Tips & Research on the Latest Instagram Algorithm Updates in August 2019

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Today I'm going to share some research notes on things going on with the Instagram algorithm. Instagram are targeting a lot of proxies and automation services. We know this because they only used to do 5 updates a year. In the last 2 months they've done 8 consecutive updates every week. Every time on Friday so 3rd parties have to work over the weekend (or in most cases don't) to fix compatibility issues.  

TIP: Don't use 3rd party engagement funnels, especially don't give away your password. Instagram detects each time you enter your password and if you're doing it more frequently then it will target you and more than likely block you. 

If you've experienced a drop off recently in your engagement levels its time to look at some ways to get your spurs back. 

At the end of April Instagram announced there is a connection between followers, friends and stories. These are the most important factors. 

MORE ENGAGING STORIES

You need to level up with your stories and make them more engaging. Polls, questions, share peoples responses and answers. 

The story algorithm has taken over. 

This gives you a greater chance on getting on the Instagram explore page. Previously it just used to be grid posts on the explore page, now they're publishing stories. If you're on the Instagram explore page, you're in a pretty good place. 

Instagram want you to stay on the platform for longer. 

We've always known this. The longer you stay on the platform, the more adverts you'll see, the more money Instagram make. 

So wow does the instagram algorithm work? 

One theory is the 'Casino Effect'. IF you lose every time you hit the slot machine, you'll not get sufficient amounts of dopamine (the feel good chemical that your brain secretes) and you'll lose interest. Same if you win every time, you'll feel like a 2 year old at Christmas that gets too many gifts.

The idea is that you have to keep guessing how your posts will fair. You don't know if you'll get sh*t tonne of likes, or a remarkably low score. Instagram even delay the amount of people that view your stories so you keep checking your feed to see how many people are looking. The reward is more intense when it finally arrives. Genius. 

TIP: Start dm'ing your followers more. Develop better relationships. Even if it's with a couple of emoji's. People get wow'd that you're checking out their stories, they often wonder if they're getting viewed at all! 

Also keep your grid clean and consistent. We like to look at pretty things. We like to see the same filters if its on a page we follow. Don't suddenly switch to black and white for a few weeks and get arty if your audience are craving your unique formula. 

TIP: Ask questions in your captions. Ask them for their thoughts, ask them to rate an idea. Engagement keeps people checking you out and makes sure that your latest content plonks straight to the top of their feed. 

TIP: Check out your insights if you have a business page. See what time people are active and make sure you upload your posts around that time specifically. 

TIP: Tag other users. They will start tagging you in their images and you'll develop stronger relationships and more traction. 

References and research 

How the Instagram Algorithm works

The future of Instagram Growth

Huge Instagram Algorithm Updates 

 

Latest News, Tools and Social Media Tips

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In this article I want to give you some crucial updates on everything that is happening in the world of Facebook and Instagram. What's more, how you can utilise these changes into making them work for you. 

CROSS POST AND SWIPE UPS! 

You can now double up on the exposure of what you share across your social media platforms as Instagram has now launched the capability of sharing swipe up links from your stories over to Facebook. 

Although some people like to go native on their individual platforms, for businesses this is a great time saver. Also for people that are more dominant on one channel than the other. For example, I'll confess I don't do much on Facebook compared to Instagram, so having this feature to share across my audiences at least keeps my Facebook page active. The easiest way to get started is by following the instructions here.

FREE MUSIC! 

After I've done a Vlog it can be quite painful having to trawl the net for a song that will fit. Not only that it has to be royalty free otherwise YouTube will set the dogs on you. 

The clever folk at Facebook have sorted this out for us. The Facebook Sound Collection now has over 2,000+ songs and 1,700+ sound effects available for use.

All content from Sound Collection can be used freely on our platforms without any additional licensing. Check out Sound Collection in Creator Studio here.  

WHY THE MERGE? 

You may have heard the news that Facebook are going to merge the messaging services of Facebook, What's App and Instagram by the year 2020. What will this mean for us? More than likely more adverts. WHY? Because Zuckerberg needs to start making a return on Whatsapp since he bought it for $19 Billion. 

Facebook announced increases in revenue today despite all the noise around Cambridge Analytica. And now we have the introduction of a homogenised messaging service. Joy! It just goes to show if you get a product for free, you don’t own it, you are that product. For more information on the combined messaging services there is a great in depth article about that on The National

BACK TO FACEBOOK

You may be looking to boost your posts and services on Facebook, but you're weary on all the technical jargon. There are a dozen ways to improve your skill set on Facebook without having to hire an intern or tech guy. 

Firstly you may want to think about getting a blue certified tick, which can be done by taking an exam via Facebook Blueprint. This will school you on a variety of different subjects such as Ads ManagerBoostingBidding EffectivelyCarousel AdsGenerating Leads from Ads, and Pixel.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions regarding blogging, the latest CMA rules for Instagram or how to monetise your blog you can always comment me below. I know it can be a bit of a labyrinth, maybe daunting for some. So don't hesitate to get in touch. 

 

The Ultimate Way to Travel Light | Moment Lenses

Do you really need a Camera these days when travelling? 

What would be the best alternatives? 

I recently posted an article on my site listing most of the gear bloggers need for traveling. I've had some people message me on my instagram page about a new piece of technology that could help me streamline my gadgets. 

Now I'm implacable when it comes to getting product imagery with my Sony A7S2, but it can be a bit cumbersome when traveling. Whilst out in Bali recently it simply wasn't practical to take it everywhere. 

