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How to Organize a Meetup

This past weekend, I organized a Toronto meetup for Periscope users, and it was a great success. We all had fun and met new people from the city, bringing the Periscope community in Toronto that much closer. This meetup didn’t happen overnight though. There was some planning involved, and so rather than explain everything to everybody who’s asked, I’ve decided to use this blog entry to explain the details of what you should be looking for when planning for a meetup in your own city. You’re not planning a Periscope meetup you say? No worries, this post will act as a guide so that you can use it for reference no matter what kind of meetup you’re going to plan for your home town.

How to Organize a MeetupThe Idea

When coming up with a meetup idea for Periscope, I wanted to do something special. Rather than just meet everybody over beer or lunch, I wanted to include the best part of using the Periscope app: the interaction we as broadcasters get with our viewers. With this in mind, I came up with the idea of being lost in our home city, while our viewers helped us find each other by popping in and out of our scopes, and telling us where everybody else was located. I included a lunch part of the meetup after this initial game portion, so that we could all mingle together.

If your meetup is with another app, find out what makes that app so special, and try to incorporate that element into the meetup to make things more exciting. For example, when planning an Instagram meetup for photographers, we had an underground theme where we went into our subway system and rode around the subway taking photos at various stations. This brought in many different types of photographs, and made it for a fun day.

The Logistics

On paper, this may look great, but there were logistics that had to be planned out in order for this to work out. Here’s how I solved our problems.

Where should broadcasters be located?

This was tough since I didn’t know how many people would be participating at first. Depending on the number of participants, I thought I’d set the boundaries larger so we had more places to meet each other. In my case, I set a general boundary within our city that was large enough for us to not be too close to each other, but close enough that we could still walk from one end of the boundary to the other. If the boundaries were too small, there would be the risk of everybody finding each other too quickly as well.

Peri Lost In Toronto

Peri Lost In Toronto

At the end of the day, the boundary that I had set was pretty good. 1.4km from Spadina to Yonge, and 2.7km from Bloor St. to Front St.. While I had some feedback saying it was too large of a boundary, the majority of people ended up finding each other within the first 20-30 minutes, which is a decent amount of time in my opinion.

Mark filming the Laughter Flash Mob

Mark filming the Laughter Flash Mob

When deciding on a location for your meetup, think of somewhere that may be unique for your group. Instead of a restaurant, perhaps an open place or patio may add a little more excitement for the group.

How would viewers find broadcasts of the participants?

Since not every viewer followed every participant on Periscope, I had to make sure it was easy for viewers to find all of our live broadcasts. The Periscope app doesn’t allow anybody to search the broadcast title, so I had to turn to Twitter for this. As long as we searched for a unique word, the viewers would be able to find each participating broadcaster and hop into their scope. I chose to use the #PeriLostInToronto hashtag since it was not in use, and described the event well. Make sure the hashtag you choose isn’t already in use as it will just clutter the search results and confuse viewers.

The #PeriLostInToronto hashtag searched on Twitter

The #PeriLostInToronto hashtag searched on Twitter

Once viewers searched the hashtag that day, they could immediately see that there were 11 of us currently lost in Toronto. They could then go to any one of those 11 users and see where they were, and let them know the locations of other scopers. This worked well since I had many people pop into my scope that were regular viewers of other scopers, and vice versa.

Engagement is key

The best part of this meetup was that it also incorporated the essence of the app that brought us together: engagement. The Periscope app wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the engagement we get with our viewers. I had lots of fun in my broadcast telling people where I was, and following instructions from viewers popping in to tell me where to go to meet the other broadcasters. People told me to head south while others told me to stay put. I had to ultimately engage with my viewers while making the executive decision.

Karen greeting the rest of the Periscope meetup members

Karen greeting the rest of the Periscope meetup members

If your app doesn’t allow for this type of engagement, make sure that what you do will allow for full engagement amongst group members. If you have a large group gathering, be sure to encourage switching group members around throughout the meetup so everybody gets a chance to meet each other.

The Social Element

I included a second part to the meetup largely for two reasons:

  1. Include those Periscope users that did not want to participate in the #PeriLostInToronto part of the meetup
  2. Include a social aspect to the meetup so that everybody could meet everyone else in case they did not get a chance to in the first half of the meetup
Vernon greets Rachel Anne.

Vernon greets Rachel Anne.

This is important if you want your meetup participants to mingle and get to know everybody else. If your meetup group is large, try and make it so every member can have a chance to meet and talk with every other member.

Instagram meetups can get quite large, so encourage your group to meet new people instead of always sticking with their acquaintances.

When To Meet?

