Tag Archives: instagram

Postcards From the Social Media Edge: Postagram

Considering our ever-more-digital world, with the U.S. Post Office teetering on bankruptcy, the decline of print media, and increasing social-connectedness, it’s with pleasure that I’m writing about a recent discovery: Postagram.

Send postcards from you iPhone and Android devices with Postagram.

Send postcards from your iPhone and Android devices with Postagram.

Remember Getting Mail When You Were A Kid?

That was a big deal! Birthday card, handwritten letter, or even a postcard – that was something to get excited about. But since it’s so easy to email or post a photo online, why bother sending anything even resembling a postcard these days? That’s where Postagram comes in for iPhone and Android users.

Getting Mail is Fun

Made by Sincerely, Inc. Postagram brings back the old fun of getting mail to the new fun of being digitally connected – AND mobile photography (you can imagine the geek-thrill this brings me). Using photos already on your mobile device, you upload a picture via the Postagram app, type out a quick message, and Postagram sends a physical postcard in the mail to your recipient with your image. Your recipient is stored in your address book on the site, along with your billing information for easy sending in the future. It’s a whopping $.99 to send a card.

I may never buy another physical postcard again

I did this a couple of weeks ago for Valentine’s day, sending my awesome wife a card in remembrance our prior Valentine’s experience at this restaurant where, for dessert, they have a special all-gelato spaghetti & meatballs. It’s awesome:

Trevi Italian Restaurant – Gelato Master Hank Sbraccia’s Spaghetti Ice serves up plenty of double takes—it’s a brimming pasta bowl of fresh homemade vanilla gelato strands acting as the spaghetti, chocolate gelato scoops as the meatballs, strawberry sauce as the mariana and shaved white chocolate as the Parmesan. “When I make gelato, you’re going to remember it,” Sbraccia says.

Of course, I took a picture of this after our romantic dinner 12 months ago and kept it in my phone.

Trevi Gelato Spaghetti Caesars Palace

It’s all gelato except for the freshly ground white chocolate on top. This photo does not do it justice. Trevi, Caesars Palace.

Now this year, having discovered Postagram, I had a cool pic ready to try out the product with. I sent this to her office address for a twist on having flowers sent to work (in addition to handling the flowers on my own, duh).

Unfortunately, here’s where things take a turn, because although I did this a week ahead of time, my Postagram got lost in the mail. No biggie; we had a fine day nevertheless. I did contact customer service the next day, who within minutes apologized, explaining that they’d been having issues over the holiday, and immediately righted the situation with a replacement. Even though the moment had passed, I appreciate a good customer service experience, and this was one.

Keep The Fun Going: Social Media

The real bonus of all this is one thing I discovered in my research: your Postagram remains online, with social media sharing built-in. I had no idea about this, since I handled the entire process weeks earlier quickly on my phone, then archived the receipt email. But in looking up the order number, I noticed the link. So while I was waiting for the replacement card to be sent, I was able to send my wife a link to the original card with the photo and my text online. I emailed this to her and also posted it on Twitter. We’re both social media geeks that way.

Postagram by rsmithing

My awesome Postagram card, created on my phone, sent through the mail. You can also select an image for the “from” portion, and the main image pops out of the card as a standalone keepsake.

Returning the Favor with PR

Since my customer service experience was so positive, and since they mentioned they’d been having issues I thought I’d return the favor for Postagram by offering some sample tweets in our final email exchange they could send that might head off issues similar to the one I’d had:

  • Sorry about missing orders – but you can still send some Twitter love. Check your order email for the link!
  • Did you know you can Tweet a Postagram? See your confirmation email & click “Tweet”
  • Digital and traditional messages meet via tweet: Postagram postcards are Tweeetable!
  • Postagram not arrive? Do it digitally right now – here’s how [link to full blog post on how-to]
  • Relive the magic – follow up your Postagram with a Tweet [blog link]
They didn’t take me up on my tweet consulting, but they did express their appreciation, and did in fact send the replacement card as promised, which my awesome wife loved, even a few days after Valentine’s. So we’re keeping the fun going here even a week later.
From table to phone to postcard: Postagram.

