Instagram Gets a Huge New Feature

Instagram Gets an Update!

A couple of days ago Instagram released an pretty important update to their wildly popular App. This release brings not only an updated user interface but also a new filter AND a new editing tool. The latter is the most important addition. The new editing tool is called Lux saves an entire step in my old iPhone photo workflow.


What Lux is going to do for you

Before Lux, my workflow went like this; Take a photo, go to Camera+ and adjust the Clarity. This pumps the midtone contrast of the image and really makes it "pop". I would then save the image to the camera roll, import it into Instagram and apply my filter. Lux is essentially "Clarity" for Instagram. It is activated by tapping the small sun looking icon in the bottom left corner of the screen.


A new Filter

Along with Lux, Instagram gets a new filter with this Update; Sierra. Not a crazy different filter, but it has some subtle changes that I enjoy. The next time you are in Instagram try it out, I'm betting that you'll like it.


Reworked UI

This is the only downside of the whole update is the new user interface. Instagram replaced words with icons that look (as my buddy Zack put it) very web 2.0 and cheap. I prefer the old interface but just like every other App company they are feeling the need to change things up to keep it fresh. I say, "if it isn't broken, don't try to fix it".


The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this; Instagram V.2.1 is a great update (especially the addition of Lux). If you're an Instagram lover, definitely check it out. If you've not tried it out yet, head over and check it out. Oh and don't forget to follow me on there @jlykins.


Get Instagram for the iPhone for free from the iTunes store here: iTunes


Launch Center makes a “speed dial” for just about anything

Have you ever wished that there was a speed dial for anything on your iPhone? Have you ever wished that with one tap of a button you could quickly launch right to a Tweet, or to post a Facebook status? Of course you have. We all have! Now, with Launch Center, you can do those things and more! I first stumbled upon this App when searching for ways to increase the functionality of the notification center in iOS5. What I found within this App will make your iPhone infinitely more efficient. Read on to see how.


What it does

Launch center lets you launch tasks, websites, specific actions within Apps as well as the top level of the App. It also lets you launch new emails, text messages, or phone calls to specific people. You can also launch the flashlight, as well as Google the contents of your clipboard.

Post to Facebook and Tweet bypass the need to navigate through the respective Apps to find the "post" or "tweet" areas and launches directly into a new message or post. The same thing Applies to emails, and text messages. It truly is a "speed dial" for everything.

Do you launch a particular website on a regular basis (like BestAppSite)? There's a spot for that too! Yes, Safari has built in favorites, but to access them you have to first launch Safari, then select the favorites tab. With Launch Center These favorite websites will be right alongside of your other most commonly used tasks. The same thought process applies to placing speed dials of your most often used numbers in Launch Center. Having everything in one common place makes it fast and easy to use.

What About Apps

This is where Launch Center really shines. As you can see I have placed Launch Center in my dock so I can access it no matter what page I'm on in my iPhone. From within Launch Center I have set up my most frequently used Apps like Navigon, and Instagram. Yes, Instagram is on my front page but through Launch Center, I open directly to the camera and not my feed. As for Navigon, placing it in Launch Center lets me put the actual Navigon App within a folder and not have to worry about drilling down into folders and sub-folders to launch it. Currently not every (okay, not even close to every) App is available to Add to Launch Center but the major ones are and the list grows literally every single day.

The Bottom Line

Launch Center will make your iPhone a lot more streamlined and efficient. Think of it as a Speed Dial for everything! The App list is growing every day and as it does so will the ways to use this custom Launch Center for your iPhone.


Get Launch Center for your iPhone from the iTunes store for $1.99 here: iTunes


OmniFocus Adds Siri Support

OmniFocus for iPhoneA couple of days ago OmniFocus was updated to its latest version, adding support for amongst some other things, Siri. Not having an iPhone 4S myself, I can't judge how well it works, but the idea appeals to me a lot.

Being able to through Siri create a new to-do item, on the go, without having to touch my phone really makes Siri become more of my personal assistant.

All Siri-created to-do items are saved to your inbox just like any quick entry items would have been. You can then choose to file them under projects and contexts just like you would any other item.

Additionally, OmniFocus has fixed a few bugs and changed the way items are sorted in Forecast mode, displaying inbox items at the top followed by other due items.

As usual, this version of OmniFocus is available as a free update that can be downloaded from the  iTunes
. If you don't have the app already, it sells for $19.99.


500px for iPad Has Arrived!


If you're a photographer and you're online you've probably heard about the new photo sharing/social media service 500px. It's touted as the new photo sharing site for professionals and I have to agree. I've been using 500px for a few months now and I have to tell you that I'm hooked. Not only is the quality of the photography better than sites like Flickr and Image bucket, but there is constantly a fresh supply of quality photos on every genre which keeps me inspired. My buddy Scott Kelby did a write up on the site, and how it works a month or so ago which you can find here. I'm not going to repeat Scott's write up and explain how the super advance algorithm keeps the photos fresh and of good quality but if you're interested you should head over and read how it works, it's worth the click. The initial iPad App offering from 500px is a really good one, albeit lacking a few key features that I would like to see added. If you're not already on 500px you can go here to sign up for a free account. Once you do, don't forget to see some of my stuff and follow me here.


