A Beautiful Exchange

Monday, September 22, 2014

What I wore: Wedding Rehearsal

As you most of you know, I have been at the beach for the last week leading up to my sister's wedding this past weekend. We are done in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which is a really beautiful place to be! I shared a week or so ago about some really good deals that I racked up on and actually mentioned the dress that I decided to wear to the rehearsal dinner. I wanted to wear something that I could be cool, comfortable, and cute in, and the grey wrap dress from ASOS was just the thing! I paired it with a simple pair of black sandals (because I was too scared to brave the hours of standing in wedges) and one of my favorite statement necklaces!

I really love the way this dress looks on me and think it will grow nicely with my belly. I'm really looking forward to wearing it with a cute jacket, leggings/tights, and boots when it gets colder because it is seriously so comfortable! The hem is a little long (kind of like a pencil skirt), but it didn't end up bothering me as much as I thought it would! I purchased it from ASOS (ASOS maternity wrap dress) a few weeks ago and was really impressed with the quality! I was a little worried because I had never shopped on their site before and the fact that they are UK-based made me nervous as well. I do have to say, though, that I was pleasantly surprised with everything and will definitely be purchasing from them again in the future! Their return policy is one that I think is so customer-focused and something that all online businesses should implement--they cover the shipping of your return if you don't like your order or something doesn't fit! How awesome is that?! Now worrying about the money you will lose if you don't like the way something looks because every order comes with a prepaid label so that you can just throw the clothes in a bag and ship them off, free of charge! That's what I call good customer service!

The necklace is one that I received in one of my Le Tote boxes and just knew I had to keep it after wearing it once. It's so versatile and makes a statement without being too much in your face. Plus, because it is black, I can wear it with pretty much anything! This cute little thing gives me the ability to change any t-shirt, dress, or tank into a really cute outfit! You can find the necklace here!

This little outfit is definitely one of my favorite maternity outfits so far and I can't wait to come up with a few other ways to wear this dress as the weather (and my body) changes!! It will be perfect for those times that I may want to dress up and the days where leggings and boots are my BFFs!

What else would you pair this simple wrap dress with?!

Friday, September 19, 2014

5 tips for taking better pictures for your blog!

Welcome back, friends! Today, my dear blogging and "real life" friend Madison is here to share with us how she takes such amazing pictures for her blog! I have really tried to take better photos and will take all the help I can get! These are great suggestions and I can't wait to put them to use! Be sure to learn more about her and her blog at the bottom of the post--she's awesome, I promise!


Hello sweet A Beautiful Exchange readers! I'm so excited to be here today sharing some tips about two of my favorite things: blogging and photography. 

I am so lucky that I've pretty much had a camera in my hand since I was in middle school, so photography is something that comes super naturally to me. However, I've always enjoyed being a portrait photographer, so when I started blogging, learning to take pictures of inanimate objects was a bit of a challenge for me. There are a ton of tips out there for better blog photography, but I'm going to share the top 5 that I think will improve your blog photos immensely!  

Plan your photos
At first with blogging, I would take photos every time I sat down to write a post. For a while this worked for me, but then I realized that every time I tried to take photos after work, it was already dark and my photos didn't turn out the way I wanted. So I had to start scheduling when I was going to take pictures for my posts. 

I basically blocked out time to take photos for my posts, just like I would block out time to write my posts. What began to happen is that I just took pictures as life went on, if I made a great recipe, I'd take photos in case I wanted to share the recipe later. I learned to have my camera with me all the time and to always be searching for great photos. I think Instagram has made us all more aware of our every day surroundings and how to capture "ordinary" things in our life in a unique way. 

Always, always, always use natural lighting
This is where your planning really comes in handy. I am already starting to think ahead to when the days get shorter and I can no longer take pictures of our dinners if I want to have recipe pictures at the ready. This will mean more intentional cooking on the weekends. 

Once you begin to pay attention to some of your favorite blogs with really strong photography, you'll realize the difference between natural and overhead lighting. And if I can just be honest, photos taken without natural light are just bad, y'all. I've been there, I used to do it too, but I'm telling you, it makes all the difference. Resolve right now to stop the bad lighting photos for the sake of us all! I do want to mention that the two photos above are completely unedited. All I did was switch from an overhead ceiling light to the natural light from the window.

I've learned where the best spots in my house are for taking great photos with natural light. And it happens to be in our bedroom in from of our window. So I drag a chair in there and stage my photo right there because I know the lighting will be awesome! 

Stage your photos
The first part of staging is having a good background. Like I said, I drag my wooden chair into our bedroom because I love the look of a wood background behind plated food. But it goes beyond just where you take your photos. You can almost always accessorize your post to make it more interesting. Instead of taking a photo of your chocolate chip cookies, plate the cookies on a larger plate (always have extra room around the food on the plate) and throw some chocolate chips on the plate as well. It adds an extra dimension to the photo that your readers eyes will be drawn to.

Anytime you can add texture to a photo through different materials, you should try to do it but do it tastefully. Sometimes throwing random things together looks great, but more often than not those "random" photos are staged to look random. It's so easy to just snap a quick picture, but taking time to plan and stage your photos will improve your photos drastically. 

Create your own stock photos
Ever had a post that you just needed a quick image for? Well as you're working on improving your photography, take photos of things that would make a great "quick image" for a post. Take a picture of your cup of coffee at breakfast for that coffee date post, take photos of the sky for a random post, take photos of nature. If you have a topic you talk about a lot, start looking for stock like photos you can take. I have done this with my computer and blog planner as well as some photos of my Bible to have at the ready if I need them. The more you can avoid using photos that others might use, the better!

I've also started building that library of recipe posts like I mentioned before. It's seriously so helpful for when I want to share a recipe but may not have time or energy to actually make something! 

Get creative
Once you begin to get comfortable with your camera and your new approach to blog photos, look for different angles to shoot your objects. The stereotypical blogger angle is a photo of the object from straight above it. Those photos are awesome, definitely take them, but what other ways can you take the photo? You may have to kneel down, stand on a chair (no, I have NEVER done that...) or even lay on the floor to get that picture. Yes, you may look silly but laugh at yourself if you must, life's too serious!

What do you think? Are there any other blog photography tips we can add?

I'd love for you to stop by my little space and say hello!