From table to phone to postcard to my wife’s desk: Postagram.

I’ll very likely use Postagram in the future, not only because of the good customer service, but also as a unique and easy way to keep in touch with my non-socially connected friends and relatives (and my social-networking-connected friends, just to freak them out with actual mail). They even recently integrated with one of my favorite photo-editing apps, PhotoForge2, with the functionality of sending cards right from within the app.

What do you think? Have you ever sent or received a card via Postagram or a similar service? When was the last time you sent a physical postcard? Will you be inclined to try something like Postagram next time you want to send a postcard? Let us hear from you in the comments.

A Snapshot in Time: the Kodak Disc Camera

Kodak 4000 Disc Camera by Capt. Kodak

Kodak 4000 Disc Camera by Capt. Kodak

On hearing of Kodak’s bankruptcy recently, I’m nostalgic, as I’m sure many of us are. I easily remember the excitement of discovering photography for the first time as a child and seeing the Kodak logo everywhere, from film, to cameras, to the envelopes my prints were mailed back to me in (remember “sending off” or “dropping off” your film?). This is best summarized for me now by remembering Kodak’s Disc camera.

What’s a Kodak Disc?

For their time, the Kodak Disc cameras were very innovative. It could easily slide in your pocket, came with a built-in flash, and even the film was compact. Sure the picture quality wasn’t great, but for the ease of use and relative affordability, it was a decent experience. Snapshots of life as a kid for me came through the lens of this camera, and I’m intrigued by the parallels of our gadget-obsessed consumer society. I still have prints from my Disc camera, and as I record HD video with my phone today, I wonder what 20 years from now will make us regard even this activity as primitive.

Says Capt. Kodak:

Manufactured from 1982 to 1989 by Eastman Kodak Co. When introduced, they made a big splash—in less than 10 years, they were gone. They featured a 15 exposure flat “disc” of film using new film technology to get acceptable images from it 8x10mm negative size. Some of this film technology was later introduced into the 35mm line of films making them even sharper and producing better images on a bigger negative. Ironically, that improvement and Kodak’s own introduction of inexpensive 35mm cameras may have led to the Disc camera’s demise.

iPhone Ancestor?

iPhone Ancestry

iPhone decal, Disc style

Back when I rocked the iPhone 4 bumper, my swag was enhanced by this awesome Kodak Disc iPhone skin. The symbolic convergence of technology and art through photography on so many levels with this simple decal is so poignant to me. Though no longer available from this manufacturer (another similarity with the actual camera), I truly appreciate how this is a tribute to digital ancestry in consumer electronics and photography. Like the gadget that inspired it, this decal goes along with you in your pocket, attached to your camera that also makes phone calls, sends SMS messages, surfs the Internet, is your GPS, Yellow Pages, day planner, entertainment hub… um, while fun, the Disc didn’t do all that.

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Sure, I love my iPhone and applications like Hipstamatic for their high-quality and instant gratification. Yet it’s so interesting to me how nostalgia in the form of apps like Hipstamatic or digital photo booths is enjoying popularity now. And the Disc’s portability and ease of use can’t help but come to mind these days when I’m whipping out the iPhone for some snapshots with a retro-camera app.

I also love the ease and fun of social networks like Instagram and management tools like Flickr for making sharing our snapshots so easy and ubiquitous. In fact, I fully credit Instagram for reigniting my own interest in photography these days — which happen to be directly traceable to the days when I was posing my Star Wars action figures for some action shots with my trusty Kodak Disc.

