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[THE BLOGGING DIARIES] How I Make My Blog Graphics

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted a tutorial on how I take and edit my photos, and you guys seemed to enjoy it.

So, now I’m finally going to be posting my tutorial on how I make my blog graphics, mainly the ones I use for my Featured Images! This was second place when I asked my followers on Books Amino what they wanted to see, so therefore, it came second.

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Personally, the app I use to make my graphics is Canva. It’s free, it has templates that I can work off of, and it’s quite easy to use, so I highly recommend it!

For the most part, I use my own photos as the background for my graphics, but if you’re not into that, I think Freepik is the best way to go! It’s an amazing website where as long as you credit who made what you use, you can use anything, and it has LOADS of pretty designs, so don’t be scared to use it!

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After opening the Canva app, there is a long list of templates that you can scroll through along the top of the app. Personally, I click the “Instagram” button, and pull the screen down so the “Search Instagram Templates” pops up. I usually just type “Where” and it takes me to the template that I usually use!

You might be wondering why I use “Instagram,” and not the official “Blog Graphic,” but there are a couple of reasons why. One, because I’ve attempted to use “Blog Graphic” templates and they are much harder to manipulate to your liking. Also, because I much prefer squares over rectangles as my Featured Images, but this is all personal opinion. Feel free to use “Blog Graphic,” if you’d like!

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After selecting the template, I’m taken to this. I click on the template, then scroll through my Camera Roll for the picture I’d like to choose as my background, then select it, which changes the background!

Now, I can edit my background photo. I usually skip over the “Colors” section and just use “Filters.” As you can see, there are unlimited choices for what filter you can use on your photo, but I personally choose “Wry,” because I like my graphics to be softer than my pictures (which are usually super bright). But it’s all up to you and what you prefer! After that, I double click the text on the screen and delete it.

After that, I click away from there, I’m taken to a screen that says “Tap something to start editing.” Click the “+” in the corner that’s surrounded by a circle, then click “Library,” and you’re free to choose a shape!  Again, there are unlimited choices for which shapes you can use and different designs to implement, but I personally prefer to use the square.

After choosing the square, I double-tap it, which gives you the choice of editing the shape. You can change the color of it if you want, but the only thing I do is play around with the transparency of the shape. For me, the setting I like best is at “75.”

After editing the square, I go back to the home screen, click the “+” again, but this time click the = “Text.” There are loads of pre-formatted font designs and such that you can click on and edit the text, but I usually just like to click the “+Add some text of your own” bar. After I do that, I just type in the title of my blog post and click “Enter.” You’re then taken to a set-up where you can change your font. Obviously, there are lots of things you can do to change the font, but I only play around with four things: the color, the “B,” the “AA,” and the font.

Regarding color, tap on the black square next to the number 42. There are default colors, but I use pink, so I just click the square with a “+” in it under “Used.” I then scroll to the area on the bar that shows me pink, and then just guess by sight which pink to use. Since the update, coloring is ten times harder since it doesn’t even bother to save the color you use (which I hate with a fiery passion), so I work with what I got.

I then click the “B” and “AA” to bold the font a little, and then click the font and scroll through until I get to “Amatic Small Caps,” which is what I use, but there are endless font choices! After that, click on the number to scroll through and make my font bigger or smaller, then click the “Share” button in the top right hand corner to save it to my images.

And, behold, this is the final product:

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And, basically, that’s how I make my blog graphics!

I’m hoping that helped you guys out a lot! Much like I said in my first two tutorials, if there’s anything specific you want me to make a tutorial on, feel free to leave your ideas in the comments; I’d love to hear them!

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48

[THE BLOGGING DIARIES] Tips For New Book Bloggers (Ft. Other Book Bloggers)

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I am horrible at giving tips.

I really am. As soon as I got the idea for this post, I realized I couldn’t even think of any. That’s probably because I blog without even thinking of my process, and once I’m forced to, it’s hard to explain (like, writing up my tutorials was SO MUCH WORK). So, I thought it’d be better to ask my fellow bloggers what advice they’d give to a newbie book blogger, and I got a lot of it, so I decided to compile it all into one post. Hopefully, if any new book blogger stumbles across this, it’ll help them on their blogging journey! And a huge thanks to all those who gave advice!

