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How To Take Incredible Mobile Phone Photos In Any Situation

By Madeline Buxton

You Want To Really Emphasize A Photo's Shadows

If you want to make a photo darker so that shadows will contrast with the rest of the scene, use the camera's built-in exposure compensation, says professional photographer Pei Ketron.

You Want To Capture A Splash

Burst Mode is your best friend for action shots.

You Want To Make Running Water Look Smoother

To give water a cool, blurred effect, many iPhone photographers use the Cortex Camera app.

 

The best must-have apps to edit your Instagram pictures. — Desk of van Schneider

All images are edited directly on the iPhone 6 with the following apps.

Step 1: Cortex Cam

First of all, we start with taking the picture. In case I shoot my pictures on the iPhone, I usually have two options.

If I’m in a rush, I just use the default camera feature from the lock screen.

If I have time and the picture is taken in low light (or even at night) I use Cortex Cam.

Step 2: SKRWT

In the second step we make sure to fix all the basics. SKRWT helps me to correct the perspective or fix the lens distortion. Especially of you’re taking pictures on your iPhone or any other wide lens, you will always struggle with lens distortion. So before even I go into editing the colors, I make sure to fix these things.

Step 3: VSCO

I use VSCO mostly for enhancing colors and applying image effects. I’ve purchased all available presents, so I can’t even tell you which are my favorite ones.

But generally, if it’s nature I usually work within the A, C or E filters. If it’s clean architecture & urban environments I usually navigate more towards the Q or S presets. I personally just like to have a little bit more of a cooler light/tone on my images. But then again, there is no right way to do it.

But one thing I can tell you for sure: I rarely use a filter at a 100%. I always tone it down to around 50–70% and then increase the overall contrast by just a tiny bit.

Step 4: Snapseed

I mostly use Snapseed for more specific image editing such as selective editing where I want to enhance just a certain color, or retouch something small with the “Healing tool”.

For example see below, I want just the green in the tree to pop a bit more, so I select the color and enhance it with a bit more saturation. Snapseed gives you editing tools on your iPhone that you usually only have on your computer with bigger tools such as Lightroom.

Step 5: Lens Distortions

Our picture should be already perfect, but sometimes you want to add a little bit of extra to it. The app Lens Distortions gives me a range of effects such as additional fog, light shimmers or lens blur effects.

For example in the image above, I just wanted a little more fog on the right side. You have to be careful to not overdo it with lens flares or other effects, but if you already have these effects in your image and you just want to slightly improve them, Lens Distortions is perfect.

Step 6: DONE!

This is pretty much my full work flow, and it all happens on the iPhone. In some cases if the image I’ve taken is already perfect enough, I only use VSCO and I’m done.

It seems like a lot of steps, but using a combination of apps on your phone can really improve the image. I go back and forth from VSCO as my image enhancer -  I don't find it easy to use. My go to camera app is Camera FV-5, which is complicated but on my Nexus 5X delivers decent shots (even by my low standard)!.

Read My Samsung Nexus S Review

7 min read

The Samsung Nexus S is now my preferred mobile phone. Read on to find out why, but be warned, this is a lengthy post!

Before the Nexus S
Nexus S Standby ScreenHaving been a a mac user for over 4 years and previously owning both the iPhone 3G and the 3GS I made the jump to Android last June when I purchased the HTC Desire. During the past 12 months I have discovered that, for me, Android is on a par with iOS devices and actually ahead in some aspects. With that in mind I have now purchased the Samsung Nexus S. For my mind, it is the best example of comparing an Android phone to the iPhone.

The Desire was rooted early on and has run a variety of ROMS over the 12 months, but lately I have been using ROMs that mirror stock Android e.g. Oxygen and DevNull. (As a piece of trivia, I think the Desire is the most hacked phone of all the Android handsets on the market today. The sheer volume of custom ROMs available for it is astonishing.)

As I say goodbye to the Desire, I leave the handset running Android 2.3.4.

My initial impression of the Nexus S
I ordered it from prepaymania for £303 delivered – I have to say that I hadn’t heard of this outfit before, but the phone arrived on schedule, so no complaints.
The box itself was your typical phone box, nice and compact and obviously inspired by Apple.
The Nexus S comes with a separate power cable and data cable which I though was a nice touch (charging and data transfer is by Micro USB). Also in the box was a headset which I have yet to use.
The phone is made from black plastic and is not of the same build quality as the HTC Desire. However, it feels much lighter and sits well in your hand. Let’s not forget that this is a 4” device as opposed to the 3.7” Desire.

