Sunset on 30

I’ll be 31 in three days.

Hmm.

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Sunshine and melanin.

Last year, I was getting ready to turn 30. I had a lot of expectations for myself that I was supposed to reach before I turned 30.

I was supposed to be a lawyer.

I was supposed to be married.

I was supposed to have children.

I was supposed to have a Master’s degree.

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But do I HAVE to take this pic, though?

Since I’d done none of these things by 30, I felt as though I really didn’t have too much to show. Like, what am I even doing with my life?

I’m not a lawyer.

I’m not married.

No children.

Can’t even decide what to study to get a Master’s degree.

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Smile!

However…

I made new, wonderful friends.

I co-own a business.

I’m getting published.

I’ve tapped into my creativity in ways I’d never done before.

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Grass + bare feet= happiness

Most importantly…

I’m happy. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while.

I’ve learned that success is measured by different factors.

I’ve learned that all accomplishments should be celebrated.

I’ve learned it’s important to never stop believing wonderful things can happen for you.

I’ve learned how to really embrace me and all of my facets.

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Here is my fierce. Let me show you it.

30 has been so good to me. I can’t wait for what 31 brings.

Happy birthday to me. 🙂

Photo credits go to my wonderful business partner, friend, and lil sis Stephenie Valentino. See more of our work on our Instagram!

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Positivity Stories

Introducing: Roses In Concrete Photography

So, I promised y’all on Wednesday that I’d give y’all a little more info about where I’ve been the last month.

Short answer:

Longer answer:

Drawing

Fancy!

So, remember when I had those pictures done in January? My wonderfully creative and talented friend Stephenie and I thought that we would do a photo project (we’re still doing it. but that’s under wraps and construction!)…and then thought…but we’re awesome photographers. Why don’t we just make it a business?

And there you have it.

It’s been weeks of paper work and planning and meetings, but we’ve made it official.

We’re entrepreneurs!

This has been a serious undertaking (and we’re still getting things together,) but for those of you that are local to NY or NJ: we officially open for business beginning next month. Feel free to contact me personally using any of the methods here, or you can get hold of both of us via the Roses in Concrete Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Don’t think that I’m abandoning here. This blog and all of you that read it mean the world to me, and I don’t want to leave y’all! I would say you’ll have to get used to the once or twice a month posts until we can get our business a bit more steady, but I’m not going anywhere.

Hope y’all hang in here with me for this ride! Have a wonderful weekend, y’all. 🙂

Blog Stuff Positivity Stories

Philosophy in Blue

Although I pursue photography as a creative outlet and enjoy taking pictures of others, I hate having pictures taken of myself.

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That’s hard, considering I’m a makeup artist and kinda, well, have to take pictures of myself in order to sell my services. Selfies are easy, though. It’s just my face. My skills are pretty good. I’m pretty much the selfie queen! I bet y’all don’t know how many I take before y’all see the two or three I ultimately post, though.

It’s a lot more than just two or three, let me tell you.

Is it a confidence issue? Maybe. I was always one who hid as a teenager. Even with all of the work I’ve done to help build myself up, I still use the fact I have such a fancy camera to stay out of pictures.

I mean, someone has to take the pics, right?

At any rate, it’s hard to proclaim myself a fashion blogger and y’all rarely ever get to see me in any fashion.

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I can’t keep allowing myself to hide like this. Even with the strides I’ve made to put myself out there, go out and socialize, make some new friends and have some new experiences…I still shy away from something as simple…as a camera.

Something’s got to give.

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I figure that in some cases, the best thing to do to combat something that scares you is to just do it. I called up a talented photographer friend of mine to come and take some pics of me for the blog. So y’all could see me. So I could really see myself.

And maybe not be so scared.

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Don’t get me wrong. I got some hangups. I looked at the shots like…but my belly. But I’m so wide. But, but, but. Just all types of self-depreciating thoughts flowing through my head. I wouldn’t let anyone close to me speak about themselves like that, but that’s the fun part about internal dialogue. No one knows how I was ripping myself down but me.

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When I got home and got a good look at things, though? I won’t tell y’all I did a 360 on my thoughts. I didn’t. But I can say what I love about myself. I can say I looked amazing. I can say that, when it’s genuine and I’m truly amused, I have a nice smile. When I showed some folks the pictures, I was surprised that the ones I didn’t think were the most flattering were the most popular.

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Like this one of me smiling. Cause with these braces, I don’t. I’m still very self conscious about both them and my teeth. Stephenie, my photographer, said “Okay. Let’s get one of you smiling.” Me: *stare* *skeptic look* Her: “I know, I know. But come on, smile.” I gave her the most half-assed smile I could come up with. She took the pic, and it looked just as tortured as could be. I hate smiling on purpose, I really do. A few minutes later, however, I’m cracking up at something Stephenie said. She seized the moment and snapped.

C says: “Your smile is radiant!”

J, my coworker, goes “That is just a genuine smile! You look so good!”

My coworker looks at the pic and goes, “Your niece has your smile. That’s so cool!”

My niece does have my smile. She’s just adorable.

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Maybe I’m pretty cute, too. I’m getting there. Slowly, but surely.

Outfit details: I’m wearing a really, really old (6-7 years?)Lane Bryant sweater (here’s something similar), Lane Bryant Genius Fit Trouser Jeans, and Nike Sneaker Wedges (on sale!)

Photo Credits: Stephenie Valentino’

Makeup Looks Positivity Stories

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. 🙂

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!

Blog Stuff