When you’re planning on a date for the meetup, be mindful of certain things:

  1. Weeknight vs. weekends
    • Weekends tend to be better for larger groups, but be mindful that people may have family engagements and/or other things reserved for the weekends. If you have a smaller group, it may be easiest to meet up during a weeknight.
    • Be aware of any holidays that may also affect attendance. I held my meetup during the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend hoping that more people would be able to come during a long weekend. Some people, however, weren’t able to come because of family engagements for the long weekend.
  2. You can’t please everybody
    • When planning a day, it’s ok to get a general consensus on the day, but be firm on your decision of the chosen date. You have to be aware that you can’t please everybody. If you start moving days around, other people may not be able to attend, they may get confused, or they may simply not want to bother with all of the changes going on.
  3. Find out if there’s another event near your meetup location that may coincide with your event. This may be a distraction, or a blessing to your event.
    • While I was not aware of this, there was a laughter flash mob that just happened to come to the location where we had all settled down. This was a complete coincidence, but it added a lot more amusement to the meetup.
Free laughter at City Hall

Free laughter at City Hall

The emcee encouraging us to laugh out loud.

The emcee encouraging us to laugh out loud.

Where To Meet?

When planning for the restaurant portion of the meetup, I chose a restaurant that was central to where I thought most people would be able to go to. The menu was varied, catering to many people, and the restaurant itself was large enough to host a group gathering. It’s better to go to a spacious place so your group won’t be the loudest bunch in the room.

Also, when making a reservation, let them know you’ll be requesting separate checks, as restaurants like to know this in advance.

The second half of the meetup was held at 3 Brewers, where people were busy scoping.

The second half of the meetup was held at 3 Brewers, where people were busy scoping.

Promote The Meet

It’s a meetup, why should I advertise it? Advertising a meetup is a great way to get two things done:

  1. Promote the meetup amongst your local followers; it will also get the attention of people you may not necessarily know about through various retweets, shares, re-grams, etc.
  2. Will get more hype going amongst the people attending

I started advertising my meetup six days before the date, on a Monday. I did a broadcast describing the meetup, and I created a blog post where people could RSVP for both portions of the meetup.

Some of the #PeriLostInToronto meetup members.

Some of the #PeriLostInToronto meetup members.

For large groups, I find it better to always have one specific location where people can RSVP. Otherwise it will be hard for you to track down tweets or mentions on various social media feeds of people telling you they want to come. I created a blog post, made an easy to remember URL, and directed everybody to that blog post so people could confirm the details and RSVP by commenting.

You don’t need a blog post to do this though: on Instagram, direct people to one specific picture to RSVP on; you could have people commenting on one of your Facebook statuses as well; if you use Twitter, create a Twitter Group Chat and gradually add people that may be interested in the meetup. An advantage of this is that existing members of the group chat can also add people too.

A meetup for Periscope users

A meetup for Periscope users

I created a graphic that people could easily tweet out. Graphics always adds more attention to the post. I created a generic ad (above) for people to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. throughout the week, directing people to go to my blog post.

A Toronto Periscope Meetup

A Toronto Periscope Meetup

The day before the event, I created a second ad (above) with more details on the event, and included names of users participating. People were free to tweet and retweet this out as well, all the while adding more excitement for the actual day. You may not need two ads, but if you create multiple ads, be sure to brand them similarly so people know they are the same event. Throughout the week, I also did another Periscope just to remind people that there was going to be a meetup on the weekend.

Support and Sponsors

Some companies offer support for meetup organizers in terms of free swag or other things to help you organize your meetup. For example, in the past, Instagram provided stickers and whatnot to distribute to your meetup group members. Tumblr also does something similar in their kit. Make sure to contact these companies well before your meetup date though, since it may be a while before they get back to you.

The Laughter Flash Mob coincidentally coincided with our Periscope meetup.

The Laughter Flash Mob coincidentally coincided with our Periscope meetup.

If you want to make things extra special, try finding a sponsor or two for your meetup. Sponsors can get their name out from all of your advertising, and may offer some extra perks for meetup attendees. It’s not a necessity by any means, but may add something special for the day. Again, make sure to contact potential sponsors well before the meetup day.

Conclusion

My initial thoughts were that I would get maybe four or five people participating in #PeriLostInToronto. We had eight people in all that came out and got lost. The lunch portion brought out 13 people. Some of these people I didn’t even know about since they happen to just see one of the advertisements that were floating around Twitter. It just goes to show that you never know who your ads may get the attention of.

The #PeriLostInToronto members before heading to lunch.

The #PeriLostInToronto members before heading to lunch.

There were some no-shows and cancellations, but that’s all expected. We still had a great time meeting and getting to know other local Periscope users. Even after lunchtime, some stragglers stayed behind and we had a great conversation going. The restaurant wasn’t too busy nor noisy to cater to our group, so that was an added bonus.

If you’re planning a meetup of any kind and have tips of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments below.


