My favorite picture of 2014

I took a lot of pictures in 2014.  This picture of my 2nd son, taken on July 3 at the Athens, Ohio fireworks show, is my favorite.  We’ve had a few health issues/concerns/scares over the past couple of years with him, though he’s checked out okay through it all.  This picture of him just makes me smile.  I took about 100 pictures that evening and most of them were disposable except this one.

Son 2 holds a sparkler
Son 2 sparkles

What can Instagram teach you about photography?

I've been posting pictures to Instagram for almost two years. Some photographers might think that Instagram isn't where “real” photographers would post as the pictures are generally lower resolution compressed files and/or the pictures are just camera phone selfies. I'm not a professional photographer by any means, but I have found Instagram to more than just a social network for posting pictures of food. As a budding hobbyist photographer, here is what I've learned from Instagram.


What you shoot isn't necessarily what you post

Filters can make you more creative. Not only do Instagram filters have the potential to make your pictures look better, but the practice of using filters can get you in the mindset of editing almost all of your pictures. Before using Instagram I really never took the time to do any sort of post processing. I now do some sort of editing to almost all of my pictures that I share.

Square format can help you with creativity

The square format of Instagram does limit how much you can squeeze into a picture. However, the square format can also force you to think more creatively about how you compose a picture. Likewise, the square format can also encourage you to be more creative in how you crop pictures before editing and posting.

Practice makes you better

The more pictures you take, the better you can get with photography. It's often said that the Best camera is the one you have with you, and a mobile phone is always with you. While most phones today take some great pictures, it's important to understand that you aren't going to get dslr quality with a phone. Be content with what you can capture while on the go with your phone, and do your best with the camera's limitations. Sometimes the picture is more about how you frame the subject and use available light than the size of the sensor. Even if the picture you capture won't be good enough of a poster-sized print, what you learn in the process of framing, capturing, and editing the picture on your phone can help you with your “real camera” photography skills.

Sharing helps you learn

Instagram makes it very easy to tag and share your pictures and connect with others on Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr. It is also incredibly easy to find and follow others on Instagram. Connecting and sharing with others is a great way to learn from others and develop your photography and editing skills. Getting feedback and recognition from others when they notice one of your best shots is very rewarding.

While Instagram makes it very tempting to share every picture you take, try not to over share. Rather, only post your good, unique, or interesting stuff. I've taken tons of pictures I just deleted because no matter how I edited them or used a filter, they weren't worthy. At the same time, an interesting or unique photo that tells a meaningful story doesn't necessarily have to be a work of art.

What have you learned from Instagram? Has being active on Instagram helped you learn to take better pictures?


Photography 101 tips, tricks, and tools

The Daily Post at has an excellent Photography 101 series. The tips, crafted by guest photography bloggers, are written with a more general audience in mind. As someone who is newer to the hobby, I appreciate the non-technical approach to the topics. Posts in the series include:


Feel good moments via social media

The past two days I received two very nice compliments via social media.  Both of them made me feel especially valued and appreciated, even if the kind words came from people I have never met in person.  I’m posting them here for those days where things aren’t quite so rosy.

The first comment came out of the blue from another librarian on Twitter.  This really made my day, especially given  that I am submitting a few proposals to speak again at the Computers in Libraries conference next spring.


The second comment came this morning from a random person on flickr.  I can only assume that he found my pictures via one of the flickr groups that I’ve been posting to lately.  I’ve become really interested in photography over the past year, and have been working to get better.  It’s always nice when someone “favorites” or “likes” your pictures, but this fellow went out of his way to give me a very kind remark.


It really doesn’t take much to make somebody’s day better.  Simply giving someone a compliment can be a huge boost to their confidence and can make them happier.  I appreciate these two folks giving me a shout out, and now I’m very encouraged to pay it forward.

How to get better pictures with the HTC EVO 3D phone

I’ve been rocking an HTC Evo 3D since launch day back in 2011. It’s been a mostly solid phone, but despite all the hype, the camera isn’t that great. A while back I happened across a post about changing the Evo 3d camera settings to take better 2d pictures. For some reason the blog post now appears to be a dead link, so I thought I would post my settings as shown in end image below. While my settings image below is not nearly as good as the original post, perhaps it will help someone take better pics with their EVO 3d camera. FWIW I will be moving to the HTC One later this month.

The camera is still not very good for action shots or shots of the kids, as it has some extreme shutter lag. However, for still shots, I found the settings below to be generally pretty good, particularly when posting to Instagram. In addition to the settings below, I adjust the ISO as well. For most pictures I leave the ISO at 400 to speed up the shutter, but will use 100 or 200 when outdoors. I do occasionally tinker with the white balance, but usually only under daylight or fluorescent conditions.


Some sample shots, after Instagramming, are below. Continue reading “How to get better pictures with the HTC EVO 3D phone”

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