Three steps for taking better smartphone pictures

If there’s anything that photo sharing apps like Instagram have taught us, it’s that there are a lot of people who are really bad at taking pictures. Never before have so many poorly-lit, out-of-focus, over-filtered images been shared to so many people. In all likelihood (and backed by a statistical sampling of Instagram), you’re part of the problem.

I’m sorry that I have to be “that guy”, but you’re pictures suck. This is tough love. I care about you and I know you mean well, but no matter how tasty that burrito is or how cute your cat seems to be, the photos you’re taking just aren’t doing them justice.

Don’t worry though. Together, we can make them better. There are three simple things you can do that will make your smartphone pictures, if not artful, at least a lot less awful.

Get closer

A sure-fire way to take a horrible picture is to try to “fit everything in”. Sure, you want to capture an image of your friends, but you’re also trying to get the mountains in the background, the sign they’re standing next to, and the blueness of the sky. To get all these things in the frame, you’ve walked backwards thirty feet from your friends.

The resulting picture is a chaotic mess that’s not very interesting. Nothing stands out. The photo is just a random assortment of things and is probably out of focus.

Fill the frame with the subject.
Fill the frame with the subject.

Try this instead: pick one of those things (probably your friends) and use it to fill the frame. This means you’re probably going to be standing five feet away from your friends instead of thirty. The context of the moment you’re trying to capture will still be there, even if you feel like you’re compromising. Picking a subject to take a picture of instead of trying to capture everything will give you a photo that’s a lot more interesting and intimate.

Put the light behind you

Unless you’ve got some artsy plan to document the shadows of the world, you need to develop an awareness for light – you need to know where it’s coming from. A lot of potentially awesome photos are ruined by a complete lack of light-awareness by the photographer. They arrange their friends in front of a lamp and then everyone is sad when the resulting photo is a bunch of shadowy figures standing in front of what looks like the sun.

I only have two hands, so this isn't the best comparison, but you get the idea.
I only have two hands, so this isn’t the best comparison, but you get the idea.

Whether the light source is the actual sun or the bulbs in a ceiling fan, you want it to be behind you, ideally casting a soft light on whatever you’re trying to take a picture of. Lighting is a complex subject and there are a lot of different things to consider, but just getting the light source out of the frame will significantly improve your photos.

Less is more

Can you put a lo-fi-sepia-vignette filter on every picture you take? Yes. Should you? No.

While filters can add interest to some photos, they often just make a bad photo worse. If the picture doesn’t have a clear subject, or is out of focus, or is poorly lit to begin with, most filters are just going to suck out any of the remaining detail.

Number 2 is actually my favorite.
Number 2 is actually my favorite.

Instead of using filters as a crutch. Try adding more interest to your photos during the act of taking them. Experiment. Get up close to your subjects. Frame them from odd angles. Get above them, or below them. Most importantly, figure out what your smartphone’s camera can’t do and work within those constraints. Figure out how much light it needs, where it focuses best, and how it handles motion.

Do these things and you’ll be making the world a better place, with better, more interesting photos that are worth caring about. Please, I beg you, do these things.

How to create Instagram-style photos without Instagram

Instagram is a sinking ship.

Don’t worry, I don’t mean that Instagram is going anywhere. After their $1 billion acquisition from Facebook (well, it ended up being more like $741 million after Facebook’s stock price tanked), they don’t have much to worry about anymore.

Now that Instagram is financially secure and under the protective wing of Facebook, new issues have arisen: the politics of social networks.

In case you missed it, Instagram’s CEO recently announced that they would no longer show Instagram pictures on Twitter. A few days after that announcement, Twitter publicly confirmed that Instagram had fully disabled photo integration with Twitter.

I’ve been a big fan of Instagram for two main reasons: 1) Although they can be easy to overuse, many of their filters do make photos more interesting, and 2) It’s easy for me to share pictures to both Facebook and Twitter through the Instagram app. Now that the second reason is falling apart, I started thinking about what I could do to keep my photos out of this upcoming it’s-our-content-not-yours social network war.

In this article, I’ll show you some apps you can use to make beautiful photos on your mobile phone without having to touch Instagram.

Snapseed

Available for: Android (free, reviewed in this guide), iOS ($4.99)

The Snapseed editor on Android

Snapseed is much more powerful than Instagram, offering a variety and depth of control that I’ve never seen in a mobile photo editing app. But, thanks to Snapseed’s crazy simple user interface, you’ll never feel bogged down with settings or controls.