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“Adopt your own blogging voice. Don’t copy other bloggers’ writing style. If you write elegantly, write like that. You don’t always go ALL CAPS LOCK and fangirl all the time. If you have a specific type of blogging voice, it’s easier to stand out. Don’t be afraid to let YOU shine through your blog – that’s the best bit about your blog.” – My Bookish Life

“Don’t get caught up with stats, take it at your own pace, and talk about what you want to talk about.” – Allonsythornraxxbooks

“Do it for your first: Your love for books is what started you down this path.” – Jessica’s Reading Room

“You don’t have to follow every blog that follows your blog; it will get overwhelming. Also, try not to feel guilty for not following back.” – Inside My Minds

“Don’t stress about followers and stats. If you enjoy blogging, then that’s all that matters!” – Kirsty Chronicles

“Comment on lots of posts to get yourself out there! By interacting with lots of people, you’ll get noticed quickly and find yourself gaining followers at a speedy rate!” – Book Bum

“Read books! Give your honest opinion and rant because ranting is incredibly fun to read.” – Genuine Perplexities

“Just keep posting like you have an audience, and eventually you will.” – Bella Blogs Because Books

“Don’t be afraid to get creative and use your voice – even if you think no one will ever read it, your words are never wasted.” – The Story Salve

“COMMENT, COMMENT, COMMENT! I had 40 followers for forever until I started getting more active in the blogging community and talking to people. Plus, now I have a tone of new friends!” – Write Through the Night

“Do your blog your way not the way others say a book blog should be. Just be yourself.” – The Whimsical Words of an Agreeable Bookworm

“Come up with and write content that YOU would want to read on another blog. If it’s boring to your, it’s likely boring to your readers.” – Forever and Everly

“Be passionate and don’t be afraid to speak with your unique voice. It is easy to fall into a pattern of doing the same sort of posts as everyone else, but in truth what matters is that you’re happy with what you are posting. If something is making you lose that passion burning inside you, then it’s time to lose that thing. Don’t do posts just to please the masses, but to please yourself. When you develop that loyal readership that loves the things that you love, then you know you’re doing what’s best for you and you can be proud of what you have. This community can be daunting, but don’t be afraid to speak out and contact others. Starting conversations is the best thing you could ever do.” – The Book Raven

“Keep trying. Keep reaching out to other bloggers, keep posting, keep doing what you enjoy above all else.” – Reading Every Night

“Get out there and spread yourself out there – the best way I started to connect with others was through commenting on their blogs and checking out new ones. Also, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Don’t blog just to blog, but make sure you enjoy doing it.” – Book Princess Reviews

“Be yourself, connect, and have fun.” – Lost in a Story

“Participate in the community. Go out and comment on other blogs and share your love of books.” – Pages Unbound

“I would say make sure to post as regularly as possible and try figuring out how often you can post without exhausting yourself. And visit as many blogs as possible and get to know new fellow book lovers!” – Reading Through the Nights

“Everyone experiences the same feelings of stress and worrying about their blog, no matter how long they’ve been doing this. It’s okay to take breaks, and feel discouraged. Just don’t let it get you down! I promise you’ll find your blogging stride!” – Bookish Things and Tea

“Be patient and put in quality over quantity.” – The Suspense Is Thrilling Me

“Don’t feel stressed to post five times a week or anything. Yes, your blog does grow a bit slower if you post less, but you also don’t get burned out quickly either.” – Quartzfeather

“Try to show your personality in your posts and upload consistently.” – Bookish Sins and Wins

“I’m very new in this, but what I’m trying now is to write some posts so that the people that visit your blog could have an idea of what you do, follow fellow bloggers that you’re interested in, and try to make friends!” – Shades 0f Paper

“Just do it!” – Engrossed in a Good Book

“Be positive and open.” – Book Reader Always

“Be creative, original, and yourself. Most of all, don’t be afraid of the publish button. Mistake will happen, it’s okay. There is a lot to learn and plenty of time to do it.” – Green Onion

“Try to follow as many people as you can and comment on their posts.” – A Dance Between Pages

“Post what you want and not what others expect of you.” – Perks of Being a Book Nerd