Moment is a lens company for smart phones started on Kickstarter. They make a couple of lenses, cases, for most of the smart phones that are out today. Currently available are Wide lens, Fish lens, Macro lens. 

They can all be stored in a neat case no bigger than your toilet bag and that can house all the lenses. 

The 170 degree fish eye lens is very wide. It does come out a little shaky without a Gimbal because of the depth of its periphery. But the images I've seen have a neat effect. I think it's more for landscape pictures and balcony panoramas than for day to day video. 

TIP 

Moment will tell you that if you're looking to use this with a Gimbal then you can DIY a counter-balance to the phone. Tape a roll of 20p's to the other end and that should fix it. 

Conclusion 

Moment do look like a very travel orientated brand. They even do travel gift accessories on their website so it's perfect if you want to give your wanderlust friend a unique gift. It's going to be hard for me to part with my Sony but maybe it could also do with a holiday, away from me. 

Other tips to Travel Light

It's not a competition to try and fill the suitcase. 

2 x pair of socks, 2 x pair of pants. Clean them in the sink, dry them on the balcony. Keep rotating them and go one day commando. Boom, you're good for the week. 

Don't take books. You don't read those books at home, you'll never read those books on holiday. I'm determined to read a bit more this year but I won't be doing that on my back by the pool. 

If you're traveling as a couple share the chargers and devices. You can probably half the load if you share.

One pair of smart trainers. I find that shoes take up the most space. In the past I would always take a pair of smart shoes for evening dinner. But I'm not Elton John, I have no entourage schlepping mass amounts of luggage behind me as I throw my keys to the concierge.

Check out the Cole Haan style edit I did, these trainers are incredibly versatile for all climates and events. 

 

 

TRAVEL BAG: The tech gear I take on holiday

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Whilst  I'm out here in Bali (currently in Ubud) and have a bit of downtime, I'm wanting to give you a quick update on some of the tools I've brought with me.

I don't claim to be the most proficient travel bloggers, there are people out there that do it for a living. However, I'm looking to escape London more this year, and already I've got some tools and tips to share with you.

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL ANYWHERE! 

Get a Visa. I know it sounds obvious but some countries have only just introduced this. An example would be my friend Pete Brooker from Human Research who went to Oman and only checked the night before the flight that he needed a visa. He had to pay double to fast track it, so double check ahead of time! Even Visa on arrival can have prerequisites, such as for Indonesia you have to show a pre-booked return flight out of the country with the 30 day Visa on arrival limit - you’ll also need to show this at check-in otherwise you’ll not be allowed to fly.

THE CAMERA 

I’m obsessed with my SONY A7S2 camera, which I take with me everywhere. The video is full-frame 100 frames per second in 4k and the stills are amazing using ZEISS lenses. If you want a tutorial in setting up your SONY a7sii, I have written one here. I also use a Canon G7X (mainly for vlogging) and you can pick these up now for under £500 on Amazon. They record in 4k and are light and compact, perfect for traveling.  It has a flip round screen so you can document yourself if that's your style.

THE GIMBAL

I'm now getting into using a Gimbal, the Zhiyun Smooth 4 is an awesome bit of kit that can be snapped up for just under £120. It's nimble light, easy to use and just takes those vlogs to the next level. The only pain is that it's Chinese and there are no English instructions, but I picked up everything as I went and there are plenty of online tutorials.

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THE ZOOM H1 

I always pack the little handy Zoom H1 recorder when I travel, it's a great way to keep notes on where you're going, how much things cost, etc. All these details will become priceless when you get home and you want to type up your blog.

I also like to just chat into the Dictaphone and describe the scenery, externalise and basically ramble my thoughts. This is also a useful tool if you want to conduct interviews. Other accessories you'll need for a decent close up sound will be a RØDE Lapel Mic and the RØDE SC3 iPhone Accessory. 

UNIVERSAL CHARGER & HARD DRIVE

It's nutty that these things make the essential lists but you don't want to be found out. Needing to charge your farm whilst on the go is key so be prepared. I use a Dynamode external hard drive that I've had for years. (Dropped and bandaged up plenty of times but still going).

More current ones can be found cheaply. Toshiba do External hard drives up  to 500GB now for £50. Remember video files are much larger than jpg's and you don't want to run out of space.

Of course a universal charger you can find at the airport. 

 

Carl Thompson: All the Stats from my Blog Revealed

I was recently asked in an interview where will I be in 5 years. Currently I'm writing this on a retreat in Bali, with no return ticket, with no plans or agenda. The blog is a great platform for me to empty all my thoughts on men’s lifestyle. 

It's sometimes cathartic, sometimes a chore. But it's become an extension of me and I was thrilled to get nominated last year in the Top 6 UK Men’s Lifestyle Blogs by Vuelio. Today I want to share a couple of facts, stats and behind the scenes trivia. 


WHEN DO I WRITE? 

I normally get up at the crack and meditate on a particular subject or campaign whilst out walking Charlie across Clapham Common. By the time I return to the desk I hammer out 300 words, just empty my head and then leave it. That takes about 15 minutes. When you do this for as long as I have you realise that writers block is a myth. No one is going to read every blog, or every word in that blog. (I'm amazed you're still with me right now). 

I'll then come back to the article later in the day, mid-afternoon or dinner. Do a quick edit, fact check, tweak and post. All told I make sure that a blog never goes past the hour mark. 