This App is made for Viewing

The first thing that you notice when you launch the 500px App is the beautiful way it handles viewing photos from the 500px site. The App presents a beautiful grid layout of the "popular images" (which is selected by default).  Other sections to view include Editors picks (these are the images that the editors have chosen as favorites), Upcoming images (this is pretty self explanatory, these are the images that are moving up in the rankings quickly), Fresh images (these are images that have recently been uploaded), You (these are your images, Friends (again, self explanatory these are your friends images), and favorites (your favorite images).  Each of these sections brings up the images contained within in a grid view both horizontally or vertically (depending on iPad orientation). Double tapping an image brings it full sized on the screen. It also brings up the photographer's name, the image title, and it's rating. It also brings up the number of views, votes, and faves. Also on the full screen view is the ability to favorite, to vote for, and to leave comments on the image.


From the full screen view of any image in any section within the 500px App lies the ability to play a slideshow of every image contained within that collection. You can choose the transition type between images, the slide duration, as well as music for the slideshow.



There are 5 options for sharing images from the 500px App. Natively it supports Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, and email. The 500px App also allows you to open an image in Safari which in turn allows you to copy the direct link to the photo for use anywhere.


What I'd like to see

Just like any App, there are things that need to be improved upon. 500px is a photo sharing website, however the option to upload images directly from your iPad is curiously missing. This App is designed for image viewing only. The only thing I can guess is that they are trying to restrict the images to better quality and they feel that to keep that quality they need to restrict people to uploading images from their computer instead of their mobile device. I don't know that for sure, but it's just my guess. Hopefully one of their developers will read this review and fill us in on the thought process in the comment section. The other glaring omission that I see in this App is the ability to see the profile of your friend's or all other user's profiles for that matter. On the site each member is given room to tell about themselves, where they're from, what gear they use etc. No where on this App is there the ability to see those things. I would venture to say that it will be added in future updates since this is the first version, but only time will tell.


The Bottom Line

If you love 500px as much as I do, then you have to get this App for your iPad. The ability to view your images on the go, on what many consider to be the best image viewing device in the world makes it well worth the 30 seconds that it takes to download, and the small amount of space that it occupies on your iPad.


Get 500px for the iPad from the iTunes store here: iTunes


A Simple Easy to use Model Release App for Photographers


If you're a photographer, you should use a model release. Done deal. No doubt about it. No question. In the past (before smartphones) I carried a stack of paper model releases with me in my camera bag along with a bunch of pens. Whenever I shot ANY person (I do mean anyone), I would have them, or if they were under 18 their parents, sign a physical model release. This was a pain in the butt, not only to physically carry them, but also to organize and store them. With the invent of the smartphone and later the iPad, the need to keep physical model releases is no more. Up until recently, I was using a release App that was sufficient but also very tedious and had a little "too many" features. I wanted a model release App that was simple, strait to the point, and easy to use. Release Me answers that need better than any other I've found.


Make it Easy

My biggest complaint with many of the other model release Apps has always been that there was so much to fill out on a shoot by shoot basis that it took up way too much time. I shoot primarily people, I shoot in the USA always, I don't have multiple studio names or brands, and I almost always give the model copies of the images for their own portfolios. With previous Apps, I would have to select or enter each of those things above that almost NEVER changed. Release Me has made this process simple. I fill out (before hand) my standard model release, I enter the model's information, take a picture of them, have them digitally sign it, and I'm done. Of course there are more options if you want to exercise them, but they are either not options that are incredibly important for every shoot, or they are options (like emailing the completed release) that can be performed at a later time.  It doesn't get much simpler than this.

I mentioned that the "standard" model release is filled out before hand to save time while you are working with the model. Built right into Release Me is an industry standard model release form. for 99% of the shooters out there, this is all that you need. It covers you, your rights, the model and their rights. It has a place for minors and their parents and is legally binding.  For the other 1% of shooters that require more intense or specific language in their release, there is the option of adding in additional language. this language can be anything you would like, however I would suggest talking to a lawyer before adding anything to any legally binding document.  On the opposite side of this is the strike out feature. If there is language that the subject doesn't feel comfortable with, and you both agree to remove it from the release you can strike it from the document. Once the document is signed by the model, the information contained cannot be altered without a new signature.

See Who Signed and Where You Were

Another helpful feature that Release Me contains is the Map View. This Allows you to either manually enter the location where you photographed the subject, or use the built in Maps App to locate and place a pin where you are shooting. This is a very handy feature, especially if you have a multi-shoot project going on that spans multiple days and locations. The Other useful, and almost required feature is the photo section. Use your device's built in camera to take a photograph of the model that is going to be signing the release. Personally I think this is a required feature for a release App. 

Sign Your Screen

This seems like a "duh" comment or feature, but the ability to sign the screen is so incredibly nice. No more carrying pens. No more physical forms… If you've never used physical forms, I don't know that you can truly grasp how nice of a feature this is. Just suffice to say that it has saved a ton of trees and me from growing grey hair prematurely.

One thing that Terry and I have both found, is that signing the screen with your finger is cumbersome and a little clumsy. We both prefer a stylus designed for use on touchscreens. They can be bought for $15-$30 from many brand name manufacturers such as Targus and Pogo.


Get the Targus stylus from Amazon here for $33.33







Get the Pogo Stylus from Amazon for $10.68 here



The Bottom Line

This is one of, if not the simplest model release Apps that I have used. If you want a no nonsense, easy to use model release App, Release Me is for you. Their motto rings very true "it's better to have one and not need it, than need it and not have one". If you're taking photographs of people, get a release. You never know when that person might become famous, notorious, or otherwise profitable to have photographed.


You can get Release Me for the iPhone from the iTunes Store for $8.99 here:iTunes
You can get Release Me HD for the iPad from the iTunes Store for $8.99 here: iTunes

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