Let’s Give Our (Fictional) Girls Some Slack

Thanks to the above tweet, and Alex @ Fiery Reads’ discussion post about female villains, I’ve been thinking about this topic a bunch lately: Do the majority of readers have more sympathy for male anti-heroes? Do we condemn female characters for the same reasons that make us love certain male characters?

After going over examples of popular characters, I have come to the conclusion that yes, we (as readers) seem to have less or no sympathy for female characters that do bad things.

I’m not talking about “badass” female characters who could kill, and probably have, to achieve such-and-such or save the world. There are already plenty of people who love characters like Celaena from Throne of Glass. Instead, I am talking about female characters who are capable of nastiness, and have done terrible things for a “bad” reason, or for no reason at all. Female character who are flawed, mean, or even downright homicidal.

Chances are, you’ve heard the words ‘unlikeable character’ thrown around in book reviews or in just commentary on books in general. Now, think about who that label was being applied to. In my experience, ‘unlikeable character’ is a descriptor almost exclusively used for female characters. For some reason, people don’t seem to like female characters who are selfish or rude, while they love male characters who exhibit those same traits.

I’m not totally blaming readers for this phenomenon. Perhaps, we like those not-so-perfect-human-being male characters because they are often love interests for at least a portion of the book. In some ways, I also think male anti-heroes and villains are more often framed as a sympathetic character within the story itself. Beyond the love interest thing, they are given reasonable motivations to be terrible, and are often given some sort of moment of redemption.

These two elements are valid reasons to like certain flawed male characters, but I don’t think the lack of those elements is reason enough to condemn their female counterparts. I personally love certain female anti-heroes that I hear of many people hating because they’re “aloof” or “mean” or even “annoying,” while loving male characters that kind of… do the exact same things. I think everyone, when they find themselves disliking a character, should access why that character is disagreeable to them, and whether they like similar characters that just happen to be male.

Don’t think that I’m trying to say that you need to love every female character. There are plenty of female characters that I despise with a fiery passion. (see: Levana) I’m just saying that it is important to give female characters a little slack. Everyone makes mistakes (some larger than others) and you might find that you might find that you not only love them despite their flaws and shortcomings, but because of them.

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The Farm 2016 // Photography

Every year me and my family have a “reunion” of sorts up at a place in Wisconsin called Palmquist Farm, which we have been traveling to and renting a cabin for the weekend from for pretty much my whole life. While we’re there we participate in winter sports like skiing and sledding, and just generally hang out for the weekend. (It’s a great time to get reading done) The place is also actually set up as farm and has a great rustic feel, so I decided to share some of my snapshots here today.

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Bookstagram Tips + Process!

I am definitely not one of the most experienced or noteworthy book photographers on instagram. However, after having been fully committed to posting about books on instagram for the last 4 months, and amassing over 500 followers, (wow! ☺️)  I have some tips I’ve learned to help people who want to get involved with taking book photography! I also decided to share my “process” for taking and editing my photos. This post became a lot longer and more detailed than I originally thought it would, so… Enjoy!

(also, while you’re at it, maybe check out my instagram and give it a follow if you haven’t already?)

Tamara’s Tips

Lighting is Everything

This is really my main rule for anything remotely photography related, and I think it especially applies to bookstagram photos because books can be very fickle objects to photograph. Too little light, and the photo comes out grainy, or overexposed, or just not nice. Too much light, and you can barely see the subjects and you get really weird patterns with shadows and stuff. Don’t even get me started on flash photography. (I don’t think a camera’s flash really ever improves a photo)

My main tip for getting the perfect lighting situation going is to use all or mostly natural lighting. Lay out your setup somewhere that sunlight from a window reaches it but does not hit it directly and then take your pictures that way! I also recommend not including the window in the shot, (if the window is in the picture your objects will likely be backlit) taking pictures from the side so that your shadow doesn’t show up in the photo, and taking your photos during the middle of the day when the sunlight is strongest and most even in color and tone.

If, like me, you live in a climate where during the winter days are very short and even during the day the sky often provides little light, I have two extra recommendations:

A. Take all your pictures on the weekend or another day that you are home during the brightest hours. Photographing an entire week’s worth of pictures takes a little bit of extra planning, but it totally pays off in terms of photo quality.

B. Replace the overhead lights in whatever room you plan to photograph in with “daylight bulbs.” Daylight bulbs are light bulbs whose light is cool toned, like the actual natural light of a bright and sunny day. They are essentially the same kind of bulbs that are in fancy photography studio lights without the studio light cost. They are better for photos because they won’t yellow or darken a photo like a normal lightbulb would, and I recommend placing them in an overhead light versus a lamp because overheads will bathe the entire area, while a lamp just creates one circle of light. I replaced the light in my room with a daylight bulb and it was probably one of the best things I’ve done. Now I can take photographs on super grey and stormy days, and with the bulb they turn out indistinguishable from photos I take on days that are actually sunny. (Left: photo taken in full sunlight, Right: Photo taken on a grey day using the daylight bulb)

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To Theme Or Not to Theme?

