How To Take the Perfect Selfie Using Your iPhone

fashion, how to, mom life, photography, selfie, Technology, tips and tricks

Taking the perfect selfie has become more of a necessity than a passing fad. Profile photos are needed for everything from websites to social media, even many employers are asking for headshots to add to company webpages, business cards, and brochures.

Not everyone has the time or money to hire a professional photographer but thanks to the improved front facing camera and portrait mode, it’s possible to take a professional looking headshot from the comfort of your own home. Here are some tips and tricks to getting publisher quality images.

Choosing your settings

• Portrait mode allows for focus on the face with less background interference.

• Open the camera app on your iPhone and swipe to portrait. Toggle between natural and studio light settings to determine which lighting option creates the least amount of shadow without washing out your features. You can always change your mind later as these settings can be altered even after the photo has been taken.

• Try to avoid using the flash. Opt for well light rooms or outside. If extra light is necessary consider getting a ring light or illuminated phone case.

Positioning Your Phone

• The best position for your phone is slightly elevated above eye level. Aim the front facing camera at your forehead then gently raise your chin so that you’re making eye contact with the lens.

• Since people tend to look their best at a slight angle as opposed to head on try moving your face slightly from one side to the other maintaining eye contact with the lens. You may want to take a few test shots.

• Since it shouldn’t be obvious you’ve taken your own headshot for publication consider propping your phone up on some books or a shelf and setting the timer found at the top of the screen. Helpful investments include a Bluetooth remote, iPhone tripod, or stand attachment such as a popsocket or iRing.

Focus On You

• Avoid patterns such as strips or polka dots.

• Crop out logos unless your photo is designed for a specific business you’re representing.

• Go for solid colors in rich earth tones such as navy blue, forest green, or burgundy. Stay away from black and white.

• Choose a minimalist background such as a textured wall or doorway.

Editing and Exporting

• Tap “Edit” found at the bottom of the screen directly after a photo has been taken or on the top left hand corner of your screen after the photo is sent to your photo album.

• Phones taken in portrait mode have a pre set depth of field of 4.5. This can be altered between 1.4 to 16 after the photo has been taken by running your finger back and forth across the bottom of the screen.

• The iPhone also offers several filters which can be accessed at the bottom of the screen.

If extra edits are required there are several photo apps such as FaceTune and Adobe Photoshop Express.

• Since many websites and print services have a minimal upload size, you may need to know the specifications of the photo you’ve just taken, something Apple doesn’t readily make available. But, by uploading your photos to a third party storage site, such as Dropbox (Free) you can find the pixel size of any phone by clicking the “i” on the bottom right hand corner of any uploaded image.

Having a good headshot is the digital equivalent of making a good first impression. Don’t be afraid to take lots of photos in various settings. Like with anything, taking your own professional quality image takes a bit of practice.

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Ullu iPhone Cases, a Fashion Accessory Worth the Splurge

fashion, Technology

When I find something I like, I tend to become a loyal follower. iPhones over Androids, Chanel wallets, but definitely Louis Vuitton bags and always a mini pochette, Field Notes notebooks accompany me daily and I’m driving my third Honda. I feel like my Dad is to blame for this personality quirk although he’s still loyal to his copy machine and landline so hopefully I’m a variation on the theme.

My iPhone cases are no exception. If you follow my YouTube channel you’ll know that my most used iPhone 7 Plus case was my Ullu Wally case in handcrafted leather. There’s something about a leather case which makes me feel more professional. I always check out what type of case a person has on their phone. I can’t imagine the CEO of a company leading a meeting with some plastic glitter monstrosity designed for a twelve-year-old girl. No. It’s just a no.

When Ullu released their new Strappy case, I desperately wanted to splurge but couldn’t justify the purchase for a phone I knew I was going to upgrade in less than a year. Ullu cases are beautiful, but they come at a price.

PROS:

First of all, here is why I love Ullu as a company regardless of the case you choose:

* All the styles are minimalistic and don’t take away from the aesthetics of the phone.

* They use premium materials: leather, ostrich, alligator.

* The cases are handcrafted so they all have a bit of uniqueness to them.

Why I love the Strappy case:

* If you read my review on the Loopy case, you already know I’m a fan of the hand loop grip, but this beats the Loopy because it also acts as a stand.

