Stop Flashing Your Clients

Pretzels with flash

Stop Flashing Your Clients - Taking Better Cell Phone Photos

We live in a visual era and growing your brand means that you have to document and create images of your goods and services. Thanks to technology, it’s much easier to do. Whip out your phone and snap away. The problem is, we’ve moved on from the early days of the internet where a dark video or photo that’s poorly lit is acceptable. Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn have raised the bar in how we share our lives. Sure, there are issues with presenting a fake lifestyle, but that’s a post for another day. I want to focus on small business owners and the photos you’re using to market your business.

Pretzels no flash
Pretzels with flash

Nerd Speak

The nerdy stuff – 

  • Light travels in a straight line. (Rectilinear Propagation)
  • The only way to make light deviate is to put a dense object in its path. (Refraction)
  • Because light travels in a straight line unless refracted, it will bounce off a reflective object at the same angle it hit it. (Specular Reflection)
  • When shooting in auto, your camera will expose (adjust lighting) for the brightest parts of your image. 

What Does That Mean

It means that when you take a photo, the light your camera uses to “see” the image and make the photo determines how your images look. Soft light is always better. Ok, it’s not always, but, in this application, always. Because your camera both exposes for available light, it darkens areas that are underexposed or dark. Your flash makes one area of your image really bright, that is the area reflected back to your camera and the camera only “sees” that area. 

If you look at the pretzels above, the left image has no flash, the right does. On the right, the table is dark and there’s a big bright spot reflecting back to the camera. The pretzels also look unflattering and almost two dimensional because of such a bright, harsh flash. 

The image on the left, because it’s exposed for all the light, has more depth and is visually appealing. The entire image is properly balanced. Both of those images are raw and straight from the phone. Below are the edited ones. I used the exact same editing settings I do for all my Instagram photos that come from my phone. Even edited, the ones on the right look better, because the original image was better. 

Pretzels with flash edited
Pretzels without flash edited


Below are some flowers I shot here at the THINK Center, which while a gorgeous space, has some very harsh lighting if you’re looking to shoot something. Why? Because like most households, all the lighting is above and creates downward shadows. Which makes it perfect for making my point. Now that you know that the flash makes backgrounds dark, you can tell which ones have the flash on. 

The images with the flash, because it’s so harsh, lose all the detail and depth out of the flowers. Also, the color in the photos is dull and unappealing. I left these untouched because most small businesses that are posting aren’t editing their photos. While these were just off the cuff, which would you rather use to promote your product. 

Please, turn the flash off

I hope you find this helpful and it improves your social media posting and engagement. If you need help with your branding or content creation, give us a shout!

How to Flip Video for IGTV

Vertical video is catching on, but if you’re a traditional filmmaker or have old content to share in IGTV, this tutorial will show you how to flip video for IGTV so your content can be see in its widescreen glory!

I completely fumble through the wording as my mouth and mind clearly work at two different paces, but the process works as shown in the video. Regardless of your encoder/compressor, the steps are pretty simple (below).

The idea is you have a video that’s 1920px wide and you need to not only rotate it but also crop it. Rotating will only show the middle 1080px of your image, giving you a 1080×1080 square with black flags on the side.

After rotating, you’ll need to expand the top and bottom (this is actually typing in a negative value) both by -420. This add 840px to you 1080px high image, making 1920px high.

Lastly, you’ll need to crop both sides in (this is actually typing in a positive value) 420px from each side. This subtracts 840px from you 1920px wide image, making 1080px wide.

This way you’ve rotated, expanded the height, and cropped the width giving you the exact proportions for IGTV!

Flip Video for IGTV image

Flip Video for IGTV

  1. Rotate 90°CW
  2. Crop both the top and bottom (negative) -420.
  3. Crop the left and right (positive) 420

If you need help shooting your IGTV video or looking on how to get started creating a channel, let us know!

MPEG Streamclip (FREE)
Music by ThaSilentPartner

How to Edit a Podcast

How to edit a podcast title imageWith podcasting continuing to grow, more and more people are looking to get into it. While there is a multitude of apps to edit audio with many can be overwhelming unless you have some experience with audio post-production. This post will look at how to edit a podcast, quick and easy.

Audacity is a free application, available on Mac or PC and gives you the ability to create simple audio edits which can lead to a better sounding podcast. To export a MP3 you will also need to install a LAME MP3 encoder. While it seems daunting, it’s pretty straight forward.

Once installed, Audacity is pretty simple. The video walkthrough shows you how to import, make simple edits, and export your spanking new podcast.

If it still seems to be a bit too much, shoot us a message and we can help you get your podcast up and running.

How to Edit a Podcast

Gnarbox Review – Go Get One Now!