If you’re interested in what I went through for the #PeriLostInToronto part of the meetup, including the laughter flash mob, you can view my broadcast below.

iPhone 6 Plus cameras have limitations too

There’s a certain point on an iPhone’s camera where the lack of ambient light will result in a significantly grainy image. The sensor sensitivity can only do so much in terms of retrieving information in low-light situations. It’s interesting, however, to note that if you wait just a few minutes later, the amount of grain drops significantly, allowing you to capture a much cleaner image in the dark.

I typically stay away from taking any photos in the dark with my iPhone for this very reason, but managed to experiment during one of my sunrise shoots earlier in the year, when I took images every so often in the dark. The results surprised me because despite the darkness, there was a point where I was able to capture a useable image.

Useable image?

When I refer to an image as being useable, I typically mean that the raw image from the camera is clean enough for me to edit with, yielding in an image that I would be able to post online. If an image is already so grainy to begin with, editing that will yield in an even grainier image that I wouldn’t be too happy about. Grain is great when you want them in there, but for the most part, I don’t.

The following photos have been taken with my iPhone 6 Plus, but have been reduced in size in Photoshop.

The first photo:

Grainy image

Grainy image

The overall image is really grainy. It was taken in the morning at 7:18am along the lakeshore area. Since there is very little light, the sensor had trouble capturing a clean image. If you look at the skyline and cloud areas in the middle of the photo, you can see the grain quite well.

This next photo is a much cleaner image:

Cleaner Image

Cleaner Image

While you may still see some grain in this photo, there is significantly less overall. If you look in the same area along the skyline and clouds, you’ll see the details are much more noticeable. This picture was taken at 7:28am, just 10 minutes later from the previous photo.

If we take a closer look, you’ll see the difference even more. The following photos are 100 percent crops from each photo above.

100 percent of grainy image

100 percent of grainy image

And this is the full crop of the cleaner image:

100 percent of cleaner image

100 percent of cleaner image

And that’s just a 10 minute difference between the two images.

So if you’re ever caught in a situation where you need to take photos in low light situations, try and make the scene just a little bit brighter and see how your iPhone reacts to the added light. It may make a huge difference and yield in photos that are much more pleasing to the eye.

The very basics of The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Many have asked in the past what app I use to pinpoint the exact location a sun will rise or set during any given day. I’ve mentioned this before in several of my other posts, but today, I will go through the very basics of the app, showing you how I locate my desired area for a sunrise or sunset.

For starters, you’ll need The Photographer’s Ephemeris to understand any of this, so you can go ahead and buy it from the app store, here. It’s not cheap, but it’s a wealth of information if you know how to use it. Mind you I’m no expert in this app myself, which is why I will show you the mere basics of it all.

The Photographer's Ephemeris

The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Open the app and you’ll  be confronted with the map screen, as seen below. I’m using Google maps as a map reference, but if you’re so inclined, the app gives you other sources of maps. Just click on the satellite icon on the mid right of this screen and choose your desired map source.

Map screen when first launched.

Map screen when first launched.

If you have a desired location in mind, use the Locations icon on the bottom bar to type in the exact location you are interested in. For example, if I wanted to find out which way the sun will set when I’m standing on the Arch Bridge (Pont Neuf) in Paris, France, I would type in “Pont Neuf, Paris” to see the results, as seen below.

Enter your desired location.

Enter your desired location.

Select the appropriate result, and you’ll be shown three icons. The red pin indicates your primary pin, or where you will be standing. The grey pin acts as a secondary pin for reference in more advanced calculations such as elevations. The third icon allows you to save this location to your bookmark, for easy access in the future. For our example, click on the red pin.

Click on the location to reveal pin markers, and select the red pin.

Click on the location to reveal pin markers, and select the red pin.

When you select the red pin, the app will switch over to map view again, and immediately take you to that location and it will put a pin in that location. You will now see orange, yellow, light blue and dark blue lines coming from the location. These indicate your sunset, sunrise, moonrise, and moonset respectively.

Now, if the red pin is not the the very spot that you like, you can relocate the red pin. It’s important to put this red pin to the exact location you wish to be standing during sunset time.

You will be directed to your desired location, and a red pin marked at your location.

You will be directed to your desired location, and a red pin marked at your location.

To relocate the red pin, simply move the map until you see the target symbol over the exact location. For example, if I want to be standing on one of the viewing platforms of this bridge, I would just navigate the target icon until that is directly over the viewing platform.

To further fine-tune your location, move the map so the target symbol is at the desired location.

To further fine-tune your location, move the map so the target symbol is at the desired location.

Then, select the red pin icon on the right bar, and your primary pin will relocate to the new location.

Select the red pin to relocate the pin from current location.

Select the red pin to relocate the pin from current location.