* Not only does the Strappy have the loop it also has a pocket for a credit card or cash. It’s the best of both worlds.

* The loop folds flat making it one of The slimmest cases on the market.

CONS:

* Wireless charging isn’t supported.

* There isn’t much protection on the front of the case. Or the corners. Ok, there really isn’t much protection period. Don’t drop your phone. Don’t set your phone face down on a table. Treat your phone as if it were made of glass (that’s a joke, it is made of glass). Apple’s leather case offers more protection although arguably not by much.

* Price. This is a luxury product.

Because you carry your phone with you daily, your phone case is an extension of you, an expression of fashion. Ulla cases send a clear message that you have good taste.

Three Reasons to Try Things 3

family, mom life, Organization, productivity, Technology, to do list

I’m not the most organized person. To look at me you’d never guess it, but I am a disorganized mess. So when something comes along which helps me categorize my life and prioritize my responsibilities it deserves a bit of praise. Enter Things 3.

Things has been around for awhile. I’m assuming somewhere along the way there was a Things 1 & 2 although I couldn’t swear to it. Things 3 is a task manager. Ok, it’s a to do list but it’s like the Chanel of to do lists: Elegant in its classic features, useful, and dependable. Here are the top three reasons I think you should check out Things 3 (three reasons, Things 3, get it?)

1. You Can Turn Emails Into Actions:

This is a must for me. You can take items from your inbox and send them to your Things list, add tags, give them due dates and even add sub tasks. This is probably the feature which is most important to me. For example my SAG-AFTRA dues are up for renewal. I know I have to take care of that this weekend but in the event that it was going to slip my mind, I’ll get a friendly reminder along with the original email and all the information I need to take care of that online. My Dad sent an email weeks ago regarding his Christmas card order (can’t be too early with that) which I safely filed away for a more reasonable date in November.

2. Calendar Integration:

I’m obsessed with planners. I have one app I use for my monthly view and one I use for a daily agenda and a paper agenda. It’s extra. But seeing my schedule one more place doesn’t hurt.

3. Project Completion Circle:

Ok, not sure that’s the technical term, but that’s pretty much what it is. You can create a project with a sub list. As you complete each step necessary to achieve your overall goal, a part of the circle closes. I can’t tell you how much this motivates me.

A Few Issues:

  • Things 3 does come at a cost, so if you’re only into free apps, this one isn’t recommended. Try Wunderlist.

You also have to purchase apps for each of your devices. Apple devices specifically, Androids you’re out of luck. In my defense, I did call this the Chanel of apps, and Chanel does not come cheap and it is not for everyone.

  • Things 3 can’t support photos. Sometimes I need to take a photo, usually a handout from a staff meeting (yeah, they still use paper). Or, I’d like to attach a screenshot for reference. I recently picked up three freelance jobs (well, two, one ended before it started and was one of the oddest experiences) and screenshots would’ve helped.

If you’re serious about managing your time and you’re willing to spend some money to make your life easier, try Things 3.

The iPad is on Life Support…

Education, Organization, productivity, Technology, writing

and the Apple Pencil is the only thing keeping it alive.

I’m one of the recent adopters of the iPhone xs Max. No, I don’t find the screen size sexist (how can you even suggest that with a straight face?) and I’m probably one of the smallest women you’ll ever meet. There’s nothing better than a tiny person with a giant phone. So the phone is larger than my face, that’s what AirPods are for. I love the screen size since I do the majority of my work on my phone.

The thing is, my employer provides me with an iPad Pro and, of course, I had to go out and get the Apple Pencil. I try to use my iPad at work and it is handy to grade papers on. Honestly, both Schoology and Turnitin have greater functionality on handheld devices than they do from the desktop because they know teachers live in a tumultuous world and not tethered to their desks as movies continually portray them (I also dress better than any fictional teacher, but I’ll save that rant for another time). The other day I was giving a presentation on the power of a good thesis statement when my iPad made the executive decision to stop playing keynote. It was my last class and I couldn’t break my stride so I unplugged the iPad and quickly plugged in the iPhone Max. Ironically, I created the presentation on my new phone because I find it more convenient to type on a phone than an iPad without a keyboard any day.