“Don’t be afraid to start book blogging and getting your opinions out to other people. Don’t feel obligated to post either, just post when you want to or when have an idea, make a post.” – Unicorns Read Too

“Try to post regularly.” – The Underground Bookdom

“Just dive in! I spent months debating whether or not I wanted to start a blog. When I finally did, I was so mad at myself for waiting!” – Erica Robyn Reads

“Have fun! Your blog isn’t supposed to be dull and boring or something you’re forced to do.” – Autumn of 2003

“Write what you love, not what you think is popular.” – Chasm of Books

“Comment on other blogs’ posts.” – Xoodle Books

“Enjoy it!” – Book Birds

“Get involved.” – Papertrail Rambles

“Create a unique voice and look at a lot of other blogs to get an inspiration or model.” – Blots of Ink and Words

“Try to be on a posting schedule and although keeping an eye on numbers isn’t a bad thing, make sure it doesn’t affect your feelings about blogging.” – Heather’s Reading Hideaway

“Consistency is key!…and fun.” – Scribbler’s Cloud

“Be yourself and post what you’d want to read, now what everyone else is posting!” – A Biblio Love Affair

“Just do it; post things that you’re interested in and you will attract a following.” – Reading Through the Night

“Always be true to your content, and try to do the best work you can.” – Chelle’s Book Ramblings

“Ohh, there’s so much. I think my main piece of advice would be to stay genuine. It’s easy to compare yourself and fall into a path of doing what everyone else is doing, bu you shouldn’t do that. Your blog should reflect you, your personality, your interests. Even if you only get one comment on something, but you loved writing that post, it was something you LOVED and you connected with ONE person – which is amazing…Probably to not be too hard on themselves. It’s supposed to be fun. You don’t have to be strict. If you need help, ask because we’re all friendly! If you can’t figure out what to talk about, look at what other people are doing for inspiration.” – Molly’s Book Nook

“I’m still kind of a new blogger myself, but I would tell another to not get too overwhelmed! There is so much to do when building a book blog, but know it is okay to take breaks and get it all done slowly, one thing at a time!” – Books and Bling Blog

“Don’t be afraid to connect with other bloggers! And feel free to experiment with your blog (design, posts, etc.) until you find something that works for you. Do what makes you happy. <3” – Book Snacks

“It’s so easy to think you can finish a book and write a review later. The longer you wait, the harder it is to write, trust me.” – The Written Word(s)

“Make sure to have a notebook or your phone with you at all times in case you get a post idea and need to write it down. I guess to also don’t expect to understand everything in the book blogging world and to have people see your stuff straight away. It takes time and you will constantly be learning. But make sure you don’t stress too much and to ask the community for help if you don’t know how to do something! Seek other book bloggers for help!” – Stories and Spoons

“Have a list of blog ideas for scheduling. The more the better, so you can surf and pick one that suits your current writing mood.” – Liliana N Bookish Blog

“To have fun with it! It sounds cliche but that’s the most important thing to me.” – Beaucoup Books

“Don’t quit. I started numerous blogs before this one, and always gave up on them. This is the first time I’m truly enjoying my content. Just stick with it and be persistent.” – Inside My Library Mind

“I’m a booktuber, but one piece of advice I would have for anyone joining the community would be to make friends.” – GABBYABOOKS

“Don’t stress with posting everyday. Just have fun with it. Never compare your blog with others. Just do your blog for yourself and have fun.” – A Bella Fairytale

“My biggest tip is to not overload on posts and ARCs. Posting a couple of times a week is best!” – LILbooKlovers

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Do you have any blogging advice for new book bloggers that you don’t see? Feel free to share it in the comments!

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[THE BLOGGING DIARIES] How to Write the Perfect Discussion Post

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“Yeah, a tutorial about how to write a discussion post written by Mikaela!” said nobody.

(But I wrote it anyway.)

Some of you guys apparently think I have really good discussion posts, which is extremely flattering, so thank you; I try! And I know there are always people out there who WANT to write discussion posts, but don’t even know where to start. Hence why I’m here to give you a tutorial on how to write a discussion post for the Blogging Diaries!

