Sunday, 30 March 2014

How to Style a Leopard Coat | With Boyfriend Jeans & Brogues

Leopard & black coat with boyfriend jeans
Okay, so I think this may the final hurrah for my leopard coat this year. It was needed last weekend because it felt like winter again for a few days (in fact we had torrential hailstones the same day), but it did give me the chance to pair it with baby blue which I've been wanting to do all winter. 

I think a great way to tone down the potential "tartiness" of a large block of leopard print is to go for the masculine chic look - I went with a blue gingham shirt, my husband's sweater, boyfriend jeans and black patent brogues. Take away the coat and it's all very mannish (that's the way I like it), but then it's feminised to some extent with the pop of red in the bag and my lipstick.

I know a few bloggers who do the masculine chic look really well (Daniella I'm looking at you!) so I think their style has rubbed off on me a little.

What about you - do you embrace the man in you at all, or do you like touches of it in, say, boyfriend jeans or a good brogue? Do let me know in the comments!

Leopard & black coat
Leopard & black coat with boyfriend jeans & brogues
Leopard coat & baby blue
Coat: Zara | Shirt: Marks & Spencer | Sweater: Borrowed from the husband | Jeans: La Redoute | Brogues: Asos | Bag: Asos | Sunglasses: Asos (similar)

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Friday, 28 March 2014

Photo Tips Friday | How to Get the Best Outfit Photos With a Point & Shoot (Compact) Camera in 4 Easy Steps

How to Get the Best Outfit Photos With Your Point and Shoot Camera
If you're a blogger who takes outfit photos and doesn't happen to own a DSLR but does have a point-and-shoot camera (also known as a compact camera), chances are you may not be happy with your pictures. I say this only because I hear so many bloggers say their photographs would be better if only they had "a better camera". Whilst a DSLR with a fast lens (one that reacts more sensitively, or faster, to light) will certainly give you fantastic quality photos, it is possible to get really good results with a point-and-shoot. You may have to think a little more about lighting, time of day, location, etc., but if you think it's all the camera's fault, think again. There are four easy steps that can make the world of difference to your outfit photos, and here I'll explain what they are (in the easiest terms I can think of - I always try to avoid too much jargon in these posts).

Ever heard the expression "a bad workman blames his tools"? It's true in photography - to some extent. Something I notice a lot in fashion and style blogs are photos that I can tell were taken with a point-and-shoot, but a few basic rules weren't adhered to, and the results could be so much better with the same camera (tools).

So - here is my "before" photo, taken with my Fujifilm FinePix AV130:

Point & Shoot camera photo tips: Don't take outfit photos like these!
There are lots of things wrong with this picture:

  • It's too dark and grey overall (bad light source)
  • There's a distracting bright blue car in the background
  • My body is distorted - big head, bulbous body, tiny legs
  • The foreground comes right up into the picture and falls away at the bottom

However, don't fret - most of these problems can be rectified. Here's how!

1. Stop using the wide angle setting - get the photographer to stand back and zoom in

This is the most common mistake I see in outfit shots. The camera is switched on, the shutter held down to focus, and the photo is taken. When a point-and-shoot is switched off, the lens is tucked away in the camera body. When you switch it on, the lens is (usually) automatically set at the wide angle setting. That means more of the landscape will fit into the frame, so distortion occurs because the camera has to somehow squeeze loads into the picture. This means that anything near the camera will seem larger, and anything further away will seem smaller by comparison.

That's why I have a big head, bulbous body and small legs in the "before" picture.

The solution to getting a photo of your body looking in proportion is easy - get the photographer to stand further back and ZOOM IN, as I've done in this picture:

Point & Shoot camera photo tips
So it has improved - my body is much more in proportion. The ideal focal length - which is how much you're zooming in - is 50mm. That's because it's the view most like the one seen by the human eye, so it looks the least distorted. My camera's focal length goes from 32-96mm, so I need to zoom in about half way between the widest and the "zoomiest." 

However, there is a disadvantage to zooming in. To explain simply, the further you zoom in, the smaller the hole in the lens that lets in the light (known as the aperture) becomes. The smaller the hole, the worse the quality of your photos because the camera will compensate for the lack of light coming in and make it grainier. (You know when you see pictures of celebrities on yachts taken by the paps from a gazillion miles away? That's why they're always so grainy, because they're using huge lenses that zoom right in, and that affects the quality of the image.) Zoom in enough to stop the distortion, but not so much that you're forcing a poorer quality photo, especially when you're lacking a good light source as above. How to know? Trail and error is the best judge.

Next to sort out: the lighting is still a problem. My face is pretty dark and the photo looks flat all over.

2. Unless it's brilliant sunshine, face the direction of the sun

I took these pictures in failing light, and that was partly to try and achieve the best pictures I could in not-ideal conditions. If it's cloudy, or the sun is setting, the amount of light that will fall on you is dramatically higher if you face the direction of the sun. So although I'd already done that to some extent in the second picture, the sun was going behind the clouds a lot, so I waited till it got a little brighter, and this was the resulting picture:

Point & Shoot camera photo tips
This is much improved lighting-wise. I stand out more from the background and the colours seem brighter. Be warned though about bright sunlight: you will get very different results facing the sun when it's very sunny. 90% of the time bright sunlight is deeply unflattering, so stand in the shade if you can and take the photos there. For more tips about shooting in bright sun, read my photo tips post How to Get the Best Results in Bright Sunlight.

