Why “Amateur Manicure”?
Back when I made my first nail blog on tumblr, I wanted something kind of cutesy and catchy, and when “amateurmanicure.tumblr.com” crossed my mind (and was available—an amazing feat on tumblr!), it just seemed right to me. The name also always reminds me that I’m still pretty new at this stuff, and that I’m always going to be learning new things and looking up to my much more “pro” nail blogging heroes.

Where did you learn how to do your nails?
I learned where everyone learns anything these days: on the internet! I started out just reading other nail blogs and watching tutorials, and before long, I couldn’t help but start trying the stuff I was seeing myself. As far as formal training goes, however, I don’t have and don’t plan to get any. Amateur4eva!

How often do you do your nails? Do you do both hands?
The frequency varies somewhat depending on my schedule and mood, but I usually try to do something new with my nails about twice per week: once midweek, and once during the weekend. And yes, I definitely do both hands! I wear my designs around in my day-to-day life after doing them, so everything always has to match on both hands or it drives me crazy.

How do you get your nails that shape?
I use a glass nail file from OPI to file them into the square shape. I used to struggle a lot with getting straight, even square edges, but one day I stumbled upon the advice to file your nails with polish still on them, and that’s made all the difference in the world for me. I wish I could remember where I read it, because it’s brilliant! With polish on your nails, you’re not distracted by your (probably uneven and inconsistent) natural white nail line, so it’s much easier to file all your edges uniformly.

What’s your cuticle care routine?
I wouldn’t say that I have a routine, exactly—I just try to moisturize as often as possible and keep my cuticles pushed back and trimmed (when absolutely necessary). I know cuticle trimming is pretty universally frowned upon in the nail blogging world, but after years spent picking at and abusing my fingers when I was younger, I have a few nails that grow very thick, obvious cuticles that just have to be trimmed a bit sometimes. There’s no way around it. That said, I’ve taken the time and effort to educate myself about how to trim my cuticles safely, and I always use clean, good quality tools.

The products I use for moisturizing are scattered all over my home/office/purse and I generally just mix and match, but here’s what I reach for most regularly:

  • Bliss Lemon + Sage (and/or Blood Orange + White Pepper) Body Butter
  • Eucerin Intensive Repair Extra-Enriched Hand Cream
  • Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream
  • Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter
  • Nail Butter
  • CND Solar Oil

What base and top coats do you use?
I have a variety of base and top coats that I sometimes rotate between, but I’ve been in a pretty consistent groove lately: I use Duri Rejuvacote and CND Stickey (in that order) as the base for all my manicures, and then top them with HK Girl Top Coat.

Where do you get all your polishes?
Where don’t I get polish?! Seriously though, when I’m out & about, I’m likely to pick up big/brand name polishes from Sephora, ULTA, Beauty Works, Sally’s, or a variety of drugstores. When I’m in the market for indies, I almost always head to Llarowe.com or Etsy, though I also buy a few directly from the folks who make them.

What’s your best manicure tip?
Cleaning up your cuticles with a small brush and acetone! Seriously, this is the easiest and best thing you can do to drastically improve the final look of your manicures.

How do you take your photos? What kind of camera do you use?
I use a Canon Rebel T3i 18 MP DSLR with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. I have a fold-up light box, but for a variety of reasons (most of which amount to laziness), I don’t really use it. I just drape the black backdrop fabric that came with the light box over my big ol' camera bag, point my desk lamp (fitted with a GE Reveal bulb) at everything, and shoot away. I do have a little tabletop tripod that I use sometimes, but quite often I shoot without that, too, because… well. Lazy. :)

The best photography tip I have for nail pictures is that if you have a camera that allows you to set a custom white balance, DO IT! Adjusting the white balance to match your surroundings when you shoot goes such a long way toward taking nice pictures.

What software do you use to edit and watermark your photos?
I use an ancient copy of Photoshop for all my editing. Generally speaking, that includes cropping, watermarking, resizing, and (sometimes) color-correcting each picture. I knew literally nothing about Photoshop when I started using it, but a little googling and some trial & error is a surprisingly decent way to learn software.

My question isn’t here. Where can I reach you?
Email me if you want to know something I haven’t covered here—I’d love to hear from you!

Updated 14 May 2014