Many people use an instagram “theme,” which basically means that all their photos match in some way. Sometimes it means they also use a specific filter or border, they photograph everything in front of the same background, or they photograph everything in the same style. Whether or not you use a theme is up to you. Some people really like how their account looks like with a theme, and some people feel constricted by it.

I personally like having a theme. My theme is basically that all my photos are taken in my room and so have the same general background(s). I think all my photos look really great together in my feed with that one cohesive element, and having the slight restriction helps me in keeping the actual book part of my photos creative.

If you choose to use a theme for bookstagram photos, the most important thing is that the theme is easy for you to maintain. For example, my first theme was taking pictures of my books on the wooden surface of the dresser in my room. This worked pretty well when it was closer to summer, but as winter came in there was only like a half hour window where the light hit my dresser in a way that it was good for photos.  It just wasn’t sustainable. So, I switched themes, and now I’m super happy about it! Just find what works for you.

Props to the Props

Books are of course the most important part of any bookstagram photo (it’s all in the name!) but I think another thing that can really make a photo is artfully placed props. Bookstagram props can be basically anything: some popular things to use are fancy bookmarks, funko pop figures, polaroids, candles, and mugs, but you don’t have to go out and spend a bunch of money or anything.

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A few fun (mostly) free options are: items found in nature like flowers or fall leaves, food with really great packaging, or disposable coffee cups. Seriously, next time you’re in a coffee shop ask them if they’ll give you an extra cup! If you’re nice I’m 99.9% sure they’ll give you one, and then you have a new photo prop, plus you don’t have to worry about getting coffee drink stickiness all over your precious books!

Don’t be Afraid to Imitate

There are only so many ways to arrange books. You can stack them, lay them on top of each other, open them… It’s pretty easy to get stuck and not know what to photograph. When I get to a point where I don’t know what to do, I often go scroll through some of my favorite instagram accounts for inspiration. Like the certain way they posed that book next to that mug? Do you like how they took a picture of something in front of a blurred out background? Try it yourself! It’s not really copying because, well, ideas are subjective, and because you’re using your own books and your own photography skills and camera and background, the photo is going to come out entirely different. Trust me, if you put your photo next to the one that inspired you, they’ll look nothing like each other.

This also goes the same for pictures that you took that you really liked. Did that stack of books in rainbow order look really good? Did you like how you arranged that trilogy? Don’t repost the same photo, take another photo like it but with different books! If you scroll through my account you’ll see that there are certain types of pictures that I redo with different books all the time. I do it because those photos look great, and on my feed it doesn’t look repetitive, it looks cohesive and nice!

Have a Bookstagram Buddy

After having looked at your own photos for a while while taking and editing them, it’s easy to start critiquing every little part of them without still looking at the big picture. This is especially where it pays to have a buddy you can send your photos to and ask, “is this good enough for me to post?” And, your buddy can really be anyone whose artistic judgement you trust. It can be another bookstagramer, or like me, it can just be your best friend who also really likes photography. Just have someone for all those times you start doubting your book photgraphy skills.

Stay Chill

If you get really into bookstagram, you probably will occasionally obsessed over your follower numbers, or the amount of likes you get compared to others, how your feed looks, or whether that certain picture was truly good enough to post. I’m not going to tell you not to, because it happens. But it also important to remember to look past it and remember to post book photography for yourself, not for the approval of other people.

Tamara’s Book Photo Process

1 // The Actual Photo Taking

I take all of my book photos with my Cannon Rebel T3 in the safety of my own bedroom, which looks like this: (yeah, you probably recognize it)

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My usual routine is just to take a stack of books off of my bookshelf and take a ton of different photos of a bunch of different setups. As for putting the setups themselves, it just depends. Sometimes I have a goal in mind for the photo, (such as completing a certain tag, or photographing a certain book to post about my review) sometimes I have the full idea of a picture in my head, and sometimes I just throw a bunch of books and props on my bed and see how I can arrange them. While I do put a lot of thought everyday into what could make a good photo, I’ve found that a lot of my very best photos happen totally spontaneously.

2 // Import + Sort

This step is by far the most tedious. After a session of photo taking I usually have 100 or more photos. I’ll import them all to the Photos app on my computer, then I start the long and painful process of flipping through all of them and deciding which are terrible and which are good enough to save. My #1 reason to not use a photo is if it is not entirely in focus. I am very picky with the focus of my photos, which is why I take so many. After I’ve sorted through all the photos and decided on my favorites, I save them to a folder on my laptop that is just for unedited photos.

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3 // Editing!

This is arguably the most important part of the process. I think every photograph can benefit from editing. I’m not saying you have to do a ton, or add a bunch of filters, but a little brightness and vibrance can really bring out the life of a photo. Think about it this way: A camera does its best to make each photo as best an approximation of real life as it can capture. To really bring the image all the way to what your eyes see, you have to help it along a little bit.

For my own editing, I use a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, and I don’t use any filters. Not because I think filters are bad, but because I like to have more control or my photos and with filters everything is preset and all you can control is the degree to which the filter affects the photo.

