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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!
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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!

App Review: Juxtaposer

Juxtaposer

Juxtaposer

Juxtaposer is an app that allows you to creatively combine multiple photos together by enabling you to remove portions of the top image while seamlessly blending the two together.

[ Website | iTunes ]


 

More recently than not, I’ve seen many photography apps come out for iOS that specialize in one specific task. These apps focus on performing one thing, and they tend to do them well since they pack in more detailed features specific to performing that one task. There may be all-in-one apps that do similar things, but to my experience, they often fall short in the available features that make these one-trick ponies stand out from the crowd.

While I was well aware of this app, I’ve never used it until recently when I saw it at Starbucks as one of their Pick of the Week apps. To this day, I’ve been content with Image Blender, which is a comparable app with slight differences. So, which is better? Well, let’s find out!

Functionality

Several photo editing options available to seamlessly combine two images.

Several photo editing options available to seamlessly combine two images.

As I mentioned in the opening of this review, apps that focus on one thing tend to do them well because of the added functionality they are able to incorporate. This app does not disappoint in this respect as it incorporates features that you would want/need for making compositions, and goes even further by allowing you to save stamps (portions of a photo that have been cut out) and sessions, which can be a great time-saver for some.

Useful features of this app include:

  • Ability to change brush size and edge hardness
  • Picture-in-picture of the zoomed portion of where you are editing (although a brush offset would be more to my liking)
  • Several different blending options available (Multiply, screen, overlay, etc.)
  • Ability to edit temperature, tint, saturation, etc. on either photo to seamlessly blend the two together
  • Thoughtful shortcuts like double-tapping to change from erase to un-erase

User Interface

With the most recent update, the app now has full support for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The clean and uncluttered interface coupled with easy-to-learn icons, allowed me to focus on the task at hand (or finger!), working efficiently within the app. Its responsiveness gives it a polished feel. All of this combines to make for an efficient workflow that will be sure to speed up the time it has taken me thus far to combine images.

Edited within minutes of downloading the app. Lucky cow!

Final Thoughts

It’s a great app that does what it does, well. With its ability to save sessions and even stamps, it adds an extra feature that can be a great time-saver for some. With the clean interface, responsive UI, and easy-to-learn features, I had no problems creating my first composition with this app. The one thing I would love to see in the next release would be an offset feature for the brush, so that your finger isn’t covering the area you are editing (Image Blender does this well). I found the picture-in-picture feature that tries to alleviate this problem not as useful since I’m more used to looking at the area I’m editing, rather than a box that is nowhere near my finger, and that automatically moves depending on where you’re editing. Despite this, it just may now become my go-to app for combining images.