Snapseed’s interface is based on simple gestures: after selecting one of the editing presets, you can swipe vertically to adjust individual settings like brightness, contrast, and filter strength, then swipe horizontally to increase or decrease the value. My favorite feature is that you can touch the image to switch between the original and your edited version to see how things are going.

Snapseed allows you to share your images through any capable app on your phone, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Snapseed offers several filters, photo frames, and a tilt-shift effect. Although it doesn’t have nearly as many preset filters as Instagram, the photo settings are all customizable so you can effectively make your own filters and save them as favorites for future use.

In case you’re wondering about the price difference between the Android and iOS versions of this app, I’d say it is likely due to the fact that Google recently acquired Nik Software, the company behind Snapseed. Hey, I’m not complaining.

Photo Examples from Snapseed

Left: Original
Right: Contrast Correction +100, Drama Filter +90, Straighten
Left: Original
Right: Contrast Correction + 54, Grunge Filter Style + 444

Pixlr-o-matic and Pixlr Express

First off, what’s the difference here? Both Pixlr-o-matic and Pixlr Express are from Autodesk, the same company that makes AutoCAD, Maya, and 3ds Max (how’s that for name dropping?). The main difference is that Pixlr-o-matic is like Instagram with preset photo filters and almost no editing, and Pixlr Express offers a more robust photo editing experience.

Pixlr-o-matic

Available for: Android (reviewed in this guide), iOS, Chrome, Facebook – all free

The Pixlr-o-matic editor on Android

By default, this app includes 25 premade filters and has dozens of extra downloadable filters available for free within the app. Pixlr-o-matic’s filters often do much more than most filters I’ve seen, including pop art collages à la Andy Warhol.

The default filters are interesting but I wasn’t blown away by any of them, and one major disadvantage is that photo effects like blurring are built into the filter and can’t be manually applied or removed.

Pixlr-o-matic offers many “overlays” which are transparent effect layers you can add over top of your picture. These overlays can be used to give your pictures vignettes or that “worn, damaged photograph” look.

If you’re looking for an Instagram alternative that offers a ton of premade filters, Pixlr-o-matic might be the app for you. Overall though, I was unimpressed with the app and its user interface seemed to be very clunky and poorly designed compared to Snapseed.

Photo Example from Pixlr-o-matic

Left: Original
Right: Grayson filter (adds the collage effect too), Perga frame

Pixlr Express

Available for: Android (reviewed in this guide), iOS, Web – all free

Pixlr Express editor in Android

Pixlr Express essentially has all of the features that Pixlr-o-matic offers (including the same filters, borders, and overlays as far as I can tell). The biggest difference is that Pixlr Express offers additional advanced photo editing features, and gives you much more control over the individual filters. Also – and more importantly to me – the Pixlr Express’s user interface is much better than Pixlr-o-matic.

I chose to uninstall Pixlr-o-matic and kept Pixlr Express, since Express has all of the basic Instagram-style filters and allows for editing brightness, contrast, red-eye removal, and adding blur. If you feel overwhelmed by a full set of photo editing tools, however, you may want to stick with the simpler Pixlr-o-matic.

Photo Example from Pixlr Express

Left: Original
Right: Focal blur (circular), +22 blurring, +48 color boost, +60 glow

Twitter

Available for: Android (reviewed in this guide), iOS – both free

Twitter’s new filters

Yep, that’s right, I said Twitter. In response to Instagram pulling the plug on Twitter support, Twitter decided to remind the Instagram guys how hard it is to recreate their product. Apparently, not very.

Twitter just released updated mobile apps for both iPhone and Android that offers filters that are extremely reminiscent of a photo sharing app that rhymes with Blinstagram. They even had time to make a cute little instructional video, so it’s safe to say they’ve had this update in the works for a little while.

The new version of Twitter includes 8 basic filters, including “Vignette”, “Black & white”, and “Vintage”. While they don’t offer much variety or as much dramatic effect as Instagram’s filters, Twitter’s simple swipe-based user interface makes it super easy to select a filter and move on.

