Meet Mel, the amazing lady behind #presetsbymel and so much more
I met Mel via Instagram, because where else do you meet people these days haha?! She reached out wanting to shoot some Dazey on a trip she had planned. One look at her feed and I knew she would get some amazing shots! And boy did she deliver. She is a Dazey Lady of many talents and runs her own jewelry company, digital product line, and travel blogs. One of her most recent trips was to LA so we planned to meet up. I figured this was this perfect opportunity to features this awesome lady!
I began following her awhile back after her email and she kept posting all her amazing trips on Insta Story. But what really caught my attention was her before and after photo edits! I became hooked. She makes custom Adobe Lightroom presets and sells them on her website. You can literally make any photo look fabulous with them. I reached out asking if I could give them a try and Mel said YES! So basically this past month all of my photos have been edited with her amazing presets, including the ones you see below. I am in love and they match the Dazey vibe perfectly. Before this I edited all my photos in Photoshop and it took FOREVER and I was always struggling with my "signature editing style". Now I edit all in Lightroom, throw on one of Mel's presets, adjust a tick, and BOOM amazing photos!
Below we have a full shoot I did with Mel on the rooftop of her hotel, Freehand, and a few we snapped when she stopped by Biz Babez. The rooftop at Freehand is amazing and I have been wanting to check it out for awhile now. My assistant Megan, aka The Little Avocado Shop, actually helped create the colorful woven wall you see by the pool, along with the new necklaces and pom earrings you see on Mel!
We asked Mel a bunch of fun questions all about her life and how she built it. I also show some before and after examples of the newest Morocco set she has on her website! She's offering a special discount to any Dazey Ladies who want to try them out:
TAKE 10% OFF OF MEL'S PRESETS USING CODE "DAZEYLADY"
You have built a few different streams of income. Why don't you let us know a little about each of them.
I started a jewelry line called Melanie Audrey (@bymelanieaudrey) four years ago after I did my first solo trip. I was ready for a big change and that was to start something on my own and be my own boss. Each bracelet is inspired by someone and comes with a story about them. A year and a half ago I went to Bali and started building travel content for my Instagram account (@mvandersluis) and as I spent more time being consistent with my editing and posting I started to grow my account that now reaches more than 100,000 people, which blows my mind. I now work with hotels and brands from all over the world to create content as I travel. As I started to do more and more work with my camera I got into editing with Lightroom. I taught myself how to use it by watching countless tutorials on Youtube. I hated this program at first but within six months I’d grown to love it. In June of this year I launched my presets for Lightroom (a preset is like a photo filter) and I decided to do this because everyone had been asking me how I edited and eventually asked, “Do you sell your Lightroom presets?” Now I sell a few different packs on my website, www.presetsbymel.com.
You mentioned your Lightroom presets are now your main money maker which is amazing! I have been using them for all my Dazey photos. How did you learn Lightroom and what are some tips for beginners?
You use my presets better then I do! haha. I’m completely self taught with Lightroom. I’ve watched so many videos on Youtube, read blog posts and have collected advice from other Lightroom users along the way. The best advice I can give to beginners is to start watching tutorials on Youtube. I have a couple on my YouTube channel (Mel Vandersluis). Watching tutorials is great so you can get a feel for what all the toggles and buttons do. Then once you’re a little more comfortable I would purchase some presets. I’ve had so many people tell me that they learned so much just by purchasing presets so they could see what was changed and then they took that preset and made it their own. Another tip is try not to get discouraged and just have fun with it!
What gave you the idea of starting to sell these filters? How did you go about packaging and marketing them?
I had so many people from my community ask me if I sold my presets and I thought, “Oh maybe they’re onto something there.” So I looked into it and sure enough it was something that other creators were starting to do. After speaking to some other girl bosses I decided to open up a simple Shopify store, created all of my graphics, looked up, “How to attach digital products to Shopify” and within two hours I was all set up! In terms of marketing I decided on Facebook ads. I took a whole bunch of before and after photos and turned them into a short video with Final Cut and the conversion ended up being a lot better then just a static photo.
Tell us about your jewelry business! How long have you been doing that and what is your inspiration?
I’ve been building Melanie Audrey for four years. My inspiration is always travel and people. I’m constantly inspired by the stories I hear from people, what they’ve been through, and what dreams they are pursuing. When customers shop the website they get to read these stories and see which ones resonate with them and a lot of them take their bracelets all over the world and then send us pictures.
Your travel blog and your images are incredible! So many girls dream of traveling for a living. How did you go about starting your blog?
I started working on my Instagram account a year and a half ago. I was on a trip in Bali with my cousin (@tracy_komlos) and my best friend (@lisahomsy). As I’m sure most Dazey Ladies know, Bali has been one of the most popular places to shoot content in the last few years. We spent 10 days going on adventures, taking all kinds of pictures and consistently editing and posting. Some really big Bali repost account started posting my pictures and I started to see my following grow. When I got home I kept posting Bali content for at least a month or two! Not long after that I sent out as many emails as I could to try working with brands. There were a lot of noes but there were some yeses, and that’s how I started getting into the whole content creation world.
What are the best ways to monetize a blog once you’ve started it?
In terms of monetizing Instagram, first start working with brands to promote their products. Some advice, don’t work with everyone! Promote products that you truly believe in and form a great relationship with them that can last a long time. Second, start a small side business to bring in consistent income that can be cross promoted. For me that’s presets and Melanie Audrey and I’m able to talk about those two things on my Instagram at any time. One business feeds into the other.
What are your top three travel recommendations for girls who gram and why?
1. Make sure you do your research for all the places you want to go and take pictures. When you fly by the seat of your pants it can get really frustrating when you find out on the flight home that there was this really cute cafe with a swing that you didn’t go check out.
2. Always have a camera on you. You never know when you might come across a really great photo opportunity.
3. Invest in a tripod. If you're going anywhere solo having a tripod and a self timer becomes your new best friend.
Your social media following is massive and you have built it up so quickly! What do you attribute to your success? Top tips?
I have to say that having great content and consistent editing is probably the number one thing to focus on. When you travel with other content creators you always cross promote which is awesome but if your content isn’t great it’s not inviting to new followers who are just discovering you. Instagram is very much about being eye catching and being pleasing to the eye. That comes a lot with editing and keeping a theme.
Has it been difficult balancing all these things you do? What are the toughest parts of the self employed hustle and how do you deal?
I work mostly on the road or at home so finding a good space to be able to concentrate and work is often a challenge. Also, when you’re on your own you have to motivate yourself and sometimes that can be really difficult to do. That’s why Biz Babes is such a great idea! But in this case I hop on YouTube and I watch either Gary Vaynerchuk or Casey Neistat. They really inspire me to get going. In terms of balance I make sure to write out all of my to-do’s and work through them one at a time. There also needs to be OFF time. I’m constantly on a laptop or phone and thinking about the million things on my to-do list so having time to reconnect to my friends and family and leaving my phone on silent in my bag is sometimes really important. But I have to say I wouldn’t have my job any other way. The challenges make the journey even better.
What does being Dazey Lady mean to you?
Being a Dazey Lady is about embracing your journey, loving who you are, and following your dreams. It’s about collaboration not about competition. A Dazey Lady believes failure is an opportunity for growth and also celebrates her victories, big and small. Dazey Ladies stick together in good times and in bad and always inspire and empower each other to live their best lives!