the economy took a nosedive, and I had just graduated college. I didn’t get into law school, and I wasn’t into the idea of teaching (I feel as though your heart has to be in teaching, otherwise you won’t give the students your all. And I knew then as now that I just don’t have that passion.) I work retail because I enjoy eating, keeping a roof over my head, and clothes on my back. Also, oddly enough, IΒ enjoyΒ it, even when customers get out of pocket.

So, I’m staring at her as I put her purchases in a bag. I felt like this:

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IRRITATED!

But I had to keep it cool, because I needed that job.

Me: “Oh, I have a degree in English, actually. But I could use an extra job. Is your company hiring?” *bright smile*

Her: *shifts her gaze from me as her face reddens*

I hand her the bag. “Have a great day!”

She walks out quickly, and I wave goodbye to her daughter.

My manager: “Welcome to retail!”

Me: *deep sigh*

That night, I understood the concept of happy hour. I enjoyed that rum and coke!

Happy Monday!

Stories

So, I Was Part Of A Thing…

And now I finally get to share it!

So, a while back I shared these looks on my Facebook:

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And I told y’all that I was working on a really cool project? Well, part one of that project is done, and I’m so happy to share this with y’all!

So, this project I was part of is all about natural hair and beauty, and I was so happy to participate. Most images of natural hair pretty much stick to the uniform corkscrew curls. Now, don’t get me wrong—those curls are gorgeous. But it also tends to edge out those who have fluffier, less defined curls (mine) or those with dreadlocks or those with puffs, and so on and so on.

Further, when we look at natural hair in mainstream media…well, you don’t see it. Not in all of its forms; not in all of its glory. Think about it: the last time you saw a music video, did any of the women have natural hair? Hear any songs praising those kinky curls?

Well, this video has all of that, and I got to be in it. πŸ™‚

Without further ado, I present to you:Β Natural Love: A Vignette.

The song was written and produced by the same guy that directed this piece, Civil Justus. You can see his other work on his channel here, and read up on his other projects here. This is just the first part; the next part is interviews about our hair.

I had an amazing time working on this,and am so honored to be a part of it! I can’t wait to share the next part with you. πŸ™‚

Hair Positivity YouTube

Tales From Retail: Naturally Brown

Picture it: Dallas, Texas, 2008. I’m applying makeup to a young client; she’s competing in a pageant and needed a test run of some of the products her mom was purchasing.

She had to have been about four or five, but she knew what she did (“I love the glittery lip gloss!”) and didn’t like (“No smoky eye, please!”)

*blank stare* Well, ok then.

She was better than a lot of my pageant girls, because you could really tell who competed because they loved it and who competed because their mamas enjoyed it for them. She loved it though.

At any rate, she was a pleasant little girl, and we had a great time putting together some looks while her mom shopped.

Once I got done with a look both I and my little client could agree on, I called her mom over to see how she felt.

“This is perfect! Ok, we’ll take those three glosses, that bronzer, and those two eye shadow palettes.”

Now, I’m geeked, right? Because selling is ultimately the name of the game in retail.

“Awesome! Would you like to check out now, or would you like a basket so you can continue browsing?”

“I’ll take the basket, thanks. Also, could you show me some foundation for myself?”

So, we keep shopping, and the basket gets more and more full.

“Ok, I have one more question for you.”

“Sure, what can I help you with?”

“I need a good self tanner. Which one do you use? That brown is the absolute perfect color!”

Pause.

In case any of y’all had no idea: I’m Black. This isn’t to say that Black folk don’t tan or wear bronzer, but anyone who’s seen self tanner on knows its a self tanner. But I gave this kind woman the benefit of the doubt and said, “Oh, I don’t use self tanner; this is my natural skin color. But I’d be happy to help you pick out a product.”

She pauses. “Oh, really? Are you sure?”

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Am I sure I’m Black or…

I had to have that internal dialogue many retail workers have when ignorant foolery comes out of someone’s mouth: you NEED this job. Breathe. Have a drink or two later. BREATHE.

So I’m just looking at this customer after her last statement, and she’s actually waiting for an answer. So I say “Yes, I’ve been this color for quite some time. Would you like me to help you find something that works for you?”

She scoffs. “I suppose not. I thought you were tanned, not Black. We’ll just take these things.”

…sigh.

She ended up spending about $500, but I was mentally drained after from holding my tongue.

I had a couple of glasses of wine after work that day. I needed it.

Happy Monday, y’all! πŸ™‚

Stories

Fatshion Friday: Bathing Beauties

As you read this, I’m still throwing things in a bag for vacation.

Why yes, I told y’all I was prepping for this two weeks ago, and I’m still not done. Please don’t judge me!

πŸ˜€

Anyway.

In celebration of me making the move to a warmer climate for a few days, I thought I’d put together a lookbook of some of the best styles I’ve seen so far. I was never really a bathing suit girl; deciding for the most part to stick with a tank and shorts. Coupled with the fact that I can’t swim, I figured there was no real need for a suit.

Well, lo these many years later, and I still can’t swim, but I love the beach, swimming pool (the shallow end), and hot tubs. I also have discovered how much I love being as close to naked as I can get in public, so bathing suits are a must. I shared a while ago one of the suits I’m bringing with me on my trip, and now I’m going to show you some other options.

Let’s get to it!

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From Swimsuits For All.

I prefer suits that are not basic black. In fact, if I can find it in as many loud colors as possible, it’s probably going to go home with me. I also prefer a top with some support, particularly because my boobs aren’t that big. If they aren’t big, they’re at least gonna sit up high–so this suit fits the bill! Bonus: it comes as a set (!!!!) and you can order different sizes for the top and bottom for the perfect fit. I actually have the one piece version of this, but sadly, it’s sold out (can’t even find it online anymore!)

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From Forever 21.

Like your suit strapless? This will be spectacular for you! I also love the peplum because this helps to add a little more camouflage to the belly if that’s your preference.

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From Swimsuits For All.

This colorful number has all of the straps and all of the colors. There’s a two piece version of this suit, which you can find here. I can’t decide which style I want, but this pattern is next on the list!

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From Forever 21. Top and Bottom sold separately.

Doesn’t this look like some fancy lingerie? That’s what initially drew me to this set. It’s beautiful and strappy, and even though you have to purchase each piece separately it isn’t ridiculously priced.

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From Monif C.

Hello, gorgeous! This would be my pool party suit–do you see how fierce she looks with those heels? OMG. I’d be working the party and you couldn’t tell me a thing! And I’d be sipping my drink while I sashayed, honey.

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From Ashley Stewart.

And what’s a post on bathing suits without something pretty to cover them up? I know, your bathing suit is fierce, but you may not want to wear it out to brunch. This pretty number keeps you pretty and covered till it’s time to strip back down and lay on the sand.

And there you have it! Some of the suits I’m loving for the season. Here’s a question for y’all: bikini or one piece? Tweet me @fashion_amateur with your answers!

Happy Weekend!

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