Tuesday, 29 January 2013

BBHQ December/January Task: How Do You Photograph For Your Blog?

This month’s task was to share how we take photographs for our blog. I consider myself a keen photographer, but not a particularly good one. I am very particular about taking photographs, I like to make sure I get the best colours and detail possible — I know I appreciate it in other bloggers posts and I hope it is something people like about my blog.
What camera(s) do you use for your blog photography?
I use a combination of my IPhone 4, usually for posts where getting the right colouring or detail isn’t necessary, monthly empties for example. But when detail is needed, I use my Canon 600D, which I treated myself to after getting my first full time job. I also purchased a second lens, which lets me get good close up shots but from a distance, which means I don’t get the shadow of me hovering over the products and affecting the colours.

What type of lighting do you use? Natural light, indoor light, studio lamps, etc.?
I try to use natural light as much as possible. Now winter has set in, this is next to impossible because I am rarely at home when there is natural light so I make do with indoor lighting.

Do you use a lightbox (purchased or diy)?
I actually hadn’t heard of a lightbox prior to this question and now I've looked it up I really want one! I've seen cheap handheld lights before, which can be used to help with lighting but now I'm thinking a combination of those might be a good start for a DIY lightbox. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

Do you use a specific background?
I like to use different fabrics underneath product shots, nothing too patterned or distracting though. When I say different fabrics, this is usually clothing and once a plastic bag!

For makeup shots, because I have white wardrobes, I tend to use this as my background, unless I can convince a family member to take a picture for me, in which case I will stand where ever they say! My camera included software that allows me to remotely take photographs using my laptop so I tend to use this so that I can make sure I am in focus and don’t need to use the timer.
What does your photographing setup usually looking like?
Usually something like the scene below! I don't have anything fancy, I tend to create an interesting shape with the fabric I'm using and place the product in the middle taking up as much of the frame as possible.
I received a tri-pod for Christmas, so I have started using this for product shots. I also plan on using it for face shots but I haven't figured out the best setup for that yet since I usually connect my camera to my laptop and use that for remote shooting.
What is your top photographing tip for a beginner blogger?
I still consider myself as a beginner, so I would just say be patient and play. I’ve sat with one blush in front of me and tweaked every setting my camera has. I’ve ended up with hundreds of blurred or over/under exposed images but it has helped me to understand my camera.

Also, if you can find a good enough deal (try Groupon, Social Living, Voucher Cloud etc) and go on a photography course. I paid £19 for a walking tour of London and it really helped me to understand the basics. Even though the course was the opposite of what I do for the blog, I was able to apply what I learnt, and I think my images have been better since.

For fun: If you could upgrade your photography equipment today, what would you buy?
This is easy, I already have a list! A a polarising filter for my lenses, a macro lens and a remote control.

I hope you found this blog post helpful, feel free to ask questions if anything isn’t clear and your suggestions are always welcome.


When is a tree just a tree?

Last week, this was the view out of my window.

This is my view today.
On Thursday morning I was woken by the sound of chainsaws cutting down the big, beautiful tree, that by my estimation was at least 100 years old. The person who ordered this was a family member, so I called and asked why the tree, that for the last 22 years had formed my morning view, was being cut down. The response was ‘that’s life’. Does anyone else think that is ironic?

To add insult to injury, I will have to endure this view for an unspecified period of time since ‘it will cost a fortune to clear’.

I don’t want to go into the who, the what and the why. But I’ve been completely heartbroken, hence the lack of blog posts. It’s hard to write about beauty when you think that the world is so ugly.

I can get over not speaking to that particular family member again, families fall out all the time, but what I can't get over is knowing that, as long as I live, I can't replace what's been so cruelly destroyed. I wish that there was something I could do, turn the trunk into a bench perhaps, so that at least, in some way, the tree could still be enjoyed.

I hope that I am not the only one that thinks this incident is completely tragic?So I'm hoping that if you are never usually one for commenting or sharing my posts that you will do so with this one, I need my faith in humanity restored.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snow nails 2 (gradient effect)

This time last year the snow inspired some nail art, and even though it looks like it is now going melt away, this year I wanted to up my game and I decided I would attempt gradient nails.
I chose a grey into white design, as if I had dipped my winter nails. I use the technique I had seen on The Nailasaurus blog, which gave the best effect of the tutorials I had researched.