In UseNexus S running Android 2.3.4
When I turned the phone on I logged in with my Google account and the phone instantly started syncing my personal data and downloading my apps from the Market. It downloaded most, but not all of my apps. There was no faffing with iTunes or connecting it to a PC to activate – it just worked without fuss. First thing I needed to do however was update the operating system to 2.3.4 as it shipped with 2.3.3.
But you know what? The phone told me I had to update and off it went and started downloading the update.
A word of warning here: installing this update wiped the phone and I had to set the phone up as new again. This was not the case with the Desire, but perhaps I did something wrong.
I had a quick play and I decided that I knew enough about stock Android and that I would be better rooting the phone now rather than later. So that’s what I did. I followed this guide to the letter and it worked great.
I haven’t put a custom ROM on yet as I want to keep to the pure stuff for now, but rooting lets you do simple things like take a screen shot.

Buttons
The Nexus S has no physical menu buttons, but so far these have not caused me any issues. One thing I do miss (although it’s not a big deal) is the trackball which was handy when you need to edit some text.

Is this the best phone I’ve owned?
I think it’s right up there. It’s certainly better than the HTC Desire and the 3GS, which were good phones in their time.
There are several factors that are important to me:
1. Screen size – 4” is probably the biggest size I would want on a phone and the Nexus S has a great screen,
2. Size and weight – it’s big but light, mainly due to the plastic casing. I carry the Nexus S around in a protective pouch, but I also carried the Desire in its own pouch, so I’m used to the bulk.
3. Battery – Even at this stage with the battery not being totally calibrated the Nexus S has a better battery life than the Desire. I should easily expect the Nexus S to last me two days of normal use. My Desire was easily lasting me a day with the DevNull Rom and the latest radio installed. This compares favourably to the iPhone 4 which does not last my girl friend more than 10 hours. She must have a dud. ;-)
4. Apps – people make a big deal about the quality of the apps in the Android Market compared to the Apps Store. Well I’m sorry, the apps I use are the same as the ones I have on my iPad (give or take) and they work fine. I’m a google guy and on Android, google’s apps are better than iOS. Fact!
5. Notifications – I’ve not had a problem with notifications. Scratch that. I did have a problem with notifications (too many!), but I soon learned to only allow certain apps to update themselves in the background. I now get push notifications from SMS, email, ping chat, calendar and everything else I manually update. I feel I am more productive this way.

What about the Nexus S hardware?
I like the phone! I don’t mind that it feels light and is shiny black plastic. The buttons feel solid and the screen is responsive. There is a satisfying ‘click’ when connecting the charger.
My one gripe is that the headphone jack is on the bottom. I’m struggling to get used to this, but only because (in my head) the volume controls are back to front. I will get used to this though.

Camera: The Nexus S comes with two cameras. I’m on record in several places stating that IMO the iPhone 4 has the best camera of any phone. That is still the case. The Nexus S has a 5 megapixel camera and in good daylight the images are impressive, but like most other camera phones, when the sun goes down so does the quality of image.
The front facing camera is VGA quality and is really there to compete with Apple’s Facetime. Surprisingly using the google talk app video calls work well, even on 3G. This app also lets you make standard VOIP calls to other GTALK users.
Minor gripe: why can’t GTALK and Facetime get along? Those two apps would be very useful if they allowed you to chat to users of both systems.

The back of the Nexus SLoudspeaker: I can’t figure this out. When playing music through the loudspeaker I feel let down, but when using the loudspeaker for phone calls it works really well. So good that I can actually see myself using this more often, something I rarely used on other handsets.

Call quality is good.

I use the swype keyboard, just because I prefer that over a more traditional keyboard, but the standard gingerbread keyboard is a big improvement over the standard HTC keyboard on the Desire.

Display
I have the i9023 model which has the Super LCD instead of the Super AMOLED screen that originally shipped with the handset. A lot has been said of SLCD, but for my eyes the screen is superb even with the brightness turned down. In this respect it compares favourably to the Desire.

Conclusions
It’s difficult to compare like for like so I will end my narrative now. To conclude, the Nexus S is generally a little bit faster at everything compared to the Desire. So this is definitely an incremental upgrade, similar to the iPhone 3G to 3GS upgrade.
So much about mobile phones today is not about the hardware, but about the operating system and the apps. The right hardware will however enhance that experience. Therefore, if you’re considering the Nexus S you will not be disappointed. It’s a snappy phone that multitasks well and will more than meet the needs of most people.

My mini iPad review

3 min read

iPadI ordered an iPad when Apple had their Black Friday sale and to be honest I was not sure I really needed it or would actually like it. Remember that I ditched the iPhone for Android!