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Well, obviously, before you even start writing, you have to have an idea of what you’re going to write. I know there are some people who wonder where I even GET my ideas, and it’s usually one of three places:

1. Other Blogs. There will be times where I’ll stumble upon a really interesting discussion post or topic or even just a random post in general that can really get me inspired, especially looking through the comments of said post. Sometimes, a random comment left will spark an idea. Usually, when looking at a post, I get my ideas from thinking about what my take on the topic would be or wanting to explore an angle the blogger hasn’t. So, who knows: maybe going on that blog-hopping session you’ve been putting off will inspire you!

2. Books. You don’t even really have to be reading 20+ books a month to be inspired by one. My first ever discussion topic discussed the whole trend of authors adding on prequels, novellas, spin-offs, or any other additions to their original series and why bookworms were so tired of it. All of that came from the whole flurry around The Cursed Child. So, if you’re scrambling from ideas, grab the last ten books you’ve read and choose an element to expand on. For example, if I chose The Hate U Give, and talked about diversity in books. Or book hype. Or what makes a good main character. Or what makes a good contemporary novel. Or your opinion on books that take a political stance on something. Or your opinion on #ownvoices novels. There’s a lot of topics to choose from!

3. Shower Thoughts. You might be like, “What the heck are shower thoughts?” but I basically mean when you’re doing nothing, and an idea comes to you. They’re totally random. I know probably a large majority of my ideas come from this, which is probably why my response to people who ask me how I came up with this idea is, “I don’t know.” But, MAKE SURE TO WRITE IT DOWN. I know there are tons of random ideas I think I’m going to remember and then don’t, and I get annoyed because it was SUCH A GOOD IDEA. So, write it down.

Once you have an idea, you can make an outline (which I do) or you can just start writing and edit it once you finish! Usually, I start writing with the…

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Basically, I consider it anything before the first arrow I insert in my blog post. Some people might not have such a weirdly strict formula, but I do, so we’re going with it. Usually I have my blog graphic, a witty opening line (or what I think is a witty opening line), and then I blab for a paragraph or two introducing the topic and going over what I’m about to cover. 

So, for example, if you’re going to write about hyped books, you could start out by talking about how you were inspired to write the post. Or maybe you could talk about a hyped book that impressed or disappointed you. Or you could talk about how it’s a common problem for bookworms. Or you could define “book hype.” Basically, there’s loads of ways to introduce your discussion, and it doesn’t have to be overly long.

After that, we’re getting to the meat of the discussion, which is the…

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Obviously, this is the most important part of the whole discussion post. This is where you pour all your thoughts and opinions out there. For me, I think there are five different types of ways to arrange your word vomit into a discussion post people will enjoy that I personally engage in:

1. Lists. Obviously, this type of discussion is in a list format. I usually use these types of discussions to list reasons – why you should or shouldn’t do something; why I do or don’t do something – or types of a certain topic you’re going to talk about. Going back to the book hype example, you could use a list to talk about why you don’t read hyped books. Or you could list why people should read hyped books. Or you could list types of book hype. Or books that were hyped, and which ones let you down and which ones exceeded your expectations.

Example: Do We Need to Set Monthly TBRs (And Why I Don’t)?

2. Tips. Basically, if there’s a general blogging thing you want to talk about – for instance, social media or which blogging schedule is the best for you – or if you think you’re good at a specific blogging thing – like taking photos or web design – then you can make a discussion post that lists tips. It doesn’t HAVE to be a tutorial (I like to think of those as more step-by-step), you can just give tips that are specific to you that might help someone else. So, for book hype, you could give out tips about how to review hyped books or how to find the perfect hyped book for you.

Example: How To Plan a Full Month of Blog Posts

3. Problem/Solution. This one’s pretty self-explanatory: present the problem to the reader, then give solution or advice of that problem. You can do this for just one topic within the discussion or through multiple topics within the discussion. For book hype, you could talk about the problem with book hype, and give some solutions to that. Or you could talk about the problem with people disregarding books just because of the hype, and some ways to prevent it from happening.

Example: How Do You Deal With Book Blogger Envy?

4. Pros and Cons. Basically, you present a question that has both positive and negative reasoning behind both sides, and then present the pros and cons for each answer fairly. I typically use these directly for questions I have, and these are best if you have a lot of reasoning behind both sides. Bringing back the book hype example, you could talk about the pros and cons of hyping up books before they’re released. Or you could discuss the pros and cons of reading hyped books.

