15 Tips for Shooting & Editing Your Cell Phone Photos

15 Tips for Shooting & Editing Your Cell Phone Photos by Caryn Caldwell. These are some of my favorite tips for getting the most out of your phone's camera, whether you're posting to Instagram or another social network, sharing kid pics with your in-laws, or snapping casual photos at a friend's wedding.

Introduction

By posting this I am not claiming to be an expert. Most everything I know about iphoneography is self-taught via luck, experimentation, and sheer stubbornness. (Laziness, too, since my DSLR is too heavy and bulky to come with me on many of my adventures.) Also, my tips may not apply to every device, since I use an iPhone for all shooting and editing. However, I do get asked frequently about the photos I post on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, so I wanted a go-to place for my favorite tips. If this is helpful to you, great. If it’s not, then that’s okay, too. And if I left out any important info, please let me know in the comments.

With that out of the way, here are some of my favorite tips for getting the most out of your phone’s camera, whether you’re posting to Instagram or another social network, sharing kid pics with your in-laws, or snapping casual photos at a friend’s wedding.

 

General Tips

 

View from a Play Date

View from a play date. Taken on my iPhone 5. Edited with Snapseed.

1. Take a lot of photos and sort them carefully
Let’s be honest: The best way to ensure good photos is to take a lot of pictures and hope a few are salvageable. (I’m talking a hundred or more in a session, unless you’re absolutely positive you’ve already gotten the perfect shot. I once took over seven hundred on a single day up in the mountains.) Since you’re using a digital format, this works as long as you have the phone space and don’t mind sorting through the awful ones to get to the good. Plus the archives provide fodder for the future. (I’m still using those mountain photos all these months later). I try to sort my photos as soon after an outing as I can, immediately deleting those that are blurry or otherwise unusable, and favoriting (currently the heart button at the bottom of the screen on an iPhone) photos I want to examine for possible editing and posting. My phone automatically dumps favorited photos into a file, where they wait — sometimes for weeks or months — for me to choose one to edit. If yours doesn’t have that shortcut, you can likely copy and paste the ones you’d like to edit later into a file of your own creation. It’s a pain, but it saves time in the long run and helps you make more careful choices about which photos to spend your time on. (more…)

Chat with Suzie Townsend & Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary (Part I)

UPDATE: Great news! The fantabulous Danielle Barthel is now officially taking queries. Find query instructions here, her New Leaf profile here, and her Pinterest MSWL board here.

QueryCrit300x300

I have a special treat for you: the first installment of a two-part chat with agent Suzie Townsend and assistant Danielle Barthel (Bar-THELL) of New Leaf Literary & Media. (OR Danielle and Suzie if you want the really fun links. Aren’t these two fantastic???) We cooked up this post shortly after I signed with them, and I’m beyond excited to share it with you now.

You can also see the second part here.

P.S. The giveaway is now closed. Thank you to all who participated!

Me: It’s unusual to have two people representing one writer. How will you will be working together, and how did this came about?

Danielle: So, I am not open to queries. {NOTE FROM CARYN: THIS HAS SINCE CHANGED}

Suzie: Well, you’re not open to queries yet.

Danielle: I’m not open to queries yet, but the way that it works when you’re working with another agent on a project like this specifically…Suzie thought that I would like it, and so I read it and I did like it, and after we did the revise and resubmit, we both liked it equally and so Suzie agreed to help me, or co-sign it with me so we could work on it together. (more…)

On Finding an Agent (or Two): A Post with Pictures for the Visually Curious

You know what else is this way? Finding an agent. I like to tell myself that's what makes life interesting. ( also like to delude myself. Coincidence?)

You know what else is this way? Finding an agent. I like to tell myself all the mystery is what makes life interesting. (I also like to delude myself. Coincidence?)

Last April I broke up with my agent of nearly three years. It was necessary, and risky, and terrifying. It meant leaving the only person in publishing who’d thus far agreed to champion my work, in order to find someone else who would, you know, champion my work.

Writing that message was hard. It couldn’t be undone, and there was no guarantee I would find another agent. Worst of all, I don’t ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially someone I like, and someone who gave me a chance before anyone else in publishing ever did.

Some things need to be done, however. This was one of them.

