Source: Andrew Mason, Flickr, CC-licensed
I’ve been known to write the occasional photography article over at Lifehacker, but I’m hardly a photography expert, or even the person on-staff with the most photo experience. Still, I know a thing or two, and these tips are spot on. They can improve your digital photos, but if you’re still shooting with film–either by preference or by nostalgia–they can help there too. Here’s just one as an example:
Today’s hi-tech cameras are admittedly pretty amazing, and while they may seem like it, they’re not yet capable of taking the pictures themselves. That’s where you come in. Very few amateurs I see have good camera technique. Follow these basic guidelines and you can increase your odds of getting sharp accurate shots. It’s not a difficult skill set to acquire, but more a matter of mindfulness; like learning to hold the steering wheel at 10 & 2.
There was a National Geographic special a couple years ago about President Obama’s staff photographer, Pete Souza. While the whole show is great, what fascinated me most was watching how Pete held his camera. He was master of this stuff and it was obviously second nature to him. Even the big boys master the fundamentals.
First things first. Spread your feet a little and straight up so that your hands have a good platform to work from. Think of yourself as a walking talking camera tripod, or bipod more accurately. Next, keep most of the weight of the camera in your left hand. On a SLR style camera this usually means cradling the camera in your hand from underneath near the junction of the camera body and the lens with your thumb and first few fingers wrapped on either side of the lens. This keeps the camera from bouncing around when you press the shutter. Work on holding the camera steady this way, as if you’re a waiter and the camera is a tray full of drinks.
And the biggest technique mistake I see people make is that they press the shutter with such force that the camera shakes, the result being blurry pictures. This is especially true if you’re taking pictures indoors without a flash (which you should try to master by the way; these shots look better than the flat bright pictures you get with on-camera flash). Practice pressing the shutter without moving the camera (The stable left hand underneath should help). Also try half-pressing the shutter to lock focus and exposure. That way when you actually want to take the shot, the shutter will require only a tad more pressure and will be nearly instantaneous. Most of all become deliberate and conscious of what you’re doing. Eventually this will become your natural way to shoot.
I’m surprised that Bill Wadman, the author of the piece, didn’t choose to make this one his first tip, but all of them are solid regardless. If you’re looking to take your photos to the next level, the whole list is worth a look, even if some of the tips seem like common sense–but then again, common sense isn’t that common if the entire piece needed to be written, now is it?
(image snapped from Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus)
While I knew many people had difficulty understanding and accepting scientific papers as a basis for discussion and argument (mostly because whenever facts contradict opinion, the people on the wrong side of the facts take issue with them,) I didn’t know that some people had difficulty telling solid facts from conjecture, and that people had that much difficulty actually finding studies pertinent to the things they’re researching or interested in.
To that end, this piece from Scientific American about how to find and tell good information from bad information on the Internet is one of those “bookmarkable” stories – the kind you send to people when you find that their entire argument rests on horribly outdated or disproven information. They start off with this gem, and move on to some tips on how to find good information, corroborate it, and interpret it:
The internet empowers us to educate ourselves and make more informed choices and decisions without leaving our couches. But if we believe everything we find on the internet, we are likely to wind up making some very poor decisions. In this new digital information age, how do we keep from being misinformed? As a skeptical environmental research scientist and educator I have picked up a few tricks that anyone can use to find and select high-quality information from the internet.
One of my favorites is how to find and use scientific papers (and not to be afraid of scientific papers when you find them) and of course, to be careful which web sites you trust. The whole piece is worth a read, but admittedly, many of us are already familiar with these tips:
One of my colleagues, Matthew Rogers, at Lifehacker found something so delicious today that I had to share with the world: namely proof positive that what a number of gamers have been saying for years is absolutely true: you can be more productive with a gaming mouse! The more buttons, the better – especially if they’re programmable and can be used for more applications than just your video games.
After all, people learn keyboard shortcuts for a reason, and programming your extra mouse buttons to match up with commonly executed commands when you have your hand on a mouse can save you tons of time and energy. Matt says:
Gaming mice aren’t just for gaming, they can be put to use outside the battle zone, too. A gaming mouse usually has better tracking (makes smoother cursor movement) and several customizable buttons, so why not take all that and apply it to regular computer work?
My sentiments exactly. That’s why I tend to rock multi-button mice at work and at play. It doesn’t hurt that I like the way they feel better than standard office mice, too. I just chalked it up to being a gamer through and through, but maybe there’s something more to it.
The folks at PC Mag sat down and got busy thinking about what some of their biggest pet peeves around technology were. Horrible autocorrect? Check. People trying to multi-touch all over your laptop or desktop display? Check. People who want to borrow your phone because it’s different than theirs and they need to compare? Definitely.