Photo Example from Twitter

Left: Original
Right: Vintage filter
Fun fact: If this picture looks familiar, it’s because it is the same hill from the famous Windows XP Bliss wallpaper, which I took near Sonoma, California. It’s no longer a grassy field, and is now covered in grapevines for wine making.

Conclusion

So there you have it: four alternatives to Instagram that can help you make creative works of art out of your mobile photographs. Of course, the one thing these apps don’t offer (Twitter being the exception) is the accompanying social network, which is one of Instagram’s better features. But, if your goal is simply editing and sharing pictures, these apps should work just fine for you (and you can even re-share them on Instagram!).

On a related note, if you’d like to see some of the amazing things that can be done with photo apps like Instagram, check out How I Instagram from randsinrepose. That article was the inspiration for me to find better ways to perform simple edits on photos from my mobile phone, and showcases the amazing results that can be achieved when you put a smart person in control of a simple app.

Ask Techerator: Can I copy photos from my iPad to an external hard drive?

As the popularity of Apple’s mobile devices like the iPad continues to increase, consumers are looking at ways to replace their personal computers for an iPad. This frequently raises a question: Is there a way to connect an external drive to the iPad to transfer photos?

The short answer is no you cannot directly connect an external drive to your iPad; however, I have listed some alternatives below.

Option 1: Syncing to computer

The easiest way to store photos from iPad to external drive is to transfer the files to your computer first. Before setting up syncing, make sure the latest version of iTunes is downloaded. You can change your sync options at any time.

How to sync via USB

  1. Connect the iOS device to your computer using a USB cable.
  2. For Mac users select iPhoto, on the left hand side you should see the iPad listed under device. To Import select the photos and select import.
  3.  On a Windows PC the autoplay window will pop up when the iPad is plugged in. Click “Import Pictures and Videos using Windows”. Select Import.
A few other ways to transfer photos to PC is by using iCloud or Dropbox.

Once all photos have been synced to your PC you can then plug-in your external hard drive to copy them over.

Option 2: Connecting to external hard drive

As mentioned above there is no direct connection between the iPad and external drive. However, currently on the market there are a few wi-fi drives that can be used in conjunction with the iPad.

Kingston Wi-Drive

Image Credit: Kingston

As an external hard drive, the Kingston Wi-Drive supports both PCs and Macs and iPad’s out of the box, but its performance is about the same as a USB flash drive. The downfall is that it is about $60 for only 32 GB of storage.

Access to the drive is done over the 802.11 g/n protocol, just like your typical home wireless hub and can be shared with 2 people. This device is a great way to add storage to your iPad, but with the small amount of storage it is not a great long-term storage option.

Seagate GoFlex Satellite

If you are looking to transfer our photos from iPad to eternal drive without using a PC, then the Seagate GoFlex Satellite  is the best option. It has a built-in wireless-N access point (with a 150 ft range), to which up to three wireless devices can connect.

For the best experience you will need to download the iPad app Go Flex Media. The app can also download selected content from the GoFlex Satellite drive onto the iPad so that you can access them without having to use the drive, or when the drive is out of battery. The downloaded content can only be played and viewed via the GoFlex Media app, it can’t be integrated into the iPad’s library.

Image Credit: Seagate

The GoFlex comes with 500GB of storage space for about $160, which is more expensive than the Kingston drive, but offers a substantial more storage space.

Conclusion

While you cannot directly attach an external drive to the iPad to copy photos, you do have a few options to perform this task. If you have a better method of getting photos over to an external drive feel free to leave a comment below!

Review: Eye-Fi Mobile X2 wireless memory card

If you’ve ever wanted your photos from your digital camera to be automatically uploaded to your computer right after you’ve taken them, Eye-Fi’s line of products aim to do just that. I was able to get a hold of the Eye-Fi Mobile X2 model, which advertises the ability to not only upload photos directly to your computer, but also directly to your mobile devices.

Let’s take a look!

The installation process (at least on a Mac) was pretty time consuming. From the time I plugged in the reader until the time I could actually use it was about ten minutes. That’s borderline unacceptable for such a simple piece of hardware.

On top of that, the interface was a little sluggish. After I took a photo, it took about 10 seconds for it to notify me on my computer that it was uploading. Then it took another 10 or so seconds for it to show up in the Eye-Fi software. A 20-second lag time is pretty disappointing, especially if you’re using an Eye-Fi for time-sensitive purposes.