Because my newest book was ready to go — or so I thought — I jumped into the agent hunt fairly quickly. I had my query letter. I had two different synopses. I had a query-specific email address with a unique chime that gave me a miniature heart attack every time it announced a new message. I even had an agent spreadsheet so detailed that my writing buddies took every opportunity to tease me about it — and then asked me to share it with them when they, too, were ready to query. (Vindication feels good, by the way. In case you were wondering.) (more…)

How To Plot a Book in 16 Steps

I’ve recently entered the brainstorming stage of my next book. It’s a fun, crazy time. Sometimes my mood is rainbows. Sometimes it’s angst. Right now my mood wants lists (as it often does), so here you go: a step-by-step guide to plotting a book. All you writers out there, this is for you. You’re welcome.

1. Find the most inconvenient time/place. Showers are good. Cars, too. Lying in bed, comfortable, mostly asleep? Perfect.

2. Think about something else.

3. Bolt of lightning crashes above you, singeing little bits of your hair as it sizzles past. Geez, that was close.

4. You’ve got it! THE idea! (By the way, you’re brilliant. Good job.) (more…)

How (Not) to Cook Oatmeal in the Microwave: A Sort-of (But Not Really) Tutorial

"How (Not) to Cook Oatmeal in the Microwave - A Sort of (But Not Really) Tutorial" by Caryn Caldwell

Oatmeal: It’s explosive.

1) Carefully read instructions on oatmeal packet. This time you will do it right. For once, breakfast won’t end in messy defeat.

2) Stir together milk and oatmeal.

3) Set microwave according to directions. Hide pre-victory grin. Whistle. Exude confidence.

4) Watch oatmeal spin on tray, ready to halt all cooking at first sign of boilage. Squint a little. Hold breath. Fear overflow, despite yourself.

5) Stir and check status. (Answer: Oat flakes drifting in warmish milk soup.) (more…)

Don’t Look Down: On Writing a First Draft

"Don't Look Down" by Caryn Caldwell - On how to fool yourself into finishing your first draft.Here’s the thing about first drafts: They are fun, but they are also scary. They are messy and muddled and awkward and hard. They have no guarantee. And they can make perfectionists like me very, very uncomfortable.

But they are worth it for the times when everything works and, anyway, they have to be done in order to get to revisions. Even on the difficult days.

And those days do come.

Unfortunately, there’s no category for Personal Cheering Section in the help-wanted ads, and the cats would rather sleep on the couch than rah-rah-rah me into getting all the new words written. So when I’ve used up my last jar of inspiration, and my motivation has fled, I have to flail those pom-poms myself.

Throughout my recent two-month long frenzy of creative chaos — otherwise known as a first draft — I did just that. To be specific, I built a page of reminders to look at any time my typing lagged. As the manuscript grew, so did my list, because I learn new things every time I write a book or, more likely, I learn the same things over and over, forgetting in between.

Here, prettied up for your sake, and shared in case it provides inspiration (perhaps to those embarking on NaNoWriMo), is my memo to myself: (more…)

Word Nerd

In seventh grade, in the back of my parents’ car, on the way home from another disastrous school-wide dance, my friend Rebekah and I lied to each other in the nicest possible way.

“Nerds,” we told ourselves, “Are awesome.”

They were the most misunderstood subgroup in the high school hierarchy. Everyone should want to be one. Those snotty popular girls who had hurled insults down the school hallway toward us that night? They were just jealous. And they were wrong, too, because we were most assuredly not nerds.

Okay, fine, we admitted as the car turned a corner and a street lamp splashed yellow light into the back, highlighting our awkward hair and gawky arms. So what if we sort of were? It might not be permanent. If we could outgrow training bras, dollhouses with hand-painted shutters, and unrequited crushes, we could outgrow this. Nerdhood? Already speeding into the past, baby.

Only, that was a lie. The biggest of all.

Because now, two decades later, I have realized something. (more…)

The Time I Almost Went to Art School (Except I Had No Talent)

When my brother and I were children, my parents believed in nurturing our talents and helping us become whatever we wanted to be. Kindergarteners have a very small skill set, but they get to paint a lot, so one September day I brought home a roll of manila paper. It was heavy with paint, damp and creased from where my fingers clutched it on the walk.

Jackson Pollock No. 9 – It really does look like that long-ago painting, manila paper and all.

Prepared to gush over any bit of artwork, no matter how rudimentary, Mom and Dad watched me unfurl the paper and thrust it their way. Stunned, they stared at the masterpiece I’d so casually brought into the house. It was like something out of Jackson Pollock – The Kindergarten Years. Bright splashes of color dotted the paper, flirting and frolicking in an arrangement that dazzled the eye. Abstract and playful, it was the work of a confident painter, one much older than five.

The next day they quietly began saving for a fancy art school. I would be the first artiste in the family, and they wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to mix more media than crayons and fingerpaints.

