Thursday, November 29, 2012

Behind the Blog: Twelve by Six

This week's Behind the Blog is about Laura who blogs at Twelve By Six. I don't remember how Laura and I even crossed paths, but she is now one of my blogging BFFs, and also the only blogger I've ever met in real life. She's a smart and beautiful girl, so I'm thrilled to have her here today!

Tell us what motivate you to start blogging. Were you following a lot of personal style/fashion blogs before you started blogging?

I was following fashion/personal style blogs for awhile before I even thought about creating a blog (probably a year or more), and they definitely inspired me to start my own.  I wasn't really sure at the beginning what my intent was, but I wanted to get out there and be part of the community, so I started the blog and thought I would learn and figure it out along the way.  When I began, I was following more "aspirational" blogs where everything looks professional and editorial and I think I had it in my mind that those were what a blog was supposed to be like.  When mine (obviously) was not able to measure up, I first had to stop comparing, and then I had to reconsider the purpose of my blog with the added consideration of the time and effort I have available to put into it.  I still like and read some of those aspirational blogs, but I realized that I'm much more interested in real girls with real lives and their journeys of discovering their style through outfit photos, so I turned my attention to outfit photos and started focusing my daily posts on that.  I still like to throw in posts that show other parts of my interests and personality, but I feel like the main focus of my blog is on the development of my style and being a part of the larger community of girls doing the same!

Which blogs do you read every day? 

Fashion-wise, I mostly read blogs that focus on a mix of professional and realistic casual wear that I would actually incorporate into my life.  I read Sidewalk Ready, Whipped Style, Franishh, Work Clothes, I Suppose, Kendi EverydayCity and Burbs, and Veronika's Blushing on a weekly if not daily basis.  I also read a few other types of blogs like home and design, photography, food, and various funny stuff like Get Off My Internets and The Bluth Company tumblr. 

Who takes your pictures? What cameras/lenses do you use? Have you ever been "caught in the act" of taking  these pictures?

Usually my husband is nice enough to take them for me, but if he's not available I use a tripod and camera remote.  I used to do the self-timer run, but I finally decided to get a remote on Amazon for like $12 and it makes things infinitely easier.  I have a Nikon D3100 and a few lenses, though I typically only use my 35mm f/1.8 lens for outfit photos.  I don't  think you "need" a fancy camera to be a good blogger though, I have this because I'm also interested in photography generally too!  I've only been caught taking photos a few times, so I'm pretty lucky.  I've taken a few in public (thanks to my husband) which isn't that bad since I just feel like a tourist, but I've been seen doing my own with the tripod by my neighbors that share the common balcony where I usually take my photos - definitely a bit weird!

What programs do you use to edit and upload your pictures? 

I almost always use PicMonkey to edit and crop my photos, which works well for me because I do very few edits and it's really simple and fast to use. I usually crop the excess background, adjust any exposure issues (which typically fixes any color issues on its own, especially if the photos were outside), and if I really have to I make color adjustments to get a more true-to-life representation, but I've only ever done that a handful of times.  I have PhotoShop but don't typically use it because it's overkill for what I need to do for my blog pictures, and I've never "photoshopped" my face or body to look better (nor do I intend to!).

Do people in real life know about your blog? What were their reactions when they found out about your blog?

My husband does, but he's the only one.  I don't think I hide it on purpose, there's just never been a time that it came up and it seems like a weird thing to bring up out of nowhere.  Plus, I do think that a lot of people probably wouldn't get it and might see it as superficial or silly, so I feel a bit guarded about who I would want to know and I probably fail to bring it up as a result.

Your blog, besides talking about fashion, also has bits of fitness thrown in. Do you read a lot of healthy living blogs as well? Do you feel having your Friday Fitness post helps keep you accountable for eating better and running?

I do read some healthy living blogs (usually once or twice a week or as resources when I'm looking for a new recipe or something) and find them pretty inspiring and motivating for the most part.  A few favorites are Fitnessista and Sprinkle Massacre because they focus on fitness as part of daily life, plus they share tons of great workouts and recipes.  I do think the Fitness Friday posts help me stay accountable, and it seemed like at least a few people were equally interested when I started posting about it, so I thought I'd keep it going since I love hearing what other people are up to as well!  I've gotten some great suggestions in the comments about quick weeknight dinners, workout ideas, and that kind of thing.  While my blog is mostly focused on style, fitness (or aspiring to be fit and healthy) is such a big part of my  life that I like to be able to take some time to talk about that more real side of my life.  I also think it really fits in with the style focus because it's hard for me to feel good about myself and interested in expressing my style when I don't feel fit and healthy, and running and fitness are one way I try to keep myself confident.  I also never wanted my blog to appear to glamorize appearance at the expense of health, so I try to tie it in for that reason as well.  Being fit and healthy matters to me more than being skinny for clothes, so it's also a helpful personal reminder that even though I may not have the same body type as some people in fashion/blogging, I still love being fit and healthy on its own terms and I can still enjoy fashion and participate in this community.  I do think it's tough coming up with fresh content about fitness every day because honestly, sometimes it's just routine and I eat the same things a lot of days, so I'm going to be scaling this back to a monthly update!

Many fashion bloggers hop from one trend to the next. How do you try to stay on trend while working within 
your budget and closet?