WHO IS READING

I'm very pleased to have such a wide demographic of people that are tuning in to the blog. Naturally my audience is hugely UK and London centric. With over 73k users finding their way to my site I'm pleased to have developed a large contingent in the US, India and Canada. 

AGE AND GENDER

This is a very interesting one, and not uncommon in the male blogging industry. Women are tuning into my blog as well as men. I'm very pleased that women are reading my posts, finding style and gifting ideas for themselves or their partners. 

I read plenty of women blogs and tune into discussion lead podcasts myself.

The age range is very much my own, written by me for me I guess. But an undeniable peak of the 25-34 range. 

AN UNHEARD OF BOUNCE RATE

That's right, I've been burying the lead. The bounce rate on my blog is the statistic that I'm most proud of. What is a Bounce Rate? 

From Google 'It is the percentage of visits in which a person leaves your website from the landing page without browsing any further. Google analytics calculates and report the bounce rate of a web page and bounce rate of a website.' 

In other words, people are coming to the site and having a mooch around. They haven't come there by mistake. They've not been put off by my mug and ran to the hills. 

According to an article by Go Rocket Fuel the most common bounce rate for blogs is between 35% - 40%. Anything above 70% is disappointing. 

QUICK THANKS

So a genuine quick thanks for everyone that reads and visits my blog. (Still reading this? Oh you are a saint, you know that you've just notched up my retention stats so thank you).

DISCLAIMER: All statistics are genuine screenshots from Google Analytics for the date range 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2018. My blog carlthompson.co.uk talks about everything men’s lifestyle.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro | Why I made the switch

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For my critics that say I have little influence in the tech gadget industry, dig this. In the same week I announce I'm migrating over to Huawei, another monolithic phone brand has its biggest dip in share price in over five years. Coincidence? I'll let you decide. 

It's true, I'm now playing for the other team. And before all you ladies start asking 'what's the point in living?' I mean I've now switched over to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. (Blackadder gag). 

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro

The highly anticipated Huawei Mate 20 Pro is now available in the UK, introducing a new level of highly intelligent performance to consumers with the world’s first Dual-AI powered smartphone.

The handset is more intelligent and efficient than any other Android Smartphone on the market. But why did I make the switch? 

A perfect fit for me

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro offers more versatility with the Leica triple camera and an ultra-wide-angle lens, meaning the phone has the most detailed macro shots available.

Part of my job is to attend a lot of press events. Many of them in the evening on a weekday, inside a bar or pop-up space. The lighting is always low and I'm always anxious that the light will diminish the quality of the shot. 

The Leica triple camera works brilliantly in the low light. There is a special night time mode that brings your nightlife pics to life! I'm enjoying playing around with the Pro Mode that enables you to change the ISO's and the Shutter Speed etc. 

The Battery Life! 

However, I'm burying the lead here. The truly remarkable feature I've found is the battery life. It can go for 2 days with no charge. With moderate to low use it can go all week. 

I was getting very tired of schlepping the extra battery pack around for my previous phone, knowing it wouldn't last the course of the day. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro even has a unique wireless reverse charging feature that shares Huawei battery performance with others that own non-Huawei devices – a feature only available the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

It can go from 0 to 70% battery life with 30 minutes of charge time. I know! This is like something that Phillip K. Dick would dream up. 

Should you make the switch? 

I've only just scraped the surface with this phone but I can't recommend it enough. The battery life, the quality of camera, not to mention the sleek slimline design, advanced waterproofing. 

If you're coming to the end of your contract, maybe disenchanted with your current smartphone and its overall performance, look into the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. I'm happy to answer any questions on my Instagram or in the comments below if you need further guidance. 


*The sponsored post was created in collaboration with Huawei.

 

 

The Tech Gear You Need to Start Vlogging | Starting a YouTube Channel

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One of the most frequent questions I get asked is what equipment do I need to start Vlogging? Well this is all relative to budget and there are tonnes of cameras, phones and gimbals out there, sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. 

I've put together a budget guide on what I believe will be a good enough set up to get you started.

The Camera

So up till now you've probably gotten by with either your camera phone or relying on your mate with all the gear. When buying a camera for Vlogging on a budget you should consider the Canon SL2 or the 200D for three reasons. If you have a higher budget then purchase the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II Digital Camera.

Flip Screen

Essential for when you're Vlogging and you want to see yourself. Great for travel as you can slip it back into the fold to prevent scratching. 

Face Tracking

DSLR cameras have gotten really good over the years and this Canon SL2 comes with dual pixel auto focus face tracking technology so it can follow your mug anywhere and will provide that awesome cinematic focus. 

External Mic Jack

Yes that means you can plug in a microphone into the cradle at the top and it will record the audio into the visual. Not every camera comes with this option and with audio being such a key ingredient to the quality of your video, you'll rely heavily on this feature. 

The External Mic

I'd opt for a Rode VideoMic that will clip to the roof of the Canon SL2. Recommend to buy an optional dead cat protector. (That's equipment, not a movie prop from Pet Cemetery). Another option would be a Rode Unidirectional mic.

It doesn't require batteries which is great and you don't have to turn it on which can the most infuriating thing about vlogging. You'll be recording awesome footage with zero audio because the damn mic wasn't turned on. 

 

The Tripod 

I'd say you'd get by with a Manfrotto Pixi Mini if you're just starting out. It's a handheld tripod so you can take it with you when you're out and about. When you want to record at home or in an office the legs span out and doubles as a tripod. 

