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Beginners Guide: How to Take the Best Selfie

Learning the technique that’s involved with taking the perfect selfie takes some skill. Growing in popularity, the “selfie” has yielded well over 155 million searches on Instagram this far and was recently added to the English Dictionary. It leads to the question: how do you take the best selfie?

Tips on How to Take the Perfect Selfie

Choose the Best Possible Lighting

Lighting will make or break your picture. Avoid flash whenever possible and try to leverage natural lighting. Posing in front of a window often provides ample natural lighting for a great shot and can help eliminate any pesky shadows that may interfere with capturing the best shot. When’s the best time to take advantage of natural light? Watch for the “magic hours” – one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. Experiment with front and back-lighting to produce interesting effects with your photos but be sure to watch for camera and selfie-stick shadows! Use framing and positioning to eliminate these shadows whenever possible.

Spice Up Your Background

The best selfies are taken with either very interesting backgrounds or very simple ones. Beware of the in between. Consider your surroundings and beware of the photo bombers that could be lurking in the background. Background elements can make or break a great shot, so beware of framing your photos where strong background elements interfere or interact with your subject. The classic example is framing your shot where a tree appears to be growing out of your head!

Use the Proper Filters

Filters are a fantastic way to add some flavor to your selfie. Make sure to choose the right filter to get the most out of your photo. We recommend Aviary, which provides typical photo filtering features such as lighting adjustments, removing unwanted color, and teeth whitening. Aviary also offers an easy-to-use meme generator, frame additions, and a plethora of sticker options.

It’s All about the Angle

One aspect that could really impede on your selfie is a bad angle. Always view yourself on your phone’s screen before taking the photo. Experiment with poses from each side of your face. For most of us, one side usually produces a stronger photo than the other and either angle is usually superior to a straight on shot. Also, pay attention to your shoulder angle. It is usually best to avoid positioning yourself (or your model) with the shoulders square to the camera. If you can create at least a slight angle, it will result in a stronger portrait and help ensure that your face is the primary focus of the photo.

Avoid a Dead Battery

There are few things more frustrating than setting up the perfect shot only to discover that your battery has died. Fortunately, there are a variety of portable chargers available to provide an emergency charge when your phone’s power dwindles away from an outlet. Thunder Power is great option due to it’s compact size and durability.

Use a Selfie Stick

Don’t be left out of your next family photo. The selfie stick has revolutionized the art of taking the perfect selfie. Selfie sticks allow for the photographer to expand the selfie to include more people and a larger background. We recommend the retractable Wired Selfie Stick by Key Enhanced. This selfie stick offers great usability at an awesome price ($19.99 with Free Shipping).

Interested in learning more about the art of selfie photo taking? Start with a search on both Twitter and Instagram for particular hashtags such as #selfie, #instagood, and #photooftheday.

 

 

5 Tips and Tricks Every Android User Should Know

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No matter if you are new to the Android platform or have been with it since the “Cupcake” (Android’s first operating version) days, we think you’ll learn something new from our list of tips and tricks! One major factor to consider as you dive into this article is that the Android platform is WAY more customizable than Apple’s iOs counterpart. So if you like to tweak your system to perfection, you’ve made a great choice for your mobile device. And others seem to agree. As of 2014, Google’s Android platform surpassed Apple’s iOS and currently holds 80% of the global marketshare.

As we go through these tips, keep in mind that each version of Android is slightly different, so you may have to browse through your device to find a certain feature or setting. Let’s start with battery life.

1. Conserve Battery Life

We consider battery life to the most important tip to consider for obvious reasons. Without a charge, your phone is nothing but a pricey paperweight (or projectile, depending upon the current need for a working phone). Android devices are known for fantastic battery longevity, but there are some tricks you can employ to help conserve your battery. The first feature of note is to simply adjust your screen brightness. Go to Settings → Display → Brightness and from there you can properly adjust your screen’s brightness to its lowest setting that still provides great usability.

Another tip to saving your battery is to engage the “Screen timeout” feature. This feature will automatically put your phone to sleep once you stop using it. We recommend setting your screen to timeout between one and two minutes after you stop interacting with it. In the case of an emergency, always carry a portable charger to make sure you aren’t left stranded with a dead device.
(See Also: 4 Simple Ways to Extend Your Phone’s Battery Life)

2. Snap a Screenshot

It’s pretty easy to take a screenshot on an iPhone (pressing and holding the Home and Sleep/Wake button does the job) and it’s just as easy on an Android device! All you have to do is press the power and “volume down” buttons simultaneously and your screen will be captured to your photo library. Give it a shot. This is a fun and easy way to share directions, hilarious texting autocorrects, or contact information

3. Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Data

Nowadays, most smartphones come with a mandatory (but usually limited) data plan. As new streaming options like Netflix and Spotify become more popular, blowing through your allotted data can be very easy to accomplish. To avoid a huge cell phone bill at the of month, go to Settings → Data Usage. Here you can set your data limits, alerts, and billing cycle. You can also get a pulse on how much data you have used for the month, along with which apps hog the most data. When at home or places with Wifi, always make sure to connect to reduce your data usage.