But once again I have a distracting background, so that needs sorting out, too.

3. Stand as far away from your background as possible, or choose an uncluttered one

One main difference between a point-and-shoot camera and a DSLR with a fast lens is that it's harder to achieve those lovely blurry backgrounds, known as bokeh. (Read my post about specifically how to achieve bokeh here.) Most point-and-shoot cameras don't have such good quality lenses, and a disadvantage of a slower lens is that it focuses on a larger area in front of and behind the subject; therefore, you'll rarely get blurry backgrounds. So work with this, and aim to shoot in front of less cluttered backgrounds, and stand further away from everything.

I moved away from the cars in this car park, and stood in front of an area of cross hatchings which gave some nice perspective (roads or paths disappearing off into the distance give the same effect):

Point & Shoot camera photo tips
The other alternative, which a lot of bloggers do, is to stand right in front of something very plain like a wall where you don't have to worry about trying to achieve a blurry background. Be careful of a lot of greenery - trees and bushes can distract from an outfit, especially if it's patterned.

So this is my before and after - see what a difference a few tweaks have made? It's much more flattering. My body doesn't look a weird top heavy shape, and my legs seem longer. The lighting is hugely improved, too. In the second picture I'm seeing myself more how I actually look. 

Point & Shoot camera tips
Now that was three tips, I bet you're thinking "What's tip number 4?". This one is vital, because you may be missing out on a really important factor that'll even improve on the results of my "after" picture enormously. It may not apply to everyone, but you must check it.

4. Check the specification of your camera for the "f stop" number (aperture)

What you're looking for is a number like "f4" or "f5.6". The f numbers refer to the size of the hole the lens can open up to (this is the aperture as mentioned in point 1), and the apertures on all camera lenses range from roughly f1.4 (a large hole) to f16 (a small hole). Therefore, the smaller the number of your f stop, the larger the hole - and the better quality, or faster, your lens is. As a general rule, most point-and-shoot cameras go up to a maximum (meaning how large it goes) of f4, and that's not very fast.

However, if you find that yours says f1.4 or f1.8, you're very, very lucky. You may well have paid a lot more than the average price of a point-and-shoot, and for good reason. I can't speak for all models, but if you have a lens that's capable of a large aperture, then do this right now:

Look up how to use the Aperture Priority setting on your camera, if it has one.

If I could put that in neon with flashing lights all around it, I would. If you have an Aperture Priority, set it to the maximum aperture (remember, small number = large hole = higher quality) that you can, and leave it there. This will do two things:
  1. Create blurry backgrounds, because a large hole in the lens cannot focus on very much in front of or behind the subject (the bit you've focused on)
  2. Allow you to take pictures in low light without causing too much camera shake

You may not realise that your camera is able to do this, and if you're not using it, then the extra money spent on a good quality fast lens has effectively been wasted. Although my point-and-shoot isn't one of those cameras, I can show you the same shot I then took with my DSLR with a large aperture for comparison:

Photo tips: Compare a point-and-shoot with a DSLR

So in theory, this is the difference using a large aperture (f1.4 shown here) will make to your photos. It's only a rough idea of what it will look like - I'm using two different cameras to prove a point. The blurry background does give the image a beautiful quality, the colours "pop" and I do stand out from the background, but your point-and-shoot may well be capable of similar, depending on how fast its lens is.

Finally, here's a recap.

All you have to do is:
  1. Stand back and zoom in
  2. Face the direction of the sun (if it's bright sunshine stand in the shade)
  3. Declutter your background.

That is pretty much it. I knew a lot of bloggers are frustrated with their outfit photos, and I've been planning this post for a while to see if my tips might help. Many think they simply have to buy a DSLR to get better results, but that's not always the case. You may be doing one or all of these things that affect your pictures, so each "trick" will improve them enormously. Do let me know how you get on, and what tips you put into practice - I hope they help!

If you've got any questions, do leave a comment and tick the "Notify me" box, or simply Tweet me: @notlamb :)


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

What I Wore to the Ballet | Patterned Dress Layered with Jeans & a White Shirt

Floral dress layered with jeans
Admit it... you were expecting a tutu and leotard, weren't you. It may come as a bit of a shock, but when I said this is What I Wore to the Ballet, I was watching - not dancing. I did use to be a ballet dancer, but gave it up about 34 years ago. I didn't make it past the age of seven ;)

We went to see the Moscow City Ballet perform (a traditional) Swan Lake at the Theatre Royal in Bath which was, by the way, absolutely stunning. I did wonder about what one wears to the ballet... does everyone get really dressed up, like I think people do at the opera? Or will everyone be in jeans as they are at so many events where I expect more people to have made an effort? I decided to steer clear of the full-length ball gown and decided on a dress for definite, but played it down - and kept myself warm - by layering it with a crisp white shirt and black jeans, and added my fabulous patent pointed black Aldo heels to add a touch of ladylikeness. What a great new word.

