A Miami Guide to Photo Styling

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That’s it! I’m moving to Miami.

Okay, not really but it would be nice, wouldn’t it? Hot temps, killer cocktails, and art deco architecture that makes you stop in your gladiator sandals – what could be more tempting?

Over the past three months, I’ve been on a bit of a travel splurge. I managed to cover five cities in five weekends; eating up (literally and figuratively) every bite of culture possible. September took me to New Orleans, where the French-inspired artwork, jazz music and cajan tastes filled the streets. October started in Sea Island, Georgia and ended on what would become the unintentional Florida excursion: Miami one week, spontaneous Taylor Swift concert in Tampa the next, and two weeks after that, a trip to Orlando Disney’s Magic Kingdom for a work conference. Not bad, aye?

Not only did was the site seeing creatively inspiring, but it also brought me back to basics. Take South Beach Miami for instance. Yes, the streets may be filled with barefoot tourists and restaurant hostesses tempting you with BOGO margaritas, but the city has an added pop. It’s inspired by the art deco era of architecture and I just can’t get enough.

The art deco style is characterized by its bold geometric shapes and vibrant, high contrast colors. Though the style is often noted for it’s symmetry, it is also renowned for it’s intricate ornamentation. Now now, I won’t make you sit through another art history class (am I the only person in the world who got anything out of those?!), but I will give you the goods on how to take this deco-fab look with you.

Upon arriving home and making my travel photos frame-ready, I realized these art deco photographs highlighted each of the styling techniques I use daily. As we all know, it’s the smallest details that can elevate your social media pages the most. Let’s talk photo styling, shall we?

The off center photo on the left let's the fruit take the stage. The green apples are a perfect contrast against the pink of the fruit's skin.
The off-center photo on the left lets the fruit take the stage. The green apples are a perfect contrast against the pink of the fruit’s skin.

The Rule of Thirds. There is something beautiful about a perfectly centered shot; but there is something interesting about an off-center frame. Let the items in the back of the frame tell a story too. Try it at home: use the gridlines on your iPhone camera to map out your space.


 

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Create Angles. The straight and narrow is an obvious choice. Adding a sharp angle to your photo makes for unexpected drama. Try it at home: perhaps that marble cheese board turns a sharp 45 degrees before snapping the holiday tabletop pic.


 

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For added drama, take your negative space to the max by highlighting a single object in your shot. But don’t forget the rule of thirds!

Never Forget Negative Space. My coworker makes fun of me for this one (It needs more negative space, dang it!). I am a true believer that the items in your photo should be balanced by the same amount of negative space. My OCD can be at ease! Try it at home: start with a blank canvas an step back – literally. Your morning read and Christmas socks will shine a little brighter by using your cozy white comforter as negative space.


 

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Taken in Sea Island, Georgia. I love the way the palms create an organic frame around this sanctuary. Natural details at their finest!

Add life. Avoid the art history still life paintings you studied by adding life to your photographs. Try it at home: live plants dangling from your styled #shelfie or even a hand reaching for popcorn on your Sunday vibes post will work.


 

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Don’t forget the hidden detail. People appreciate the authenticity in your posts. Don’t skimp on making sure you capture ever detail. Try it at home: an ornate vintage tea cup can add instant style to a stale coffee table shot.


Lastly, the golden rule. Always, always photograph your subject in natural light. Yes, that even means your Christmas tree!

Share your shots with me on Instagram with #boldwithblanc. Happy styling! 

 

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The Fake It ‘Til You Make It Theory

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In the eighth grade, my best friend Lindsay introduced me to a theory of hers: fake it ’til you make it. No, she wasn’t telling me to get catty with the popular crowd. She wasn’t telling me to cheat on tests or go to the tanning bed. She was teaching me to work hard and never let anyone or anything get me down. When the going gets tough, smack a smile on and keep pushing because, ultimately, you are worth more than the tough time you are going through.