Excited to show off their daughter’s talent, they had the picture framed and hung in a place of prominence over the dining room table, where we could admire it.

And then one night during dinner, as my brother kicked me under the table so my parents couldn’t see, my mom turned to me and asked, “What made you decide to put that dab of blue right there?”

“What?” I asked, more worried about Mom catching me kicking my brother back than about answering her. (more…)

The Trouble with Audiobooks

Warning: Moderately explicit imagery ahead. If you are young and impressionable, easily shocked, or my parents, feel free to move along.

This morning I kicked off my list of errands with a stop at the fitness center, where I pounded out a 55-minute suffer fest on their diabolical machines. I find that ignoring exercise is the easiest way to get through it, so I queued up an old audiobook that I bought last year based on an inexplicable number of five-star reviews and never could finish.

Almost immediately, the two main characters jumped into bed together (and by bed, I mean the shower). Since I’m not one for the, uh, more intimate scenes, I set the player to double speed and hoped the hero and heroine found quick gratification.

They did not. Their staying power was impressive, their stamina improbable. And the author described everything in such detail that even the most die-hard love scene fans would find it tedious. It went on. And on. And on. Annoyed, I finally gave up, stopping the book well before the big finish (if their recent performance was any indication).

Over the next hour Sunshine and I drove all over town, ticking through my to-do list. Just before lunchtime, when my exercise session and the accompanying book were a distant and unpleasant memory, we hit our final stop. (more…)

Carrot Cubes, Green Pea Puree and Other Baby Food Misadventures

These cherries now languish – crushed, mutilated, and wholly untouched – in our freezer.

Somewhere between buying thirty-six cloth diapers for Sunshine and committing to what our local Target calls ‘natural feeding’ (because some people consider ‘breast’ a terrible word) I heard about the wonders of making your own baby food. The magazine article claimed it was Easy! Wholesome! Cheap! Fun! And Totally Not Messy At All! Since I’m into cheap fun, I went for it.

It was not the first time I’ve been lied to by a magazine.

There were hints from the start that life would be easier if I simply opened up a jar of Gerber and shoveled it into Sunshine’s mouth. For one thing, Gerber doesn’t require a blender. But I’m a stay-at-home-mom now, so I feel an obligation to get my inner housewife on. Most of the time that means I toss laundry into the washer a few times a week, make dinner when I feel like it, and sweep the floor on a semi-regular basis. Otherwise, it’s all Sunshine, all the time. Still, girlie and I were lurking about the house anyway, so why not?

The peas came first. I lovingly cut open the bag (because, no, I was not going to hand-shell three hundred sugar snaps, no matter how much I love my daughter), dumped the frozen contents into our electric steamer, and set the timer. Now all I had to do was grind them into baby-safe mush. Easy. I poured a mountain of veggies into the blender, tapped the puree button, and waited for the magic. The engine whirred ineffectually, a burning smell tinged the air, and smoke curled out from under the base. Okay. Fine. Next button. More power. Still, those blades would not move. Hot pea juice fogged up the inside. Sunshine fussed. The Mother of the Year acceptance speech I’d been composing in my head dissolved.

A quick consultation with my father – who’d never made baby food in his life, but does have a knack for dealing with mean machinery – solved the problem. A little water, a little stirring, a little more water…a lot more water. With a groan, the blender finally complied, grinding the peas into an unappetizing neon green sludge.

Giddy with accomplishment, I slid Sunshine into her high chair and served up a big old glop of the stuff. Which, of course, she refused to eat. (Because, you know, who wouldn’t love warm pea mush for lunch?) Undeterred, I spooned the rest into three ice cub trays and froze them in baby-sized portions, as per the instructions in the magazine article, two cook books, and seven websites I had, by now, read on the subject.

Carrots came next, chopped and steamed and blended with a bucket of water, then chilled into little orange cubes. I dished up a mound of the sticky slop. Ick face ensued.

I was desperate for a victory, so when she ate the yams I sent a silent “Take that!” to Gerber and planned my next feat. Luckily, the end-of-summer trees were heavy with fruit. I peeled, sliced, and simmered apples. I halved and roasted hand-picked peaches and apricots, then slipped off the skins. I removed the seeds from so many grape-sized plums that my thumbs hurt for days. And every bit went into our now-compliant blender.

On occasion I trot out one of the cubes, let it melt, and dish it up. Sunshine still likes her peas round and her carrots chopped, but she’ll take a taste if I pretend I don’t care. As for the rest? Wholesome, cheap, and, if you’re fourteen months old, rather tasty.