First impressions of the iPad were not good. It's heavy and the aluminium back make it cold to touch and without a case it can on occasion dig into your hands and give the impression of being sharp. However, these initial thoughts on the iPad's form factor was quickly squashed after using the device.

I have a 10" netbook which I have enjoyed using for two years. While it is a pain with some tasks, overall it has been £250 well spent and continues to serve a purpose today. How then can a £390 10" iPad compete with that?
To put it simply, it not only competes with, but out muscles the netbook on many levels. I have never been so taken with a device, even my first iPhone was not as compelling as this iPad.

After un-boxing, which is always a joy with Apple products, I fully charged the iPad and after a couple of hours synced it with iTunes and got all my apps (that I had previously used on my iPhone) on to the device.

Now I faced a dilema: I would now have two portable devices running similar (if not the same) apps, therefore did I really need the iPad?

Quick answer: YES! Immediately the device becomes second nature.

  • If I want to read the news headlines at breakfast, I reach for the iPad;
  • If I want to check twitter, I reach for the iPad;
  • If I want to check email, I reach for the iPad;
  • When I want to draft a blog post, I reach for the iPad;
  • I've got meetings at work, I load up the iPad with the relevant documents;
  • If I want to make edits or touch up photos, yes you guessed it, I reach for the iPad.

So what makes the iPad so compelling?

  1. The battery life is just awesome . It seems to last for days.
  2. Instant on. Just like your iPod, this thing is just in standby and as soon as you unlock the screen you're good to go.
  3. Screen. While not the retina display seen on the iPhone 4, the current iPad screen is still really good. NB not good in bright sunshine, but that's not an issue for me in Belfast!
  4. The speakers are surprisingly good e.g. handy for the bathroom or listening to in the holiday apartment.
  5. Built-in microphone. Seriously, skype has never been so easy. You can even do one way video.
  6. Apps - the app ecosystem on iOS is really good and there are plenty of good apps that utilise the iPad's full potential e.g. flipboard, filterstorm2.

I could really go on and on, but this is a mini review and after the above the iPad comes into its own when you discuss individual apps, which I plan to do at a later date.

Would I recommend one? Absolutely, but I'd wait until the next generation which should be announced in the next couple of months. Also keep in mind that Android 3.0 has been announced which looks to be a really cool tablet operating system and will give the iPad a run for its money.

The Guardian News App

2 min read

The Guardian have recently released an iPhone App [iTunes Link] priced at £2.39 and for this small free they are promising to make news available to you on your iPhone for free.  What's more, the App offers off-line viewing, something that really is worth paying for.

So how does this compare to The Guardian's mobile site?
I have to admit that I was dubious about how good this App could be, given that the mobile site worked very well and The Guardian provide most (if not all) of their stories via RSS, therefore, do we need to spend £2.39.  The short answer is YES!
The UI is pretty and uncomplicated, the product does what it's supposed i.e. serve up news and with off-line reading I can load the paper before I board a flight and read on board.

Pictured below is the home screen which is customisable:

Guardian iPhone App

By scrolling to the bottom of the home screen users are presented with photo galleries and the option to read selected columnists:

The App also provides trends and offers a screen dedicated to the most viewed news stories on The Guardian:

One interesting aspect of the App is that it offers the user the opportunity to listen to the latest Guardian podcasts, right within the App:

Sometimes you might just want to browse more sections and you can do that very easily:

Granted there is nothing really new here, everything that is provided I could have read / listened elsewhere, but isn't that the point? With this App I get it all in one place and The Guardian have made a significant statement: users are prepared to pay to access news.  The challenge for the industry is to replicate this and whether charging for the App and offfering free content there after is sustainable.  At the time of writing The Guardian App was the highest grossing application in the iTunes Store which would suggest a sizeable proportion of iPhone / iPod Touch owners have purchased the App.

I would recommend this App to anyone.

Here is the official Guardian video to promote the App:

Why would you stop Google indexing your news website?

3 min read

Rupert Murdoch is quoted on the BBC News site today stating that search engines that index "news" are essentially stealing the right to reproduce that content within their own search results.

"There's a doctrine called 'fair use', which we believe to be challenged in the courts and would bar it altogether,"

Is this someone who has fundamentally lost all grasp on reality? Has he, or none of his senior executives ever used the Internet?  I ask these flippant questions on the basis that the majority of Internet users use a search engine when looking for something, may that be clothes, electronics or news!  If News Corp go down the route of blocking search engines from accessing their site, that will mean less people read stories published on News Corp sites.  Less page views means less revenue, but Murdoch has a plan for that.

Murdoch's News Corp are already working on a model that will charge their users to access content within their websites by June 2010.  In fact, News Corp are working very hard:

"No. We are working very, very hard at this but I wouldn't promise that we're going to meet that date.