4. Give Out a Wifi Code Without Your Password

That’s right. When you have friends and family over to your house begging for a wifi code, you don’t have to give up your precious password. Use this site to generate a QR code that is specific to your WiFi network. All you need is your wireless network name, password, and network type. Print out the QR code and stick it on your refrigerator. To scan the QR code, we recommend installing the QR Code Reader App from the Google Play store. Your guests can now quickly access your Wifi without you having to disclose your password info!

5. Block Unwanted Contacts

Do you have someone that just keeps calling you whom you wish would just knock it off? Luckily, there’s a way to silence them. In the Contacts app, find the person you are needing to ignore, select their contact name, then tap “edit”. If your Android device runs on version 5.0 or newer, tap the menu in the top right corner and select “All Calls to Voicemail”. In other Android versions, simply scroll down to “Additional Info” and follow the same steps as above. Now any calls from that individual will be directed straight to voicemail where you can better manage your options for when to respond.

Get Social

Now that you have some basic Android knowledge, follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up on the latest technology trends, how-to guides, events and sales/specials. We’d love to hear from you and remember to always stay connected!

9 Must Have Items for Your Summer Day Hike

The weather is warm, which means it’s prime hiking time for many Americans across the country. It’s time to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails. As you begin to plan out your next hike, there are a few day pack items that we consider “must-haves” to ensure your hike is as safe as it is fun.

 

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1. Navigation

It’s important to plan out your route before you head out for your day hike. Consider a map and a compass for easy and reliable navigation. A GPS device is also great for pinpointing your exact location, just in case you move off the beaten path. Most modern handheld GPS units allow for easy-to-read topographic maps to keep you on track and on schedule. Always make sure you pack a lightweight portable charger to keep your GPS running throughout your hike.

2. Headlamp

During the summer, the nights are the shortest, but don’t let the extended sunlight fool you. Nighttime can sneak up on you and before you know it, a day hike can easily turn into one where you can quickly lose your way. A flashlight can be hard to hold and makes reading a map a challenge, whereas a headlamp keeps hands free and is a great item to throw in your day pack just in case.

3. Sun Protection

We’ll start with your eyes: sunglasses are key to keeping your eyes safe from the sun’s harmful UV rays and also act to reduce midday glare for improved visibility. Next, be sure to pack sunscreen to help protect any exposed skin. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. When selecting the right sunscreen, make sure you buy no less than SPF 15, but SPF 30 is recommended. Also, ensure that you’re buying sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, and apply the lotion every couple of hours (more frequently for sweaty hikes). Not a fan of lathering up the sunblock? A great alternative is wearing synthetic UV protective clothing. If you choose to go the clothing route, you must still use sunscreen on your face, neck, and hands to be fully protected.

4.  First Aid Kit

First Aid is an item you should have, but hope to never need. Buy an already assembled First-Aid Kit to save time and take the guesswork out of trying to choose which medical supplies are the most important for your day hike. All kits should include the following:

  • Blister Treatment
  • Disinfecting Ointment
  • Gauze Pads
  • Adhesive Tape
  • Pain Medication
  • Pen and Paper
  • Latex Gloves

Keep in mind that your kit size should be proportional to the number of people in your party and the length of the trip.

5. Hydration Supplies

Water is one of the most important items to take with you on your day hike. Water tends to weigh down your pack, so consider a hydration bladder pack to store your hiking gear and water on your back. Hydration packs do a great job dispersing the weight of your gear to make hiking a bit more comfortable. If you think your hike will extend beyond half a day, we recommend packing an additional water purification system for optimal hydration throughout your adventure.

6. Fire-starting Equipment

When trying to build a fire, preparation is key. A flint fire starter is great, lightweight, and pretty reliable in dry conditions. Waterproof matches are one way to avoid wet conditions putting a damper on your fire, but make sure you pack them in a plastic bag to ensure they stay extra dry. Check local fire regulations before you travel to make sure fires are permitted in your hiking area. Many locations experience extreme fire hazard conditions during the summer months. If you do start a fire, only build one in designated areas, never leave it unattended, and douse it thoroughly before leaving the area. If you don’t absolutely need a fire, don’t light one.

7. Extra Food

The rule of thumb for hiking is to pack an extra day’s worth of food before you head out on your hike. Freeze-dried meal packets are easy to pack and lightweight. Don’t forget quick energy sources such as granola bars, nuts, jerky, and dried fruits. If you plan to set up a shelter, be sure to store your food at least 100 yards from your tent or use bear-proof containers or bags.

8. Shelter

As the saying goes, “hope for the best and prepare for the worst” when day hiking. In a perfect world, you won’t need a shelter for a day hike, but if you get lost in the backcountry, an emergency shelter will shield you from the elements. In a pinch, an emergency shelter can be something as simple as a large trashbag or a bivy sack.

9. Portable Power

For all of the electronics requiring a battery, it’s important to make sure you have additional portable power. The last thing you want is to have the sun go down and lose your GPS or headlamp, due to a dead battery.