The Max worked perfectly. And, since it is smaller than the iPad I found it easier to walk around while holding the device (yes, a Bluetooth clicker would solve this). The thing is: I created the presentation on the phone, I ended up giving the presentation on the phone, I compose email on the phone, create YouTube videos, even write this. So what do I need an iPad for? The only functionality the iPad has over the device in my hands is the Apple Pencil. The ability to write on my slides as I speak, the ability to annotate texts and grade essays with handwritten comments. That’s it.

Therefore, is the Apple Pencil the only thing keeping the iPad alive? If Apple did release an update to allow for the use of the Apple Pencil on the iPhone Max, would anyone have a use for iPads anymore? How do you use your iPad? Perhaps there’s something I’m missing or should we prepare a eulogy and clear a space in the junk drawer next to our Palm Pilots?

What I Learned Taking my Toddler to Disneyland.

family, fashion, mom life, productivity, travel

We recently took my 2 1/2 year old daughter to Disneyland for the first time. Kids get in free until they turn three and with family visiting it seemed like the perfect opportunity. To be perfectly honest, although I reside close to Disney, I don’t actually go there very often. I believe the last time I set foot in the park was 2012 when I ran the Disney half marathon. I’m not what you’d call an amusement park person. So, I reached out to friends on social media for advice on what to expect and things to pack because surprisingly, there wasn’t much information out there. Here’s what I discovered:

1. Everyone told me to pack snacks: I didn’t. Furthermore, I’m glad I didn’t, it would have been something extra I’d have to carry around. I think you have to know your kid and know yourself. We’re not big eaters. My daughter isn’t a snacker. We had lunch at the park and shared a Dole Whip. Remember if you pack snacks you have to carry snacks. Speaking of carrying…

2. A backpack seemed like a good idea: Not so much. You have to remove the backpack to get on every ride. I had to wrangle my child, get in the ride myself, remove my sunglasses, and move my backpack. It was an additional step I could have avoided with a crossbody bag or sling pack you can rotate to the front. This summer I’m all about my Louis Vuitton bum bag as a sling pack, I think it would’ve been a better choice (I had a Longchamp backpack). You also don’t need a huge bag, 8 diapers were excessive. I changed her twice in 6 hours.

3. Hand sanitizer is a must: I don’t always carry hand sanitizer but I did take a small bottle to the park. My daughter and I used it often, my husband didn’t. He’s now sick and we’re fine. I’m not saying it was because of the hand sanitizer BUT we’re not sick. Just saying.

4. Sunblock, obviously: We lathered on the traditional stuff before we left the house but for reapplication I used the Tarte TarteGuard mineral powder 30 sunblock. It’s not the best if it’s the only sun protection you have but it’s great for touch up. It also smells like vanilla. And easy to apply on a toddler.

5. Extra phone battery: I swear I collect these things. Most people have one. I rotate through three depending on the occasion. Even when my phone was new I still carried an external battery (all it takes to convince yourself they’re handy is being stuck in a restroom during a fire with some terrified teenagers who need an extra power boost to call their parents. Or you could just believe me). For Disney I brought out the big boy. It had attachments for both iPhone and Android because some members of my family actually have androids. Weird.

Heloideo

Sonix

MyCharge

6. Stroller: I say rent. It’s $15 for the day and it’s a pretty nice stroller. My cousin bought her own, which I understand because they’d done the whole tourist thing but if you’re local just rent the ride. $15 is worth it to not have to fold up your own and get it in and out of the car.

7. Bandolier iPhone case: it’s kind of cheesy but it came in handy (if I’d carried a crossbody bad, I may not have needed it as much, but I’d still recommend it). This is an iPhone case on a crossbody strap. The first time I saw someone with one I thought it was hideous. I wanted photos of my daughter’s first trip to Disneyland and I didn’t trust keeping my phone in my pocket, not to mention I have an iPhone 7 Plus and I’m an extremely petite woman. The pockets in 00 shorts weren’t meant to accommodate such a large phone. I put the phone in my picket and looped it around my body. It was easy to grab and I never had to worry about dropping it. The case is pretty protective. The strap is removable and I did manage to drop my phone face first on the concrete, no damage to the phone after removing the strap. The case was scuffed slightly.