Overall, the user interface isn’t as intuitive as it should be. I know that Eye-Fi wants its users to use their software to manage the photos that you take with it, but honestly, it would make the entire process a lot easier if you could just simply take a photo and the folder just pops up on your desktop with your photo in it. They could even create a setting where the photo pops up full screen on the monitor right after the photo is taken. This would be great for photographers working in a studio (although, they would most likely be working with way better equipment and software anyway).

The Mobile X2 model comes standard with a feature called Direct Mode, which allows you to automatically upload photos from your camera to your mobile devices. I found this to be a lot better than the computer software as far as simplicity and intuitiveness, and photos upload a lot quicker. You’ll have to download the free Eye-Fi app, but from there it’s pretty much smooth sailing. Direct Mode is perfect for when you want to share a photo over Facebook or Twitter while you’re out and about, but are wanting a little more quality out of your photos than what your smartphone’s camera offers.

There’s a small caveat you should know, though: Your camera’s battery life takes a hit when you use the Eye-Fi card. It isn’t terrible, but I definitely noticed the battery draining faster than it would normally. Also, the card reader’s physical size is really wide and won’t fit into a USB port that has something plugged in next to it.

The concept of the Eye-Fi series is a great one and I think after a little bit of improvement to the software, they’ll nail it. However, at $80, one will have to think long and hard about whether automatically uploading photos to your computer is worth the extra money, even if the functionality was solid.

Think again before buying a high-capacity memory card

There I was, sitting at my computer sifting through the day’s deals on consumer electronics. I came upon Woot.com‘s deal for the day: a 64GB SDXC card for only $49.

I was extremely tempted to go for it. 64GB in one small package was enticing, and I would no longer have to carry around so many memory cards and keep switching them out all time while on vacation taking photos.

However, I got to thinking: memory cards fail. They just do. There’s no 100% guarantee that a memory card will never burn up. That’s why we back up our computers, tablets and smartphones, and why we (should) have an emergency fund available in case our vehicle’s break down or a large home appliance needs repair.

Since you can’t really back up a memory card when you’re out in the field shooting photos and video, how do you protect yourself against bad luck? Well, there’s obviously no way to fully protect your memory card data if you can’t back it up, but there’s still a way to lessen the disaster level when a memory card takes the plunge.

Instead of getting just one high-capacity memory card and risk losing all of your photos, have multiple low-capacity cards. That way, if one craps out, you’ll still have a majority of your photos that are safe, instead of having all of them go down the drain at once.

This isn’t only a good practice for casual photo snappers, but it’s even more important for professional photographers who are getting paid big bucks to take those photos that are stored on those precious memory cards. They literally can’t afford to lose photos, and I know most photographers are constantly upgrading their cards to a larger capacity to lessen their memory card footprint. However, I can only suggest that anyone who takes photos or shoots video carry around multiple low-capacity cards instead. It’ll save your butt in the end when bad luck strikes.

Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Camera and Photography Edition

While most smartphones and even tablets nowadays have great cameras attached to them, they still can’t beat the quality of a dedicated camera. In the fast-paced and ever-changing world of digital phototography, it’s easy to get left behind on what makes and models are the best. And if you’re pondering the idea of giving that special someone a snapper this Holiday season, this is where our camera and photography gift guide will come in handy.

Let’s take a look at some of the best point-and-shoots and DSLRs money can buy.

Point-and-Shoots

Shopping on a budget:

Canon PowerShot A2200

  • 14.1 megapixel CCD sensor
  • 4x optical zoom
  • 720p at 30 fps HD video
  • Less than $90

The A2200 is the perfect camera that will take decent photos and decent HD video, yet isn’t so expensive that you must baby it. If your special someone has clumsy hands, consider getting them this cheap, but still very decent shooter.

I can splurge just a little:

Canon ELPH 300 HS

  • 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • 5x optical zoom
  • 1080p at 30 fps Full HD video
  • $150-$160

If you’re looking to get a little more out of your photos and videos, Canon’s ELPH 300 HS is a very good option. On top of the already-mentioned specs above, the 300 HS has a wide 24mm lens, an 8.0fps burst mode and comes packing with a DIGIC 4 processor (the same one that’s in the 1D Mark IV). Overall, it’ll take really great photos and videos without overdoing it for the novice crowd.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH25

  • 16.1 megapixel CCD sensor
  • 8x optical zoom
  • 720p at 24 fps HD video
  • $150-$160

If you’re looking for something with a little extra megapixelage and zoomage, you can’t beat Panasonic’s DMC-FH25. The 16.1 megapixel sensor is sure to impress and the 8x optical zoom is certainly nothing to scowl at. If you’re wanting to negotiate between quality images and price, the DMC-FH25 is a safe bet.