What do you think? Are you sad to see Kodak’s demise? Did you or anyone you know ever work for Kodak? Do you use any Kodak products today (paper, digital, etc.) What lessons are there to be gained by the fall of a once-great innovating company? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Photo Credit: Kodak 4000 Disc Camera, by Capt. Kodak

Photography, Technology and Connections in the Name of Art

I find it awesome when the digital and “real” worlds intersect for collective benefit, especially in the name of art.

Two Winston-Salem Arts Institutions

I just had the pleasure of attending a free lecture hosted by SECCA — The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art — about select photographic works of our city’s Arts Council (full disclosure below). Because of technology, a passion for art, and social networking, the experience became amplified. And that sort of thing gives me hope for the world.

Several items from the council’s photography collection were to be on display at a local gallery, and Michael Christiano, Curator of Education at SECCA (check them out on WordPress), gave a crash course in photographic appreciation to start the evening off.

In the span of 20 minutes, he covered many of the greats — Robert Frank, Edward Weston, Jerry Uelsmann (my all-time favorite & inspiration) — along with several others, highlighting how the collection’s works being shared were representative of the media’s progression over time. In a larger sense, this collection and these artists aside, it was a notable reflection on how the technology of photography lets us put form to something intangible like memory.

Think of a photo that ever brought a “wow” from your lips.
Kiss Me Like You Promise Me Heaven in Your Lips

Kiss Me Like You Promise Me Heaven in Your Lips – © Sion Fullana. All Rights Reserved.

Considering such technology didn’t even exist two centuries ago, it’s rather an amazing jump in human communication that we practically take for granted nowadays, what with cameras in our phones and everywhere else.

But it’s that jump in communication having to do with photography that compels this post. Because of my growing interest/obsession with street photography and iPhoneography (thanks to Instagram and appreciating the art of others), I, of course, had to snap the below image with my phone just as the lecture was getting started. The meta-ness of the moment was too great not to indulge:

Meta-techno-photography moment captured. Click for the full conversation.

A photo from my iPhone at a lecture on photography prior to a photography exhibit that I later published via a photo-sharing app. Now you’re reading a blog about it.

Naturally, this immediately went up on Instagram.

The evening progressed; the lecture was great; we perused photos and headed home. Later that night, @lindsyarb — someone I’ve never met except via Instagram — noticed the photo, asking to know more about the event and who hosted. Turns out we’re all in the same city, so I shared SECCA’s details and she signed up for their mailing list.

Instagram Conversation

Did you catch what just happened there?

Through technology, interest in art is shared and fostered — relative to the local community, no less — connections are made, and we actually live through a jump in human communication… not over the centuries, but over wi-fi and social networks in real-time… through a shared appreciation for the creative spirit fostered by photography.

Now that’s art. Or at the very least, I’ve got a little more hope for the world. 🙂

Have you ever made a real-world connection via social media? Is there an Arts Council or equivalent in your city, and do you take part? How have you come to be inspired in an artistic fashion, and do you enjoy sharing that with others? Let us hear from you in the comments.

The Jungleamongus: 5 Tips for Great Insect Photography

We are surrounded all the time by insects. There are WAY more of them than there are of us, by many millions. When the Earth recovers after inevitable, mutual self-assured destruction, there will be two things left: smoldering rubble and cockroaches. They outlived the dinosaurs; they’ll be here long after you.

Insects are at once simple and complex: sets of multiple eyes and limbs coordinated for a focused mission, hunting and being hunted in the shadows, in the air. Basic bodies and life mechanisms forming energy into movement for eating, mating, moving in their own world, amid our world. Also, they’re kinda creepy, with they way they… you know, creep.

So, here I’ve gathered here some of my recent encounters with the buggy set. For the record: none of these creatures were harmed in the creation of these images/video. Annoyed? Probably. Harmed? No. All images here link to hi-res originals, pre-editing.

Click for full-size unedited raw images

Moths – who knew they were so hairy?