I get a bit nostalgic when I talk about my laptop. It’s a 17in MacBook behemoth that I’ve had almost a decade. It’s slow to start, takes forever to render and is having trouble with new frame sizes and bit rates. But I love that thing. I’ve taken it to Ireland, Jamaica, and Peru. It’s crisscrossed the United States with me and the only issue I’ve had is the hard drive died once. Well, that and it’s a 17in MacBook behemoth! Trekking all over with it requires a large bags (which I’m ok with) and a strong back.

Enter the [amazon_textlink asin=’B01NB0Q9QP’ text=’Gnarbox.’ template=’Gnarbox’ store=’parkwebsite-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’3056a65d-aa50-11e7-bf3d-93014ceef68e’].

When I first learned of the Gnarbox I was a bit skeptical. A device the size of a hard drive enclosure that was going to replace my laptop and allow me to edit and share media on the go. Sure, if you say so. I was curious though, so I bit the bullet and let me tell you, it was worth it.

The Gnarbox is a portable hard drive. 128gb solid state drive that allows you to back up your photos and footage while on the go. But it also has a companion app that serves as a video and photo editor. While it’s not Final Cut or Premier, it does allow you to create short highlights from your footage, that you can edit with sound, export to your phone and share instantly. It allows you to edit your Raw photo files from anywhere and share them too. All without a laptop.

For the past summer, my MacBook has stayed home for the most part. I’ve been able to take my Nikon, GoPro, and Gnarbox and shoot and share without lugging around my precious MacBook. As a food blogger, traveler and creator of social media content, the Gnarbox is a game changer. I can shoot my meal and while eating, edit the raw photos and have them on Instagram before dessert. I can make short video clips for clients on the spot and not need to set up my laptop. The detail and level of editing is damn close who what I would get out of Photoshop, for a lot cheaper.

Bottom line – if you create online content and need a solution that doesn’t require you to learn to edit professionally or carry an entire edit suite, you need the [amazon_textlink asin=’B01NB0Q9QP’ text=’Gnarbox.’ template=’Gnarbox’ store=’parkwebsite-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’3056a65d-aa50-11e7-bf3d-93014ceef68e’].

YouTube VidCon News

Dark Theme

YouTube has been the old standby for video sharing and hosting since it’s inception. Similar companies, specifically Vimeo, have made a small dent, but YouTube reigns supreme. They are the video platform for everyone, Vimeo is really tailored towards filmmakers and other professional creatives.

Some of the major problems YouTube has for distribution is that it’s cluttered and not really mobile friendly. It looks like Google has heard these complaints and a new YouTube experience is coming.

Our recent post discussed vertical/square video vs horizontal and that in the end, it depended on where the video will be displayed. Looks like YouTube has entered the mobile era and will now adjust it’s player so that vertical and square videos can be played back and displayed as they were shot.

Via YouTube
Via YouTube

It looks like they’ve also decided to clean the desktop space. The new layout is less ‘boxy’ and flows easier. They’ve made the account drop-down actually useful and even offer a dark theme option for viewing (which, personally, looks much better). 

Other updates from yesterday’s conference include new ways to share within the YouTube App, and a new VR experience dubbed ‘VR180’. VR180 will be an interesting development. The idea is human vision is 180°, we can see what’s in front of us, so let’s create and be able to view video in the same manner. Some 360°/VR cameras already have the option of shooting with one or two of their lenses. Being able to only view the 180° that are naturally in front of us may make the VR experience and storytelling a little easier. They’re working in some specific VR180 cameras, which seems odd, but maybe the player and headsets can’t recognize the metadata from a 360° shooting in only 180°? Either way, it’ll be an intriguing development for the VR space.

360 Camera Review – Ricoh Theta S vs Samsung Gear 360 (2016)

Recently, I got a chance to play with the Samsung Gear 360 thanks to a Streetview loan from Google. I’ve had the Ricoh Theta S for a while and love it. The only drawback is that it only shoots 1920×1080 video, which doesn’t look good with 360 videos. The Samsung Gear 360 shoots 4k, so I thought it would be a better camera.

It was not.

In any way, shape or form.

Ok, it shoots 4k, that’s the only way, shape or form.

Form factor is horrible because it’s a ball and hard to hold and use. Luckily, this has been fixed for the 2017 version. The Gear 360 app is horrible. Terrible. Atrocious. It takes forever to stitch photos and video. If you attempt to do it all from the phone, it actually won’t give you a 4k video, meaning you need a desktop solution. If you’re a Mac user, just go cry yourself a river, because most of the desktop (and mobile solutions) are garbage.

The dual independent lenses on the Gear 360 create 2 stitch points, which given its form factor, really make shooting anything within 6 feet of the camera difficult. Also, because they act independently, you get different exposure on each one depending on the lighting.