To start, I applied one coat of Bourjois 1 second nail polish (shade 28) and allowed that to dry completely.

On scrap paper I dropped two large drops of polish, the grey and another of white, and mixed them in the middle using a matchstick.

Using an old washing up sponge, I dipped this into the polish and then over my nails, gently patting the sponge to build up the effect and get a good blend of the colours. However, I kept this too a minimum to avoid lifting up the bottom layer of nail polish (of course I could have waited for the coat to dry and repeated the step but I am far to lazy for that).

The next step was to apply a layer of top coat, which also helps to smooth the polish and blend the colours together. It is best not to do this immediately though as you can lose the effect and end up with one shade (yes, that is the voice of experience)

As you can tell from the image, your fingers also get a layer of polish, so the final step is to remove this with nail varnish remover.

So what do you think of gradient nails? I have to say I am pretty impressed with my first attempt!


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Tag: How much is your face worth UPDATED!

In last week’s #SpendingBan chat, Gaelle (Lipstick Ergo Sum), Hannah (Midnight Violets) and me decided that we would all do a shared ‘how much is your face worth tag’. I did one of these in my early blogging days and decided that it would be interesting to only compare totals after writing this post.

I generally mix my makeup up on a day-to-day basis but for the purpose of this post, I picked out my current most reached for products.

So here we go….
Benefit Porefessional £23.50 (review)
Bella Pierre foundation £34.99 (review)
Bella Pierre makeup base £12.99
Beautiful brows kit £30 (review)
Garnier caffeine anti dark circles eye roll on £10.49
ELF concealer and brush £3.75
Bourgeois bronzing powder £4.99 (review)
Bourgeois 3D effect lip colour £6.99
Rimmel exaggerate waterproof eyeliner £3.99 (review)
Rimmel  colour rush quad eyeshadow £6.63
Benefit They’re Real mascara £18.50 (review)

Total = £156.82

I had a jaw-dropping moment when I looked back at my previous post and realised that my previous total has increased by a huge £61.84! If I had substituted a few of the cheaper products for high-end brands then my total would be close to £200! 

Luckily I know that most of these products were purchased with an offer or as part of a set and I didn’t pay the full price but this post has made me glad to be on a spending ban because I really should be making the best use of what I already own rather than adding to the collection. 

Make sure you check out the posts from the other two ladies, I’m curious to see how my total compares! 


Saturday, 19 January 2013

Quick review: Stylfile travel size

This is my first review from the #BbloggersXmas goody bag and is product that I already own but in a handy travel size.
I have reviewed the full sized version of the Stylfile nail file previously. It is an S-shaped file that it has been designed to follow the curve of your nail to make shaping and filing easy. The miniature file does the exact same thing but is a handy handbag size covered in a spring case.

The file itself is just the right size for emergency situations. It has a nail file on one side and a buffer on the other. I like using the buffer as a curved file as it just slides over the nail easily and naturally. If I had to find a fault I would say that the file is slightly narrow to hold comfortably.
The spring helps to stop the file from scratching your phone/tablet/ereader in your bag, but also makes it easier to find when feeling around! The spring also has a key chain attached but, personally, I find this a bit too clunky as a key ring so I will leave it to float around in my bag instead.

The RRP for Stylfile is £4.49 and it can be found in Boots and Sainsbury’s, but I also found it on Amazon for a reduced price of £3.84.


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Review: Urban Decay Naked Basics

Urban Decay are the only brand that manage to create products that I NEED to have, without a review or a swatch to help make up my mind. It happened with the original Naked palette and it happened once again with Naked Basics.

I've mentioned my love of nudes before, and my love of matte shades. Although I own a few they are tricky to get right in terms of colour payoff and texture. Some shades, no matter how good they look in the pan, end up looking grey and chalky on my skin tone.
But, Naked Basics has got it all just right. The shadows apply smoothly, are finely milled and the pigmentation is great and, as you can hopefully see from the swatches, the colours are true to what you see it the pan. They last best when applied over a primer, but even without they last around 6 hours before creasing.