Now that you have your exact location pinned, we need to find more information about this very location. Swipe up from the bottom bar to reveal all the sunrise, sunset information for this particular location on the day, indicated on the top bar. You can swipe down to hide this as well.

The colours of the sunrise, sunset, moorise, and moonset are all indicated in the bar allowing you to easily see which lines indicate which event.

Swipe up from the bottom data bar to reveal sunrise and sunset info.

Swipe up from the bottom data bar to reveal sunrise and sunset info.

To get a better view of where the sun will be setting, zoom out so you can see a larger area.

Zoom out to see where the sun will be.

Zoom out to see where the sun will be.

Now you can see that the sun will be setting to the right of the Seine river, as seen from the Pont Neuf. To find out when the sun will set along the Seine river, we can zoom out even more, and adjust the date on the very top bar, as indicated below.

The single triangles immediately beside the date allow you to go forward or behind one day at a time. The icons beside that allow you to jump to celestial events, like full moon, half moon, solstice, etc.

If you hold down on the date, you can actually see the events in a list, and change the date to an exact day of your choice.

Alter the day from the top arrow icons to see how the sun markers change accordingly.

Alter the day from the top arrow icons to see how the sun markers change accordingly.

By looking at the screen capture above, you can see that on Friday August 21, 2015, the sun will once again rise along the Seine river, as seen from the Pont Neuf.

Now, keep in mind although this is meant to be exact, it can be off at times! I’ve had it a couple of times where the location was not exactly as I had thought it would be, unfortunately. It does, however, give you a very good indication as to where the sun will be give or take a day or two.

Keep in mind this app is capable of a lot more than the above! It allows you to incorporate elevation to see exactly when the sun will rise above a mountaintop, and performs other advanced calculations. I hope this brief guide enabled you to see an introduction to the app and has whet your appetite in finding out exactly where the sun will be around your neck of the woods!

If you use this app, please feel free to comment below and let me know how you like it!

Take a break and enjoy the scenery once in a while

Sunset by the marina in Toronto.

Sunset by the marina in Toronto.

When you’re out and about shooting all the time, it’s important to be able to pull yourself out of the business of it all and actually enjoy what you have in front of you. Not only does this refresh your mind, but it allows you to soak in the environment you’re in, perhaps giving you more of an appreciation for the spectacular view you’re always too busy to see.

While on my walks along the lakeshore, I intentionally left my dSLR camera behind, so that I wouldn’t be so inclined to taking photos every second. Of course, I couldn’t leave my iPhone behind, so I still took a picture with it. But taking photos with my iPhone is a much quicker process than taking a photo with my dSLR, where I have to find the right settings, compose, focus, and shoot. An iPhone really makes that much of a difference. And I’m thankful for that!

A little bit of post-processing was done here to accentuate the sunset colours, and lighten the boats in the middle. All of this was done within Snapseed, where I used the Brush tool to selectively lighten areas within my image. My final edit was done within VSCOcam where I added a filter to balance the overall image.

Who I like to follow on Periscope

Periscope for Android devices just came out yesterday, so it’s only a matter of time that the app gets inundated with more broadcasters doing interesting (and not-so-interesting) things. This list was a long-time coming, and since I broadcasted it out yesterday, I’ve had some requests to put it online, so here it is! It’s changed considerably since my last followers post, which you can read here, so hopefully you’ll find more new people to follow here.

Who I follow on Periscope

Who I follow on Periscope

Keep in mind that these are people that I follow that broadcast on a regular basis. I did not include those that I follow that do not broadcast. Their usernames are written below, with their real names written in brackets if it’s hard to figure out.

To follow any one of these people, simply go to the Peoples tab (bottom right), then click on the magnifying glass (top left), and enter their usernames, and select the person that seems to be the most active amongst the list!

I may have inadvertently omitted users on this list, so feel free to comment below with your favourite Periscopers too!

@Smaku (that’s me—I Periscope photography tips and Toronto tours)

Information-Based Periscopers

@AlexPettitt

@CathyHackl

@Kayvon (Co-founder of Periscope)

@MarkShaw

@RobertCStern

@MarkKaye

@Sacca (Chris Sacca)

Happy People / Motivational Speakers

@1AlexKhan

@1Justice4All

@AlexaRoseCarlin

@Jaylives1 (Jay Howard)

Artists & Entertainers

@Alicyn (Voice over actress/singer)

@LovelyPrevin (Musician)

@AmandaOleander (Painter/illustrator)

@JasonStolken (Comedian)

@JonErlichman

@PeriscopePuppet

@Rajacenna (Illustrator)

@Skorstar

@TiffWidjaja (Musician)

@TomGreenLive

@Yonatanmonster (Musicians)

Photographers

@500px

@AmoreVitaPhotos (Julia Beckmann)