Get Me The Best Point-and-Shoot You Got:

Canon PowerShot S100

  • 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • 5x optical zoom
  • 1080p at 30 fps Full HD video
  • $420-$470

From its face, it doesn’t seem to be much different from the 300 HS mentioned earlier, but take a deeper look inside and you’ll find full manual controls, ability to shoot in RAW, GPS capabilities and the new DIGIC 5 processor powering it all. If you have the cash and want to give your sweetheart the best compact camera around, this is it.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

  • 10.1 megapixel CCD sensor
  • 3.8x optical zoom
  • 720p at 30 fps HD video
  • $340-$360

If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper alternative to the S100, then the LX5 just might suit your fancy. The specs are just slightly less impressive, but it still comes with full manual controls and all of the goodies that point-and-shoot photo-taking enthusiasts love, including its own mount for an external flash.

DSLRs

I’m Not Made of Money:

Nikon D3000

  • 10.2 megapixel DX sensor
  • 18-55 mm VR IS Lens
  • Six auto-focus settings
  • $450-$460

If your sweetheart is just starting out with photography and you just happen to not have a full wallet, you’re in luck because the D3000 is a good starter camera for photo enthusiasts because of its great user-friendliness. For a DSLR like this under $500, you really can’t go wrong.

Canon EOS Rebel T3

  • 12.2 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • 720p at 30fps HD video
  • Live View
  • $470-$500

The Rebel T3 is also a good budget option if you prefer to go with the Canon brand. It has all the bells and whistles a budget DSLR should have and is topped off with 720p HD video capabilities, making it a great device for budget video-making hobbyists as well.

I Need A Little More Oomph:

Canon EOS 7D

  • 18 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • 8.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 1080p at 30 fps and 720p at 60 fps HD video
  • $1,600

If you’re looking for something with a little extra kick (okay, a lot more), the 7D boasts quite the spec sheet while keeping the price at a respectable level. It comes with a 28-135mm lens, although I personally suggest springing for the 18-135mm option for just a tad more. You’ll thank me later.

Gimme Something I Can Really Use!

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

  • 21.1 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
  • ISO sensitivity up to 25,600
  • 1080p at 30 fps Full HD video
  • $2,800-$3,000

While there are DSLRs out there with better spec sheets and with more to come (EOS-1D X), the 5D Mark II is one of the few that strikes a good balance between resolution, quality and performance. It’s definitely the camera to get for that special someone if you have the wallet for it.

How to record amazing videos with a point-and-shoot camera

Let’s say you want to be the next Peter Jackson or George Lucas. That’s far from realistic, but let’s say you just want to be a film-making hobbyist and don’t exactly have the budget for a decent video camera and all of the accompanying equipment. After all, it can literally add up to thousands of dollars.

Just because you can’t afford the high-quality equipment doesn’t automatically mean that you should give up producing quality videos. This guide will prove that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get good results.

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The Camera

First off, you need a camera to shoot video (obviously). Unless you plan on spending over $500, you’ll probably end up with a point-and-shoot camera. This isn’t a bad thing, since a lot of newer point-and-shoots record pretty good video. I went with the Canon ELPH 300 HS for $150 (it was as low as $130 on Cyber Monday). It shoots full 1080p HD video at 30 FPS, has a wide 24 mm lens, a CMOS sensor (as opposed to the inferior CCD sensor, which most point-and-shoots have) and a Digic 4 processor (the same processor that’s in the 1D Mark IV). For the price, it’s an amazing camera.

Now that you have your point-and-shoot camera, it’s time to make the magic happen. I’ve gathered up some great tools and methods for shooting great quality video on a point-and-shoot budget. Let’s give them a try.

Image Stabilization

Image Credit: The Frugal Filmmaker

Stabilization is one of the most important aspects of a great quality video. You don’t want your video shaking all about to the point that your viewers start to get motion sick. Stabilization can be accomplished using several methods.