The material is thick, durable and the red button on the top operates the lock mechanism for the ball head. Trust me, this is super useful. Especially for those time lapse delay photos. 

 

Summary

So just over £500. Sorry, but hey you can always shop around and get things cheaper I’m sure. That should get you going and yes it's not 4k, but 1080p should be good enough and will save you those weighty video files that knackers your hard drive. 

MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

https://www.youtube.com/user/Carl23B

Philips OLED+ 903 TV | Treat your eyes. Amaze your ears

Everyman's television should be the pillar of his community. His community being a comfy sofa, a doting pet and the HD Sky Sports package. Last week I was cordially invited to Abbey Road Studios for an immersive experience for my eyes and ears.

Introducing the new Philips OLED+ 903 TV

It combines the best in picture and sound quality and is the first result of the partnership between Philips TV and the premium British loudspeaker company, Bowers & Wilkins. Working in partnership with Philips TV, Bowers & Wilkins has created an elegant, discreetly integrated speaker system along the bottom and rear of the screen that delivers superb performance.

Why do I need the Philips OLED+ 903 TV in my life?

You might be able to afford tickets to the footy every weekend. Or indeed any weekend if you're  Londoner. Did you know the top 5 most expensive season tickets on the market are all London clubs? Tottenham topping the list charging £2,200 for their most expensive season ticket in a stadium not even finished.

Fusing the Philips P5 Perfect Processing Engine and a unique three-sided Ambilight system, this picture and sound depth is the next best thing to being there.

The Philips OLED+ 903 TV also brings space economy to your environment. With the special integrated system built in, the concept of high fidelity minus the additional clutter allows you to dispense with additional external paraphernalia such as amps and sound bars.

Your Personal Assistant

For those tech-savvy fans the OLED+ 903 (available in a 55 inch- and a 65 inch-version) comes equipped with Google Assistant which is immediately available and can even connect to your smart phone.

Conclusions and prices

A very comprehensive package, a perfect bridge for those looking to upgrade their home entertainment without the unwanted fuss of add-ons and oversubscribed audio additions.

At the time of writing I've seen the OLED+ 903  fetch £2,499 for the 55-inch model, and £3,499 for the 65-inch version.

Can anyone visit Abbey Road Studios? 

This event went beyond the quotidian of immersion. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to visit Abbey Road studios. Perhaps the studio is largely synonymous with the titular Beatles album, and the infamous zebra crossing

Radiohead also recorded The Bends here, John Williams recorded amongst many, the theme to Indiana Jones. And Cliff Richard was a permanent resident here during the 60's. 

Naturally the lure of one of London's most heralded musical landmarks drew in influencers from all around the world. Whilst you can loiter with intent around the entrance, peruse the gift shop, even capture your crossing on CCTV, there are no guided tours of Abbey Road Studios. 

There really couldn't be a better, congruent environment in which to parade the capabilities of the Philips OLED+ 903 as Abbey Road have been using Bowers & Wilkins in their studios since the 80's

It is often said “The music that will soon be heard everywhere is first heard through Bowers & Wilkins speakers”. John Bowers - Founder of Bowers & Wilkins

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The people behind Philips 

One of the driving forces behind the development, manufacturing and marketing of Philips branded TV sets is consumer electronics brand TP Vision. 

Using the design heritage of Philips and the operational excellence, flexibility and speed of TPV Technology, TP Vision are able to engender high-quality TV sets to market; smart and easy to use with sophisticated styling.

TP Vision is the exclusive brand licensee of Philips TVs and employs close to 2,000 people in several locations around the globe and is 100% owned by TPV, one of the world’s leading monitor and LCD TV manufacturers, selling and marketing Philips branded TVs in China.

 

 

Watching Every Beat With the Braun ActivScan 9 | Blood Pressure Monitor

Here's a matter close to my heart, pun intended. I've recently road tested the ActivScan 9 which is one of two new blood pressure monitors recently launched by Braun. The ActivScan™ 9 is a comfortable and intuitive blood pressure monitor. It measures and stores your blood pressure, which you can access through the dynamic user interface.

The monitor is fully compatible with smartphone devices via the Braun Healthy Heart app, which lets you access your data anytime, anywhere and enter lifestyle data to create a complete picture of your health and lifestyle.

 

 

Why do I need an ActivScan 9?

It's time to start paying attention to what your body is telling you. High Blood Pressure is one of the major contributing factors to heart failure and research conducted by Braun tells us that almost two thirds of adults don’t consider themselves to have a healthy lifestyle.

Ask yourself what is more important, following the progress of your own blood pressure, or following the progress of some stranger and their cats on Instagram?

With ActivScan 9 you can synchronise this data with your calendar, include some lifestyle features like sleep, exercise diet etc. You can then see how all these variables impact your blood pressure. This information will be a great source of reference for your doctor when it comes to prescribing illnesses and monitoring your health.

Braun, whose new generation blood pressure monitors provide smart, intuitive readings that are easy to understand, is working with experts to help raise awareness of the benefits of regular monitoring and the positive lifestyle changes.

Their four leading experts specialise in Sleep (Elite Sport Sleep Coach), Mood (CEO of the Happiness Research Institute), Diet & Nutrition (@FitnessOnToast) and Hypertension (Medical).