@AshleyGoodwin

@ChaseJarvis

@ColeRise

@CoffeeGatherings (Razlyn)

@DanRubin

@FireTheCanon (Amanda Stevens)

@FrameableFaces

@FStoppers

@HollyParkerrr

@JasmineStar

@JeremyCowart

@JoeMcNallyPhoto

@Joeyldotcom

@KatelynJames

@KelbyOne

@MDickensPhoto (Meredith)

@ScottKelby

@TreyRatcliff

@ZachandJody

City Tours

@BaseGiulioBase

@ChantalTV

@ClaireWad

@Euromaestro

@Kanji_k

@PenguinSix

@TigerwonNYC

Happy People

@AskTere (Teresa)

@BradmanTV

@Cmdr_Hadfield (Chris Hadfield)

@DavidJBushell

@FoodPr0n (Jen Chan)

@HelloColie (Ashley Nicole)

@IamDaniBeck

@JennValentyne

@KevinFrankish

@LisaAppleton76

@ReneRedzepiNoma

@Rssuen (Renée)

@ScopeForGood (doing some good deeds with Periscopes)

5 Ways Instagram has taught me to be a better Periscope user

For those of you who have been following me, you may know that I have always been on Instagram from its early stages in life. I’m active on the app and enjoy the thriving community of like-minded individuals. It’s not only a great place to look at pretty pictures, but is also a great place to find inspiration and chat with other photographers.

Instagram Account @smaku

Instagram Account @smaku

Ever since Periscope came along on March 26, 2015, it has changed how much time I put into Instagram—and that’s saying a lot coming from a photographer! Although it took me an entire month to start broadcasting myself, I now enjoy a healthy list of loyal followers and new ones that pop in and out to see what I’m up to.

Periscope Account @smaku

Periscope Account @smaku

This blog post details some important points that I have used over on Instagram, to better myself as a user on Periscope. Keep in mind though, that these points are in no way limited to just these two outlets. If you incorporate these points to other social media outlets like Twitter or Pinterest, you will more than likely be able to enjoy the experience there more as well. For this post, however, I will compare these points as it relates to Instagram and Periscope.

Social media is based around a sense of global community amongst its users. If you play well within these communities, your experience will be that much more rewarding.

  1. Be consistent (with your content and across outlets)

    • Instagram: Posting a consistent type of photo plays to your advantage because people will know what your feed is all about. They will come back to your feed because they like what they see, and expect to see similar things in the future. If your photos are all over the place in terms of style and content (much like how mine was in my earlier years), it makes it harder for people to get to know you, and hence follow you.
    • Periscope: Similarly, people like to come back to your broadcasts because they enjoy and expect the same type of content from you. Why do we like Claire Waddington‘s (@clairewad) broadcasts? Because we enjoy her walking tours of Paris. Why do we like Mark Shaw (@markshaw)? Because we know every time he broadcasts, he will give us his straight-to-the-point, no fuss tips on how to better use Periscope and Twitter.
    • To even further your online brand, be consistent from one social media platform to the next, in terms of what you upload. All of these social media outlets build up to be your online image, so it is important that you get the right message across all mediums.
  2. Engage with followers

    • Instagram: Go on other people’s feeds, like their photos and comment on their photos to let them know you like what you see. Start conversations to build relationships with other users. This sense of community will make you feel more involved within the app itself and make for a more meaningful experience.
    • Periscope: Go on other people’s broadcasts and comment on what they are broadcasting about. Don’t just say “hello!” but bring in meaningful comments that add value to the broadcaster and other viewers. Broadcasters are waiting to “converse” with their viewers so take advantage of this. This will build better relationships with your followers and it will be much more meaningful for you as a broadcaster.
  3. Acknowledge people’s efforts

    • Instagram: Like other people’s photos to let them know you appreciate what they’re uploading. Going along with Point 2, when you engage with the uploader and like their photos, they may be more inclined to visit your stream and like yours too. This is all part of building relationships with your followers.
    • Periscope: Give the broadcaster hearts to let them know that you appreciate what they are broadcasting about. This is a great motivator for the broadcaster to continue doing what they are doing on their account. Sharing the broadcast is the one thing unique with Periscope, and is a great way to support the broadcaster by increasing their exposure to others who do not follow them.
  4. Upload on a consistent basis

    • Instagram: Upload on a regular basis so your followers don’t forget about you and your style of photography. This way, whenever they see your style, they will recognize it is from you. You’ll be more recognizable this way.
    • Periscope: Broadcasting on a regular basis allows you to have more exposure with your followers, keeping you at the top of their minds. Broadcasts on Periscope are only available for 24 hours after you save it. If you have nothing in your Recent tab in your account, non-followers who are curious about you will not have a chance to find out what you are all about. By broadcasting on a consistent basis, you’ll always have something in your Recent list, allowing that to market you while you’re offline from the app.
  5. Use hashtags

    • Instagram: Hashtags allow your photo to be seen by your non-followers by performing searches. This is a great way to gain more exposure with minimal amount of work.
    • Periscope: Use hashtags in your titles so your periscopes can be searchable on Twitter, and can be viewed by web-viewers. The key here is to attract as many web-viewers as possible. Why? Chances are, they are viewing this on the web because they don’t have the app on their mobile device. As soon as Periscope for Android comes out, who do you think these Android users will follow? They’ll no doubt search for people who they’ve been watching on the web!