A bit harder than it sounds, huh? When school work turns into work-work, friendships come and go so quickly, and high school flings turn into long distance challenges, this theory can sometimes be forgotten. Yet even after ten years, our juvenile hypothesis still exists. Today, I like to think of that 8th grade advice as my beginner’s course at Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS academy.

New York Time's Best Seller, #GIRLBOSS (photo sourced)
New York Time’s Best Seller, #GIRLBOSS (photo sourced)

You may have heard of Sophia Amoruso. She turned her hobby of selling vintage clothing into a 28-million dollar corporation called Nasty Gal – without borrowing a dime, I might add. She is also the author of the New York Times Bestseller, #GIRLBOSSSophia knows what’s up, and if you ask me, she is an avid user of the F.I.T.Y.M.I theory.

I read #GIRLBOSS about eight months ago. To this day, it has become some sort of ambition-bible to me. I have never been one to have a strict belief system. I don’t put all my eggs in one basket when it comes to luck, magic, or anything of the sorts. I guess I have found that there is too much uncertainty in life. Though, there is one thing I can count on 100% of the time and that is myself. No tricks in the book can work as well as me working my ass off to reach a goal. Period. And when times get rough with work or relationships, that’s when you roll with the punches and keep moving.

I think it has to be mentioned that since the day I was born, my mother has warned me of two (among many) tormenting habits of mine. One is the ever-classic “watch your tone, Tarah Kathryn” and the other being “You are your own worst enemy.” Whether it was a prom dress that I wasn’t 150% confident in, a senior thesis that I picked to pieces right before it was due, or the 10-billion mistakes I made when starting my first job, I have NEVER had a problem scrutinizing myself.  Honestly, I think it comes pretty natural to most of us.

Now, I like to think of myself as a little angel and devil; a cheerleader and rioter; a Jekyll and Hyde of sorts. Everyone gets into a rut every now and then. It’s important to know how to motivate and have confidence in yourself because, trust me, sometimes it’s all that matters. It’s all about kicking ass but knowing when your plate is too full (sorry October blog posts!). Whenever I have a stressful week or a day that makes me feel numb inside and causes me to have to ice my eyeballs from computer-staring (yes, that happens. Sorry doc.), I turn to chapter six and let Sophia tell me why it’s so important to keep going and keep pushing.

“You get back what you put out, so you might as well think positively, focus on visualizing what you want instead of getting distracted by what you don’t want, and send the universe your good intentions so that it can send them right back.”

Without even knowing it, Sophia has read the F.I.T.Y.M.I handbook in more ways than one. In an early chapter, she talks about role models and the art of comparison. Though admiration can be good, there can also be a discouraging side to it – hello social media superstars!

“I don’t want you to look up, #GIRLBOSS, because all that looking up can keep you down. The energy you’ll spend focusing on someone else’s life is better spent working on your own. Just be your own idol.”

The dictionary defines the word “fake” as a thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham. The irony of the F.I.T.Y.M.I theory is that, in order to truly make it, you can never fake yourself. In order to make your way to the top, you have to stay true to your values. Listen to others but take everything with a grain of salt. The second you lose your sense of encouraging-self, your theory has failed.

Before ending her book, Sophia instructs everyone to bet on themselves. Her stance is clear and to the point, stating that if you are frustrated because you are not getting what you want, you need to stop for a second and ask yourself: Have I actually flat-out asked for it? We can’t expect the world to read our minds.

“Whenever I’m faced with improbably situations, I remind myself that if I really want something badly enough, I have it within myself to make it happen.”

#GIRLBOSSes across the country chimed in on Sophia’s badassness and gave their own “how-to” tips:

Alexi Wasser, creator of imboycrazy.com advises us to “figure out what you love doing and don’t suck at, then try to figure out how to make a living doing that!”

Christene Barberich, Editor in Chief of Refinery29 urges readers to “stop caring so much about what other people think. Find a way to hear what you want. I don’t know if there is any greater feeling than proving you are your own biggest advocate.”

