Instagram’s Big Mistake

If you have logged onto the internet in the last few days, are an avid smart phone user, or have watched the news lately, than chances are that you have caught wind of the uproar following Instagram’s release of its new terms of service. The following sentence, found in the new terms of service, caused an enormous backlash:

You agree that a business may pay Instagram to display your photos in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions without any compensation to you.

Almost immediately after Instagram released the brief paragraph outlining the new terms of service that will go into effect on January 16, 2013, the internet exploded with a plethora of people threatening to delete their accounts and speaking harshly on the negative effects of these changes. Among those threatening to delete their accounts were highly prominent celebrities such as Anderson Cooper, Jonah Hill, Kim Kardashian, and Lauren Conrad who all took their frustration out about the policy on Twitter.  The photo app that everyone loved for its beautiful filters has quickly turned into the target of a huge amount of criticism and distaste.

Since the initial release of the new terms of service, Instagram quickly realized its mistake and has had three official press releases about how “they are listening” and vaguely alluded to changing the terms to better meet people’s requests. The changes were apparently not drastic enough and an Instagram user has filed a potential class-action lawsuit against the company for announcing the new terms of service.The San Diego-based law firm Finklestein & Krinsk filed its complaint in a San Francisco federal court.  Lucy Funes,  who is the person responsible for taking her complaint to federal court in San Francisco, has  stated that Instagram is, “taking its customer’s property rights” with the new terms to be put in place. A Facebook spokesperson (Facebook has recently acquired Instagram) said that the lawsuit is without merit and that the company intends to fight the claim vigorously.

Instagram’s new terms of service will officially go into effect on January 16,2013. Time will tell how many more changes the terms will go through.

Getting a Good Digital Photo for the Family Holiday Card

The holiday season is fast approaching, and for many this means it’s time to take a digital photo of the family to send out in the yearly holiday card. Doing something interesting and uncommon can make your cards more intriguing, but you can’t beat the traditional family portrait. The same rules for conventional digital photography tend to apply, but you also have to account for the difficulties created by trying to get everyone in the family into the shot.

You should probably think about the timing of your photos, whether you want a theme, and how you’ll get a “good” photo. You can take great holiday family photos to send out with the yearly card, year after year, without worrying too much about these details. But if you don’t have the time to waste an afternoon without getting anything, you probably need to invest some time and forethought so you aren’t just shooting blind.

First, decide if you want a recurring theme in your yearly family photo. Many choose to shoot their family photo in the same location every year, or to wear similar clothes every year, which is not necessary, but it helps to give your photo a unique and identifiable element that people will recognize. It’s easy to do and also means that after a number of years you’ll be able to put together an album of just those photos that will show how the family has grown and changed.

The next hurdle is getting everyone in the family ready and in position at the location for the photo. The easiest way to do this is to pay a professional photographer to direct the action and take the photos. If you want to do it yourself, you need a decent camera with a timer, a tripod, and some patience and experience. You don’t have to get too creative with your shot composition or anything like that. You just want soft, even lighting that makes everyone’s faces clear but doesn’t create harsh shadows. You should hone the skills necessary to do this before you get behind the camera with your family waiting, as it’s not immediately obvious how to use natural lighting and maybe a bit of cheating with bounce cards to create the right light.

Once you have the framing and lighting right, you just need to set up the timer and take several photos. This is important because especially with children, the odds that everyone will be smiling and looking at the camera at the same time are slim. If you have a camera that can snap several shots with each timer, this makes it much easier. Regardless, take the time to reposition everyone, let them relax for a minute, and then shoot again. The more photos you get, the better your chances of finding one you like that seems both happy and natural.

On the other hand, just picking a great photo from a family vacation or trip is completely reasonable. If that’s the easiest way to get a shot of the whole family having fun together and being natural, there’s nothing wrong with this route. The important thing is to be sure it’s a digital photo you will be happy with sending to all your friends and family, because you’re the one interested in investing the time and effort to make it happen.

Organizing Digital Photos

Face it you have too many digital photos. There are several causes of this situation, but the biggest problem is that it can make finding and using your photos far more difficult. Fortunately, it just takes a little time and a good piece of software to tackle the data creep that is swelling and scattering your photo library of digital photos. So whether you’re a budding amateur photographer, you’re slowly cataloging all your family’s old photos with digital scanning, or you’re just snap-happy with your smart phone, one of these approaches will help you make your time more worthwhile.

The range of software options for organizing your photos can itself be oppressive. The best approach is to focus on the photos themselves, and not worry too much about which software you want. If your first choice ends up being too complicated, it’s easy to try something else. The average situation is a person who has photos spread across multiple hard drives and storage devices, as well as some in their inbox, still on their camera’s card, and on their smart phone. The divide between camera and smart phone might also be perpetuated on the primary storage drive. And then there are the awesome old photos of our childhood preserved with digital scanning in their own folder (hopefully). Most people in this situation want to both make casually browsing their photos easier and more fruitful, and gain the ability to find specific photos or types of photos for projects like photo books or calendars.

Your first step should be the arduous task of getting every photo you have in one place, one main directory, on one drive. That means move everything off your memory cards, download everything from emails, and consolidate. If you don’t have space, buy a used older drive online and use that. If you have a backup, just leave it for now, but get rid of duplicates anywhere else. Consolidating is the biggest change you can make in terms of being able to find and browse photos.

Next, pick organization software. Some people prefer the native folder system in their operating system, and that is fine too. But if you want tagging and any other automatic search and filter, you need third-party software. Picasa, by Google, is a favorite for many, but iPhoto appeals to a lot of Mac users. Flickr is a good cloud solution although getting enough storage costs $25, and you can get some of the same automation with upload and sharing features from cross-platform smart phone apps, if you tend to do most of your shooting and browsing with a phone.