I'm happy to report that I was fine with my self-imposed dress code for the ballet - jeans were in abundance, but there were also several sparkly dresses and skyscraper heels I'm glad to say. Bravo to those ladies who chose to get super dressed up.

Have you been to the ballet before - and if so, what did you wear? I'd love to know!

Floral dress layered with jeans
Floral dress layered with jeans
Floral dress layered with white shirt
Catherine x
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Raincoat: c/o Laura Ashley, Dress: c/o Aspire Style, Shirt: Reiss, Jeans: c/o Wallis, Heels: Aldo, Bag: c/o Maxwell Scott, Belt: Asos, Watch: Lipsy

Linking up to: Visible MondayMonday MingleFunday MondayStyle SessionsTrend Spin Link-UpWhat I Wore WednesdayAll Things ThursdayThree-Fer ThursdayPassion for Fashion FridayFriday's Fab FavouritesSunday Style Link-Up

Monday, 24 March 2014

Black Biker Jacket with Magenta Skirt & Tan Boots

Biker jacket, midi skirt & tan boots
When you’re desperate to wear a pretty dress on a casual night out but you’re battling with chilly spring temperatures and the chance of spilling a pint down your front, a full circle skirt with a biker jacket is a practical (but still stylish) alternative. I went out for drinks with friends the night I wore this, and when you’re frequenting village pubs rather than a smart bar in town, it makes sense to err on the side of practicality with a leather jacket and boots (no skyscraper heels or floaty chiffon in other words). A faux leather biker is perfect for this time of year and I don’t think you can get a better pairing for any dress or skirt - it works every time, adding that touch of toughness and stopping you looking too girly.

A few years ago I would never have thought of this combination myself (leather jacket with a pretty dress? huh?), yet thanks to the power of the interwebs and, of course, Pinterest, the combination pops up all over the place, proving itself to be a classic and winning look. Do you pair up your biker with your dresses and skirts, or are you desperate to try it - do share in the comments!

Biker jacket & magenta skirt
Biker jacket & scarf
Catherine x
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Shop my look!

Biker jacket: Debenhams (similar), Scarf: Asos, Skirt: Asos (old), Boots: Unknown, Bag: Accessorize, Watch: Lipsy, Earrings: Unknown (old)

Linking up to: Visible MondayMonday Mingle, Funday MondayStyle SessionsTrend Spin Link-UpWhat I Wore Wednesday, All Things ThursdayThree-Fer Thursday, Passion for Fashion FridayFriday's Fab FavouritesSunday Style Link-Up


Saturday, 22 March 2014

More Ways to Style Those Grey & Red Tartan Trousers

Check trousers, red t-shirt & burgundy heels
Ahhhhh, spring. It was nice while it lasted...! These were taken in the golden hour of one of our lovely warm days last week when I dared to bare my ankles in my fierce pointed burgundy heels. (We're back to cold wet grey days now of course.) I had the genius idea of wearing them with my grey and red tartan trousers - why hadn't I thought of that before?! I think they were made for each other. This is quite a relaxed weekend outfit, and I know the heels don't exactly fit that description, but when we're not doing any walking to anywhere in particular then I like to potter around in the heels because they look, well, so pretty. I'm sure I'm not the only one!

I like to use the excuse that I'm "breaking them in" when I wear them round the house. Which is kind of true. It's just that I've been breaking in some of my heels that way for years...

What about you - do you like to potter around the house in heels when you get a chance?

Check trousers, burgundy heels
Check trousers, red t-shirt & burgundy heels
Taupe cardigan, red t-shirt & check trousers
There's just a couple of days left to enter my London Retro glasses/sunglasses giveaway!

London Retro giveaway
Catherine x
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Shop my look!

Trousers: Asos, T-shirt: New Look, Cardigan: New Look (old), Heels: New Look, Watch: Lipsy, Sunglasses: Unknown

Linking up to: Visible MondayMonday Mingle, Funday MondayStyle SessionsTrend Spin Link-UpWhat I Wore Wednesday, All Things ThursdayThree-Fer Thursday, Passion for Fashion FridayFriday's Fab FavouritesSunday Style Link-Up


Thursday, 20 March 2014

8 Redhead Fashion Bloggers You Should Know

8 RedHead Fashion Bloggers You Should Know
After my 8 Incredibly Stylish Fashion Bloggers You Should Know post last month, I realised that there were loads of my favourite bloggers that I just couldn't fit into one post - it was hard enough choosing just eight. So, a month later, I've decided to feature redheads as my next blogger theme. And you guessed it, there'll be another next month, and the month after that - until I run out of themes. So March is glorious, brilliant bloggers with red hair.

As an (unnatural) redhead myself, I always love to see just how creatively redheads can dress - none of this "no red" nonsense or that they must always wear green. You'll see from those featured that no-one shys away from pattern, and they wear every colour you can possibly think of. And whether each blogger is a natural redhead or not (I'm not, but I'm known as such, so natural or not it doesn't matter to me), their hairstyles are all different shades, styles and lengths, and that's reflected in the diversity of their style too.

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