Example: Should Book Reviews Be Subjective or Objective?

5. Methods. These are some of my favorite to write! You take the topic you’re discussing, and talk about the way YOU handle or deal with it. This is best for those who don’t think they’re good enough at something to do tips or tutorials, but still want to share their experiences with something. For book hype, you could talk about how you go into a hyped book. Or how you review a hyped book. Or how you choose which hyped books you’ll read, and which ones you’ll ignore.

Example: How Do You Balance Blogging, Books, and Life?

After you’re done writing the content of the post, you’re at the…

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Much like doing a book report or any sort of report, for that matter, I usually summarize what I talked about in the intro. If you feel like you have anything else to add near the end of the post, feel free to add it! If not, you can just move on and include whatever you include near the end of the post. I know I usually have two sections – “Let’s Chat” (this is where I ask questions and invite conversations) and “Follow Me” (this is where I leave my social media links).

It’s also a really great idea to ask questions at the end of the post! You wrote a discussion post to get discussion (hopefully), so get what you worked hard for! I usually ask people’s opinions on the subjects or how they do things or what they would choose. It really all depends how you arranged your post. Usually, questions can get people who don’t know what to comment to comment because they have something to bounce off of.

After finishing with the conclusion, the writing process is complete once you’ve given the post a…

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Personally, I feel like I obsess over titles WAY too much, but maybe that’s normal for everyone else (probably not). Usually, I ask a question in the title of the post because I feel like I’d be more inclined to click on a title that asks something rather than states, but it’s all up to you! You can be broad with the title – “Let’s Chat About Book Hype” – or you can be specific depending on what you chose – “The Pros and Cons of Book Hype”; “Why I Don’t Read Hyped Books”; “The Problem With Book Hype”; “How I Review Hyped Books”; “How To Find the Perfect Hyped Book For You.” I usually try to summarize the entire post in the title, but that proves to be difficult sometimes.

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And that’s the formula to writing a good discussion post (or, at least, how I write my discussion posts). 

Hopefully, you enjoyed this post and got something out of it! These tips can also help those who are just trying to formulate a blog post in general, so there’s something for everyone, I guess!

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Also, another reminder that we are in Phase 2 of the Big Blogger, Little Blogger Project, and if you need a reminder on what that is, the link to the original post is here! Whenever you do it, please link back to one of my posts so I know you did it, and make sure it’s done at least sometime in July because that’s when I’m posting the masterpost! 

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How do you write your discussion posts? Was this helpful for you?

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61

[THE BLOGGING DIARIES] The Evolution of My Blog

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So, my blog has changed. A lot.

You may be thinking, “Mikaela, it’s only been six months. How have you changed your blog so many times?” I’M WEAK, OKAY? And I’m also a huge perfectionist, so I want everything to look right. And I thought it’d be really fun to take a Time Turner and look back at what my blog used to look like, so here goes nothing!

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Theme

Sela

So, my first ever theme was Sela. WordPress gives you a limited number of themes when you first start out, and this one was the most appealing to me. It wasn’t until a month into blogging that I discovered the other themes I could use, so I was stuck with this one for a while. I looked around a lot of other blogs and preferred their style much more than my own, which lead me to…

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The Button blog theme! I actually didn’t even mean to activate this theme! I loved the way Puput @ Sparkling Letters‘ blog looked like, and I wanted mine to look more like hers (seriously, her blog is #goals). I didn’t know that bar on the left hand corner of the screen told you specifically what blog theme they used, so I sort of guessed by eyesight, and this was the one I chose.

I actually didn’t hate this one (and I’m pretty sure this was what lead me to theme my blog towards pink because that was one of the standard colors I could use), but doing featured images was SO HARD. Button actually shows the featured images, and if you don’t size them perfectly, they’re all different sizes when you look at the home page, WHICH BOTHERED ME SO MUCH. After I discovered that bar at the bottom, I realized the theme that actually worked for me and transferred to…

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Pachyderm! This is probably my favorite of the three that I chose! Also, much like Sela, this one doesn’t actually show the Featured Image, which makes me super happy, because I don’t have to stress about how it looks on the outside (though I now have all my graphics made in the same size, so it’d probably be fine now, BUT WHATEVER).