This slideshow is one that’s worth clicking through, if for no other reason than the hilarious photos involved like the ones above. They’re fantastic to see, and you’ll agree with every single one, without doubt.
Now here’s a project that I think I could take on – not because I need another computer, but mostly because I could use having a gaming PC that doesn’t take up as much space as my current tower does. The beauty of this rig is that it’s up to date and can play pretty much anything popular today, and has enough horsepower to play some of the biggest titles planned for release this year.
If you’re thinking about updating your gaming rig and you want a solution that doesn’t take up a world of space, take a look at this how-to guide. The slideshow walks you through every step of the process.
Should you go on a “Digital Diet?” Do you spend waking hours refreshing Twitter or Facebook, reading friends blogs constantly and then commenting on each post even though you know you don’t have anything meaningful to say? Do you think that a quick Facebook “Happy Birthday” or a note left on a friend’s wall really constitutes meaningful communication with that person?
Yeah – you might need a Digital Diet – or at least you might need to step back and reconnect with the people that really matter to you with the technology that you actually want to use instead of the technology you feel obligated to news.
PC Mag Editor-In-Chief Lance Ulanoff debates the question himself in an editorial, and I have to agree with him: maybe a full scale diet isn’t in order, but there are definitely some tips in the book that everyone can use.
There are a lot of things that carbon fiber is good for. The fuselages of jet fighters, lightweight bicycles, race cars, but how about as a mousepad? Or an iPhone case? Over at Unplggd, the crew there thinks that carbon fiber can play a much bigger role in personalizing your gear and customizing the things you use every day – and plus, it even comes in multiple stylish colors and designs to help you add a personal flare.
All this and it really doesn’t weigh very much. I mean, it is carbon fiber, after all.
The real question though is how much carbon fiber actually costs. I don’t think it costs very much at all to obtain in pretty decent quantities: but in the long run it’ll probably do well to save you some dough if you’re looking for an easy and colorful way to make your gear really stand out. Thankfully they have some links to help you get started if you want a nice carbon fiber cover for your MacBook Pro:
You know, I could get used to this.
And honestly, here’s hoping I have the opportunity. Apparently the weekend before last and the time before that were well enough received by the team at Lifehacker (and of course, the community,) that the crew there asked me back again, and I was more than happy to do it.
So I had the chance to take the reins again last Sunday and churn out content for Lifehacker, and I like to think this week was even better than the last. Here’s what you missed, if you weren’t paying attention:
- Simple Tips that Make Moving Easier
It helps that I’ll be moving soon, but I had to share some great tips that I stumbled on around how to make the moving process a little easier. I mean, it sucks no matter which way you go about it, but you can make it easier on yourself by preparing properly, making sure you keep the most important things available and identified so you can unpack them first, and organize things the way you want them when you get to the new place. Minimizing a bit also helps. As for me, I’m in the middle of doing all of those things.
- Say No Without Wrecking Your Career
If there’s anything I’ve learned in trying to navigate the corporate maze, it’s about how to let your supervisors and management know clearly that you’re pretty much tapped out – without, of course, being disrespectful and landing yourself in a position where someone questions your capability to work effectively. In this piece, I share how to go about doing it.
- Five Best Cheap Travel Booking Sites
This post and its predecessor where I called upon the readers to let us know what their favorite sites to book cheap travel with are part of the Hive Five series. The sites that made it into the roundup are pretty much the ones I expected, but there were still a few surprises. The ITA/Matrix site is a new one to me, but I’ll tell you here’s one thing I didn’t realize until I saw the votes: Kayak clearly has a posse.
- Family-Friendly Spring Exercise Tips
When I got the call to do another weekend, I knew I wanted to share an outdoors-y type exercise post. Sadly, they don’t seem to resonate quite so much with the LH readers, but I think it was well liked anyway – honestly, I think there’s still a strong “tech” element to the Lifehacker name, even if there have been more lifestyle posts lately. Still, I found a great article about how to encourage your friends and family to get out and get some exercise, and considering the weather is getting warmer, why not share it?
- Bridg.me Calls You When the Conference Starts
I actually stumbled on this one a bit late: the download I was thinking about writing about on Thursday got snapped up by another writer on Friday, so I had to adjust at the last minute. No worries though, this new service promises to call you when your conference call is supposed to begin instead of forcing you and your call participants to join a bridge line. With some more detail, I think it can get some real traction.