In the end, I think taking any type of trip with a toddler comes down to personal preference. You know your kid better than anyone.

Get In The Loop: Try The Loopycase

fashion, productivity, Technology

Recently I reviewed two alternative ways to hold your phone using add on accessories Popsocket and iRing. I’d like to throw a third contender onto the list: The LoopyCase.

The LoopyCase is a little different because it’s an entire case and not just a case accessory. This means that you have to be fairly committed when choosing a case style because you’ll have to purchase an entirely new case if you want to change things up (the company does offer some alternative loops for $5). I haven’t been able to justify buying a second loop for my case…yet. (I do have my eye on those glittery ones.) I don’t know how easily the loops switch out but it is possible. What I can say is that the loop really feels sturdy and well attached. The concept is similar to the iRing in which you loop (hence the name) your finger(s) through the back of the case for easy access or hands free carrying but because the loop is made from a soft, flexible material, I’ve found it more comfortable. The loop is also adjustable so you can customize the fit.

Unfortunately, the Loopycase has two major drawbacks: First, the case can not be used as a stand. I like to watch Netflix when I unload the dishwasher and a

stand is extremely helpful when you have video calls (ironically, I had one of those “GoToMeeting” calls and I hung the loop over a bottle of Diet Coke, it did the job). The Loopycase can’t be propped up for easy viewing. Secondly, there isn’t a car attachment for the Loopy Case, although there are obviously tons of ways to mount your phone in the car. Finally, the Loopycase is more expensive than both an iRing and a Popsocket combined because it is an actual case and to be quite honest , the price is on par with other cases of similar quality.

Pros:

* Comfortable strap which can be adjusted for size.

* Case protects your phone from drops and dings.

* Malleable loop fits easily into back pocket or small bag.

* Loop is well attached and will not come “unglued” from your phone.

Cons:

* The loop can not be used as a stand.

* Loop is attached to the case and can not be used with another case manufacturer.

I’m still rocking my reliable iPhone 7 Plus but I do plan on getting the next incantation of iPhone, whatever that may be, and the Loopycase has made my short list of cases I plan to repurchase which I believe says something about the product.

The Loopycase retails for about $35

Why You Should Think Twice Before Paying for MyFitnessPal Premium

Fitness, productivity, Technology

MyFitnessPal (owned by parent company Under Armour) is a calorie counting and fitness application designed to help people manage their caloric intake in either an effort to lose, maintain, or gain weight. The service is free with an option to go add free for $49.99 a year. I chose the paid option, and based on my experience, I caution you not to make the same mistake. Here’s my story:

There are two ways you can go about using the service. You can stay completely quiet and count your calories or you can participate in the “community” and , like all social media, post and communicate with others from around the world. For some reason, I decided to participate in the forums.

On Sunday morning I found my account blocked. Blocked means completely unusable. My $50 gone. I couldn’t get on to the site at all, even to log things I had kept private. Why? According to the pop up, I had violated their policy. Specifically their policy on eating disorders. The problem? I didn’t. I’ve read the policy several times, I know what I posted and in no way, shape, or form did I violate their policy. The bigger problem? There’s no way for me to prove my case. The company has zero customer support or series of checks and balances. I realize it sounds crazy, this is a company that trades on the stock market how do they not have a customer service department? I don’t know, all I know is that I reached out via the “contact us” portal on the website (twice!) because I wanted to see a quote of the post they claimed violated their rules (I was convinced it had to be a mistake). No response. Check out my Twitter (@CarolynNicole) I tried reaching them through social media with at least 5 tweets in an attempt to solve my problem. No response. Facebook messenger. No response. Instagram. No response. So how did my account become blocked if no one appears to actually work there? According to the website they rely on community members to monitor the forums. I’m not sure what that means exactly (and of course there’s no way to ask, because there is no customer service) but I believe that means that other members have the ability to suspend your account (even paid) if they feel offended by your posts. Now things make sense.

So what did I post that could have set someone running to their safe space:

– I am a recovered anorexic. I’ve been healthy since 1995.

– I am technically underweight. I DID NOT post my weight, measurements, clothing size, or BMI which I thought might trigger someone. But I am large enough to get pregnant and have a child (so, not unhealthy underweight).