This is starting to sound like a You-Go-Girl speech for the ages, I know, but consider the sources here. Each of these women #girlbosses, have started companies, elevated brands, and formed solid, respectable reputations. They know what their talking about because they faked it ’til they made it, letting nothing get in their way. Whether it’s your dream to start your own company or to be the best employee your boss has ever seen, their advice works for you.

“You’re challenge as a #GIRLBOSS is to dive headfirst into things without being too attached to the results. When your goal is to gain experience, perspective, and knowledge, failure is no longer a possibility.”

Now, I am not Sophia Amoruso. The accomplishments under my belt probably look like a crumb left on her kitchen counter, but I get her and I don’t take her advice lightly. I have spent the beginning of my fall on a workaholics binge – and I wish I was talking about the tv show. That being said, I made little time for myself and my relationships. I forgot that the one thing that makes me most happy is my creativity. I was in a creative funk. Welp, it’s time for the funk to end and for me to get back to the blogisphere with my second #nextlevelchallenge:

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6 steps to get out of that creative funk:

  1. Know when your plate is too full and diet. Freelance design was taking over my me-time this summer. By cutting that out of my diet, I had time to write again.
  2. Rearrange your space. Move the furniture, change up your artwork, add a plant. Creating new scenes in your daily life can help you see things through a different light.
  3. Have a birthday. Okay, you can’t technically do this now if your birthday is in March but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate you. Order the champagne with lunch and get the pricey shoes.
  4. Explore. Get out of your everyday landscape and go see things. This is where I feel most inspired. Shh, my 4-day excursion to Miami is coming to the blog next week!
  5. Call an oldie but a goodie. A bestie always knows the answer; even the ones we don’t want to tell ourselves. Catching up with someone you love can make all the difference.
  6. Read and write it out. This is the best advice I’ve ever been given. Write out your thoughts. And of course, read #GIRLBOSS. Obvs.

In the final words of Sophia, “bad bitches are taking over the world… We’ve arrived, and we’re killing it. There’s a chance for you, #GIRLBOSS. So take it.” … and fake it ’til you make it. 

xoxo

Meet Alexandra Styles

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I met Alexandra at St. Alban coffee shop on a sunny Wednesday morning. She walks in with a smile on (a usual look for her) and a boho, summer maxi-dress with the most delicate embroidered detailing. If you were meeting her for the first time, you would instantly feel welcome.

Alexandra Munzel, the creative behind Alexandra Styles, is a fashion stylist with an air of confidence. Her cool, calm, and collected personality draws you in as if she’s your hip older sister about to give you fashion advice. Her clientele (from Charleston to Dubai!) keeps her busy as she educates them on their own closets: what works for their specific body type and skin tone, which classic clothing elements to stick to, and what trends they can mix into their wardrobe. Her resume includes world traveling, styling celebrities for events like the Golden Globes, and building couture fashion brands from the ground up. Yet there is one thing about her that I like most: she is incredibly humble. Alexandra makes you feel instantly comfortable and has a “you-can-do-it” and “live-your-life” kind of mentality.

We order coffees and I splurge for The World’s Best banana bread. Right away we both get off on tangents about our goals and aspirations: then and now. I sit and listen to her stories and knowledge and think to myself how amazing her path has been and how my 24-year-old self still has so much ahead of me.

“Every path you take is a lesson,” she tells me.

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Alexandra Munzel, stylist behind Alexandra Styles

Tell me about the Alexandra Styles. Who are you as a company? What do you stand for?

“People often think my last name is “Styles,” which it’s not. I wanted to create a brand outside of my name because what I do is for other people, not for myself. When I created Alexandra Styles five years ago it was to help enable people to feel better about themselves through fashion. It was a merger of two entities I had a passion for… education and fashion.

