Tag Archives: photography

The Lesser Evil of Selfie Sticks

I’ve known about portrait distance for a while, and often thought that was a downside of using fixed-lens phone cameras for portraits. To frame someone’s face in a phone you have to either zoom (losing detail) or hold it close enough that the viewing angles distort the face. I prefer using my phone for long shots and using a camera with an optical zoom for portraits.

Unexpected consequence: Selfies are now a major source of young people’s self-image…which is distorted, leading them to feel worse about themselves and even seek out plastic surgery.

The researchers looked specifically at selfies taken from 12 inches away — a common distance for someone snapping a selfie without the assistance of a selfie stick. In a selfie taken from that distance, men’s noses appear 30 percent wider and women’s noses appear 29 percent wider than they actually are.

I think we can all agree that selfie sticks are a lesser evil than unnecessary cosmetic surgery!

Update: From the Facebook comments, here’s a link to a series of portraits taken at distances ranging from 2 meters down to 20 cm, demonstrating how different your face looks at each distance.

Ordering Photo Prints: Not Quite Interoperable

On the plus side: I was able to order photo prints while hundreds of miles from home on a business trip, and my wife was able to pick them up from the store the next day, which is pretty cool.

On the minus side: It was a heck of a lot harder than it should be by now.

  1. I went through Google Photos on my tablet and selected a bunch of photos by adding them to an album.
  2. I tried to upload them to the CVS photo website, but Chrome can’t upload photos from a Google Photos Album. This is on Google.
  3. I tried to install the CVS app, but it wasn’t compatible with my tablet. Not sure who to blame for this one.
  4. I installed the CVS app on my phone and tried to upload the photos from there, only to find that it had fewer options for uploading than the website.
  5. I got onto a laptop, downloaded a ZIP of the entire album, and uploaded it to the CVS website…only to discover during checkout that CVS is no longer offering same-day pickup at any locations near home — even though they’re plugging it all over the website and through the photo ordering process. So basically they’re lying about it. (Or maybe all the photo printers in a 10-mile radius broke down simultaneously. I mean, it could happen.)
  6. I finally set up an account with Walgreen’s, noticed their website clearly uses the same software as CVS’s, but tried anyway. I uploaded the photos, placed the order, selected a local store, and even put in my wife’s name as an authorized person who wasn’t me to come pick them up. Available the next morning. Done. Took maybe 5 minutes.

But it was a freaking pain to get to that point.

Phone vs Camera

Rose Garden

Over the past year I’ve found myself using my camera less and less, and my phone more and more. I used to carry both and try to take “good” photos with the camera, and quick shots intended for faster sharing with the phone, but several things have combined to change that:

  • In bright daylight, the phone’s quality is comparable to the camera’s. (I used to tag phone pics with “cameraphone.” I stopped when I got the Galaxy S4.)
  • Half the time, I find that I composed a better shot on the phone than on the camera.
  • It’s one less device to carry around.
  • I can edit or post online immediately, without taking time to transfer photos from a card.
  • Dust got into the camera, and when I finally tried to get rid of it with compressed air, I made it worse.
  • The two photos I’ve had featured in Flickr Explore were both phone shots.

Hibiscus duo Ivy on the Wall

For the first time I used only my phone at this year’s Long Beach Comic Con, and on a trip to Boston. And for a while I didn’t miss the camera, but…

Have you tried taking pictures of a four-year-old indoors with a slow shutter speed and flash? Good luck!

I’ve also found myself severely limited in what pictures I can take at sunset, or standing near a drop-off.  On two occasions I’ve spotted rainbows at sunset, and they’ve been too dim for the phone to pick up any color.  That’s right, there’s a faint white arc in the picture instead of a spectrum.

Faint Sunset Rainbow

And forget the photos I tried to take at a wedding! I’ve thought about running a watercolor filter on them so the blurriness will look intentional.

It’s time to admit that I have to do something about the camera.

Nighttime HDR Test: Yerba Buena Gardens

It’s looking more and more likely that WonderCon will be staying in Anaheim again for 2014. That makes it easier for me to attend, but I still feel like the show’s out of place. I’d like it to return to the Bay Area even though it means I’ll have to travel.

I’ve been in San Francisco this week for a training course. Tuesday night after dinner I wandered down Market St. until I recognized the pedestrian path that led toward the Yerba Buena Gardens, Metreon mall, and Moscone Convention Center. I had to look.

There was an art installation in the path, a set of benches including an open-air whisper gallery. The church nearby was covered with scaffolding. The nearby buildings were lit up, as was the Martin Luther King, Jr. waterfall at the south end of the park, and I decided to try taking some night photos with my phone. HDR mode surprised me by turning out astonishingly well for a phone.

MLK Waterfall at Night

Compare that view of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial waterfall to this daytime shot from 2010:


And here’s a look at the buildings on the east side of the park:

Yerba Buena Gardens at Night

Would I have liked to have a better camera with me? Sure. But the software did a great job of counteracting my jittery hand and the low light level. It probably handled the image stabilization better than my camera would have.

I walked on across the bridge to check in on the convention center itself, for nostalgia’s sake, and noticed for the first time the children’s museum and playground in the same block. If WonderCon ever does make it back to San Francisco, we’ll have somewhere to take our son in the middle of the day. Though the way things are going, by then he’ll be old enough to enjoy a full day at a comic con anyway!

The Culture of *Now*

Speedster's-eye view of a Chicago street.

It’s astonishing how short the Internet’s attention span is these days.

Last Friday I made a point to post my photos of Endeavour’s final flight as quickly as possible. The shuttle’s carrier landed just before 1:00pm, and I put off grabbing lunch until I had uploaded my best pictures. My Flickr traffic jumped up by a factor of 5 that day…and was back to normal on Saturday.

A few years ago, I could post convention photos a week or more after the event and people would view them in significant numbers. If a convention ended on Sunday, I usually tried to put my pictures online by Monday or Tuesday, then add them to groups over the course of a week. These days, if the photos aren’t up during the con, no one seems to care. And even if they’re up, they’d better be labeled and submitted to groups immediately. Sure, there’s a bump, but by Tuesday, interest is already dropping off.

Sometimes it seems like even waiting until evening to transfer photos from the camera is too long. If it’s not pushed straight from your phone to Instagram within five minutes, your potential audience is already moving on to the next thing.

I used to review Flash comics at Speed Force, but it became clear that whenever I missed the day of release, I got half as many readers, and if I didn’t have the review up by the end of the weekend, only regular readers would even see it. And there wouldn’t be any discussion, because everyone had already hashed things out on other sites.

A while back, I wondered, Is now better? I guess I have the answer: “Yes, if you want people to actually see it.”