– I am happy with my body. (That makes at least 50% of the female population hate you right away. Everyone’s for body positivity, as long as you aren’t happy with your own body)

– At the time I received help I weighed 72lbs. I had a wonderful counselor, had a positive experience, and encouraged anyone in my position to get help.

– I am a Christian, prayer helps me retain my health and guides my life.

– I’ve modeled in the past.

– I eat to live. I don’t enjoy eating and count calories to make sure I am getting enough food and nutrition every day.

– I sometimes pack my own food if I’m afraid I’ll freak myself out and choose to not eat in social situations. Eating is very important and you should never skip meals.

None of the above mentioned information violated any of their rules or guidelines. BUT, if you’re a random person, unhappy with your life, I may have posted something you found offensive. Maybe it was another person who has struggled with an eating disorder and doesn’t want to hear about help. Or possibly someone who suffers from a binge eating disorder and hates underweight women. Heck, it could’ve been someone who was anti-Christian. The point is, I’ll never know, and the company itself will never step in to figure it out. If I were a vindictive person (or just crazy) I could creat a fake account and randomly report people because I didn’t like their profile photo, or so it appears.

Consequently, until there is a better method of regulating how posts are flagged and accounts suspended, I highly suggest you stick to the free version of this app. Thankfully, since I purchased the subscription through the Apple App Store, Apple stepped in and within 24 hours my $50 was refunded. I would still love to hear from the company and be vindicated but I seriously doubt that will happen. I moved back to LoseIt! and am quite happy. I’ll make sure to write a review after using the service for a longer period of time.

You Better Put A Ring on it…or a Popsocket

fashion, productivity, Technology

Popsockets or iRing: Which accessory should your phone carry.

I’m extremely picky about my accessories. I tend to favor the likes of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Gucci. My bags and small leather goods are on constant rotation (currently I’m using my LV Palm Springs Mini Backpack, LV toiletry 15, coin purse, key cles & a Chanel card holder). It’s no wonder I’ve added accessories to my accessories. I almost always have either a popsocket or an iRing attached to my phone case. I own 4 popsockets and two iRings with car mounts for both. I know some people are very passionate about team popsocket vs team ring (I kid you not, there is a YouTube channel practically devoted to Popsockets, the woman owns over 100 of them) but I’ve found I enjoy using both (I do favor one…slightly) for different reasons.

The common ground:

– Both offer a way to more easily hold your phone.

– Both provide stand functionality.

– Both have an optional car mount (the iRing come with one included, to get one for a popsocket you’ll have to fork out another $10).

– Both have a collapsible state, regardless, when attached to the back of your device neither will allow your phone to sit completely flat.

– Both use adhesive which will not damage your device but can be removed and replaced close to 100 times.

Materials:

A popsocket is made of plastic (although they just came out with a blinged out crystal version which retails for $50) while the iRing is a combination of plastic and metal.

Why I like the Popsocket:

Popsockets are extremely customizable. I have one with my daughter’s photo on it. If you use two popsockets on either end of your phone, you can wrap your headphones around them so they won’t become tangled in your bag. If you’re concerned about having your phone sit on a flat surface, the popsocket does sit flatter than the iRing.

Why I Prefer the iRing:

The iRing is exactly what it says it is, a ring which adheres to the back of your phone. This means that the iRing makes your phone completely hands free, you can literally flip your phone around and wear it like a giant ring (not recommended). But the reason I find the iRing more convenient is because I have small hands (let’s face it, I have small everything) which makes a popsocket slightly uncomfortable to hold for an extended period of time.

I also have an iPhone 7 Plus, and if I use a thicker or heavier case, a popsocket will collapse when I try to use it as a stand. Because the iRing uses a metal loop, it tends to support the phone.

Neither accessory is a major investment and because they’re reusable, I’d suggest trying both and coming to your own conclusion because, you know, you can never have too many accessories.

A Case for Cards

fashion, Organization, Technology

When I think about subjects to write about, I think to myself, what’s important to me or what makes my life easier? One of the more difficult aspects of taking on freelance jobs is that the subject matter is often assigned to me (and my students think I don’t understand their struggle) so although I’ve been given the opportunity to try a product or service out, it’s usually something I’ve only had for a limited time. Here I have space to expand upon things which I actually use and rely on regularly. Which is why I want to talk about phone cases with card slots. Honestly, it’s not something I ever thought I’d use, and yet, since purchasing one last year it has proven to be one of the handiest accessories I own.