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Yes, even my blog name changed. I KNOW.

So, my first blog name was “Fractured Spines.” Yeah, it’s the worst name for a book blog ever. I actually took a long time trying to figure out my blog name, and I wanted a variation of “Cracked Spines” because if you see the spines of the copies of my Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s a hot mess. But, unfortunately, that name was taken by several other book blogs (book blogs that hadn’t been active in YEARS, but still), so I decided not to go with it because you can’t copy someone else’s URL. And “Fractured Spines” was the only variation that hadn’t been taken.

But, I realized that I just really hated the name, so I changed it and my URL about a week later. Thank God I did that. I actually just looked up “words related to books” in Google, and I really liked the word “well-thumbed”! I attached “Reader” to it, and was satisfied with it, and that’s how “The Well-Thumbed Reader” was born!

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Design

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So, this is the fun part. My design and graphics has changed SO MUCH. Here’s a look at my original blog header design:

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As you can see, I was totally digging the minimalism look here. I used this really nice picture of the spines of my Harry Potter books that are all cracked and worn down, hence “well-thumbed.” I used an app called Pic Collage to do this (this was before I discovered Canva). I actually really liked this header, but I up-ended the way my blog looked, and here’s the second one…

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I took a really nice picture for bookstagram that I really loved, so I decided to use it for basically everything – banners, buttons, graphics. I actually really like this one as well (and it introduced me to the Brusher font). I made this after discovering Canva, which is how most of my graphics were made after I discovered it. As most of you guys know, I changed my blog AGAIN in April and this happened…

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I discovered the magical website that is Freepik and used it to make this blog header! I still kept the same font, but made it smaller so only one word is at the bottom, but I do really love this banner (even if it’s pink and flower-y and I’m not like that whatsoever).

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I didn’t have a blogging button in my first phase of blogging, I guess you could say, so it wasn’t until my second redesign that I actually made one after seeing them around. Like I mentioned earlier, I went through this phase where I used this picture as a background for everything, hence this blog button. I felt meh about the way it looked then, and I still feel meh about it now, to be honest.

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Of course, after my third re-design, I had to change the button. I’m actually really proud of how this one turned out! I used the same background of watercolor flowers that I did for my blog header, but I also manged to find a watercolor book to use from Freepik as well! It took a lot of editing to do this, but I’m really proud of how it turned out.

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This is going to be the most interesting part of this post (well, at least to me)! My graphics have definitely changed A LOT, much like my photography. I used Pic Collage to make these graphics at first! I was an avid Books Amino user, and I used these types of graphics as my featured images there, so I thought it’d be a good idea to make them on my blog. Obviously, a terrible decision.

These featured images were also a product of Pic Collage! This was around the time when I had Button as my blog theme and it showed featured images, so I attempted to make them all the same size. It honestly didn’t work out too well, which is probably what irritated me the most. Also, I tried to condense my blog post titles into hashtags, for some reason? I honestly don’t even know why.

Around this time, I got into bookstagram! I remember pulling out all these books on my shelves, pushing them together, and taking photos of them up close. I downloaded this app onto my phone that blurred photos (it was pretty sketchy and would crash after I finished saving the picture, but it did its job), and after doing so, would upload the picture to Pic Collage, edit it, and type up the blog post tile onto the picture, then save it onto my phone. Yeah, it was a lot of unnecessary work. I thought these pictures were good enough for Instagram, and started on there (until I quit a week or so later).

Fortunately, my third phase of graphics didn’t last too long, and I used the same picture for my graphics yet again. This was also around the time I discovered and started using Canva, and I didn’t really know much about what I was doing. I don’t HATE these graphics, but they do look so boring and uninteresting, so I’m surprised that some of you guys still clicked on my posts.

And these are the product of some of my most recent changes (I apologize for these unnecessarily blurry pictures)! I started using my much better bookish photography as the background of my graphics and different ones, which makes the graphic pop (or at least they do in my eyes). At first, I didn’t incorporate emojis, but then I used one for one of my graphics and loved how nice it looked, so I’ve started using them for all my graphics. These are definitely my favorite out of all the graphics I made, and it’s nice to see how far I’ve come!

