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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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.

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.

The Argument for a Digital Diary

journal, Organization, productivity, Technology, writing

I’ve been an avid journal writer for most of my life. I think it’s the narcissist in me, the same one who thought it was a good idea to try my hand at Hollywood, this thought that someday someone would care enough to read what I had written. It started in the 5th grade with a Scholastic Book Fair “diary” blue with pink hearts which by high school was a legit Laura Palmer type with a real lock and tiny keys. The diaries of my formative years are an open letter of who wronged me, who talked about me (who I was talking about, secret crushes and who attended what party.

Writing took on a whole new meaning in college when I moved away from home and everything I knew. No longer was I writing for an imaginary audience. As I struggled to find myself I wrote solely to sort out my ideas and feelings. To figure out where my place was in this world.

I never stopped. My career, my marriage, the deaths of loved ones, the birth of my child, successes, and some really dark times have all be recorded.

In 2010 I began using a digital journal on my Blackberry. In 2011 I switched to the iPhone and started using the Day One App. At first I was skeptical about digital journaling (and I’ll admit there’s a less comprehensive, yet Louis Vuitton, journal on my bedside table). There is something about putting pen to paper and leaving something behind for the next generation. I have my grandmother’s diary from 1915 and it’s an exquisite piece of history. There’s something to be said about expressing yourself using your own unique handwriting. If there’s one thing I can say about myself it’s that I have beautiful handwriting probably from all those years of journal writing. So I understand the argument for keeping your memories in a book,but here are some reasons to consider for either switching to a digital platform or keeping a digital journal in conjunction with a handwritten diary.

1. A digital journal is always with you: Life is busy. We’re constantly on the go. It’s not reasonable nor plausible that you’d have your paper journal with you everywhere. If you’re in the habit of writing things down as a way of catharsis than it’s beneficial to have that means to express yourself with you at all times. I once lived in a hotel for a month and there was no way I was leaving a traditional paper journal in my room.

2. A digital journal is more secure: If you choose one of the many popular journaling apps such as Day One, Wonderful Days or even Evernote, you can add a passcode or fingerprint lock to secure your writing. Day One even offers encryption as an added safeguard. The chances of someone “finding” your journal and gaining access are minimal.

3. It is a lot easier to add photos to your writing: Do places even develop photos anymore? I love being able to add photos to my entries, especially as I watch my daughter grow.

4. Unlimited space: My journal currently encompasses almost 8 years of memories. I’m saving space by not having all those books cluttering up my closet AND it’s much easier to return to my writing and read past entries, something I rarely do with my previous journals.

5. Writing becomes more organized: I can have multiple journals and tag entries according to subjects or yearly events.

I understand that some people may be worried about trusting “the cloud”. What if the internet goes down? What if the company (app) goes out of business? Those are legitimate concerns. I regularly export my journal as a PDF and save it on a removable hard drive. I have a friend who chooses select entries monthly, prints them out, and adheres them to a scrapbook.

A journal is a personal thing and it isn’t my place to tell anyone how to record their memories but if you’ve never considered a digital journal I hope I’ve offered viable reasons to give it a try. Below are my top three picks to start your mobile writing journey.

Day One

My Wonderful Days

Evernote

Staying Organized in 2018

Organization, productivity, Technology

The holidays are over, 2018 is here, and it’s time to

get organized. Most of us are back to work trying to juggle our professional and personal lives while maintaining our sanity. It’s no wonder some form of productivity tops the list of New Year’s resolutions. The thing is, keeping your life together is more about finding a system as opposed to finding a one stop solution. Here are the five things I use daily (and in conjunction with one another) to stay organized.

I don’t believe in keeping my tasks for home vs. work separate, on a technicality I have three jobs, I don’t want to look at three calendars. I need to see the monstrosity of my day in its entirety. I also prefer a month view over a weekly or daily display, which is again a preference that can be augmented.

Step 1: The Calendars

Erin Condren Monthly View Planner

This is your basic spiral bound monthly planner with extra notebook pages added to the back. The thing I like most about Erin Condren’s line is it’s customizable. This one is large, so it stays parked in one place most of the time (usually my desk at school) but it comes home for the holidays or anytime I have to attend a district meeting. I like being able to come into work and getting that instant visual on what’s coming up. I have extra notebook pages added to the end so that I can take notes on a larger scale tablet and later digitize them if I feel they’re worth keeping. Erin Condren planners can be ordered with daily or weekly agendas as well, you can add stickers, or other accessories, they even have one specifically for teachers (which doesn’t work for me AT ALL, ironically). I have mine customized with my initials and my daughter’s photo. The Louis Vuitton stickers were added later 😜.