Click for full-size pre-edit raw image

Camel Cricket

Click for hi-res, unedited similar original (not exact original)

Pentatomidae, or Stink Bug

Take lots of photos? Consider a removable lens like this one by Photojojo.

What brought me to this were some compelling photos I’d been perusing through Instagram (yep, still obsessed) of insect close-ups and other micro-world views. I started asking folks how they wrung such detail from their iPhones, and was eventually steered to Photojojo’s macro/wide angle attachment lens.

Holy crap, is this thing awesome. Basically, it’s a scaled-down jeweler’s loop that magnetically attaches to your iPhone, droid, or other camera phone, giving a magnified, super-clear view of your subject matter.

For the record, I do not work for Photojojo; I’m just an enthusiastic customer. And I’m now enjoying being turned on to a universe of detail I didn’t know existed before getting this gadget. And it’s not just for bugs; this thing opens up a vast dimension of beauty to flowers, textures, or even leaves. There’s a whole new level of minuscule subject matter now available that’s seriously rewarding and enlightening to experience. I had no idea moths were so bushy — now I’m fascinated by them.

Camera phone macro lenses open mini-frontiers with ease, and I encourage anyone with the inclination to pursue some macro photography (and if you or someone you know is of South Asian descent, possibly help out Photojojo founder Amit Gupta, recently diagnosed with acute leukemia). On to the tips…

5 Tips for Great Insect Photos

  1. Get a macro lens. For the price of a good pizza, you’ll get a supremely major upgrade to your gear. They’re easy to use and aren’t just for iPhones. In addition to Photojojo, there are several other possibilities worth considering.
  2. Isolate the subject under a clean glass with a clear sheet of white paper underneath in a well-lit area. But don’t do this so long that you cut off its air supply.
  3. Be at the ready with your finger on the button to snap a photo. Since a bug under a glass generally darts around in a panic, you don’t want to miss out when it finally comes within focus range.
  4. Go hunting in your own yard, sidewalk, or if you’re really brave, the basement. The simple moth I noticed flapping around a light at my door one night turned out to be one of my favorite photo subjects, with fluffy fur and big, deep eyes. Kinda like a teddy bear (OK, maybe that’s a stretch). So grab a glass and get to know your visitors.
  5. Set them free in an advantageous location. If you can return a bug to the wild near something close to its own habitat (dark corner for a spider, bright light for a moth), you’ll be restoring some balance to the universe. Or, at least helping feed the birds. Ah, the cycle of life.
SAVE MONEY: If you purchase one of these lenses from Photojojo, you can save $5 off your order by using this link: http://photojojo.com/r/a389. This also gives me $5 off my next order, too. Thanks. 🙂
What’s your experience with phone camera attachments? Have you ever used a macro lens on a traditional camera? Do bugs creep you out too much to get in their faces for photo ops? What do you think of these (or other) macro photos done with just an iPhone & attached lens? Any tips to share? Tell us in the comments.

PhotoForge2: My First App Review

I’ve used plenty of iPhone apps, reviewing none. PhotoForge2 changes this. For anyone familiar with Photoshop, here’s your app. It’s as good as Photoshop for photo manipulation, and as a graphic designer of 15 years, I would know. It’s nearly all here: layers, masks, blending modes, undo, curves, HSL, Unsharp Mask!?!? Yep, that, too.

Photoforge2 Screen Shot

Screen capture of PhotoForge 2 (credit: GhostBird): Layers, and masks, and tools… oh my!

If you’re a Photoshop user, you already know how to use PhotoForge2. It accomplishes in minutes with your thumb and iDevice what would otherwise require $1000+ in computer & software investment, certainly well enough for things like Instagram, and possibly even commercial work. It’s fast, stable, intuitive, and a steal at anything less than a full-on editing setup. As of this writing it’s on sale for 60% off and will set you back a whopping $1.99. That’s less than a beer.

