FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Last updated: Aug. 23, 2014

How long have you been blogging, and what inspired you to start?

Our tale begins long, long ago… The West was still wild, and ponies pulled buggies down cobblestone streets.

Haha! Okay, not quite, but it was a while ago in Internet years. :) I started waaay back in the winter of 2007.

I was freelance writing for magazines at the time. Not a lot, but enough to keep my writing dreams alive. Mostly, I wrote about travel (for those in-room magazines you get on cruise ships), health and fitness, but what I really wanted to do was break into beauty writing.

Problem was, no one would hire me!

I must have sent query letters to hundreds of magazines, pitching all kinds of story ideas, but the only responses I ever got back were rejection letters.

Still, I couldn’t stop. A dream is a dream, right? I figured, heck, if no one’s going to hire me to write about beauty, I’ll just –

And that’s when it hit me: blog!

Okay, I’m probably romanticizing things a little because I think boredom had something to do with it, but when the Barbie Loves MAC collection came along, in what I think was February of 2007, I had a new plan.

People were blogging about all sorts of things back then, just as they are now, and some people were even blogging about makeup.

Why not, right? I’ve always loved the stuff, and I still remember the first time my mom took me to a Clinique counter (I was 14).

Barbie Loves MAC was my beauty blogging gateway collection. I’d gone to the mall, got a little haul, and then once back at home a little voice whispered in my ear, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you took some pictures of this stuff and posted them online?”

As a matter of fact, yes, yes it would.

So I borrowed a friend’s camera — and at the time I couldn’t take a sharp picture to save my life — snapped some shots, and posted them to my new blog, a free one hosted by wordpress.com.

And that’s how Makeup and Beauty Blog was born. No business plans, big reveals or diva husky tabbies. It all happened organically, and it’s been one of the happiest accidents of my life.

What kind of camera do you use?

In a word: Canon (but now also Sony). I have a few cameras that I’ve acquired over the years. My main camera is the Canon EOS 70d, but I also use a Canon Rebel T3i.

I use both of them with a variety of lenses. My favorite thing about the T3i and 70d is the flip-out LCD, which I use when I’m taking pics of myself. I flip out the LCD so that I can still see myself when I’m standing in front of the camera (I also use them with a wireless trigger, so I can be standing in front of the camera a few feet away).

My sort of mid-range cameras are a Canon PowerShot G11, which is a couple models old but still gets the job done, and a smaller, faster, newer Sony DSC-RX100.

Before the Sony, I used a Canon PowerShot SD950IS when I needed something nimble and lithe. It took amazing macro pictures (it’s the only camera I used for my first two years of blogging), but I’ve since moved on to the Sony RX100 when I need excellent image quality (plus, it’s great in low light and responds almost immediately when you press the shutter button) from something compact enough to carry in a purse. The Sony RX100 and its newer versions are absolutely incredible little cameras. The best point-and-shoot cameras I’ve ever touched, much less owned.

I’m not above using my iPhone, either. It really just depends on the kind of pics I want and whichever camera I have with me.

The lens I use most often with the Canon 70d, which is my day-to-day workhorse camera, is Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.4, but the much less expensive EF 50mm f/1.8 is a fantastic DSLR lens for the money.

Both lenses are lightweight, quick as bunnies (so you can catch a kitten mid-sneeze), and take incredibly detailed shots with rich, realistic colors.

For macro/closeup pictures, I generally use a macro lens, the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8, which really captures finer details in things like powders and swatches.

As for lighting, well, that’s a looong story, but I use a lot of gear, ranging from big lights to umbrellas to separate reflectors. If I were to make one recommendation for a piece of lighting gear to dramatically improve your overall photography, I’d recommend starting with a DSLR like the Canon T5i and a good on/off camera flash, like the Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite.

Coupled with a newer model Canon Rebel camera (like the T5i), the 600EX-RT is wireless, meaning that you don’t have to keep it attached to the top of the camera. You can set it on the ground in front of you, and the camera will wirelessly trigger the flash. This is extremely handy because it allows you to bounce extra light exactly where you need it. Plus, as you progress in your photography, you can add additional Speedlite flashes to the mix to give you even more lighting options. You could have three flashes all around you that automatically trigger when you press the shutter button.

I’ve pretty much always used Canons. Not that I have anything against Nikons or any other brands. Canons just happened to be what I started using first, and so now I’m used to their way of doing things (I’ve memorized the little pictures they put on their buttons). I also had a good friend who worked for a newspaper, and he said that the staff photographers there all used Canons, so I figured, if they were good enough for the professionals, they were good enough for me.

Do you blog full time?

Only for the past few years. When I started back in 2007, I was also freelancing and working part time at a literary agency.

In some of my earliest posts, I often talked about office mishaps like the time I got trapped behind the fax machine

Ya know what? It happens.

Now, I blog from 10-12 hours per day, but a lot of that time is spent taking pictures.

I still pick up an occasional freelance writing job here and there, and I’m always looking for new opportunities (hint-hint! — you can reach me here; we’ll talk).

Are you from Hawaii?

Nope, but my husband is. I was born in the Philippines and moved with my family to the San Francisco Bay Area when I was a baby. We lived east of the city, in the appropriately named “East Bay,” otherwise known as the “Beast” in Pig Latin.

El Hub was born and raised on the island of Oahu and later moved to California, which is where we met, but we still go back to the islands every so often to visit family, and I usually blog on our trips.

That’s why I talk so much about Hawaii. :)

Do you have any advice for new bloggers?

Most importantly, write every day, or as often as you can. Sure, it’s a cliche, but writing is like a muscle, and exercise really does make it stronger.

I keep my journal on my nightstand where I can reach it in the morning when the alarm goes off. When it does, I crank out 10 minutes of free writing to start the day.

I also think it really, really helps to read. A lot! Whatever you can get your hands on. Blogs, magazines, books, shampoo bottles, clothing tags, coupons, bills — you name it. Anything that interests you, especially if you’re writing a lot. Gotta replenish your creative well, and feed your mind with new words and phrases.

Keep your mind open, too, because you never know when inspiration will strike. Sometimes you’re just tooling down the street, doop-da-doo, minding your own beeswax, when you come upon a beautiful vintage car with shiny chrome wheels…

That’s good. You tuck that away in your memory bank for later, because who knows? Maybe you’ll use the image later for a review on a shimmery eyeshadow.

Lastly, and this one is very important, think of your blog as your living room.

Okay…I can’t take credit for this one. I actually got it from Matt Mullenweg, one of the co-founders of WordPress, which is the blogging software I use.

It was at a blogging conference called Wordcamp a few years ago (check, because there may be one coming to a city near you). Matt compared his blog to his living room, and said that when you blog, it’s like inviting people into your living room. If you treat them with kindness and respect, chances are, that’s what you’ll get in return.

If you’re interested, I’ve also written a series of posts about blogging that you may find helpful.

What do you do when you’re not covered in makeup or playing with your cat?

Well, I read a lot, especially young adult fiction (loved The Hunger Games!), and I also like to exercise. Mostly running, but I’ll never turn down an offer to dance.

This may come as a surprise (haha!), but blogging is super sedentary. Sometimes I sit in front of the computer from dawn till way past dusk, and when I don’t exercise for more than a day, I feel…pretty much awful. Not only is it good for my physical health, but I think it keeps me sane, too.

On weekends, if I lived near a tropical ocean, you’d probably find me surfing or hanging out at the beach. Not here, though. The water is chilly (and filled with big sharks!). Instead, I go to a lot of movies, LOL!

Movies are one of my favorite pastimes, and watching them also gives me photography ideas. :)

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