Awesome Calendar

This was one of the apps I mentioned in my best of 2017 post. Obviously you need a digital calendar (maybe I shouldn’t say obviously, my parents haven’t jumped on the digital bandwagon yet but they’re close to 80). Digital calendars are just so practical. I started with a Palm m100 (anyone remember those? Am I that old?) when I was doing the acting thing full time and working as an assistant to a producer over at Hollywood Center Studios. My life was crazy because my day never looked the same twice and things were constantly changing. The benefits of a digital calendar is the unlimited space for not just events but notes, directions, and photos as well. We’ve come a long way since those Palm days. I know every phone comes with a calendar app and Google makes a great (free) calendar alternative so why spend $10 on another calendar? Again, it’s about finding what works for you. I like being able to add personal photos as the background to my months. I feel that entering events is intuitive. You can look back on events 5 years in the past or look at your photo calendar (all the photos you’ve taken on a specific day). There’s even a Filofax mode in case you need a bit of nostalgia.

Step 2: My Note Takers

Again, I have a digital and paper version of notebooks to simplify my life. Most of the time I have a Field Notes notebook with me, they’re small, light, and fit in even the smallest of bags. Physical notebooks come in handy if your on the phone and need to write things down,as well as certain meeting situations. I hate carrying my laptop around & I don’t always have my iPad either. Some people don’t understand taking notes on a phone (they automatically think you’re texting) so having a tiny, lightweight notebook keeps you looking professional while capturing your ideas. And you can doodle, come on people, don’t act like you don’t love to draw. On a side note, a small notebook & a highlighter are a great way to entertain a fussy toddler in an emergency.

The final resting place for all my notes is Evernote, my digital notebook. Evernote has been my modern TrapperKeeper for almost a decade. Physical notebooks are great but once they’re full they’re relegated to a desk drawer never to be visited again. I avoid losing handwritten ideas by transferring them to Evernote along with news articles, business cards, photos, and import emails. Everything gets tagged and added to the appropriate notebook. I rarely use it, but voice notes can added as well.

Headphones:

The productivity tool everyone forgets about…until they forget them. 2017 was the year of the video call. Front facing cameras may have improved but microphones could still use some work. LHeadphones help you stay focused and in the conversation. Headphones also give you a hands free option for regular phone calls & voice memos.

Happy New Year! What I’m Bringing From 2017 Into 2018: The Best of 2017

fashion, Technology

Goodbye 2017. Hello 2018. With everyone focused on starting anew, resolutions, and wiping the slate clean, I thought I’d share some of my favorites from 2017 which will be making the transition into the new year with me.

The Bags

Palm Springs Mini Backpack: Hands down my easiest go to bag for running around the neighborhood with my daughter. I’ll be posting my one year review and wear and tear on YouTube this week. I’ve never regretted splurging on this bag.

Gucci SoHo Disco Bag: I love this bag because it’s the crossover between a personal bag and a work bag. I can fit my work keys or a diaper in it and it’s small enough to walk around town or take to the playground.

The Accessories

Louis Vuitton Small Leather Goods:

It took me forever to find a system which worked for me. I change bags a lot and it’s easier when I can grab just a few items to transfer. The winners: a mini pochette (or toiletries 15), a cles, and the round coin purse. Every bag, every time.

Leather iPhone Case(s):

Although not the most protective, they are they most stylish and professional. Right now I’m sporting a snap on case from ullu but I have a soft spot for Twelve South as well. Some of my cases have credit card slots, some don’t , but they all have that soft, lived in, leather look and sleek design.

The Apps

Day One:

I’ve kept my digital journal since 2010 and I’ve never looked back. I started using DayOne back in ‘11 but it’s made my 2017 favorites list because I finally splurged on the subscription service enhancing my experience. Unlimited journals. Lost of photos. A secure server. Password protected.

Awesome Calendar:

Yep, that’s it’s name and that’s what it is, an awesome calendar. I’m not anti paper planner, I use an Erin Condren monthly planner for work and an LV pm agenda next to my bed. I carry a Field Notes notebook with me just about everywhere but my digital calendar is my life line. What I love about Awesome Calendar is how customizable it is. I can add photos, stickers, color code, attach notes, directions, and review what I did on this day in history (because sometimes you’re just curious). This is the closest app to my college planner I’d spend hours decorating with magazine cut outs.

The Beauty

Benefit Hello Flawless Powder Foundation:

I’d heard somewhere that women over 40 shouldn’t use powder because it settles into fine lines and wrinkles. While I’m sure that’s true for some women, I’m still pretty oily and powder foundation helps control that. The formula is light and comfortable while providing complete coverage.

Bangs:

I’m not immune to wrinkles and the saying “bangs or Botox” definitely holds some truth. Besides, ever since my daughter saw Iron Man 3 and said I was Pepper Potts, I have a new affinity for my fringe. As much as I love changing up my look, I think I’ll keep the bangs another year.