- One-Line Tips to Stay Creative
Sometimes, my friends are some of the best sources of inspiration for me, and I stumbled onto this piece at Tumblr thanks to one of my friends’ tweets. I took it to heart personally, seeing as I’m a writer by and large, and would like to be more of a writer if at all possible. Just because it’s my passion though doesn’t mean that I don’t have those times where I just can’t figure out what to write about. Now I have a little cheat sheet to help me stay motivated.
- Use Plasti Dip to Fix Stripped Headphone Wires
I almost didn’t expect this one to get the traction it got, but it did – I mean, the makers of the product started following me on Twitter and expressed their appreciation. All I did was write about it guys, the guy over at Instructables that originally posted the tip deserves the credit! Still – it does look like an awesome product and an awesome idea. I’ve lost several great headphones to separated wires like this, and I’m definitely going to try it next time one of my pair starts to go this way.
That does it! Now all I have to do is see if anything else comes from this round of guest posts, and I certainly hope it does. I really enjoyed guest posting at LH, and I’m hoping they ask me back again soon!
I hear it all the time: everyone wants a smartphone, but not everyone wants to type on a screen, no matter how good alternative screen keyboards like Swype or SwiftKey really are. Considering the most powerful and popular phones entering the market frequently don’t have physical keyboards, does it mean that you’re relegated to a cruddy phone if you prefer a physical keyboard? Not at all!
Over at PC Mag, there’s a great roundup of 10 phones that have physical keyboards, including the T-Mobile HTC G2, shown above. You also have the amazing Samsung Epic 4G, the Droid 2 Global, and the Droid Pro. It’s good to know that if you just don’t think you can do without a physical keyboard, you have options.
Far be it from me to turn the lovely folks at Lifehacker away when they ask me to join them for a little guest posting action, but this time they had something special in store for me: a whole day on the weekend, Sunday, in fact, where it was all me, my ideas, and my posts at what’s very much one of the Web’s best tech and tip blogs.
It was a blast, and I don’t say that lightly. It was so much fun to do, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do it. In case you missed the work, here’s a roundup of the pieces I posted, complete with links:
- Get Spring Produce Early, Keep It Tasty All Summer
Here I share some tips I picked up on how to make sure that the delicious fresh spring and summer produce that you’re likely going to see on store shelves in the next couple of weeks manage to stay fresh, delicious, and available for you to enjoy well into the hot weather months, even when they’re not readily available anymore.
- How to Keep Your Task List Healthy and Focused
I’m a huge fan of the GTD philosophy, and I think I resonated with this article a bit more than some of the commenters did, but it’s authored by Amber Mac, who I can’t say I don’t adore, and her tips hit home with me. Of special note, I like how she pointed out that you should make sure to reward yourself for the work that you do, and make that a task on your to-do list. I could get used to that.
- Five Best Job Search Sites
This post and its predecessor where I called upon the readers to shout out the sites they wanted in the roundup, I was pretty busy. I’m still surprised some of my favorite job sites didn’t make it into the roundup, but I think we got a great roundup regardless. Best of all, it’s a great bookmark-able article for people who are out looking for work and need solid resources to do so.
- Add Ground Effects to Your Bed for Gentle Night Lighting
This one is one my favorite, I think. Partially because it’s just so cool, but partially because I had the opportunity to write about ground effects and pimping out beds on a site like Lifehacker. I think the readers loved it too, actually, and I’m seriously thinking about doing something like this when I move into my next apartment. After all, it’s so incredibly simple to do!
- Use Metal Hairpins to Easily Pit Cherries and Olives
This one is one of my favorites as well – I’m a huge fan of using things you already have in your home or have lying around to do uncommon tasks, and I’m an even bigger fan of using things that are cheap to replace expensive uni-taskers in your kitchen. I’ve talked about this before, but the idea of using a hairpin to pit an oliver or a cherry, or a baby food spoon to fill a deviled egg? Really resonates with me – and it should resonate with you, too!
- Greplin Adds Faster, As-You-Type Search to Gmail
Greplin was a fun little tool to use: it really does improve Gmail search as much as they say it does, and it’s a great super-search utility that can search everything across your online life, as long as it has access to those accounts and services. And there’s the rub: it has to know everything about you in order to index it. Yowch.
- How to Save Money on Warm-Weather Energy Bills
This one is a little early, but according to some of the commenters I might be a little late on the energy-saving tips for warm weather months. After all, I know that the biggest part of my electric bill in the spring and summer is air conditioning, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to keep my power costs down. It’s pretty likely that you are too, so I snagged some tips, wrote them up, and provided them to you. Enjoy!
The best part is that they’ve asked me back to post again this weekend! More on that later, but in the meantime, click on through and let me know what you think, either in the comments here or there. I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Thanks for reading!