With the Ricoh Theta S, if you shoot a picture with the app, when it captures, it automatically stitches and saves to your phone. It takes maybe 2-3 seconds, whereas the Gear takes upwards of 10 seconds and doesn’t stitch or save to the phone. The Ricoh app saves what you shot, how you shot it, to your phone and makes mobile uploads easy.

Instead of 2 independent lenses, the dual lenses on the Ricoh Theta S act as one and give you even lighting throughout the image. Also, because it’s slimmer than the Gear 360, its stitching is minimal and allows for things to be closer to the camera and not get lost.

All in all, I was thrilled to send back the Gear 360 because I couldn’t really do anything with it. I have an Android phone, but because I’m a Mac user, I couldn’t really get much out of the camera. The process of getting this 360 review stitched, to a Mac, edited and then to YouTube took about 8 hours of copying, stitching, copying, formatting…you get the picture. The only plus I give the Gear is it shoots 4k, outside of that, the camera isn’t worth it. I’ll stick with my Ricoh.

Both companies have new versions coming out in 2017. The Gear 360 is already out and you can see where they’ve changed the form factor to make it easier to hold and stand up. Many newer 360 cameras have adopted this as well, so at least Samsung learned there. The Gear 360 app that I used before I sent the camera back to Google was the updated one that works with the Gear 360 2017, so that’s not very promising at all.

Ricoh’s 2017 model, I spoke with them at NAB this year, is supposed to have 4k video or better and offer spatial audio. Given the growing amount of contenders prosumer in the 360 camera market( GoPro and YI Technology, specifically), Ricoh may need to do more than that to stay in this race. Give the price point, ease of use, app support, and quality, as of now, the Ricoh Theta S is still my favorite, but we’ll see what the rest of 2017 holds.

Vertical vs Horizontal and Square Video

When it comes to shooting mobile or online video, the easiest way to piss of a videographer is to shoot something vertical. I often grab friends phones and “fix” the way they are shooting. For a long while, it was a big pet peeve.

But, as with all things today, times have changed. By that, I mean WHERE we consume media has changed. If you own a smartphone (more than 80% of you do) then you’ve probably watched a video on it. This is where the problem occurs. YouTube, Vimeo, and other video hosting sites still favor widescreen formats and users tend to rotate their phones when on those sites.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and most other social networking sites, though, tend to favor the profile or vertical positioning.

Vertical Video POV from Ogilvy & Mather

Studies show that we spend upwards of 90% of our time with our phones in the vertical orientation. Because we use these sites vertically, consumers have gotten used viewing information in the manner. Yes, you can upload widescreen video to these sites, but on mobile, they take up less screen real estate. This means that when presented, consumers tend to scroll by it. Either because it doesn’t fill the screen or they don’t want to have to turn their phones.

The answer? Shoot for the edit. It’s an old fundamental for videographers and filmmakers; know what the end product is supposed to look like and how it will be distributed and shoot for that. If your video is getting posted on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and so on, shoot it horizontal and leave room to crop for mobile. This way you can maximize all screens. If it’s only going on mobile heavy sites, shoot vertical. This goes for cell phones and video cameras. Most of us are using DSLR’s and shooting vertical is quite simple. This way you can upload true HD quality video to Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook if you want.

Like I said, times are changing. This proves though, yet again, that while devices, consumption, and tech may change, knowing the fundamental basics of media production is always the best solution. If you want some guidance on best sizes and practices for mobile content, check these out:

Best Video Converter

Here’s the notes from our first episode, best video converter. When converting video for online use, remember that MP4 is the current standard.

Product Download – Squared 5

When you launch the application, you’ll get the blank dice looking image. You can drag your video to be converted into the frame.  If you have more than one video and you want to do a batch of them, it’s List>Batch List and you can drop your videos there.

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 4.54.20 PMScreen Shot 2017-02-05 at 5.03.23 PM
Once your video(s) are loaded, select ‘export to MP4’

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 4.58.09 PM

In the dialog box that appears, you want to make a few adjustments.

  • Set the quality to 100
  • Check the limit data rate box and set to 10000-15000
  • if you need to adjust the size of the video, select a new frame size. (You typically want to leave it the size it was shot, the unscaled setting)
  • Hit ‘Make MP4’

The next screen will ask you where you want to save your file and then you’re done!

I’ve used MPEG Streamclip to convert everything from video for broadcast playback on Comcast to Instagram videos. for a free application, it’s proven to be my go to for all conversion needs. It’ll save you money and time if you learn to convert your own videos and ensure they playback at the quality you want.



Another nice feature of MPEG Streamclip is the ability to trim video. Using the “I” and “O” (in and out) key on your keyboard, you can set when the video starts and stops. So if you’re putting a teaser video on Facebook or Instagram, you can use MPEG Streamclip to trim you larger video! Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 5.44.59 PM