 

 

My personal story

Around 5 years ago now I had a heart operation to correct a congenital heart defect, which remained undetected since birth. The condition was a Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) which is common in premature babies although rare that it would have been undetected through 30 or so years of my life. The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that connects the two major arteries (Aorta & Pulmonary) whilst the baby is in the womb and is an essential part of blood circulation. This connection allows blood to be pumped from the right side of the heart straight to the aorta, without stopping at the lungs for oxygen. While a baby is in the womb, only a small amount of his or her blood needs to go to the lungs. This is because the baby gets oxygen from the mother's bloodstream. When the baby is born, the ductus arteriosus closes, allowing normal blood flow to your own lungs to get oxygen. Mine simply didn’t close and remained open or Patent.

In short having a PDA for 30+ years caused increased strain on my heart and therefore the heart was working harder to pump blood around my body, leading to my heart (left ventricle) becoming enlarged to counteract that increased workload. I always think about my heart now and how to care for it and monitoring blood pressure is an essential part of that.

It is hard to say what long-term strain or damage has been done to my heart if any, but what I do know is that this heart defect could have been fatal. I guess I was lucky that a) the PDA diameter wasn’t large (b) I have always led a healthy active lifestyle.

Detection of my heart defect was simple; the PDA causes a continuous heart murmur, always present, always detectable. The Braun ActivScan 9 can help detect high or low blood pressure and irregular heart beats, so if I had this device years ago, who knows I may have detected it much sooner.

 

How easy is it to use the ActivScan 9?

I know, it's another mouth to feed right? Another piece of technology we have to get to grips with. Luckily the ActivScan 9 is swift and easy to use. (Even I didn't need to read the instructions).

Once it has read your blood pressure it colour-codes your results, from green to red so you can interpret your heart’s health at a single glance.

The dynamic user interface is simple and intuitive to use and the full colour display is controlled by an easy navigation wheel and soft touch buttons.

Their custom-made, pinch-to-open cuff fits easily around your upper arm and uses soft inflate technology. This provides gentle measurement, enabling you to discover your blood pressure comfortably.

 

Where can I get my hands on one?

Braun blood pressure monitors are available to purchase from Boots. For more information visit the Braun website at www.braunbloodpressuremonitors.co.uk

 

*This sponsored post was created in collaboration with Braun Blood Pressure Monitors.

How to Take Amazing Smartphone Pictures & How I Edit my Instagram Images

Photo by  Yen Vu  on  Unsplash

Photo by Yen Vu on Unsplash

Have you ever been wowed by a picture on Instagram, and then feel stupefied to find it was taken on an Smartphone? A friend recently posted an exotic photo from his trip to Thailand and it was like a screensaver. I asked him what camera he was using these days and to my bemusement (and mild embarrassment) he said, 'on my phone'.

I've had plenty of friends tell that posting native shots on Instagram gets way more traction. I.E taking a picture of something on your phone, in the moment, rather than a professional image taken on a high-resolution camera that has been edited in Lightroom, cropped etc. 

Someone that is on top of her game when it comes to making the most of the smartphone is Katrina Frazer, a pro-photographer known as the ‘Queen of light’. (That's a good name, sounds like the next fragrance from Beyonce). 

Along with the Nokia 7 plus, Katrina brings you her top tips for pro-style pics all from the tech in the palm of your hand.

 

Top Tips for Smartphone Pictures

Play with the shutter speed. Taking great pictures at night is just a nightmare. Notice you don't see too many night time fashion shoots on the streets of London? Lighting a shot is a massive operation and isn’t as simple as just pointing and clicking. 

To capture more detail, you need more light. A slow shutter speed keeps the camera lens open longer to let in more light.

* If you don’t have a tripod, try spreading your feet shoulder width apart and lean your back against a wall to create a tripod with your body

* If you have a desk/table/counter to lean on, plant both elbows on the platform - elbows should be wider than your shoulders

* Another way to steady a shaky hand is to take the picture as you slowly breathing out

Playing with shutter speed and movement in low light can help you create artistic effects.

Photo by  Arthur Osipyan  on  Unsplash

 

ISO-what? While your smartphone camera auto-settings might work well enough, one simple way you can ensure pro shots is by playing with your camera’s ISO settings.

For the perfect portrait or selfie that brings out the contours and shading of a face it’s better to use a low ISO.

To make the most of the detail this setting allows, you should ideally try to position the subject in natural light, with the light focused on their face. In these circumstances, flash will kill the image so try to use the light available along with adjusted ISO settings to create pro-portraits.

Some smartphones allow you to manually change settings in your camera and play with ISO levels, shutter speeds and aperture – getting it right is sometimes a matter of trial and error!

Pro Mode on Nokia smartphones is the perfect interface to give you full manual control over all your camera settings. Available on its latest models including the photo-fab Nokia 7 plus, Pro Mode allows you to easily access manual settings in one swipe. Combining innovative optical hardware and imaging algorithms, the Nokia 7 plus captures moments into photos that are true to life. It’s optimised and integrated for maximum performance and battery life, even when you are broadcasting your #Bothie videos (videos taken using the front and back camera simultaneously to create a split screen image) live on Facebook or YouTube.

Available in Black/Copper, the Nokia 7 plus is available to buy for a RRP of £349.99.

 

Other smartphone tips for Instagram

Whilst I don't post many pictures from the smartphone (I would say that only 5% of my Instagram images are smartphone taken). I do post vids and snaps on the stories. Here are a couple of tips:

  1. When taking a photo, always try and leave space in the picture for some text, arrows and emoji’s. 
  2. Always Geo-tag your location and tag someone that might enjoy the photo. 
  3. If you're in London hashtag #VisitLondon. I find that the best tag for outreach on stories. 