I think the biggest thing is to remain focused on what you like regardless of whether it's "in" or "out" at any given time. Classics are always in style, so building a wardrobe of well-fitting, quality pieces is the best way to always look current.  Have a a base of classic pieces also makes it easier to mix some trendier items in without looking like a trend whore.   Participating in some trends can be fun, but it's important to pick and choose based on what fits your taste and your lifestyle.  Something I've been trying to focus on this year is having quality pieces in my wardrobe that will last a long time and easily mix and match with other pieces, which leaves less room in my closet and my checking account for fads.  Some trends can be easy to pass on if you just aren't into them (flatforms...) or they are just not right for your body type (harem pants...).  Other trends may be more tempting because they look cute, but I still try to be realistic about what works in my life.  For example, recent trends I couldn't get into were peplum and neon - even if I liked them, they're just not items I would get enough wear out of given that I work in a professional office 5 days a week and usually prefer to be more casual on the weekends.  If I had unlimited funds it might not be a big deal, but I've come to a point where I just don't want to spend money on something that will sit unworn in my closet (and eventually discarded) because I don't really have occasion to wear it.  Staying within a reasonable budget is always something that I strive for (even if I don't always achieve it...), so wasting money on flash-in-the-pan trends isn't something I want to do.  For new things I am interested in, I try to budget accordingly and shop smart so I can still purchase quality things that will last but not spend a fortune!  Another great way to participate without going all out is by using accessories, like neon necklaces or bracelets for summer, or maroon tights or scarves for this fall.  I've also recently been making wish lists to focus my attention on those things I really want to add to my wardrobe each season - it really helps me ignore some of those impulsive momentary wants.

Putting yourself on the internet comes with the expectation that not everyone will always love what you are  wearing and writing. Have you encountered any of these criticisms, and if so, how do you handle it?

I feel that I've been pretty lucky in avoiding much criticism so far, actually.  Of course I've had a few comments here and there, but even those are more constructive criticism rather than just bashing.  I think the best way to handle stuff like this when it does happen is to try and remember that when people are just being negative to hurt someone, that's their issue and isn't really about the other person.  It's always hard not to let it get to you, but staying positive and seeking support from real friends/family and other bloggers is always helpful.

What has been the best thing to come out of blogging? 

So many things I didn't expect, honestly!  The community and friends I've made blogging are definitely one of the best things about blogging.  It's really cool to have a relationship with readers and other bloggers who are interested in the same things, and I love the creativity and inspiration I see in others (and foster in myself!) as a result of this awesome community.  Another great thing about blogging is learning more about my own style.  When I started, I was definitely interested in fashion, but I knew a lot less about what worked on me, what I actually like instead of what I was just wearing because I had in my closet, and what kind of things I wanted to focus on adding to my closet long-term.  It's been a really big learning experience for me, and I've become more able to trust my intuition because I have a clearer sense of what I like.

When it comes to promotion of your blog, what methods do you use? Do you spend a lot of time commenting on other blogs, pinning your looks, doing link ups

Promotion is something I really don't get into; I just don't love it, and I don't have a ton of time to spend on it either.  I'm also  not overly interested in monetizing my blog or making it a business, so since I really just do it for fun, I can't justify spending a ton of time on promotion.  I do spend time commenting on other blogs, but it's because I actually like and follow  those blogs and I try to make those comments meaningful (like, I don't just blanket comment on hundreds of blogs a day with generic compliments).  I do participate in a few link ups weekly, and this is something I would like to try and do more of in the future.  I try to look through submissions on those link ups and find a few new blogs I like to follow/comment on  as well.  I use Pinterest a lot for inspiration from other sources, but I actually don't pin my own looks, and I don't have a  blog Facebook or Twitter.  I also do guest posts occasionally because it's fun and it's nice to be able to mix readership  between my blog and those that I like.  Overall, I guess I'd say it's not super important to me because I do this for fun, and  I've found that guest posting, participating in link ups, and meaningfully commenting on other blogs is a great way to gain  readers without succumbing to the dreaded "follow me, I'll follow you!" comments.

What tips or suggestions do you have for your fellow bloggers?

I'm sure everyone's heard this before (and you'll definitely hear it again), but you have to stay true to yourself when you blog.  If you're blogging for money or sponsorships, or to show off every trend that comes out rather than develop your personal style, your readers will see through it.  I've unfollowed tons of blogs because you can tell when people get caught up in the next cool trend instead of just doing their own thing.  It's also helpful to realize ahead of time that getting involved in blogging will make life full of temptations - I see probably 50 things on other blogs every single day that I think are gorgeous, but trying to keep up and have everything other bloggers have is a fast track to going broke and being stressed about blogging.  It's really important to learn that you can enjoy and admire something without needing to own it yourself.  I would also say that you don't have to know 100% what you're doing to get started blogging; learning along the way is inevitable and in fact enjoyable - we're all in this to learn as we go!  One thing I would recommend is planning enough backup posts that you have a fallback for when life gets busy and you can't take photos/post daily - I wish I had done this and I'm still trying to build up a contingency set of posts for that reason.  I also think taking good photos is important, but as I said above, you don't have to have a fantastic camera.  The biggest aspect here is making them large enough for readers to see your outfit (if that's what you're posting about), which is pretty easy to do just using the "resize" function on any photo editor.  Overall though, keeping focused on your own voice, your own style, and dressing for yourself, first and foremost, is so important.  If you're genuine and really enjoy what you're doing, people will still read your blog even if there are technical things you still want to work on.

Don't you just love her? Thank again for participating Laura! Next week we have Shanna from Because Shanna Said So!