There are no doubt other important lessons to be learned from Instagram and other social media platforms, but these are what I felt were the most transferable, and important for those that seek to get the best experience out of the apps.

If you have more suggestions, please feel free to let me know in the comments below!

How I edited Spring Reflection

This How I Edited post is of a picture that a lot of people seemed to like. They liked the contrast of elements within the photo, which actually has a lot to do with how this was edited. In this step by step tutorial, I will show you how this wonderful Spring photo came about, all by using just one simple app!

How I Edited Spring Reflection

How I Edited Spring Reflection

The photo below is the original unedited photo (scaled down in Photoshop) that came from my iPhone 6 Plus. You can see how the bottom half is quite dark, but that’s because I intentionally exposed for the top half of the image to prevent it from blowing out too much.

Original unedited (scaled down in Photoshop) image from iPhone 6 Plus

Original unedited (scaled down in Photoshop) image from iPhone 6 Plus

I really love the wispy clouds here, and how it was reflected in the water below. The bushes below already have two tones to them, so I knew I wanted to keep that—or rather accentuate that.

For those of you who haven’t upgraded to the latest version of Google’s Snapseed, you should consider doing that right now—or after your read this tutorial! Their latest upgrade adds so much more control over the settings in addition to   more powerful editing tools at your disposal. Within Snapseed, I used their Dodge and Burn brush tool to increase contrast within the two toned foreground. You can see from the screen cap below all the red masked area. Those are the areas where I used the burn tool.

Editing using the Dodge and Burn brush tool in Google's upgraded Snapseed app.

Editing using the Dodge and Burn brush tool in Google’s upgraded Snapseed app.

I then dodged some portions as well, creating a much more contrasty foreground to my image, which you can see below.

Image after the Dodge and Burn brush tool was used.

Image after the Dodge and Burn brush tool was used.

To match the exposure throughout, I had to increase the shadow areas slightly, and added some overall ambiance to the image within Snapseed as well, resulting in the image below.

Increased the brightness of the bottom half to match the exposure of the top half.

Increased the brightness of the bottom half to match the exposure of the top half.

The image now looks pretty good, but I wanted to add just a little more colour to the image. So, as always, my final step in editing happens within VSCOcam. I used the KK2 preset (+9) and added a slight fade to the image so the colours didn’t look too vibrant. The final image, as I uploaded it to my Instagram feed is below. It’s a big improvement from the original image above. I was able to edit this nicely because I was careful not to blow my highlights out in my original image. That’s the key point!

The final image as uploaded to my Instagram feed.

The final image as uploaded to my Instagram feed.

 

Apps Used:

Snapseed

Snapseed

VSCOcam

VSCOcam

Why I am addicted to Periscope

There are very few apps these days that attract my attention for a lengthy period of time—let alone make me want to come back to it time and time again. For as long as I can remember, Instagram has always been my go-to app during my spare time. As a photographer, it’s inspiring, and the ability to engage with like-minded individuals is very attractive to me.

Why I am addicted to periscope

Why I am addicted to periscope

 

Pre-broadcast screen

Pre-broadcast screen

That is, until now.

If you haven’t heard, Periscope is a new iOS app (Android version is currently in the works) that allows anybody to live-stream themselves to the world at any point in time. It’s only been out for just over a couple of weeks, but its meteoric rise to fame aims to challenge how we see the world: through other people’s eyes. The viewers can engage with the broadcaster by tapping on the screen to give hearts (as a form of appreciation, love, or support), in addition to writing comments which appear on the screen for about 5 seconds—if you’re lucky—as it scrolls up the screen as more comments get written.

Periscope is still in its infancy but that didn’t detract Twitter from buying the company even before the app had launched. The company is now part of the Twitter family and is a direct competitor to similar featured apps like Meerkat.

Profile screen in Periscope

Profile screen in Periscope. My username is @smaku, which is oddly not shown on your profile page.

The first iteration of Periscope was a little slow and buggy, but after a newly released version, it’s a much more pleasant experience. What hasn’t changed yet though, is if there are too many viewers in one periscope (I use this word both as the app’s name and the live broadcasts that people stream), you are restricted to only giving hearts. [Sigh] the world needs more bandwidth. But enough about the app, let’s see why this app has taken time away from my instagramming.