My current love is the Wally case from Ullu, which is an investment. I started off with a cheap non label case I found on Amazon for $12 in a beautiful red alligator print…pretty sure it wasn’t real alligator. Once I was able to see how useful the case was I upped my game to the 12 South relaxed leather case (with pockets) and finally, since I didn’t splurge on a new iPhone this year, I went for the ullu, which I think is one of the most beautiful and well designed card holder cases on the market.

I don’t actually use the case as a full time wallet, my cards only reside there when I need easy access or I have limited space. Here are the situations where I find the case to be the most useful:

1. Taking My Daughter to the Doctor:

Sick babies are not fun. Colicky, fussy, sick babies are the worst. You’ve got the baby and the diaper bag, sometimes the stroller, she’s screaming and the front desk needs to see your medical card, her medical card, your ID & you have to pay the copay. My daughter had several digestive issues as an infant and a card case just made my life so much easier. Everything is all laid out on the back of your phone, phone goes in and out of your pocket with ease, no digging through your bag. You can hand the receptionist your cards all while texting your worried husband that you arrived safely. I assume that this would also come in handy at a place like an amusement park (I’m not a big amusement park fan) or anywhere you have some kind of “pass”.

2. Tiny Clutch Bags:

Gentleman, this is probably not an issue for you, or maybe it is, who am I to judge. I don’t need to transfer my stuff to a smaller wallet and then back again. I just add what cards I need to my phone case and go. The next day, I can just put my phone back in my big bag and transfer the cards back into my wallet when I get the chance (which is actually kind of funny, because I don’t carry a wallet, I’ll write more about that later).

3. Travel Time:

I’m notorious for losing hotel keys. Now when I travel I just stick them in the back of my phone. Easy to grab and go to the pool or the vending machine. I’ve never had an issue with the phone demagnetizing the cards. Same for ticket stubs and coupons you’d otherwise forget.

5 Reasons to Write: How Journaling is Beneficial

Education, journal, productivity, writing

I made the argument last week for keeping a digital journal, today I’d like to give you 5 reasons to keep a journal. Why writing is important.

1. Journaling Helps You Work Through Emotion:

This past Friday the school where I am employed lost a student under tragic circumstances. Although I did not know the student personally, many of my students did and I had to observe their grief and devastation. In a world full of social media it’s good to have a place where you can write what you’re feeling.

2. Journaling Makes You Aware Of How Far You’ve Come:

I look back at some of my entries from years past and realize I’ve made it through some tough times. There have also been things which, although monumental at the moment, seem inconsequential now. When you’re able to reflect upon all you’ve been through you being to realize how strong you really are.

3. Giving Gratitude:

I’m a Christian, but even if you aren’t, it’s still healthy to stop and give thanks every once and awhile. Again, it’s all about perspective and recoding where you are at each stage of your life.

4. A Memory Keeper:

Goes without saying, right? Just having a stash of your memories. The ability to remember who you were at different times in your life. I was an outspoken teen, with an active social life, and defiant opinions. I’m a much calmer, more private, adult but I like remembering who I once was, the brashness at which I viewed the world in black and white before I ever really entered it. I’m able to revisit that girl and relive memories I’d otherwise forgotten. Even better, I have textual evidence for my own daughter when she becomes a teenager: yes, I was once your age and yes, I can understand how you feel.

5. Judgement Free Zone:

Your journal is a judgment free zone. Journaling is different than talking to a person. You can say whatever is on your mind (good, bad, politically incorrect, diabolically evil) and you won’t be judged for it, no one is going to give you unsolicited advice, and you don’t have to worry about “likes”. Journaling provides freedom in ways you may not appropriate until you make it a part of your life. It’s healthy to just let it all out every once in awhile.

A digital journal remains to be my favorite way to express myself, but writing in any form is beneficial. I make my students journal for 10 minuets at the start of every class period. Although I provide prompts, I prefer they choose their own topics. My hope is that I’m giving them a tool to help them deal with life long after they’ve forgotten Shakespeare.