I recently re-arranged my swatch room and lighting setup (a couple months ago) and thought it’d be fun to do a post about both my process of swatching polishes and getting posts ready as well as how I take my actual photos. You guys have been asking me to do this kind of post for awhile but laziness usually wins out, haha. I’ll break it down into three parts-
Before the polish arrives
I find that the more I can get done before polish comes in that I need to post about, the better! Usually once I’m done swatching I’m so worn out that I don’t have the energy to write up an entire post. So, once I know something is on the way, I usually will write a bare bones draft of a post.
I’ll write up an introduction, I’ll get the brand links/urls in, the daily dose of mugen photo, information about the release date, collection & polish names if I got them in advance, etc. I make sure to leave blank spaces for my overall opinion of the collection and the formula/number of coats/my thoughts on each individual polish. I also leave blanks for any missing information so that I’ll remember to hunt it down or fill it in once the polish gets here.
I also keep a document on my computer where I do most of my organization (I could give in to the planner craze and go that way but I’m always changing things up or shifting them around so I feel like a document works better for me. Also, it’s free). I list what I need to get done that week (that I can’t schedule in advance) by day (such as posting in certain places, what needs to be pinned to pinterest, any ongoing posts I’m working on, etc). I also list what is currently scheduled to be posted for each day in the upcoming weeks, since often I’m a month or more out on posts that are done and just waiting to go live.
I try to keep an eye on when things are set to be delivered since often I swatch them the same day. If the brand does not give me a tracking number, sometimes I can still track it using this method of tracking usps mail without a tracking number.
I’ll usually get ready in the morning before the mail comes. I remove any polish that I’m currently wearing and use a nice thick cuticle balm to make sure my hands are nice and moisturized. I find that applying balm or oil while swatching results in oily fingers in the photo and accentuates any flaky skin (in photos, the opposite is true in person) for me, so I do not use any while swatching. If I’m swatching a lot at once, I will though sometimes use a sugar or salt scrub halfway through to help remove any stubborn glitter or flakies and add a little moisture back to my hands.
I then set up my swatching area. I usually have one piece of paper towel (that I reuse several times before tossing it) sitting out with my lint free wipes, Zoya Remove + (a nail polish remover with glycerine in it so it’s not as drying) and a matte top coat to remind me to use it before removing the polish if it’s something that may look neat matte. This is where I’ll remove each polish after swatching. My favorite part of the area is the Fairy Dust That Shit sticker that Tunay Na Mahal got me!
I have a second piece of paper towel that I use underneath my hands while applying polish. I have a small glass to hold pure acetone for cleanup, my E.L.F. concealer brush for cleanup and a peel-off basecoat (Yellow Stopper) and top coat (Out The Door) for swatching. I sit this in front of my computer so that I can easily access the draft post to fill in number of coats and formula notes in real-time and so that I can watch something on Youtube to help pass the time in between coats.
Once the mail arrives, I unbox everything and then line them up in my nail polish rack in the order that I’ll be swatching them. Usually it’s holos first if I’m trying to catch the sun, then I usually will order it from easiest to remove (cremes) to the types that tend to leave glitter or shimmer everywhere or stain the cuticles during removal. This is so that I don’t end up with one lone microglitter on my finger through an entire set of swatches. I also will tip any bottle upside down at this point that contains larger shaped glitters so they have some time to make their way towards the top.
After that, I get started swatching. As mentioned before, I first use one coat of Yellow Stopper for a base. This makes it easy to just slide the polish right off with a lint free wipe after I’m done photographing it. I use a timer on my computer to wait a full two minutes between coats- I know some bloggers just go back to back with the coats and that could save me a lot of time but for me making sure I wait for it to dry a bit helps me apply it best and is how long I wait between coats when I’m actually polishing my nails. I fill in the number of coats and the formula into my post draft while I’m waiting for it to dry before top coating it. That makes it easy to not have to remember later on how many coats I used or how the formula was.