Do note that PhotoForge2 is more for adjustments rather than painting or illustrating, (emphasis is on filters vs.  pen or brush drawing, for example), but so many of the built-in goods like vignette and frame effects should more than satisfy for basic edits, and set you up nicely for some pro-level results, even from a point-and-shoot camera.

You should also be aware that PhotoForge2 does not offer tools like clone or magic wand (hint-hint… next version maybe?), but you will still be able to execute your vision with what’s available fairly easily. I’ll often do workarounds that get me by, or use it in combination with other apps. The omission of some things like a free rotate or straightening seem glaringly odd, but these are very minor quibbles with an app of this one’s obvious prowess. (UPDATE, MARCH 2012: And, now it has this tool. Proof that Ghostbird Software is awesome)

I gave it 5 stars, but edited some out!

My PhotoForge work on app review. Click for full size.

Other apps specialize in color isolation and light effects, which is fine if that’s all you’ll ever want, but PhotoForge2 is The Mother Lode. Wired magazine says you’ll get $2 worth of entertainment out of it in the first ten minutes. I say two minutes. And they aren’t paying me to say that.

Funny, I remember with the iPad’s debut, all the sudden talk of tablets taking over for PCs. I thought, sure, but not for serious things like image editing. Um… yeah.

If you find this useful, share it on Twitter — thanks!

What’s your favorite photo editing app and why? Do you already use PhotoForge2? What’s your experience been, and what features would you like to see in the next version? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Occupying Art

“It’s wrong,” the sign said, “to create a mortgage-backed security filled with loans you know are going to fail so that you can sell it to a client who isn’t aware that you sabotaged it by intentionally picking the misleadingly rated loans most likely to be defaulted upon.”

The point of this post is not to debate the merits of the Occupy Wall St. (and other places) protests, but rather to note some connections spurred by communication around the topic. Politics aside, I noticed something last week that I found kind of amazing.

As I commented at the original story by Marketplace, I heard this example of shared communication on the radio (streaming, via my phone), read it online, linked to it on Facebook and Twitter, and am now blogging about it.

I think it’s extraordinary — that this one guy has a thought, it gets adopted by someone in this protest, it’s a highly relevant thought, and now it’s broadcast and rebroadcast via many different channels. Will anything come of it? Who knows; my point is that we are part of communication magic, and it’s worth reflecting upon.

True, there are maddening issues spurring on the protests, and many of them are complex… adding to the maddening. And along those lines, I think this sign captures the thought that originally inspired its content, while also making a statement on the complexity and associated frustration around the issues — while also illustrating the evolution of mass media communication, given the new breadth an individual’s thoughts can achieve through technology… right to this very moment on this blog you’re reading now.

There’s something artful in the expression.

It makes me wonder if we’re indeed in a revolution, at least in terms of communication, what with having the ability to reach and influence in so many ubiquitous, yet simple ways. We walk around with computers in our pockets and can connect with someone on the other side of the globe with ease. Or, maybe I’m just noticing the traceable pathways of the communication. Still, it’s interesting to observe and document. I’m no protester, but I’m intrigued. As Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal noted, it’s all very… “woah.” And so, I was inspired to do photograph & edit this sign made by a protestor in my city over the weekend:

Occupy Winston-Salem, 10.22.11

Turns out I was subliminally giving props to Rage Against the Machine.
Which, oddly, is kinda appropriate:

Rage Against The Machine, 11.02.99

And in fact, I support long-haired freaky people,
and I actually thought I was paying tribute to Tesla

So hey, there’s some art — or at least the convergence of national and local events, mass media, music, and visual design. I think that’s remarkable, and I hope something can come of it, even if only reflection or informed entertainment.

Update, 10/26: not so sure I meant this kind of entertainment, from the people who brought you Puck and Snooki. Oh, well. For the story on how all this started in the first place, see the original author’s follow-up.

Have you had any transcendental communication moments lately? Do you think we’re in a revolution? Do you remember Tesla? Tell us in the comments.