 

 

How I edit my photos for Instagram

I often get asked this and in all honesty I don't have a particular Lightroom preset or any template to use. What I tend to do is edit each photo individually but in a similar way to achieve my desired look and feel.

The first stage of a good Instagram image is an exceptional photographer who knows you and your style. My Instagram tends to be quite dark, shadowed, sharp, high contrast, simple colours and cool tones. So the first stage is to make sure your photographer knows your style, for me there is no point in getting professional images that have warm, pink, earthy tones to them because 1. It doesn't fit my feed and .2. If I then re-edit the image, I'll be pissing off the photographer and the quality of the image will deteriorate. 

If I have time on my hands, I tend to use the RAW files and edit in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Although this isn't always possible, so more often than not, I just use mobile apps to edit my images. 

So if I only have 5 minutes to edit and post a photo to Instagram, this is what I'll do:

1. Transfer the photo to your smartphone. Make sure the transfer doesn't affect the resolution of the image.

2. Open the photo in the Facetune App. I ONLY use this app for the Details and Whiten features. I do not and will never ever edit my face, spots, greys, wrinkles etc. If there are any green trees or bushes, I'll use the whiten feature to grey them out slightly. I'll then use the same feature to whiten any tungsten, amber light or features. If there are any details in the image that I would like to sharpen and highlight, I use the 'details' feature to go over, such as a watch face or pocket square. Export the image.

3. Use the above exported image to post to Instagram. Use the custom editing tool and never a preset filter, to create your own style. Again, it depends on the image but here is roughly what settings I use to edit in Instagram:

- Brightness 0
- Contrast 0
- Structure +2
- Warmth -30
- Saturation 0
- Colour 0
- Fade 0
- Highlights 0
- Shadows -100
- Vignette +80
- Tilt Shift 0
- Sharpen +35

Trial it out and let me know what you think.

 

Are Facebook or Instagram Reading my WhatsApp Messages?

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Have you ever googled a product or a brand, then seconds later found that same product or brand advertising on your Facebook feed? Ever thought it a wild coincidence that you've just googled 'How to wear Chelsea Boots' then to find endless pictures of Chelsea boots on your Instagram feed?

The critical mass finds this somewhat invasive, creepy but are still willing to waiver the targeted adverts as the price you pay for free social media. But I have to tell you about an experience that happened to me the other day.

I was discussing with a friend the benefits of sugar free Ice Cream over WhatsApp. My friend had never heard of the brand, never googled it, it was not on my friend’s radar whatsoever. Then as if by magic, said Ice Cream was all over her social media banners.

A coincidence? Pull the other one Zuckerburg, it's got bells on it. Facebook own both Instagram and WhatsApp, so it's not surprising that adverts are interlinked and cross pollinate through different platforms, but aren't WhatsApp conversations encrypted?

I had no idea that Facebook are listening in. This was not only creepy as heck, but the first real wave of targeted advertisement that made me sit up in my chair and look around.

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So are Facebook listening in and if so how are they doing it? 

I pulled this from an article from Lifehackers written by Nick Douglas, a very interesting read.

"Facebook’s mobile app theoretically could listen in on you, at least while you have it open. It even has a public feature that will try to recognize any audio in the background, like music or TV—but only while you’re entering a status update, and only if you’ve opted in. Facebook says this feature is never used for advertising."

I should state as thorough and insightful as this article is, it is dated a year ago and the author is convinced that Facebook is not listening in due to its credibility and Douglas is quoted as saying in the article:

"Facebook is cagey, but they don’t tend to openly lie about huge data-collection schemes."

But the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal which rocked the Facebook community has changed people’s perception of that. 

To counter this argument, it could also be said that there have been a million Facebook advertisements that I don't identify with? I'm admittedly very susceptible to confirmation bias. That's when your brain notices positive examples of what you were conditioned to believe, but doesn’t notice negative examples.

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But what about WhatsApp? What about the Ice Cream convo? 

Again there is another decent blog by Natasha Lomas for TechCrunch.com that offers the following advice. 

“When your messages are end-to-end encrypted, only the people you are messaging with can read them — not WhatsApp, Facebook, or anyone else.”

How interesting! This encrypted messaging service only works by the way if both parties agree. So make sure your text buddy is onboard. 

 

So what does Facebook want from my WhatsApp number? 

Facebook has your number, in a lot of ways! They use your mobile number for Custom Audiences ad offering. So any WhatsApp users that have given a business the same mobile phone number they use for the app can be served targeted ads by that same business via Facebook. And let’s face it, we all just use the same number for everything right? 

 

Final Verdict. 

The tools are there. Sure you have encryption on the messages, but your iOS has no added security for archive chat. The database that stores your chats on your iPhone does not benefit from an extra layer of encryption. 

That said I don't want to start sounding like a conspiracy theorist and we should state that there has been no evidence of proven case studies of Facebook reading or using data from encrypted WhatsApp messages.

Although how can Instagram serve both myself and said 'friend' with the same Ice Cream Sponsored Post on our feeds the day after discussing it on Whatsapp? I'm sceptical. 

In April 2018 Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress and directly implied that WhatsApp chats are inaccessible to Facebook because of end-to-end encryption.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES, COMMENT BELOW.