Kevin and Dina of Breakfast Television in between segments. (@kevinfrankish)

Kevin and Dina of Breakfast Television in between segments. (@kevinfrankish)

So what’s the big deal?

I found out about this app just five days after its launch when I was watching Breakfast Television. Kevin Frankish (@KevinFrankish) boasted about it, and how much he was into live-streaming his daily activities. It sounded interesting so I downloaded Periscope that day and started browsing for other people to follow.

That’s when I took a real liking to this app. There’s just something about watching things happen live anywhere around the world. It really does change how we view the world around us—and in this sense, can be both great and not-so-great: think live-streaming breaking news, sporting events, behind-the-scene activities, and more. Kayvon Beykpour, the CEO of Periscope, says major sports associations are just starting to use Periscope to see its potential.

I was tapping happily at random people’s periscopes and was pleasantly surprised to see other photographers on there too. They gave me glimpses of Half Dome at sunset, walks through California mountains, panoramas of cherry blossoms in Japan, and views of the beautiful vistas of New Zealand. And inside people’s fridges—don’t ask, but that seems to be a common trend with users of Periscope.

Out of all this distraction, however, there was one person that stood out from the crowd. And her name is Amanda Oleander (@amandaoleander).

 

Amanda's Giving Tree couch where she conducts her interviews.

Amanda Oleander’s Giving Tree couch where she conducts her interviews.

Who’s she?

You probably haven’t heard of her (yet), but she has this innate ability to draw viewers in with her positive talk, enthusiasm to share, and Californian adventures. After seeing some of her periscopes, I later found out that she was quickly on her way to being one of the top users with the most followers, and was in the top five users with the most amount of hearts.

Amanda goes the extra mile to please her followers by taking requests to go to various places in and around Los Angeles. So far, she’s taken her Periscope family, as she likes to call her followers, to see Picasso and Monet paintings inside LACMA, a hike up to the not-so-secret Jim Morrison cave in Malibu, tour of the Grove mall, and in and around Hancock Park. She promises more tours in the future.

It’s not just her tours that make you want to watch though. She’s a talented artist that paints and illustrates for a living, some days even letting the family just watch as she paints and jams to music in her studio apartment.

Amanda OleanderIn her own words, Amanda says she loves Periscope because of its rawness, it “opens up your mind more” to places around the world, and that, “is a beautiful thing.” She wants to build a network where everybody is following their passion and doing it full-time. And because she knows how hard it is to do that, she wants to share what she can to help others out in their journey.

You can sense the genuineness in her as she plans interviews with actors, musicians, and other guests on her “Giving Tree couch” (pictured above) which she painted herself. I personally like the variety of things she streams, so I’d recommend following her account while you still have a chance to interact with her.

What about the others?

If you’re not into peeking into the life of a full-time artist, here are some other accounts that have taken my time away from Instagram:

  • Mashable (@Mashable) for anything tech related, and behind the scenes antics from their office
  • Imai Ami (@iuhya) A Japanese blogger who doesn’t talk much, but takes a lot of walks around the streets of Tokyo
  • Trey Ratcliff (@TreyRatcliff) A well-respected photographer based out of New Zealand
  • Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvon) He’s the co-founder of Periscope. He’s taken us through his company headquarters, and even through his live interview with Bloomberg Newsweek.
  • Dan Caldwell (@tapoutpunkass) I’ve only seen one of his periscopes but as an entrepreneur, he gave us some great insight on how he made his company, and answered any questions we had about starting up our own.

There seems to be a thing with newscasters periscoping from their desks while they are on air. I’ve come across about five accounts now from different stations. Here’s a couple reporters from News 12 in Augusta, GA:

  • Christie Ethridge (@christieetheridgewrdw) and Laura Warren (@LauraWRDW) Two reporters/anchors for News 12 in Augusta, GA who stream from their desks as they’re live on air, and answers our questions in between and after segments.

And here’s someone who will have you laughing out loud. She’s a voice-over actor who does voices for various TV shows, including a character from the new Tom & Jerry. In her very first periscope, she didn’t know what it meant to “show us your fridge” so when someone explained it to her, she opened it up and started giving the contents of her fridge character with voices for oranges to almond milk to onions and even daikon radish. She’s a hoot: Alicyn Packard (@alicyn)

Did I mention Chris Hadfield (@cmdr_hadfield) is also using Periscope? Canada’s very own astronaut takes us around the world as he visits locations for book tours, speaking engagements, and more.

The CEO of Periscope, talking to his followers.

The CEO of Periscope (@kayvon), talking to his followers.

The Tokyo Tower courtesy of @

The Tokyo Tower courtesy of @iuhya

Mashable staff talking about the new emojis.