The shades complement my skin tone well, with two of the shades (Foxy and W.O.S) almost matching my skin tone perfectly (Foxy has a slightly more yellow tone). The inclusion of the shade Venus, which has a slight shimmer, and is perfect as a highlight, is a good addition to the palette, I don't think that the palette needed to be all matte to be exactly everything the beauty world was waiting for. Naked 2, a taupe colour, is good as a transition shade or in the crease if you wanted something subtle. Faint is a great medium-brown crease colour and can be built up to make it darker and more dramatic. Finally, Crave looks black in the pan but is more like a very dark brown.

I see the combination of W.O.S, Naked 2 and Faint being my go to look, which is what I am wearing in the picture below.
Packaging wise, the palette is completely the opposite of Naked 1 and 2. I was surprised at how small the palette is, it is compact and slick looking and I know I won't be opting to leave this at home when I go away. 

The palette is £20, which I think is great value for 6 full sized shadows. I did miss the inclusion of a primer potion with the palette, but overall I guess that keeps the cost down.
From left to right: Venus, Foxy, W.O.S, Naked 2, Faint and Crave
I don't own all three Naked palettes so it is hard for me to comment on if you need to add this to your collection if you do own the other two. I personally think the original palette and Basics compliment one another well and I'm glad to have both.

So, do you NEED this palette in your collection? If you do, you have the chance to win one in my blog birthday giveaway here.


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Beautiful brows

For the purpose of this review, I believe the photograph speaks for itself.
I picked up the Beautiful Brows kit when I attended Salon International last year. I was convinced after the saleswoman demonstrated the product in the exact way I have shown above. The difference is quite striking for someone like me who has thin and fair eyebrows, but even on those with fuller brows the kit works really well to provide definition.

The kit included the brow powder in my shade (chocolate), three brow stencils, a double-ended brush, a lipstick and a mascara, for £30. 
The application is quick and simple. All you need to do is choose the stencil that closest matches your shape and place it over your brow and then, using the fluffy end of the brush, apply the powder against the direction of the hairs. You only need a small amount of powder to fill in the brows and the slanted brush can be used for any missed areas or to add more definition. After you apply the powder you have approximately 10 minutes before it sets to fix any errors, after that the powder stays in place all day. I typically apply my brows at around 8am and remove my makeup at about 10pm and there is minimal fading.
Beautiful brows say that the brow powder is made using a unique, highly concentrated mineral in pigment powder that is smudge-proof, water resistant and designed to last a full day. I was told that if you use the product every day it will last for 3 years! I have actually purchased this product before, when the brand was in its infancy and was selling the power, brush and stencils for £10! Unfortunately, before I had even created a dent in it I smashed it all over my bathroom floor but even though I have tested other products before repurchasing this has remained my favourite.

I really like the product can make my eyebrows looked much more groomed than they are, my eyebrows were long overdue a shaping session in the above picture, but the product hides this. Because I am not great at shaping my brows using the stencils to heavily shade in the area and then pluck all the hairs that aren’t in that area is an easy way for me to shape my eyebrows.

I’ve only ever seen Beautiful Brows at beauty and hair shows but you can purchase the kit on their website for £35.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix review

I didn’t expect any product to challenge my love of Alpha-H’s Liquid Gold…..but Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix has done just that.
I received these after attending a press event they held long before Christmas. On the day I was treated to a mini facial, which gave me a chance to get a feel for the products on my skin. The first thing I noticed about the glycolic pads was that they didn’t make my skin feel dry or tight, in fact they immediately made my skin feel smooth and hydrated.

The pads contain glycolic acid (the same star ingredient as liquid gold) and are recommended for use up to twice a day (morning and night). Very simply, you take the pads (which have a refreshing lemon scent) and sweep it all over your face and neck after toning and before moisturising.
I’ve already raved about how liquid gold treatment did wonders to brighten my skin, making it smoother, helping to clear up scars and reduce redness too. Having used liquid gold for so long, these have helped to maintain my skin condition, and I’ve used it as a 'top-up’ treatment. I only use these at night, and I like to skip using a moisturiser when I do. I have tried using these several nights in a row and I haven't had any problems with my skin drying out. I found that they are good for reducing redness as well as clearing up any small blemishes. Over time they are also good at faded scars and acne marks. Overall I think my skin looks clearer and more refined having used this.