Now comes the hard part. You have to organize and delete. Many amateurs will suggest that you should get in the habit of sorting and deleting photos on your digital camera. This is actually a terrible idea, because you’re relying on the fidelity of the camera’s screen and making judgments based on a 2X2.5 inch view of a shot. You run the risk of discarding really good shots with this method. Just get in the habit of uploading your pictures once a week and filtering through them at the same time. It will force you to actually look at your photos and think about them, which will also make you a better digital photographer.

You can organize your photos however you want, or just let the software do it by date. It’s a good idea to organize by big things like month, then by location, with separate folders or tags for specific vacations or photo projects. Tagging your photos can take a long time, but if they’re already in any sort of order, the process can be easier. Don’t let the idea of coming up with an appropriate tag for every aspect of your life intimidate you. Tags like “vacation” and “California” are often enough when combined with the date to make your photos navigable and searchable.

After a first pass on organization, it’s time to chop. You have too many photos. Getting rid of what are functionally worse duplicates will make organizing and browsing photos easier and reduce storage needs. So if you have three of the same shot, pick the best and erase the rest. Then, make sure your backup is up-to-date, preferably kept in a different place just in case.

Digital photos are awesome. There’s a reason most people prefer a digital camera to an analogue option that requires digital scanning to preserve photos: they are easier and less expensive. But just having photos doesn’t do you any good. Organize them and keep them organized, and you’ll be able to use them for projects as well as review and actually enjoy the memories they captured.


While mobile and smart phone proliferation continues to make it easier to capture the memories we make with our friends and family, capture copies of documents, and even facilitates sharing them on social networks, they don’t help make it easier to upload those shared photos—at least they didn’t until now. The makers of the Bump app recently launched Flock, a passive photo sharing app that aims to change the way we upload and share photo albums with the people in the photos all while changing the way we interact with other apps. Things have come a long way from the days of uploading photos captured with digital scanning and emailing them to your grandmother.

The idea behind flock is that it should be easy for everyone in a photo to be invited to see those photos by accessing cloud-based photo albums—and it should all happen automatically. Most smart phones, like the iPhone, already automatically geo-tag photos and Facebook face recognition software can automatically tag photos. Using these two functionalities, the Flock app automatically identifies photos on your phone that contain Facebook friends, prompts you to share them, and then invites those friends to view a group album shared on the cloud.

There’s a lot to parse with this app, but the most important aspects are what it means for photo sharing and what it means for app use. Since this is photography, digital scanning, and digital photo blog, the fact that Flock isn’t actively trying to capture more of your attention, a dramatic shift from the paradigm of most apps developed today, is not our focus…but it is certainly interesting.

On the other hand, the fact that from now on you don’t have to take multiple pictures with different cameras in order to be sure everyone gets a copy is incredible and relevant for this blog. One of the biggest frustrations about taking group photos has always been figuring out how to make sure everyone who wants a copy of the photo gets it. Either you can stick one person taking multiple photos with different devices, or you can upload the photo onto one of multiple photo-sharing sites and invite everyone to view the album— neither are very convenient.

With Flock, every time you take a photograph using a smart phone that is connected to a Facebook account, it uses the social media site’s face recognition software to identify the subjects of the photo. Immediately after taking the photo, it prompts you to allow it to notify them about the photo and invite them to access the photos in the album. They can choose to view photos, or download them for other uses. The biggest advantage about Flock is that it doesn’t require any extra work for anyone.

Flock is the next step in the natural progression of strategies leveraging the power of mobile devices. It’s also a big deal for people who want to share and use digital photos in the most convenient way possible. Whether you use your phone to supplement digital scanning or take the best shots of you and your friends, Flock makes it easier for you to share them.

Technological Innovations That Changed Photography

Though many take it for granted in the digital age, taking a photograph was originally a long process that involved a lot of skill and understanding of the mechanics behind using a camera; it has not always been as easy as clicking a button and posting photos online. To get where we are today, in regards to digital technology, there were a few innovations that had to take place first. The following is a list of five inventions that helped pave the way for modern photographic technologies:



One of the key factors in photography is having adequate exposure to light, so having a flash made shooting indoors much more feasible. Originally photographers shot indoors using lights of the electric arc and limelight variety, but alternatives such as magnesium soon became the norm. Magnesium immediately proved to be problematic since it caused a large amount of ash and smoke after every use. Finally in 1927, the more modern flash, similar to the one used today, that utilized a bulb was invented.

The Polaroid Instant Camera


Digital photography is about instant gratification and being able to have access your pictures right away, and we can thank Polaroid for this sentiment. The Polaroid instant camera was made available to the masses starting in 1947 and enabled users to instantly produce photographs without the use of a darkroom or photolab.

Auto Focus


The auto focus was first developed in the late 1970s by Leitz. The early version of the auto focus utilized a series of sensors in the camera lens to analyze a scene and determined which area should be sharp and in focus. More modernized auto focus use a number of complicated algorithms that allows focusing on a number of subjects in a scene. With new auto focus technologies, you may even shoot moving images and they do not come out blurred.

Silver Halides

Image: Theodore W. Gray

All modern photographic films use silver halides in order for photographs to obtain sustainability. Silver halides are a combination of silver and halogens, and together they result in fast exposure times and stability in photographs.



The Single Lens Reflex camera, which was first invented in 1884, utilizes a bunch of different mirrors that are put in between the viewfinder and the lens with the intention presenting exactly what your photo will look. Much later, in the 1930s, 35mm SLRs were popularized and opened up a plethora of photographic innovations.