If I need to take photos in the sun or the shade, I head downstairs and onto my front porch area. Usually the first couple of times I go out Mugen will look at me like “wtf r u doin” and then refuse to look at me when I go back inside and not wag his tail at all! Like he’s mad I made him think I was leaving but then I just came back inside. So sassy.
After the first few times, he just stays napping.
Before I switched to this setup, I was previously using just the OTT lamp and no tripod- I want to show you the difference just lighting & a tripod can make in your photos:
Crazy, right? I hate looking at my older photos now, especially knowing such a small change could make a huge impact. The only downside is that it seems that using 3 lights kills off holo polishes, so I have to get those in the sun (which isn’t always cooperating). Also, although I could pose with my hand to the side like in my photos, they’re actually rotated- I swatch with my fingers pointed towards the ground as I find it a lot easier for consistency purposes to line them up properly that way. And for me- even though it’s the exact same photo, it looks more appealing for some reason.
For macros, I use an Olloclip for the Iphone 6 +. I usually only use one of my lights for these photos as I find I get the least amount of shadowing along the sides of my nails if I can angle it directly above my nail. I angle my hand towards me (and yes, it kind of hurts a bit after awhile) again because I get the least amount of shadowing this way.
With a phone macro lens you have to get really close to the nail for it to be in focus (as you can see, I have frequently gotten so close I smudged polish onto the olloclip itself, ha) and I’ve found this is the best angle to not have the phone itself cast shadows onto the nail. I also use a black shirt instead of my normal black paper photo background- because the light has to be closer and more intense, it would always turn out very grey when I used the photo background.
For videos, I’d had a difficult time finding a tabletop tripod that was heavy enough to not tip over and that I could place across from me to still be able to see what I’m doing on my nails. I purchased a JOBY Gorillapod and was initially disappointed when it fell right over but eventually found something heavy enough that I could rig it up to. If you follow me on facebook or instagram, you already saw this awhile back! I really thought that I’d be doing more videos but instagram completely kills my video quality and I can’t figure out why, so I’ve been frustrated 🙁
Once everything has been swatched, I then go through and take group bottle shots/macros of the bottles and brushes.
After the swatchin’ is done
Once the last bottle gets put back in the nail rack, I transfer all of the photos over to my computer and place them into individual folders by polish name. I then start the most annoying portion of the process for me- narrowing down photos! Depending on the type of finish (if it needed sun/shade shots, matte, etc.) each polish usually has between 40-100 photos that I have to narrow down to just a few. This takes a super long time and I usually try to watch something on netflix while I’m doing it so I don’t pull my hair out.
After that’s done, it’s onto editing! I do very minimal editing (resizing, sharpening, placing watermark, adding text and occasionally color correction of stubborn teals or blurples) so I just use a free program called GIMP. Watermarking the photos does take awhile so I usually try to zone out watching netflix while doing this part, too.
Once everything is edited, I make any collages needed (I use the website Picmonkey to do so, it makes it super easy!) add the photos to the blog entry, copy over any to my instagram folder that I want to post there and then get the post scheduled! The polishes get put away into their forever homes (in a drawer of my helmer) and then I usually use a mani bomb to relax and rehydrate my cuticles.
I hope you guys have enjoyed this look behind the scenes! Hopefully it was helpful for those of you wanting to blog but not knowing where to start or at least just entertaining for purely nosy purposes (is it just me that loves seeing where bloggers do their work?). I know it sounds a little involved (and overly verbose), but admittedly my OCD and anxiety definitely creep into my blogging life so I’m very specific about how I need to do things in order to not feel overwhelmed and burnt out. If you’d like to check out more general posts about blogging, you can check out my posts about honest reviews, disclosure and working with indies. My two year blogversary giveaway also ends later tonight if you haven’t checked that out yet.
And if you’re a blogger- do you do anything the same/different as I do? Any tips for me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!