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.


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…)

Inspiration from Author Lori M. Lee + Giveaway

The Infinite by Lori M. Lee

The Infinite by Lori M. Lee

I’m thrilled to have the fabulous Lori M. Lee on the blog today. She’s celebrating her latest release, The Infinite. It’s the follow-up to the action-packed Gates of Thread and Stone (which I LOVE), and it’s burning a hole in my Kindle even as I type this because I’m dying to start reading it. The Infinite looks just as thrilling as the first book, and Lori’s post below is truly inspiring. Be sure to read all the way to the end for your chance to win some great swag. Enjoy!

Take it away, Lori!

I’ve talked a lot about the Call or How I Got My Agent or the really great stuff that’s happened in my writing journey. But now I want to talk about the low points.

Lori M. Lee

Lori M. Lee, author of Gates of Thread and Stone and The Infinite.

I love reading Success Stories, but when you’re querying and slogging through the query trenches, watching as apparently everyone except you gets an agent can really start to mess with your head and crush your confidence. You start doubting your abilities. You start thinking how lucky those authors are. You start feeling resentful. All of this is okay—so long as, once you’re done, you remind yourself that luck has very little to do with it. They’ve worked just as hard as you have.

So I suppose this is a reassurance that it’s all normal. And that despite what rejections and setbacks you might currently be facing, never lose sight of your passion for words and remember that everything can change with a single email. (more…)

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

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.

First of all, the winners of the query critique giveaway from the previous post have been contacted. Thank you to all who participated!

And now to continue our chat with Danielle Barthel and Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media. Like the first part, this was recorded and then transcribed by the awesome Danielle, so it’s more relaxed and conversational than a traditional interview. Enjoy! And if you missed part one, you can find it here.

New Leaf Literary & Media LogoMe: How much input do you give before a client starts a new project?

Danielle: I think that’s mostly…it’s not as much input as it is guidance. A lot of times a client will come with multiple ideas and you’ll sort of steer them in the direction of what you think a) they can write best, and b) what is most sellable in the current market.

Suzie: Yeah, I’ve given a few of my authors some ideas where they’re brainstormed or they’ve been like “I need an idea,” and I’m like “Oh, write something like this.” But it doesn’t always work quite as well that way. I feel like with some authors it’s just better if they come up with something on their own. And I’d say this is another one that kind of depends on the client. I definitely have clients that will be like, “Hey, I wrote this thing, I don’t know if it’s any good, but here it is.” Whereas I have other clients who really want to talk things out beforehand. (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.


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…)

Giant Mutant Tomatoes from Our Space

In retrospect, the fertilizer might not have been a good idea. Over the last few weeks, this summer’s garden plot has become a very scary place. We’ve been overrun by groping vines and in-your-face leaves. Melon sprawl and wall-to-wall carrot carnage. Sweet pea forests. Six-pound marbled orange beefsteaks. Eggplants that grow like Pinocchio’s nose, expanding by the second.

The only thing that’s not getting any bigger is the size of our garden space.

"Giant Mutant Tomatoes from Our Space" by Caryn Caldwell

A specimen from yesterday, pulled up with both hands. In case you thought I was exaggerating. But then, you know me. I never, ever exaggerate.

Give me strength. I fear I may not make it out alive the next time I venture in. Yesterday I barely escaped, stumbling onto the safety of the back patio with just a fistful of dirt-clotted weeds and most of my sanity. Today? Who knows. The lettuce is looking feisty, and the cucumbers have come of age. We may have a real fight on our hands.

Still, someone has to prune the pumpkins before the patch infests the neighborhood, so I’m going in. Soon as I re-tie my shoelaces. And adjust my sunglasses. And gas up the chainsaw. And any other delay tactics I can think of while still looking brave and unhesitant. I hear pumpkins can smell fear. (more…)

Snack Envy

I had forgotten how good graham crackers could taste. And Cheerios, and Goldfish, and animal crackers, and every other crunchy, carby kid food.

Until I had a toddler.

It’s not just the flavor, either. It’s the crackly bag, the tantalizing smell, the convenient thereness. Irresistible. And I can’t eat any of it. Not if I want my morning milk, evening chocolate, or, say, lunch.

But it’s hard to turn down tempting treats when you’ve got a two-year-old snack pusher in your household. Sunshine’s not subtle, either. Like my grandmother, her namesake, she’s a high-impact sharer who hates to eat alone. And I’m her preferred dining partner – or at least the most convenient one.

Each time I break out Sunshine’s snacks, she pinches a few in her fidgety fingers and sweetly offers them to me. When I turn her down, she tries again, pushing the crackers against my hands, my mouth. She chants, “Share! Share!” and eats a bite herself, then waves the gnawed-on remains in front of my eyes. After all, if she loves them, then Mommy will, too, right? (Yes. Unfortunately.) (more…)