I understand that a business needs to generate revenue to survive, I really do, but I don't think News Corp (or Murdoch for that matter) understand that very few people will pay to access this type of content online.  The exact business model is unknown, but it has been suggested that there could be a tiered approach with premium content made available to those paying a higher monthly fee, while micro-payments could be applied to those looking to read a single story.

In the UK we have the BBC paid for by the licence fee i.e. it is essentially free to use.  The BBC News website already competes head to head with every news / media organisation out there, therefore if you introduce a subscription model who are your competitors and what will they charge?  As a user I already spend more time on the BBC News site than any other, introducing a pay wall only restricts my access to your site and it certainly does not encourage me to pay to read content that I can get elsewhere for free.

Quoted on Fox News, Murdoch goes on to say:

"There's not enough advertising in the world to make all the Websites profitable. We'd rather have fewer people coming to our Websites but paying.

This is fair enough, but if you compare it to other content industries like music and film how successful are they at this? In the UK I am not aware of any subscription model for watching films online, perhaps Love Film and iTunes can offer a similar service.  In the music business Spotify offers unlimited listening both at your desk and on your mobile for £9.99 per month with no contract.  This seems pretty good value as there are no adverts with this deal, but I wouldn't pay £9.99 per month to read news.
For News Corp to win over customers they will have to charge less than £1 a week and offer some really exclusive content and HD quality video streaming otherwise I fear their plan could backfire on them

Will you pay for content?

Jailbroken and Unlocked

2 min read

So the once unbreakable iPhone 3GS has now been hacked by the infamous George Hotz allowing not only the fastest and easiest jailbreak but also the ability to use any GSM sim card in your iPhone.

Having only released the software this afternoon, blacksn0w is already trending on twitter with many successful unlocks already.

This is a vunerable time for the incumbent carriers, especially in the UK where the iPhone is about to become available on multiple networks.
I myself will be using this opportunity to trial other networks to see which one will give me the best performance my iPhone deserves and I suspect many others will be doing the same.

I've already popped a sim card from 3 into the iPhone and get full 3G reception where O2 would only get 2 bars at most.


I see no detriment to the performance of the handset so I would recommend you give blacksn0w a try.

To unlock your iPhone you need to download software from http://blackra1n.com/.
Once you've downloaded blackra1n, connect your iPhone, don't open iTunes, run the App, disconnect your iPhone and you should see an App on your handset called blackra1n. Open this app and open 'snow' and click install. If you have problems with wifi, reset network settings on the iPhone and this will fix that issue!

For updates from Mr Hotz see his blog for the latest: http://iphonejtag.blogspot.com/ or follow @geohot on twitter.

AirTunes: My media streaming solution

2 min read

I recently added an Airport Express Base Station to my wireless network at home, with the primary aim of streaming music to the Hi-Fi in the kitchen, but I experienced mixed results.

My set-up comprises the following: Mac Mini and a Linksys WRT54GC

The initial set-up was complicated by the inclusion of an install cd and instruction booklet which as it turned out was only required by windows users. Instead of reading the instructions (as I did), all I needed to do was plug it in and activate multiple speakers in iTunes! Once this step was completed the Mac took over and automatically set-up AirTunes. I was able to hear immediate results and I was impressed by the sound quality.

However, music playback would stutter repeatedly to the point that I was beginning to think I had made a mistake in purchasing the router. I resorted to google. A quick search posed more questions and quickly pointed me to advanced settings in the airport utility where I was able to manually configure the router.
While the problem eased it wasn't resolved, further investigation returned many users complaining about something called IPV6. This post: solved all of my problems using the following steps.

1. Open System Preferences
2. Open Network pane
3. Select Airport in the left list
4. Click the Advanced button
5. Go to the TCP/IP tab
6. Set the "Configure IPv6" field to Off.
7. Click "OK"
8. Click "Apply"
9. Let iTunes connect to you're Airtunes speakers

During the process of trial and error I came across a wifi utility called inSSider. This programme (windows only) scans your locality for other wifi users and provides detailed information like which channel they are using and if it's likely they are causing interference on your network. I found another network using the same channel as me (6) so I therefore switched channels (11).

AirTunes is now working flawlessly and I am able to listen to my iTunes library throughout my house.

What my ideal phone would be like

4 min read

Full disclosure first: I'm an iPhone fanatic.
I've been a mac user for 2 years and I honestly couldn't imagine using anything else now. The link between the iPhone and the Mac is seamless, if hard wired! I can honestly say that the iPhone 3G and now the 3GS are the best phones I've ever owned and used.