@Mashable staff talking about the new emojis.

Looking at Monet at LACMA with @amandaoleander

Looking at Monet at LACMA with @amandaoleander

Alicyn is a voice-over actor with character!

@Alicyn is a voice-over actor with character!


And you?

My account is @smaku. Your Periscope account is linked to your Twitter account, although your usernames do not have to be the same. You’ll initially be able to select Periscope users that you also follow on Twitter, if there are any. So if you have a lot of followers on Twitter, chances are, you’ll start off with a lot on Periscope as well. For newcomers though, I do find it hard to attract new followers on here. Hopefully the app’s Global section will allow for the underdog periscopes to be discovered more easily.

I think apps like Periscope and Meerkat have a lot of potential, if used right. Whether these new waves of social media apps are just a fad or if they’re here to stay remains to be seen. I think as the app gets polished, and more users start to periscope, it will become something of value to many of us. So if you don’t see me on Instagram that often, you’ll probably find me on Periscope—that is until my battery runs out. Man, does this app drain your battery quickly.

You’ve been warned.


Tips for effective periscoping

  • If you ever find yourself in a periscope without the ability to chat because there are too many people, wait until the number of users drops down to about 250 or so. Then exit out of the periscope, and enter back in. You’ll find the chat feature magically enable itself so you can interact with the broadcaster.
  • If there are too many comments flooding the screen, the chances that the broadcaster may see yours will be diminished as the comments get pushed up as new ones come in. Before commenting, wait for a small gap or wait until the broadcaster is paying attention to the comments so that yours will have a better chance of getting read. Be aware that sometimes there’s a slight lag in what the broadcasters see and what you see.
  • If you’d like others to see your periscope via the web, make sure you enable Twitter notifications before broadcasting. If people click on the link in your Twitter feed, they will be able to view you through the web browser. Web viewers, however, cannot comment nor give you hearts.
  • You are also able to initiate private broadcasts to only those that you follow. This will allow for a more personable periscope, and one which may cut out the spam comments that pop up now and again.
  • Make sure to keep your audience engaged whenever you’re broadcasting. Even if nothing is happening, ask questions and chat. Your viewers will be more likely to interact with you then.

App Review: Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro is a simple to use, no-clutter photo editor with a lot of power packed into a clean and responsive interface.

Instaflash is the scaled down version of the Pro version with in-app purchases available for additional features.

[ Website | iTunes ]


Instaflash Pro seems to be an app that hasn’t received the attention that it deserves. Hailing from the same developers as the PC-based application ACDSee (which I’ve used back in the PC-days) and Anlei Technology Inc., it’s an app that harnesses the power of ACDSee’s lighting enhancement technology, Lighting and Contrast Enhancement (LCE), which enables it to open up shadow areas with minimal noise while retaining contrast.

Functionality

In addition to the standard photo editing features like boosting saturation, vibrancy, and clarity, to me, the best part of this app is its ability to adjust selective colours and light within a photo. The Light Equalizer gives finer control of the shadow, midtones, and highlight areas of your image while the Color Equalizer allows for boosts in selective colours.

Other differentiating tools in this app that make it stand out from the rest include (but are not limited to):

  • Soft Light which adds a very subtle highlight glow to the highlight areas of your photo
  • Orton, which mimics the popular Orton effect (giving an image a dreamy feel)
  • Color Splash, which converts your image to black and white and allows you to single out a specific portion of your image to stand out (In-app purchase for Instaflash)
  • Skin Tune, which optimizes skin tones (In-app purchase for Instaflash)

User Interface

With its most recent update, Instaflash Pro is now optimized for the larger iPhone screens and iOS8. Rather than the typical sliders that most apps use, this app mostly uses dials to increase or decrease values, which I found refreshing. All editing options are displayed on the bottom with text directly under the icons making it easy to pick and identify which effect you are selecting. It’s responsive, and I like the strength of each effect—some apps only apply very subtle effects to the point where you can’t even tell it’s been applied (but isn’t that what the sliders are for?). This universal app works well even in landscape mode on an iPhone, in addition to giving you lots of workspace on an iPad.

Final Thought

I’ve been a long time user of both Instaflash (its scaled-down little brother), and Instaflash Pro. I’ve always liked its ability to fine tune the lighting and selective colours within a photo, and it does this very well, thanks to its exclusive LCE technology.

I like to use Instaflash Pro to balance out lighting throughout photos that I have intentionally under-exposed. Instaflash Pro allows me to do this in a way that no other app has done. Once I am happy with my lighting and colour adjustments, I finish editing the photo in other apps.

It’s easy to use, and with its intuitive and responsive UI, I can see it continue to be a part of my image editing workflow. I’m just surprised that with the word “insta” in their name, they haven’t had to change it yet!