I’ve used the tub over the last few months and I’m glad to report that the pads haven’t dried out. There are 60 pads contained in each tub, which if you use as instructed will last you 1-2 months, but I think you can get away with using these once or twice a week, depending on your skin condition, which means that it will last much longer.

Regardless of weather you’re using this in the morning or evening, whenever using glycolic products you should protect your skin during the day with a sunscreen. I read on All that Slaps review that the Nip + Fab product contains 4% glycolic acid. Liquid Gold contains 5% glycolic acid but even though it is a 1% difference the recommendations for frequency of use are quite different, unfortunately I don’t remember my chemistry days well enough to be able to explain why that might be.

The cost of 60 pads is £12.95, which is significantly cheaper than a bottle of liquid gold and makes this  a great value alternative product. Personally I will be skipping repurchasing liquid gold in favour of this for the purpose of keeping my skin in the condition it is in now.

Nip + Fab can be found in Boots as well as some department stores and online.


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Leather look nails by Nails Inc

This post begins with a short backstory. Having created two beauty boxes as gifts this year, one for a fellow beauty blogger and another for my sister, my mum decided to do the same for me……..
Now don’t get me wrong I am actually very grateful for the socks and of course who doesn’t love a pamper voucher? But I still don’t think mum should be starting up her own beauty box company any time soon!

Now onto the reason for the post...
Nails Inc are releasing a number of nail effects polishes this year one of which is the leather effect. I was glad to get the tan colour as part of a leather and bling it on skulls set, which includes the polish, four faux gold skulls and nail glue. I love the tan shade, which suits my skin well and which I know I will wear all year round.
Of the nail effects polishes I own this is without a doubt the easiest to get right (remember the struggle with magnetic nails?) and is the quickest to apply. In total it didn’t take more than 15 minutes, including shaping and a base coat, to have finished and dry nails.
The polish applies smoothly but as it begins to dry the effect forms. The instructions state to apply the first coat, wait two minutes and then apply a second. Nails inc also recommend that you skip using a top coat since this would affect the finished look. You can then apply the skulls, using an orange stick and the nail glue to stick them into place, but for now I have decided to save these for a special occasion. I am hoping that the glue will secure them well enough so that I can recover and reuse them.

When using this for the first time, after applying the first coat, I smudged one of my nails and, rather than starting again, I carried on with the second coat and the effect masked the original smudge (can you spot where it was?) Your nails do feel rough to touch, which is odd at first but something that you get used to.

The polish lasted 4 days before chipping and considering that was without a top coat, I thought that was pretty impressive. Based on my experience smudging the polish, I think if you wanted to make your manicure last a few days longer, you could try reapplying the polish over any chipped areas.

I've read on other blogs that the leather effect is being released later this year, although the black and tan colour, as part of the set, are available now in Selfridges for £19. There is also a gorgeous deep red colour, which will be available too.

What do you think of the leather effect? Or have you had enough of nail effects altogether?


Sunday, 6 January 2013

First impression: Philosophy Purity made simple cleanser

Philosophy is a brand that has always appealed to me. Its clean looking, cutely named products and the bite-sized philosophical thought found on each container has always made me think fondly of the brand, even though up until now I had never tried them.

When my Latest in Beauty advent calendar revealed a small bottle of Purity made simple cleanser I had a little ‘ooo’ moment.
The cleanser is very effective, it has a milky formulation and is gentle enough to use on the eyes, with only a small amount needed to remove a full face of makeup. I found it left my skin feeling very slightly dry, but I didn't develop any dry patches using it. I preferred to use it with my clarisonic, rather than a cloth as suggested, and it is one of the few cleansers that I have found which works well with it.

However, there is just one thing that doesn’t make me want to purchase a full sized bottle, and that’s the scent. For something called purity the last scent I would expect is ethanol, but that’s whats I get.

Now I realise that the brand does not consider itself natural/pure (the ingredients list for this product takes up half of the bottle!) Personally, I think it is a bonus if a brand is natural but I am not particular about that. I think in this case there is a mismatch in expectations, I thought something with the name purity would have a fresh scent but the smell of alcohol is too much.

So this post will stay as a first impression because I although I would still like to try some other products from the Philosophy range — the exfoliator in particular — I won’t be picking up a bottle of this.