The most obvious stabilization technique is using a tripod. You can get a cheap tripod on eBay for less than $20. While they won’t have fluid heads or be rife with features, you get a decent stand to mount your camera onto, which is all you need most of the time.

If you want to shoot moving action shots, you can get what’s called a “fig rig”. It basically adds handles to your camera so that you get a better-stabilized shot. A real fig rig costs hundreds of dollars, but you can make your own mini fig rig for your point-and-shoot for about $5. All you need is a Nintendo Wii steering wheel remote adapter from the dollar store and a mini ballhead that you can get on eBay. Instructions/Demo here.

Lighting

Lighting is also one of the most important aspects of a great quality video and it can certainly be what makes or breaks your video. Your subject needs to have adequate lighting in order for the shot to turn out well. Lamps and other usual light fixtures in a home just don’t cut it by themselves. I’ve found that construction work lights are great for adequate lighting and the type of light source they provide is actually not much different from those fancy lights you see in television studios. You can get a pair of high-powered, halogen work lights for around $40 at any hardware store. I ended up getting a pair of smaller 250 W work lights for $8 a piece. They work great!

You can also go the even cheaper route and get clamp lights with reflecting hoods, which cost about $5 a piece and you can use any type of screw-in bulb that you want. However, since you’re using a household lightbulb, you won’t get the power and brightness of a halogen work light, so just keep that in mind.

Time Lapse

Image Credit: Getaway Moments

We all love a good time-lapse video because they’re so mesmerizing to watch, and a lot of filmmaking hobbyists enjoy making them. Most point-and-shoots come with a time-lapse feature on board, making the process even easier, but you can add even more quality to your time-lapse videos by adding a panning motion. A cheap and easy way to accomplish this is to mount your point-and-shoot on a kitchen timer. Obviously, kitchen timers make a complete rotation every 60 minutes, which makes them great for getting a nice, slow panning motion during the time-lapse. I prefer Ikea’s Ordning Kitchen Timer that can be had for $6. It not only looks cool, but it has a smooth, flat surface that makes it easy to stick your point-and-shoot on. Instructions/Demo here.

Slider Dolly

A slider dolly is one of the coolest filmmaking accessories around. It’s a simple device that gives you smooth, gliding shots of a subject and just adds overall zing to your videos. A professional slider dolly can cost a few hundred dollars (even more than that at times), but fortunately, there are ways to build your own slider dolly that can achieve very close to the same effect. There are literally dozens of different ways to build one and a quick Google search will get you in the right direction. The slider dolly that I built (seen above) cost me only around $15!

You can also get slider dollys that move on wheels rather than a track system. Cineskates are a great example of this. It’s basically a Joby GorillaPod that has three rollerskate wheels attached to the legs. However, you probably took a peek at the price tag, which reads $200 just for the wheels ($300 for the whole system). Fortunately, you can assemble your own removable wheels to attach to a GorillaPod for the price of rollerskate wheels and a few small hardware parts.

Be Creative

In all honesty, the most important thing to keep in mind when making a quality video with a point-and-shoot camera is to just be creative, and there are hundreds of different ways that can be done. Are there tools and methods that you know of that aren’t in this guide? Let us know about them in the comments!

“Batch” is the ultimate mobile photo sharing app for iPhone

In the smart phone era, everyone is an amateur photographer. Equipped with high-def capabilities and nearly bottomless storage, we produce a lot of photos on a daily basis which we’ve opted to share individually on Twitter or in bulk on Facebook. The problem is that sharing full albums with friends requires a bit of effort — downloading to your desktop, uploading to Facebook — why can’t we do it on the go?

Batch is an iPhone app that allows you to easily share large numbers of photos with your friends without needing to make a stop at your computer. Sharing photos from your phone isn’t exactly a game-changer, but Batch is one of the first to offer a way to share many pictures with just a few taps.

Credit: iTunes App Store

The beauty of Batch is its simplicity. A focused design lets you snap pictures, tag friends, and share your albums without any fuss. Friends can leave comments or simply ‘Like’ what they see. Batch allows you to post a link to your albums on Facebook and Twitter for friends to view anywhere. Photos dominate the screen and you can easily flip through pages of your own pictures or albums posted to your feed by friends. Privacy settings are a cinch, letting you make some albums private or share with just a few friends at a time.

