Since my latest obsession this summer has been Instagram, I thought it would be fun to share some of my adventures with photography as a total beginner with no training and no fancy camera. In fact, all I’ve been using has been my cellphone, the Samsung Galaxy S5, and an eye for beauty. If you have been harboring a secret passion for photography but were too afraid to explore it, essentially what I’m telling you is that if I can do it, anyone can. Encouraging, right?

For the uninitiated, Instagram is an App that you download on a cellphone (sorry PC-users, this App’s not for you!) that allows you to take photos, upload photos, and edit photos and share them either publicly or privately with select users. It’s a fun way to give friends a peek into your life or—as in my case—to tap into a latent creative expression through taking pictures.

One thing to keep in mind!

Photography offers a narrow window into the illusory world of social media that displays the “perfect” glimpses into other people’s worlds. Every shot is an incomplete story—like looking at a single film on a View Master reel. Sometimes, it’s easy to fall prey to jealousy or feeling worse about ourselves when the images appear idillyc—but we are not really seeing the full picture.

It’s helpful to use your own filter before making snap judgements.

Aside from the bigger picture of social media misrepresentation, on a smaller scale, my photos are a great example that the scene behind the shots may not be as pretty a picture at all.

Nearly every photograph that I’ve snapped required several many takes before I got them right. And some, like the photo below, needed major adjustments. Here’s the step-by-step process for this particular shot.

BeauTeaBar order


This is a photo of an order that I received from the lovely online shop, BeauTeaBar.  You’ll find  a number of nail polishes from new company AILA Cosmetics (instant love, btw!), a moisturizer with SPF from Raw Ceuticals, another nail color from HABIT Cosmetics, and a sample of Rare Elements Essential Conditioner.

The trick to a decent photo is creating a cohesive look even if the items are totally different. It helped that BeaTeaBar tied a super cute pink ribbon around each product!  Here I tried using the hot pink tissue paper that wrapped the pretty package to bring it all together. Still, in my humble opinion, the photo fell short.


Lighting is key to a great pic. Since I don’t own a lightbox or have any special lighting to create effects, I rely on certain times of day (overcast days are amazing!), select locations outdoors, plus well-lit areas that are situated near windows indoors.


At the time of this photo shoot, I didn’t know how to manually adjust the brightening effects on Instagram, but the basic Instagram App let’s you do that and more, which is a really neat feature. Click the wrench icon right under the photo to access. Now you can bypass editing the photo off Instagram, if you’re short on time or wouldn’t know what the heck to do in another more sophisticated program.

In this case, oblivious to the endless possibilities to improve the photo on Insta, I took my trusty cutting board—yes that’s my fancy white board!—and headed outside to take the shot below.

IMG_20140716_095543Right away, I liked this photo better than the first attempt. I figured that I could cut out the gray area. The mysterious gray background  would be the concrete stairs outside my back door. It’s a decidedly strange place to take a photo, but the spot doesn’t receive direct sunlight that would both wash out the colors as well as cast long shadows. Other good locations are the broken brick grill, which was the scene for this photo of ZWEENA’s newly released eye serum reviewed here:


…and this one of the luscious herbaceous products from R. L. Linden & Co.



Cropping—yet another very useful skill—can completely alter a picture from one that’s just ok to one that pops. Things I pay attention to when cropping: overall balance of color and placement.

The cropped photo of the three polishes looked a tad boring, so in a moment of sheer frustration (this shoot was taking a loooong time), I messed around and came up with the photo below.


Voila! It was love at first sight. True, not all the products made the cut. But THIS look brought out the feisty nail polish colors and played off the delicate shades of the rose. The photo above is the one that I ended up posting to Instagram. I still love it! It’s not even one of my more popular photos, but it doesn’t matter to me because I’m satisfied with it. And that makes a world of difference!

I had to let go of perfectionism. Most of my pics are anything but, and my earlier photos are cringe-worthy. Skills develop with time, diligence, self-love, grace, and practice.

A feast for the eyes

Just for fun, I’m including a photo of green beauty expert Kristen Arnett, founder of the Green Beauty Team, as she gets into position to take the perfect foodie photo at our luncheon al fresco in my backyard. She’s got an incredible eye for aesthetics, color, symmetry, and placement, which makes her fantastic as a green beauty makeup artist worldwide.

Sure, it looks like this photo happened in a pinch but you don’t know the table arranging that went on first! Then she had to achieve the right angle for the shot which clearly demanded climbing on top of a non-swiveling plastic chair and holding steady.

She didn’t complain, but that flection of her arms doesn’t look too comfortable either!



The end result below was nothing short of perfection! Let me tell you, lunch was a simple spread—yet here it looks like a feast. Noticeably absent in the final shot are the not-so-aesthetically-pleasing plastic tubs in the foreground containing Trader Joe’s organic full fat Greek yogurt, Mascarpone (supremely delicious!), and ricotta cheese that I randomly bought and didn’t know how to incorporate into the meal. (Fear not, Kristen combined the Mascarpone with the organic berries for a treat that my family continues to indulge in today. What a pairing!)

IMG_20140810_155610More exquisite photos can be found on Kristen’s Instagram feed. It’s no wonder that she shoots her own footage for guest editorials in various publications. (Go on! Ogle at her impressive bio here.)

So there you have it! I hope this post unleashes the inner explorer in you as you embark on this fun and creative journey into the wide world of photography.

Have you already discovered the gentle thrill of Instagram? Do you have any tips and tricks to share with me? If not, consider yourself invited.



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