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The first thing I do in Lightroom is increase the exposure, contrast, and vibrance. Those are the three settings that I use to affect my photos most because they add brightness and make the colors really pop. After that I play around with all of the other settings until I’m happy with how it all looks.

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Next, I export the photo from the Lightroom and move into Photoshop. I use Photoshop to add my watermark (if you look closely at any of my pictures you should be able to find a tiny “tamaraniac” along one of the angles) and crop it in to a square. Cropping my photos can take as long, or even longer, than editing them because I have to decide how big I want the objects in the photo too look, and what I want to crop out. Once I have my picture finalized, I save it to my computer as a jpeg. To transfer it to my phone for posting, I text myself each image using the iMessage app on my computer.

4 // Sharing with the World

Taking the actually photos and editing them is fun, sure, but sharing them on Instagram is the actual fun part. I like to only post once a day at most, and I always make sure to post at a time where the most people will see it: usually around 4 or 5 o’clock. As for tagging, in the notes of my phone I have a list of book-related instagram tags that I copy and paste for every post. If you are looking for tags to use, some I recommend are #instabooks and #yabooks, but you can also look at what your favorite accounts tag with for suggestions!

I hope these tips and the look into my own photography process was helpfully in some way! Do you have a favorite bookstagram account? Are you a bookstagramer yourself? Let me know in the comments!

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I Moved to WordPress!

If you haven’t already heard: ta-da, my blog is now self hosted through wordpress. *cue confetti* I am super excited about the change because the new platform is going to allow me to do ALL THE THINGS. I also think my new theme is super pretty, though I still have some modification to do.

The move hasn’t affected most things. I have imported all my past posts, and I am, of course, still the same great Tamara. However, there are still somethings that it will affect in various way to various degrees, so I have made a handy little list.

What does this mean for…

  • The tumblr: If you didn’t know, throughout my full blogging career I have been hosted through tumblr. That may seem a little odd to you if you only know of tumblr in its current state, but back when I started using it in 2011 (no, you can’t see any of my posts from then. shhhhhh.) more people used it like an actual blog host. Well, I am not going to delete the tumblr. In fact, I will be using it now more like most people use tumblr. So go follow me on tumblr- tamaraniac.tumblr.com. 😀 Over the coming weeks (months? this could take ages) I will be going through my past posts and making each one an excerpt that will link to its full post on this blog. Why will I be doing that? Well, that brings me to…
  • The links: Most of the links from the past will be broken now. But not irreparably broken. See, if you want to get to that post all you need to do is replace the ‘tamaraniac.com’ part with ‘tamaraniac.tumblr.com’ and that link will bring you to the tumblr version of the post. Which in turn, once I go through and edit all the tumblr posts, will bring you to the post on this blog. Get it? I knew you would.
  • the email/rss subscription: Did you know that my old blog had email subscription? Yeah, probably not, because when I checked this morning the only person who was subscribed was my mother. (hi, mom!) So you should really follow me through email on this 2.0 version of my blog. 😉 If you followed me through an RSS subscription tool, I really don’t know what that means for you. If it’s pointed to the RSS feed for ‘tamaraniac.com’ I would think you would have switched over with me. Either way, you’ll probably figure it out soon if you start seeing posts I reblog on tumblr in your subscription or something. If your preferred following method is bloglovin’ then you can go follow my blog with Bloglovin on it’s brand new bloglovin’ page. (the old one is connected to the tumblr blog)
  • the comments: There should be a way to import my old disqus comments to this blog (maybe) but this honestly isn’t the hugest priority for me. As it is I didn’t have that many comments in the first place so maybe I could just copy and paste them all over manually. That feels kind of like cheating though. I don’t know. We’ll see.
  • the instagram: Okay, I’m not gonna pretend the blog move changed anything for my instagram. I just think y’all should go follow me on instagram. 😉 instagram.com/tamaraniac

Okay, that should be it! I think this new era of my blog is gonna be great, and I hope you are willing to stick with me to see it.

See ya! -Tamara

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Black Friday Clothing Haul

This year I went Black Friday shopping at the Mall of America for the first time, and it actually wasn’t too crazy. The Mall of America is one of the malls closest to me, so it really makes most sense to go there. We arrived around two o’clock after the morning rush had ended, and since we took public transport we didn’t have to spend time fighting for a parking space.

The first store I stopped at was American Eagle. Normally I don’t shop there because a lot of their clothing seems a bit overpriced. But for black friday everything was 40% off, so it was actually very reasonable.

Black Friday #1

At American Eagle I bought two pairs of leggings, one velvet and one patterned, a simple grey sweater and a loose-cut lacy purple shirt. I also got a free fleecy blanket (pictured in the background) with my purchase.

The next store where I bought things was Nordstrom. They didn’t really have black friday sales, but I did buy a chunky knit coral sweater dress (above) from the brand BP and a new winter parka style coat (below) from Topshop that I really love.

Black Friday #2

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