The downside? Batch requires a Facebook account for login. But come on, you already have one of those…

Batch keeps your photos safe and your friends updated. If you take a lot of pictures with your iPhone, batch is an absolute must. Photo-sharing apps seem to be the big thing right now, with Instagram and Path making big gains each month, but Batch is the first to perfect the idea of sharing full albums on the go.

Take a boatload of photos, share them with Batch.

Create an Instant Photo Gallery with DropMocks and min.us

I am a camera

I am a cameraSometimes, people like to make things a little more complicated than they need to be. One of those things is creating an online photo gallery.

Most people when they want to post their photos online will turn to Flickr, Picasa, or Facebook. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, but sometimes you just need a quick and dirty way to post your photos online.

And two services, DropMocks and min.us, allow you to do just that. Let’s take a peek at both of them.

DropMocks

DropMocks is incredibly easy to use. Just navigate over to the site, open your computer’s file manager, and then drag and drop your photos into your browser’s window. Depending on the number and size of photos that you dragged and dropped, they can take anywhere from a minute to several minutes to upload.

Uploading files to DropMocks

Once your files have been uploaded, you’re given a URL which you can share with your friends and family.

As for the gallery (called a mock) itself, it’s quick and dirty. But it works. You get a basic carousel. The image you’re currently viewing is in the center of your browser window, and thumbnails appear to the left and right. Click on a thumbnail to bring that photo to the front.

A DropMocks gallery

While you don’t have to sign in to DropMocks, you might want to just so you can manage your mocks. You can sign in using a Google Account, and from there edit your mocks or delete them.

min.us

min.us works a lot like DropMocks. Again, you can just navigate over to the site and drag and drop your photos into your browser window. You can also upload files the old fashioned way using a file selection dialog box. Once your uploads are finished, you’re given a URL to share.

A gallery in minus
A gallery in min.us

The interface is a bit more cluttered than with DropMocks. And instead of the carousel effect you get a slider effect. But people who visit your min.us URL can download all of the images in a gallery in a zip file.

Like DropMocks, you don’t need to set up an account with min.us to use it. However, you might want to do that if you need to manage your galleries.

Managing galleries in minus

On top of that min.us has a number of tools that make it easier to work with the site. There are desktop uploaders for Windows, Mac, and Linux; mobile applications for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone 7; and Web browser extensions.

minus Android mobile app

If you’re using one of the desktop or mobile uploaders, don’t upload one photo at a time — min.us will create a gallery for each image.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, you just need a fast and simple way of putting your photos on the Web for your family and friends to see. Both DropMocks and min.us do just that. They’re easy to use and are a very efficient way to get your photos online.

Photo credit: ilco

Easily Share Photos this Holiday Season with Min.us

It’s very likely you will be surrounded by loved ones with itchy camera trigger fingers this Christmas.  The amount of picture-taking will be incalculable, as everyone is locked and loaded with gigabytes to spare on their cameras.  But after the party is over, and the ‘awkward smile’ pictures are removed, you will be left with a handful of great shots.

It’s no big chore to share your pictures via email, but it’s not the most sophisticated way to distribute them either.  So, you may ask, what are the tech-savvy using to share their family photos this holiday season?  A new web service called Min.us.

Min.us is making some noise and may even upset the current king of photo sharing simplicity – imgur.  Min.us boasts a two word motto: “Share simply”, and it allows you to do just that.  The site cleverly uses drag and drop, right onto the web page, which is a first for any image sharing service I know of.  It also automatically creates a “gallery” of the images you have dropped into your browser, making it easy to rename, delete, rearrange and share your pics.

After sharing the gallery link, your recipient can choose what pics they want from the group and then download just those pics into a zipped file.  Neato!

Oh I DID make it so.

Additionally, min.us allows for all the same things as other popular sharers, like linking to a single image, and has support for JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP, and APNG file types.  Near the picture’s direct link you’ll see the dimensions and file size – it’s like everything you need to know, right there on one page!

Probably the most notable feature of all is the way min.us uses an effective navigation system which is controlled either by click, or by using the directional keys for skimming through the gallery pictures quickly.  The only restriction is that images are limited to 7MB, so the biggest challenge of sharing your photos might be explaining to grandma how to compress those holiday memories from her new 12 megapixel camera, ha!

Update: Since writing, there have been more updates like the option to file browse OR to just drag and drop.  Follow site and blog updates here.