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Yeah, I’ve even had an abundance of arrows and borders. I’m just a natural at changing things way too much.

My first border was one that I just randomly googled. I don’t have it anymore, and I’m not going to bother to try to find it again because I literally stole it off Google. Thankfully, it’s not on anymore of my posts, but I basically just Googled “fancy black borders,” and copied the nicest one I found. Yeah, it was a bad idea.

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At this point, I was observing all of my favorite blogs because I felt like I wasn’t really doing good enough. I was just doing tags and reviews and memes, compared to all these other awesome book blogs I was following that were posting awesome discussions and had the prettiest blog designs. Hence why I adopted arrows as my borders, like many other blogs. I actually got these from another blogger who provided these as a free download, and edited the second arrow to have “Let’s Chat” on it.

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This isn’t really much different from the first set, but this was around the time when I used the same picture as the background for everything! I went from blue to pink because I started using Pachyderm and had a pink background for that, and I wanted to color coordinate everything. Around this time was when I finally started using social media as well, hence the “Follow Me” arrow.

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And here are the gorgeous arrows I’m using now! I downloaded these from Freepik, and edited them in Pic Collage, like I did with the other two, to include the “Let’s Chat” and “Follow Me” phrases on top of them. I definitely prefer these arrows over the other ones just because they look prettier and less boring and gray, I suppose?

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And those are all of the blog changes I went through! 

Obviously, it took a long time before I considered my blog to be in top shape. Even regarding my content, it took a good month before I was happy with what I was writing and publishing. So to those who have just started out or have been after it for a while now and feel unsatisfied or like what they’re doing isn’t good enough, just be patient. I know it’s hard (trust me, I’m quite the impatient person), but with time comes experience!

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What changes has your blog gone through, design-wise, content-wise, or anything-wise? 

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35

[THE BLOGGING DIARIES] How I Take and Edit My Photos

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I’m always asked, “Mikaela, how do you take your beautiful bookish pictures?”

(Okay, just kidding, I’ve never been asked that.)

I asked my followers on Books Amino whether they wanted to see a tutorial of how I take and edit my photos or how I make my blog graphics. By a small margin, the photos won out, so I decided to post this one first (though how I make my graphics will be coming up sometime later this month; don’t worry)! Obviously, I’m no photography expert – I don’t own a camera and I literally have zero previous experience in photography – but I think my pictures look all right, so I’m going for it anyway!

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But what if I don’t have enough books or buy a lot of books?

That’s totally fine! You might think judging by bookstagram that you’ll need an entire library and to buy ALL THE NEW BOOKS, but you really don’t. Some of my books look like trash because I’ve had them for a long, long time, and that’s totally fine! It’s really nothing  to worry about.

But what if I don’t have a good camera or can’t buy one?

I don’t own a camera. If you asked me what types of cameras I could use, I wouldn’t even know the answer. I use the camera on my iPhone, and it works perfectly fine and produces great pictures (at least, I think it does)

But what if I don’t have any money for props or a fancy background?

I worried about this when I first started out because I saw all the bookstagram accounts use props, but you really don’t need them! And as for the fancy background, I literally use my hardcover books and lay them spine-up on a desk in my room. It costs zero dollars!

But what if I have no skills to take pictures?

Unfortunately, I don’t have any of my old pictures because I deleted them a while ago, but trust me, they were ugly as all hell. It took me a couple of months before I started taking pictures I was satisfied in, so you WILL improve with time. Trust me.

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#1: Choose your background and photo-taking space.

Personally, my space is in the corner of my bedroom, on my desk, which is pushed against my window. I decided that the best course of action was to have my desk pushed up against the window because natural sunlight is always the best light! I highly recommend taking your pictures somewhere where sunlight is provided, or anywhere close to light!

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This is a picture of my set-up and shooting place! I took this photo at 7 at night, so, of course, it looks like trash, but let’s pretend this photo looks absolutely stunning.