 

Your Ultimate IGTV Guide | How to Upload Videos to IGTV on Instagram

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It's been getting a bit crazy on Instagram of late. The IGTV platform feels like it's been talked to death already and it's barely a week old. Now the proverbial dust has settled what is it all about and is it truly the game-changer everyone is making it out to be? How can you monitise it and how do you edit you videos for the IGTV vertical format?

 

I'm still unsure, what is IGTV? 

IGTV is a standalone app and one that can have integrated into your Instagram account. You can upload videos up to an hour long if you have a verified account. Although I believe there are some hacks or ways to get around this limitation for non-verified accounts.

For those minnows like you and I we will be restricted to 10 minutes. Which is plenty of time for a vertical video. (We'll talk about the vertical video problem/solution later). 

It will certainly enhance the sales of Gimbals as the jittery homemade videos will soon get tiresome, much like all the found footage movies did after The Blair Witch Project.

It will certainly separate the men from the marines when it comes to video content because you'll need to be a bit more clued in with editing, creating ideas that doesn't just involve 15 seconds of you filming yourself blowing out a birthday cake. 

Ten minutes might be a very long time for people with so few ideas. 

 

Will using IGTV benefit my business? 

You bet your ass it will. Imagine having an hour long video platform where you can demonstrate your products to your audience, of course there is also LIVE for that but let's be honest, what brands really use that? It also helps brands or Influencers who do not currently have a presence on YouTube target their audience on Instagram with more engaging video content. 

There are insights available for your IGTV video. So far IGTV insights include: Views, Likes, Comments, and Average percentage watched.

There's even a handy chart to show you the points at which video viewership increases and drops.

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How do I edit IGTV videos for a ten-minute format? 

Well this is where you need to get that big brain a'cookin’. Firstly, lets talk about the editing. As IGTV presents videos ONLY in vertical format then any new videos you shoot for IGTV should be filmed in portrait but make sure there is enough resolution left after the cropping. 

It would be great for a horizontal format to be introduced but for now make sure every time you film something with your cameras you need to keep the object in the middle of the frame. As we're the guinea pig generation for this new format then I wouldn't start hiring out film crews or studios just yet. 

I'm going to film everything on my Sony A7Sii, then import the videos to my iMAC and edit them in iMovie or FinalCut. For this demo I'll use iMovie, so this is how to create a video for IGTV from scratch:

1. Film your subject in portrait NOT landscape. Copy from your SD card to your iMac. Open iMovie, create a new project "IGTV Test" and import the video into the project. Even if you've filmed in portrait, iMovie will rotate the content to display in landscape...don't panic.

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2. On the top right-hand side in iMovie, click the "Cropping" icon, then "Rotate the clip clockwise" until your movie displays in portrait as below.

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3. Edit your video as you would normally and save to file. If you are using Airdrop to transfer the video from your iMAC to your iPhone then save in 1080p although I do believe that IGTV supports 4K resolution.

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4. Then simply open IGTV and upload your movie. Remember that on IGTV you can add URLs in the description and they become clickable links --> use this format https://www.hawkinsandshepherd.com/

I haven't had the chance to experiment with including music on the videos. Currently IG stories can be uploaded with music, (royalty and non-royalty) but posts on the home feed that contain music that require royalty fees, get taken down almost instantly. 

According to Digitial Music News it looks like Instagram is also working on layering music into Stories. This is still at the rumour stage, though monetization would likely include both background music and intentionally added clips.

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I'm a blogger/instagrammer, what are the best videos to upload to IGTV? 

I already uploaded one of me working out in KOBOX. I can imagine fitness vids and instructors making huge use out of this. 

 

FITNESS TUTORIALS

What will this do for all those fitness apps out there like Tabatas that you need to subscribe and pay for to see this kind of content? They'll need to rethink their model that's for sure. 

 

UNBOXING

We mentioned product demos but I think Unboxing videos will be great for this. Unboxing vids on the stories is tricky, and boring because it takes 15 seconds just to get the damn sellotape off. 

 

EXCLUSIVES

How about doing content that no one can get on any of your other platforms? Imagine a news release or a giveaway code for a product? 

 

Recently I thought David Haye missed a massive trick. He announced his retirement on his website with a very thorough and well thought out blog post. 

Then he just reeled it all off on an Instagram vid for those that he said 'can't be arsed to read'. I mean there's repurposing content and there's just killing all the emancipation. 

 

Why should I move over to IGTV? 

When a new platform is started, there is an opportunity for content creators to get noticed. New platforms lack content so there is a greater chance of your content getting noticed.

When it comes to bright and shiny new things people are in “exploring mode” looking for people and content to enjoy and follow. Which makes it much more likely for your content to become popular.

Also we're migrating more and more to our phones. The IG blog highlights that “by 2021, mobile video will account for 78% of total mobile data traffic" and that they’ve “learned that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals”.

 

Lara from Match.com Trial/Review

A year since Match’s artificial intelligence chatbot Lara came to Facebook Messenger, daters can now use  her as their personal wingwoman through the Google Assistant. Yes, that's right I said wingwoman. "Lara can be my wingwoman anytime." Cue the climatic emotional music and hug it out!  (As a quick aside, did you see Tom Cruise posted a picture from the production of Top Gun 2? Simply wow). 

I digress. 

In a UK first, this innovation is the first time that a dating coach has come to a smart home device. The new service offers you a unique ‘daily match’, bespoke dating tips and suggestions of the best date venues, all through informal conversation.  