The Fashion

Zara:

Zara still dominates my closet for shoes and tops. Unfortunately, the brand has vanity sized me out of pants. In an effort to be more inclusive and diverse the smallest pants size Zara carries in most styles has a 26” waist. But, the brand continues to be innovative, trendy, and affordable so I can spend top dollar on more expensive jeans elsewhere.

The Guilt App:

Speaking of denim, Guilt offers a wide variety of styles, brands, and sizes. I’ve even been able to find a size 22 on occasion. The best part is most of the merchandise is discounted. Guilt carries more than jeans, you can find everything from designer bags to vacation getaways.

Remember, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. There’s no need to get caught up in the hype. If you love something, keep it. Happy New Year.

Quick Update & a Rant

Fitness

Just a quick little check in. I’ve been eating the same number of calories (1400-1600) which I ate when I weighed 93-96 lbs previously. High protein. Walking 3-4 miles a day and light weight lifting for 30 minutes. And…I’ve gained weight every day. Didn’t see that one coming. I went from 103 to 105 BUT I do look tighter. I’m not sure if that makes sense. I’m going to keep going and see what happens. I’m not going to cut calories because despite what people (and companies like myfitnesspal) think a tiny person looking to get back to where they were before pregnancy, admittedly tinier, is not anorexic. Sometimes that is just the way God made ‘ya. All that “you’re more than just a number on the scale” thing seems only to apply if that number is large. I am not encouraging starvation! I’m a small person who maintained a low weight for 15 years, 16 actually. I weighed 96 on my wedding day. In 1999. My cholesterol was close to 300!!!! My body fat stayed consistent between 23 (training for a marathon) & 26%. I never looked frail. This is just the way I’m made. And maybe things have changed. Hey, I’ll weigh 200 if it means I’m healthy, I have lots of energy, and my old jeans fit. Regardless of the numbers I’m just an average mom trying to lose the pregnancy weight which makes me realize that maybe that’s ALL I should have written. Just the facts and not the exact numbers because listen, it’s about how you feel (and right now, I feel sluggish and sad my clothes don’t fit) and not the number on the scale. No one cares what you weigh. Your doctor. Your doctor probably cares what you weigh. Other than that, no one follows you around with a scale. Which brings me to another point, when you read an article such as the one on Kim K “losing” 7 lbs in two weeks…no one is following HER around with a scale. She may have gained 7lbs. but because she’s working out and eating better, she’s giving the appearance of weight loss. It’s an interesting theory. And it reiterates the fact that the important thing is eating well and moving. I’m sure even Pokemon Go counts. Never starve yourself. Ever. Period. And it really upset me that myfitnesspal would…anyway, longer post on that later because I wrote the company and I’d like to hear their response. 

I’m happy I’m back to lifting weights again. Nothing crazy. The 10lb free weights are the “heavy” ones now. I can leg lift 104lbs, which I find impressive. Lifting weights makes me feel more confident and I didn’t realize how much I missed it. If you’ve never tried weight lifting you may want to give it a try. Start with some light weights and find an app if you aren’t sure what to do with them. I’ll post some recommendations tomorrow for anyone who is interested. I just wanted to do a quick check in, maybe some advice: ditch the scale. 

Evernote is Like Lipgloss, You Can’t Live Without It. 

Education, Technology

     If you’re going to ask your students to download one app next year, let it be Evernote. Maybe you’re still not comfortable with students using their smartphones in class, which is fine, Evernote is a great way to manage your classes and your life as well. EverNote is a wonderful note taking, app which allows students to take typed or auditory notes, save photos and web clipping in one place. Since students’ information is stored in the cloud, they will always have access to the documents they need for class. Teachers can share handouts and articles with ease to the entire class as well as add comments and suggestions to student writing. Students are able to share folders with teachers and classmates for simple collaboration. Evernote is available for Apple, Android, Windows, and Blackberry (does anyone still own a Blackberry…probably not. But, if you have an old one hanging around your house and you want to disipline your teenager just swap out their iPhone and give them the Blackberry for a day or two). 

    Practical uses for Evernote in a Language Arts classroom would include keeping separate notebooks for units of study or for keeping a class portfolio. Class portfolios could span their entire high school career and easily be shared with teachers of upcoming grades.

     Evernote can be utilized in a general education classroom as well. For example when breaking down a long unit of literature, such as William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar teachers can ask students to create a notebook for each act of the play (Caesar is part of the public domaine and therefore can be downloaded free of charge through sites like Project Gutenberg). In each notebook sub-sections, or notes, could then be created for each character, class discussions, charts created in class, and vocabulary. 

    The uses for EverNote are fairly limitless although it is more ideal for a management tool as opposed to an annotation tool. For example you can not annotate PDF files within the app or use natural handwriting nevertheless this app is a valuable tool for any classroom from elementary through college level instruction.