However! There are lots of things that annoy me about the iPhone.

1. The OS has taken a long time to get to where it is today and it's still locked down. Why should I have to jailbreak to get functionality that comes as standard on other handsets?
2. While I think Apple are exceptional at what they do, they are also total control freaks, which really annoys me as a consumer. I buy the hardware, I should be able to do what I want with it.
3. I have a love/hate relationship with the App store.
4. In order to backup, I have to sync with iTunes which requires the data cable. This isn't a problem for me as I download lots of podcasts which require syncing via cable.
WAIT hang on, that's another bug bear of mine.
5. The iPod app doesn't wirelessly download your podcasts on the fly. You can download over wifi, but only one at a time. My Nokia N95 was able to do that task.
6. The iPhone should be able to backup and sync over 3G or wifi even if you have to buy MobileMe.
7. The iPhone isn't that easy to use. Trust me, novices will find the entire ordeal troublesome and over complicated. I'm referring to those who only text and make calls on their current handset, of which there are many.
The iPhone essentially requires users to modify their use of a mobile phone and learn to sync their phone to their computer and to interface with the device via desktop software. This is a good thing however, and more people should learn to do this with their existing 'dumb' phones if only to avoid loosing data.

So what exactly is my ideal phone?
Hardware
At least 3.2MP camera - I really do not need more mega-pixels on a phone, but I do want a good sensor. A flash would be handy.
Expandable memory via MicroSD card or suitable alternative.
The size and shape of the iPhone, perfect for my hands and a big enough screen to watch films on the plane/train!
15 hour battery life from constant use. I can recharge at multiple opportunities throughout the day, but 15 hours of constant use is enough to get me through any arduous day or to most destinations.
3.5mm headphone jack.
Touchscreen

OS/Software

I'm getting very excited about Android. As well as being an Apple fanboy, I'm a total Google love child. My life is in constant sync with gmail/calendar/contacts/tasks and therefore Android is just begging to be tried.

Android is now maturing as a platform and being released on many new handsets and is therefore getting more and more support. Developers are going to port iPhone Apps and many developers will choose to develop for Android ahead of other platforms given the potential size of the Android user base. Therefore by having an Android device you will have the widest choice of apps available.

OS X is very nice, but the way Apple control the operating system always leaving me wanting more and therefore I will tire of it very soon.

Windows Mobile 6.5: let's just say that it would take a miracle for me to buy a winmo device - it's just not for me.

Network
A really important consideration for me given my experience on O2. I would ideally buy the handset unlocked for use any network, which would then allow me to buy a suitable 30 day sim only tariff. I would require a network with decent 3G coverage.

To conclude, my ideal phone would be of the hardware spec above running android on either Vodafone or Orange.

Of the handsets currently available I would only be tempted to ditch my iPhone 3GS for the HTC Hero which is a capable handset.

I suspect that my dream device is only around the corner in the shape of the rumoured google phone, but in the mean time I will continue to 'make do' with my 3GS as my ideal phone.

The pirate bay case

2 min read

What we're seeing with 'The Pirate Bay' (TPB) case that's ongoing in Sweden, is not a fight to uphold copyright, but rather a dying institution trying to survive.

What is the case?
TPB is a search engne for torrents. The RIAA alleges that the site aids copyright infringment. TPB is defending itself by stating that they do not host any illegal material, and are doing nothing that Google or any other search engine cannot already do.

So who's right?
I think both sides have a reasonable argument, but this case is bigger  than mere copyright infringment.
On the face of it, TPB is morally (and legally) wrong, but let's ask the question: why is TPB so popular?
This is the million dollar question. Like napster and grokster before it, TPB challenges the RIAA in it's content delivery system. You would think that after many legal cases and with new technologies and high rates of broadband penetration that the music and film industry would finally deliver a product in a manner which suits their customers!
The success of Apple's iTunes store would suggest that digital media can succeed, so why is the RIAA so against online delivery?

They believe it's bad for business, but that's nonsense, if anything online delivey can only increase your presence in amy given market.
How does this affect the artist? If anything it could earn them more money and give them a bigger following. Oh wait, is this actually the RIAA's problem?
By empowering the artist, you risk losing them as a client and thus losing a valuable income stream. So what do you do? You control the access. Sites like TPB provide access to anyone and therefore compete
with the record labels.
I think the content creators and those who wish to distribute that content need to strike a balance. Today you can gve stuff away for free and still make money from other revenue streams.
For instance, provide your singles for free, but sell the album or promote your merchandise.
The last thng anyone should consider doing is imply that your paying customers are stealing your content, and that's what you see every time you go to the cinema!