I didn’t become a stylist because I had the financial means to do so. It’s actually quite the opposite. I didn’t grow up with money to spend on clothing and accessories. I had my first job when I was nine, delivering newspapers, and I’ve worked every year since. My father wanted me to learn the importance of making my own money and being able to manage it at a young age. So, I want people to know that it doesn’t require money to develop a sense of personal style; it takes a better understanding of one’s sense of self.  Then the  formula becomes simple: when we look good, we feel good.”


I want people to know that it doesn’t require money to develop a sense of personal style; it takes a better understanding of one’s sense of self.


 Describe your personal style. How does that play a role in your business?

“I try to practice what I preach and follow the rules that apply to my figure and coloring.  My personal style is rather eclectic but I always include a classic piece in my daily wardrobe. Trends come and go but the classics have major staying power in ones wardrobe. I tell my clients to spend their dollars on the pieces that will stay with them the longest. Not only will trends be out of style quickly, but not all trends work for all people.”

You have worn many hats over the years as a teacher, corporate PR manager, celebrity stylist, and boutique owner to say the least. How did those experience train you to start your own business? 

“I have had a lot of jobs in my life and I am often questioned why. For a long period of time, I just couldn’t settle into anything. It took me a while to relax, listen to my strengths, and trust myself. By the time I made the decision to start my own company, I was 35… hardly a young person anymore. However, I had enough experiences under my belt to make a very calculated decision. I’ll never forget – I was sitting at my dining room table, looking out the window, and it hit me.  I knew what I was going to do and it was going to start tomorrow. I’ve never looked back.”

We’re all dying to know… What was it like to style for A-list celebrities? How did that experience impact your styling perspective today?

“Every experience in one’s life has an impact on who we become. Working with A-list celebrities and stylists was wild, crazy, insane, stressful, and fun all at the same time. I quickly learned that there is a great irony which can exist within the fashion industry.  Fashion is beauty, art, composition, perfection and yet there is a very dark and ugly side to it. I told myself to always keep fashion fun and if at any time, I didn’t enjoy it, then I needed to walk away. “

Talk me through your design process. How have you mastered the art of styling?

“Whether I am styling one’s personal wardrobe or styling a shoot for a magazine, I always listen and pay attention to the subject matter. I try to get inside the person’s head and ask “what is their daily life like?” “what is this person’s needs?”. You need to know the functionality of the wardrobe.
Once I’m selecting clothing, I make a list of the client’s needs and really focus in on what I’m buying. There should never be a shock factor – it always has to make sense.”

What’s the next step for your brand?

“For better or for worse, my brain never stops. The only thing that inhibits me is time…there’s never enough of it.  Developments of a book and a TV show are on the top of the list but always with my goal in mind: I want to continue to help people feel better about themselves through fashion.”

What is your best networking strategy? 

Alexandra literally lol’s and humbly admits that she isn’t the best at networking. “My best strategy is being myself, always. If people like who you are, then great.  If they don’t like who you are, you just saved them, and yourself, a LOT of time.”

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your professional career?

“Give everyone a chance. It’s amazing the talents people have if they are put in the environment that lets those talents really shine. Always work hard and have good intentions. Listen twice as much as you speak.”

If you could give a piece of advice to young women in the professional world, what would it be?

“Live! Life is short. Take chances when you are young because you never get that time, innocence and ability to experiment back. Follow your passion and create something of your own. “

Just for Fun:

Quick! Dress me for an outdoor summer soiree. Ready, set, go:

“A neutral wedge shoe (beige or metallic) to elongate your legs and so you don’t sink into the grass. I’d go with a dress that flatters your figure and personality – either a bright color that complements your skin tone or a print that isn’t too large. Patterns and prints are important because they can either magnify or swallow a person depending on their figure.”

Name your go-to Charleston lunch spot. 
“A sandwich from Normandy Farms sitting on a park bench with a great friend.”
Describe your home’s style in 3 words. 
“Eclectic, classic, and colorful…sound like my wardrobe?”
Afternoon drink on the beach or cocktail on the rooftop? 
“A drink on the beach”
What’s your favorite place to travel?
“Any place that I’ve never been.”

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