Blogging & Photos

silver linings discussionHey y'all!I'm here today to talk about something that originally wasn't a blog goal of mine, but that's really turned into the driving force behind my 2015 blog strategy: branding. As a blogger, as a person planning on entering business/publishing in a few years, it's a responsibility of mine to effectively use the tools of the internet and also to show my personality. I've recently had a lot of questions about what I've been doing branding-wise for the past year, how I craft my photos, all the little touches I've been utilizing recently to create the Words Like Silver brand. Although it's not a business, I like to pull it back into #GirlBoss and the idea that I should market myself in a way that sets me up for future success.It always comes back to that balance between personal and professional. How much of myself is okay to put online? Should I present a certain side of myself and reject others, in order to keep a certain tone or atmosphere? I delved into this a little bit when I talked about voice in my blog - how much of my writing side goes into my posts. I suppose a certain amount of consideration goes towards numbers too. How can I market my blog in a way that's appealing to a variety of people? I've had a consistent readership for a while, and I like to keep that base, but I always want to attract more people.So this year, I wanted to make a splash. I spent a good amount of time focused on my social media outlets, specifically cleaning them up. At the beginning of the year, I made the decision to completely transform my Instagram, and that's become where I spend most of my branding time. Blogging is a learning process.I learn SO much from fashion bloggers. There's some website somewhere - I'll find it and link to it below - that claims you should follow a variety of blogs. A lot from your element (fashion/lifestyle/books/photography), a few that specialize in blogging and technology tricks, and a few blogs from outside your element for inspiration. So I followed. And I followed. And what I learned from those bloggers was incredibly valuable.One of the things that I learned most primarily was that photos are important. Many fashion and lifestyle bloggers run blogs that are almost entirely photos, or spend copious amounts of time beefing up their Instagrams with gorgeous, edited photos of both people and products. It's a great way to get a lot of information out quickly. (On the same note, those bloggers are also wonderful with graphics.)I've had a lot of requests to answer HOW exactly I style my photos and HOW I learned. So here goes.

HOW IT BEGAN

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I like to think that my brand has come a long way since I first started blogging - and since I first started focusing on it. Branding isn't really anything other than a personal style. But I was never exactly a photo person. Being a twin, we carve out a few areas for ourselves as individuals that the other one isn't really allowed to touch. For me, I would probably get a little offended if Hannah broached my literary pursuits and started doing well there. For Hannah, she's brilliant with photography so she doesn't really like if I start taking too many pictures and posting them everywhere. The difference? She takes artistic pictures, or photos that are art in themselves - photos of people or moments. I, on the other hand, mainly use it as a device to show off the book I'm reading or the status of my desk.

When I started getting serious about wanting to take my blog to the next level, and realized that I really wanted to do more with images, I dove into photography books and lifestyle blogs, looking for the way to craft my own style and apply it to books instead of clothes. I knew that I didn't want to be a bookstagram - one that's more fangirl-y than aesthetic - because that doesn't fit with my voice as a blogger, but I also wanted to have some significant outreach.

Since I started working at the Oxford Exchange, I've really begun to hone my eye for design. I'd never really paid attention to the appearance of everything - not with the same attention to symmetry and appeal as I do now - but that experience was truly, pardon the pun, eye-opening. I watched our social media guru work magic on the OE instagram and became so much more aware of the lifestyle bloggers passing through Oxford every day. And I started to notice more ways to differ up my photos, to craft engaging content, to arrange in a way that was appealing to the looker.

It really all started with the Hush, Hush photo. I'd been trying to take good bookish photos for ages, and I had some hot chocolate, some blog work, and a good book on my living room table. I just got a random picture but I loved it.

Since I felt like I was finally getting the hang of the image thing, I flocked to Instagram to check out some other bloggers' feeds and see what I could do to improve my blog's outreach in little ways. I stumbled upon Whitney Blake, a bubbly entrepreneur from North Carolina. She's adorable y'all - professional and hardworking and fresh, and exactly the type of girl I'd like to grow up to be. She was actually offering a class on social media branding. It was a good price, and I figured it'd be a good experience, so I signed up.

The next day, I spent a night in, eating pad thai and listening to an hour-long lecture crammed with inspiration photos, stat tips, and all this incredibly valuable information that I really took to heart. (Her class was AMAZING.)

It sounds lame, doesn't it? To invest so much time in social media? After all, y'all know I vent about taking social media too seriously and how draining it can be on my self-esteem when I get too personally invested in the measurements. But the idea that I could take my photos and my blog and put myself out there, and see different places, and not have that painful insecurity about who would see what, was nice. I started to use social media even more productively, and I really felt like I had the personal grasp on it that'd let me start expanding my blog's reach.

THE PHOTO PROCESS

1 (2)-2 So primarily the reason I wrote this post was because I had some requests for tips, or information about how I crafted my personal brand. The answer was really that I just posted a lot, or took a lot of pictures, and started realizing what I liked and what worked well.If you look at my photos, like the ones above, you'll notice some common themes. For one, I like having points of interest. A book alone feels too boring, and I get bored with one or two colors. Color-wise, I like dark colors with bright focal points. So I generally pick a plain background - whatever table I'm working on at the time - or the floors of the Oxford Exchange. (I take most of my pictures at home or at the Oxford Exchange.)Normally, when I take a photo, it's a day when I have the luxury of time. I'll either be working on a blog post, journaling, answering email, or reading. So the main subjects of my photos are usually the corners of my laptop or my latest read. (It's a book Instagram, after all.) So the main subject will pretty much always be a book or some business.Once I get that set up, I have to be creative with whatever else I have. I've been going through a major obsession with flowers recently and I nearly always have a cup of coffee or tea with me because hey, it's junior year. So that'll get tossed in there.I'm very careful with arranging within the picture. I'm picky too - I'll take a dozen pictures before I'm satisfied with one I like, that differs only barely from the one before. I like symmetrical lines and a crisp color balance. (That Hemingway photo above? The tea in the mug KILLS me, the color is so deep. I love it.) So I'll take a photo, then move a pen half an inch to the left.It actually doesn't take me long, considering. It's really not a major priority of mine, and I'd rather be working on the manuscript than taking a picture of it. So Instagram is one of those indulgences that I'll spend branding time on if I'm able to, but it's only if I get a really good picture and only if it's something that I really want to capture. It's great when it falls together perfectly.If I don't capture a picture that's symmetrical enough to fit my needs, or one that fits the overall atmosphere of my Instagram, I don't post it. I might post it on Twitter as an update or Vsco because I quite simply like it. Instagram, for me, is more of a business venture.

SOME TIPS

1. Keep everything symmetrical - unless part of your branding is creative overlays or something more abstract. For book photography, straight lines are probably a good bet.

2. Be picky! If you don't have a good picture, it doesn't have to go up.

3. Find what you like and make sure to keep those elements in your photos, but switch it up as you find new things you like.

4. Find what other bloggers #hashtag and add them to the end of your photos. If you're in a bigger city, #cityigers is usually a great bet. Ex: #tampaigers, #bostonigers. For bookish kids, try #bookstagram, #instabook, and #bookphotography to start out.

5. Some of your favorite inspirations won't fit your brand. For example? I follow almost entirely surfers and bloggers, but I'm not at the beach often enough to make the beach lifestyle a part of my brand. Still, follow them and you'll get some good input.

 SOME INSPIRATION

Whitney BlakeWhistle and a WhimIvy MillerSarah DylesCarly HeitlingerEpic ReadsDonna Irene MuccioSuzanna SteinElena @ Novel Sounds

How do y'all take pictures?