Philosophy can be purchased from QVC, Selfridges, Debenhams and Boots. I also found a handy skin quiz on their US website, which interestingly for my responses didn’t actually recommend this cleanser!

Have you tried any of the Philosophy range, if so I would love to know what you recommend.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013 beauty resolutions and challenge

I can’t believe a whole year has past since I set blog resolutions. So much has happened in the last year both to my blog and personally and I am really looking forward to 2013.

I had a few beauty resolutions last year and I failed miserably on most of them to be honest. I managed to have quite regular facials, but other than a cost issue, making the time for appointments was a problem especially when working full time and salons being fully booked in the evenings.

However, I was good at using up products before making repurchases and rotating my makeup. The Lori Greiner organiser I received for Christmas last year really helped with that by making everything more accessible and visible.

As for my No! No! use, body brushing and hair treatment, I just couldn't get into a routine with any of it. The annoying thing is I know that the No! No! works but laziness means I don't make sure I use it regularly.

As for this year I’ve mixed together some beauty and general life resolutions…..

Learn how to do my eyebrows
I've said it once and I will say it again, I hate eyebrow maintenance. I loved my Billion Dollar Brow treatment but at around £30 a session that isn't going to be affordable for me other than on special occasions, so I plan on watching lots of YouTube videos so that I can start dying and shaping my brows.

Care for my hair
This is essentially the same as last years resolution. I've noticed my curls aren't what they once were and that is probably partly due to the way I treat it. I've coloured it a few times and used heat more than ever. I want to colour it one last time to something close to my natural colour and then just treat it right so that it can be in the best condition possible. 

Be a better blogger
I want to get myself organised as a blogger and post regularly. I know that at some points in 2012 when I was having a rough time at home I didn’t post as frequently as I would have liked. I had lots of ideas but I never had/made the time to see them through and I want to put that right this year.

Take care of my health
2012 was quite stressful health wise, nothing too serious, but enough to be quite distracting and the reason that I wasn’t able to keep on top of blog posts. I don’t want to set specific goals like, going on a diet or a strict exercise regime, but I do want to experiment to find a routine that works for me. The aim is to feel better more than anything else.

Be in it to win it
In 2013 I plan on entering and applying for as many competitions and internships. I have always been a bit cautious and assumed that there is no way I am better than other entrants but I know I have nothing to lose from trying. As you may know I really want to write professionally and this year I plan on being as proactive as possible to make that happen. 

Blog Challenge!

Today will also be the start of my second blogging challenge, a 100-day no spend! I am a bit nervous that I will struggle but I know from Twitter that there are lots of other bloggers taking part and we will all be supporting one another. 

There are no official rules but I personally will refrain from buying any makeup and skin care. Obviously if I run out of something like shampoo or deodorant then I will be making a trip to the shops but I’m curious as to how long I can last before that happens!

I won’t be spending on any beauty treatments, but I do have a few vouchers to redeem so this won’t be too difficult. But to make it fair I won’t be spending the vouchers I have for Debenhams until after the ban. I am considering not activating the Jolie Box subscription I won at BBloggersXmas too, but I need to check that it doesn’t have an expiry date.

I’m also going to avoid any clothes, jewellery, bag and shoe shopping. The only exception to this is if I find a good pair of boots, which I have been on the hunt for since September!

I hope that you all have a happy, healthy and successful 2013. Thank you so much for your support so far, and I hope that you will continue to enjoy my blog throughout the year.

Any tips on avoiding temptation over the next 100 days would be much appreciated and I would love to know what changes you would like to make this year.


Blog birthday giveaway!

Today is my blogs second birthday! What started as a new years resolution with no real plan or thought has turned into something that gives me a lot of joy and a lot to be proud of.

I recently hit a few landmark numbers across various sites and as a huge thank you to those who comment, share and support my blog I wanted to give something back. Since the launch of the latest Urban Decay palette, Naked Basics, coincided so well, I knew that this would make the perfect prize.
To try and keep entering as easy as possible, I am using Rafflecopter. I only have one rule and that is that you have to be a follower. But, if you are a fan of my Facebook page, a Twitter follower or happy to leave a comment or Tweet that will get you an extra entry.

I'm going to leave the competition open for a month, which means it will close on 1 February 2013 and the winner will be announced soon after that. The giveaway is open internationally.

Good luck!

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