A few awesome iPhone apps for fun family pictures!

by Karen Lara mentioned a while back that her DSLR camera is broken (and I am really sad about that for her!) but all is not lost. As she mentioned, her iPhone has a pretty awesome camera - and it's true; she and I have the same phone. But, in addition to the great camera, there are some pretty awesome apps that can enhance your pictures and make fun collages right on your phone. Easy peasy! (Though I use an iPhone, some of these may also be available on other phones also.)

I have recently aquired a number of said apps that go far beyond the filters of Instagram. (Not that Instagram isn't a great app, but its uses are definitely limited.) Some are free. Some are paid. All of them combined will not cost you as much as a new point and shoot, let alone a new DSLR.

Before we start, though, a quick phoneography pro tip for you: Take your shots and save them to your photo library unfiltered and uncropped first. Use either the native camera app or something like Camera+ (which I honestly haven't gotten into like some, but I hear people rave about it) that allows you to go unfiltered. That will give you lots of opportunities to play with your pictures and you'll have one image that isn't going to be dated by a filter too.

I think most people know about Instagram, but just in case you don't yet, it's like a mini social network. You can connect with Facebook friends and  share photos to Twitter and Facebook. Followers can like or comment on your photos and you on theirs. It's great for quick sharing.

If you want more pizazz in your photos, here are a few other apps I'd suggest:

Snapseed - I've heard it called the Photoshop of the iPhone. It's pretty good. Nice filters and control with how intense you make them, as well as a few basic editing options. You can give your photos a nice little touch up on the fly without downloading to your photo editing software on your computer.

100 Cameras - This one was built by Trey Ratcliff, a photographer I've followed for a while now. It's my fun app to play with. There are so many filters and they're quite unique to anything else you'll find in other apps and it gives you full control over the intensity. You can even apply some funky textures to photos. It's not always ideal for photos of people, but you can have a lot of fun with objects and landscape photos.

Once you've edited and applied any filters your photo(s), you may want to have more fun with it! There are some great apps to create collages and add text to your photos right on your phone.

Diptic - This is a basic collage app with all square/rectangular layouts. You can manipulate the layouts to an extent and you can reposition pictures so that it the portion of the image showing is what you want.

Over - Have you ever wanted to add some text to a photo rather than just providing context in a status update with it? Over is fun for adding in text. There are a multitude of fun and funky fonts to choose from, as well as lots of colours and control over size. You can adjust the tint of the photo so your text pops more or to achieve a certain effect, but it's best to pull in the photo as you want it. Over is not an editing tool.

FuzelPro - This is my current favorite collage/text overlay tool. The collage layouts are super funky. You get a lot more than Diptic provides, but it can be a bigger time suck to use, so it really depends on what you want to do. FuzelPro also provides some frames and some text options (not as many as Over, though). It's like a combination of the two tools in one!

All of these apps will allow you to share to various social networks once you've finished editing.

Do you use your smartphone to take photos as you go through each day? What are some of your favourite apps?

Happy phoneography!


Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (4), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. She can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping businesses use social media more effectively. Karen is also committed to doing her part to keep the coffee industry alive, because who needs sleep?

ABC Challenge: Inside and Zoom

by Lara My camera died! Apparently 6 years of being tossed around like it wasn't an expensive piece of photography equipment finally took it's toll on the poor thing. Fortunately, my iPhone camera quality is quite exceptional!

Inside and Zoom

Z is for zoom - in Grandpa's boat around the lake.


I is for inside - the kids have spent hours in these buckets through this hot summer.  Cheapest/easiest swimming pools ever!

I is for inside

Art Books Climbing Discovery Eating Friends Green Hugging Inside Jumping Kisses Laughing Mealtime Night Outside Playing Quiet Riding Swinging Trees Umbrella Vehicles Wet Xcited (OH! Cheater!) Yellow Zoom

Cell-phone photography tips

Here are a couple of articles with great tips on cellphone photography - check them out!

How to Take Camera Phone Pictures

Cell phone photography tips

Other participants' photos

M is for mealtime - by Amy Boughner

J is for jump by Ang from the dock


Will you join in next week?

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Making fun and easy videos

by Lara I've been wanting to make fun little videos of the kids for awhile but I often get derailed when trying to figure out how I would do it: what software would I need? Where do I find copyright free music?

Then I remembered a program I've seen a lot of photographers use and decided to try it out : Animoto.

It was easy as anything.  Free if you're happy with videos that are 30 seconds or less or for $30 for the year, you get access to more themes and you can make your videos as long as you want.

It was super straightforward to figure out and within minutes I had made this video:

Then I saw they were advertising their iPhone app so I downloaded that and then created another video right from my phone (nothing could be more convenient since my phone and iPad are where I take all my videos of the kids)

Have you ever played around with making fun little videos of the kids? What do you use?

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Playing together

by Lara There are days when I struggle not to just hand over the iPhone or the iPad to the kids so I can get something done with a bit of quiet - for my boys it's pretty much the only surefire way to make that happen.