It’s Time to Explore.

These essentials are key to making sure you have a safe and awesome hike. Keep in mind that other items such as a knife, insect repellant, a whistle, and communication device are all other important items to pack you on trek. Now get out there and explore the outdoors.

 

How to Take Beautiful Fireworks Photos with Your Phone

What comes to your mind when you think of the 4th of July?

 

Barbecues? Camping? Catching a parade or baseball game? One thing we can always count on for the 4th is fireworks. Have you ever tried to take a fireworks photo with your phone? It can be a challenge to say the least. Today’s smartphones are coming equipped with higher quality cameras, but there’s still one major deficiency – taking photos at night and in low light. Before you head out this Independence Day, make sure you test these key elements to make sure you get the most impressive pyrotechnics shots.

Take great fireworks photos with your phone

 

Location

Before the night of the show, stake out the venue to find the best spot. Keep in mind that closer isn’t always better. Make sure there are no obstructions like power lines, buildings, or trees. These obstructions could put a damper on your perfect shot. One major factor that you can’t really plan for is wind. When combined with the residual smoke of the fireworks, wind may make your photos blurry. How do you avoid this from happening? Shoot your photos early on in the show when the skies are clear and stake out your position to take advantage of (or reduce disadvantages of) prevailing wind conditions.

There’s an App for That

Nighttime and low light photography is all about slow shutter speed. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to get the most burst for your buck on an iPhone, try NightCap. NightCap is fantastic for controlling live shutter speed and has a great ISO display. An easy-to-view on-screen grid adds excellent composition for pyrotechnic photography. If you have an Android, take a peek at the Camera FV-5 app. For $3.95 this app is well worth every penny. For an even cooler effect, Camera FV-5 lets you take shots with exposure times up to several seconds, which means your fireworks photo will include impressive and exciting light trails.

Give Video a Go

The fireworks aren’t just about the visual show. We also love fireworks for the the action. The average fireworks show is approximately 15- 20 minutes, so video is an awesome way to capture the best shot. Since video is essentially hundreds if not thousands (depending on the video’s length) of still photos threaded together, you can break down your video into individual segments. Apps like StillShot for the iPhone or Androvid for the Android operating system. These apps let you view your video frame-by-frame to cherrypick the best looking photo from your short film.

Accessorize

Interested in upping your mobile phone photography skills? Fireworks are fast moving so stabilization is of the utmost importance. If your phone has a stabilization feature, fire it up. If not, consider a tripod stabilizer mount for optimum picture quality. Remember to always keep your phone charged or your memories of the show will go up in smoke. Your phone’s camera will be useless without battery, consider a backup battery power pack to keep in your purse to pocket to stay charged throughout the show.

[See Also: 4 Simple Ways to Extend Your Phone’s Battery Life]

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Don’t Get Caught Out in the Cold

“It was freezing!  It was absolutely breathtakingly cold!” Said 37 year old Janice Wellington of Edison Park, NJ. “We had to huddle together just to keep warm in our own house!”

GoAheadGetLostblogimageWellington was one of thousands of Americans without power as the temperatures continued to drop nationwide.  Plunging temperatures lead to higher energy demands and as the country is gripped in yet another artic weather system, it’s leading to power outages in communities across the country.   When the power goes out, so does your access to outlets to charge mobile devices to keep you connected.

That’s why at Powerocks USA we are urging Americans to add a portable charger to their emergency and winter storm preparedness kits.  When faced with the possibility of losing power, Portable chargers will extend the life of mobile devices, such as cell phones, iPads, GPS units, and other mobile devices enabling individuals to keep connected to family, loved ones, and even in the direst of circumstances, emergency response officials.

 “We realize how imperative it is to stay connected when there are dangerous weather conditions.  With these frigid temperatures and the potential for loss of power or being stuck in a car or airport, knowing that you can keep your mobile device charged up if it’s your only power source is something no one should take for granted,” said John Lund, CEO Powerocks USA.

“The most important part of a portable charger is the safety and reliability,” adds Lund.  “The Powerocks labs have demonstrated a less than a 1% defective rate.  That matters more than ever when you need that power most.  You need that charger to work without worry.”

Powerocks features several models of portable chargers from the 2800mAh capacity Magicsticks that can charge the average smart phone up to two times before needing a recharge, to the 12000mAh Magic Cube that can charge multiple devices at once.  Designed with an advanced litium ion technology, they are safe and reliable portable chargers that can be conveniently carried in a pocket, purse, backpack or briefcase and have a lifecycle beyond 500 charging cycles.  They charge a variety of mobile devices on the go when away from outlets or in an unexpected power outage or limited power source.

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The Red Cross recommends putting together a kit for emergencies to include everything from water and food to tools, copies of personal documents, and extra cash.  In addition, they recommend cell phones with chargers.  You can read more about their list HERE.

Is it time to add a Powerocks portable charger to your winter weather kit?  Today is the last day to get 50% off 7800mAh Magic Cubes.  Go HERE to get yours.  Always FREE shipping!