Regarding your background, it could be anything! Some people use their bedspread, some people use the floor, some people actually buy backgrounds, some people use a table, some people use their bookshelves. There are endless choices out there! I know I personally struggled with finding a background I liked because nothing was working for me, and my room is (unfortunately) in no way aesthetically pleasing. I decided to start using books as a background, and I found myself finally satisfied! Be creative – there’s no need to spend a lot of money doing this.

#2: Set up the shot.

Obviously, it’s up to you what you include in the photo! I know there are some people out there who plan their photos and write down their ideas when it comes to them, but I’m more of the type of girl to just do a photo shoot and just come up with photo ideas on the fly while I’m taking pictures, so it’s all up to you! You can choose if you want a theme to your photo, what books you want to use, what props you’re using them, if you are, etc.

Then, you’ll decide how you use them and where they’ll go! This is when you arrange your shot, use your props the way you want to, decide if there’s going to be a theme concerning your photo, what angle you’ll take the photo at, etc. There are multiple styles out there – flatlays, stacked books, multiple books in one shot, a pile of books, naked books, book rainbows, etc. There are probably a lot more I’m missing out on.

#3: Actually taking the pictures.

Since I use my phone, this is a pretty non-complicated process. I usually take my photos in a wider shot, because I always end up cropping them once I edit (and I like having empty space and such). Personally, I usually only take one or two photos and then move on, but I know there are people out there who take several photos and then choose from all of them which ones they like best and trash the others, so it’s all up to you!

Feel free to change things up in the photo-taking process – take the picture from a different angle, put in a prop that you think will fit in, change the book’s position, etc. I also always look closely at all the photos I’ve taken just in case something looks off-center or doesn’t look right. Usually, I’ll take a picture, look at it to see if it’s easy on the eyes, and if it is, I move on. Definitely not everyone’s photo-taking process, but it’s mine!

And, also, don’t feel like all the pictures you take have to be THE PERFECT SHOT. I struggle with this all the time honestly – I’ll look at a picture and get frustrated with it because it’s not to my liking – and I really hope I can fix this terrible habit. Trust me, editing is a wonderful, magical process, and can make even the ugliest of pictures look like masterpieces.

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I’m sure there are many a photo-editing apps out there in the world, but, personally, I use PicMonkey. It’s a free app, and it makes my pictures look less ugly, so it’s a win-win. If you don’t have a phone, you can also use the website on the computer. Since I take my pictures on my phone, I also edit on my phone, so I’m going to show you how I use the PicMonkey app.

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Here’s the “Before” picture! I took this one last month for one of my posts in May.

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Once you download and open the app, just click the picture you want to edit, and it’ll take you to this screen. On the left hand corner of the picture, you’ll see the “Crop” button, so click that.

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Usually, I’ll choose “Instagram” for my cropping needs. Obviously, you can crop your photos for different social media sites, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, but since I just use my pictures for my blog and for graphics, “Instagram” is the best for me.

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After clicking the check mark in the top right hand corner, you’re brought back to where you started. Usually, this is when I really start editing. Personally, the only thing I play around with regarding editing my photos is “Adjust” (I’ll go more into detail about what I specifically use next), but you also have Effects, where you can choose from a variety of themes; Draw, which is pretty self-explanatory; Stickers, which is also self-explanatory; and Text, which allows you to type things and arrange them on the photo.

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After clicking “Adjust,” I usually edit using four buttons: Contrast, Clarity, Levels, and Saturation. All of these things come together to make my photos look less dull and ten times brighter. I have specific settings for each of these things (you have the ability to scroll left or right on how much of each you want), but you can play around to see what works for you. There are three buttons I don’t use: Brightness, because I take my photos near natural sunlight (though this might be helpful for those who don’t have that); Temp, which just makes your pictures “warmer” – brighter – or “colder” – duller; and Blur, if you want to focus on a specific part of the picture and blur everything else out.

Once I click the top right corner check mark, I click “Save” in the top right corner, click the first option, “Save to Camera Roll,” and that’s it! Here’s the final product of that picture I showed earlier:

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And that’s basically how I take and edit my pictures!

Hopefully, that was helpful to some of you who wanted to know all the behind-the-scenes about how I do things! I’m hoping to do two more tutorials this month (which will be how I make my graphics and how to write the perfect discussion post), but if you guys have any specific tutorials you want me to do, feel free to leave me a suggestion!

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