I realized recently though, that the iPad can be something my older son and I can enjoy together.  Because it holds his attention so keenly, there is no other activity, even if I sit with him to take part in it, that he enjoys at much.  Instead now, we have found a game that we like to play together!

Water is a Disney game (that only costs 99 cents!) that requires thought and logic, all while trying to give a crazy gator a bath :)There's water and slime and acid. There are ducks and cogs and hoses. Together we figure out if the water eliminating the slime so the acid can contaminate the second pool of water, thereby burning the fast-growing moss is the best way to get the last container of water down through the tubes to the gator.  It's hard, and my five year old loves trying to figure it out.  He also loves when we work together to figure it out.

So now, instead of just handing over the iPad when I need some down time, I realize that the iPad can be some us time and I'm really enjoying it!

Do you play video games with your kids?

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Should parents be scared of kids using technology?

by Karen (originally published on Karen's Chronicles) I read this blog post today in which the author describes his daughter, who is under 2 years old, and her ability to use and interest in his iPhone. The final paragraph poses interesting questions about children and technology:

It’s hard to know how, as parents, we should handle our kids’ relationship with technology because theirs is the first generation born in this technology obsessed age of Facebook. Is this just part of being a 21st century kid? Or is there something we should do as parents to curtail this?

My first instinct was YES, this is just part of being a 21st century kid and NO, we shouldn't curtail it. I decided to comment on the piece, because Matt and I both have a healthy interest in tech that has led to a generous supply of gadgets strewn about our home. When I comment, I tend to fly past other comments so as not to be influenced in my thoughts about the post. Then I will go back and read them. Here's what I said:

I love tech and gadgets. I want my son to love them too. He’s three and he has his own iPod Touch which we bought used to protect our iPhones that are far more expensive to replace. He’s been very good at taking care of it. He’s also careful with our iPad. We’ve taught him these things.

Here’s my take on it: kids *need* to learn these things. It’s going to be essential for their success in this life. Tech is only going to get more and more integrated in our lives. To cut them out of that would be a real disservice.

That said, they also need to know how to put it down and turn it off. To establish boundaries that they keep – perhaps better than their parents who are the first generation to have these things incorporated into their work/personal lives.

After going back and reading the other comments, I started to wonder if I have it all wrong. Words popped out at me from the comments: worry, scary, misgivings.

iPods are good for more than just playing games. They make nice hats too. ;)

I don't get it. Why is this scary? Do we not remember our parents reacting the same way when we instinctively knew how to use the first CD player we ever touched without reading a manual? I'm pretty sure there was a time in the late 1800s when parents said, "I don't see why Billy needs a phonograph. If he gets one he'll spend all his time playing with it. I don't like these new-fangled gadgets the kids always want."

And a hundred years from now, parents will be saying, "No, Billy, you can't have a jet-pack. You're still too young to fly to school."

Those parents who dealt with the phonograph handled it. My parents who had the VCR to contend with handled it. We'll be able to handle the iPhones and I'm happy to leave the jet-pack question to my great-great-great-great grandchildren.

I used to be the non-mom who swore up and down that I wouldn't let my kids play video games or watch TV. Well, Brandon's (almost) three and I'm not too proud to admit that I've broken both of those vows - many times.

You know what else? We also turn off the TV. And the iPod. And the iPhone. We play with Brandon - inside and out. We take him places around town and he's slowly learning to play with other children.

It isn't scary that a child so young can unlock an iPod/iPhone and use it. Children learn by watching and it only takes a couple of times for them to see how mommy or daddy do it - and voila, they do it themselves. Brandon unlocked Matt's iPod Touch for the first time when he was about 18 months old. Now he has his own (bought used) and he knows how to pick the music he wants to listen to (he also figured out how to delete it), open any app he wants and play the games I've installed for him.

I think the iPod Touch is just about the greatest kids' toy ever. And you know what? For the price of about four or five Leap Frog interactive educational toys, I can buy the (used) Touch along with countless interactive educational games that he loves that is compact and extremely portable with zero loose parts to lose and scatter all over the world. As a bonus, I'm teaching Brandon to love Angry Birds, much to his father's chagrin.

As I said in my comment on the blog, teaching children how to set boundaries around the technology that they will grow into adulthood with is what our biggest challenge is. Trying to bar them from any access to technology is futile and, in my humble opinion, probably not the wisest decision. Children need to learn how to use technology. They need to learn about the negative sides, like spam and other deceptive practices that are used. Parents can help their children navigate these issues, teaching them along the way. The end result that I hope for is a child who has a healthy interest and attitude toward technology, gadgets and the time spent using them.

How do you deal with gadgets and children in your house? Do you think restricting gadget use entirely is more beneficial? we'd love to hear your thoughts!


Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (3), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. She also explores one of her favourite topics – social media – at her blog, The Media Mesh. You can follow Karen on twitter and find her in other places here.