And about time! For all those that are reading my dating blogs, you'll appreciate I have a personal vested interested in this technology. This introduction of Lara from Match paired with Google Assistant can change the game in dating. Or should I say up YOUR game. (Deep referential sniff). 

You can strike up a chat with ease by saying, “Okay Google, talk to Lara from Match”, and through artificial intelligence and key word recognition technology, Lara understands your intentions and can hold a full conversation to help you though your dating journey.

This will come as great relief to my closest friends who must feel like they're only in my rolodex to serve as a soundboard to my dating woes. And that's something I must change. 

They'll attest to being my counsel when I need advice on what to wear, where to go, and even who to date! Now Lara does exactly that. I imagine at some point that technology will reach that point of singularity and I'll be sending Lara on these dates. 

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ME - "Hey, honey how was your date?" 

LARA - "Oh she's way out of your league Carl, plus she supports Chelsea, I should have flagged that up sooner, sorry".

Of course I jest, but Lara proactively encourages continuation of conversations by offering further dating tips and asking if you need any more advice. The more you chat to Lara and the more she gets to know you and the more tailored her answers will become.  

 

So what tips has Lara given me so far? 

I like the confidence booster tip. 

 “Strike a power pose and stand there for at least 2 minutes before your date”. 

I have employed that one. Makes sense to me to find a good relaxed posture and look that doesn't feel forced. You might consider it the Everest of male vanity, but it’s all about projecting a positive aura that others can latch on to. I stop short of slapping myself round the face and saying 'you've got this'. I save that for Kobox

 

Lara has also sent me daily matches to my phone based on the criteria I've given her. 

ME - Lara find me Scarlett Johansson 

LARA - You're looking for someone that looks like Scarlett Johansson 

ME - No find me Scarlett Johansson, the real thing. 

(Yes I know that's a gag lifted from the BBC sitcom Bottom, for those about to email me accusing me of plagiarism). 

For Match members only, Lara will help you find a date by selecting a unique member profile based on your Match search preferences (age, location and common interests) once a day. The profile details of the daily match can then be sent to a phone via SMS, allowing you to seamlessly contact your potential date.

 

Anything else? 

There are plenty of features, but I'm really just giving you a taste of my experience. 

I also found the location finder a handy tool. I know London fairly well, but finding those best kept secrets is getting increasingly harder. 

Lara can offer suggestions for the best date location. She will ask what kind of date setting you are looking for and use Google Map’s Geocoding API to make a recommendation, such as the best place for cocktails or a quieter place for coffee.

Providing you give permission, Lara will then offer to send you the details via SMS with a link to a map. The more you chat, the more Lara will learn from your dating experiences and then suggest more relevant locations in the future, based on your feedback.

 

Is this the future

A great question. Certainly the advance of chatbots have advanced immeasurably in the past couple of years. 

They've become a useful tool for businesses (so much so I'm looking at installing one to assist my customers on my Hawkins & Shepherd site as we speak). For example They certainly alleviate the mundanity of replying to everyday questions such as 'do you deliver abroad?'. Most common ones are 'what time are you open?'.

Chatbots do not require breaks, get frustrated or get tired like human employees. According to some experts, chatbots will be indistinguishable from humans by 2029. Scary or good news?

 

Before you go

For anyone about to try this new-fangled technology you should know the daily match functionality is only available for Match members. You need be signed into a Match account with Google for Lara to offer the matches.

We are always looking at the role technology can play in improving our member’s experience to offer them new ways of meeting their potential dates that will easily fit in with their busy everyday life.

Building upon the success of Lara on Facebook, we wanted to enhance and explore the possibilities of AI, which has provided us with a great outcome so far.

We look forward to developing Lara further as technology evolves.”  

Enjoy Lara (that sounds weird) and let me know how you get on.

 

Things for Bloggers to Know Before Buying Drones

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Are you thinking of buying a drone? Well cool your jets there hotshot, because if you don't play by the rules you could be facing jail time. Drones have become ubiquitous thanks to the upsurge in technology, increased fascination with photography and videography and the decrease in cost.  

Now new legislation for drone users is rolling out as we speak and UK drone users may have to pass online safety tests under legislation being introduced to the Commons. Here are some of the KEY facts you should know before buying a drone. 

 

How much should I pay for a Drone

Depends pal, how flush are you right now? The sky is the limit (pardon the pun) when it comes to drones. Generally the less expensive the drone, the more of a remote control plane it becomes targeted for your ten year old nephew.

But you're a blogger, and you want to up your YouTube game. You're just finding your feet in videography and want a drone to film around the hotel you're reviewing, or do a 360 around the new outfit you're wearing? 

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Here's what you need to consider

You need to factor in the following. The wireless range and battery life. Can the drone land safely automated when out of range or better yet, can it return back to you once it reaches it flies out of range? Here are my recommendations:

The Yuneec Typhoon H is an auto return drone currently selling for just over £700. It has an automatic takeoff, landing, and return to home so you don't have to do an Anneka Rice treasure hunt to find the thing. 

Is the drone compatible with my GoPro? 

You might want to put your own camera into the drone. In that case you can purchase the GoPro Karma Quadcopter currently on sale at Amazon for £375. It's portable, compatible with GoPro HERO5 and HERO6. Also backwards compatible with HERO4. The only downside is the fly time of 20 minutes, which could be better considering the price. 

Does it have Orbit Me? 

This is the coolest feature. You might be interest in the Orbit Me feature (otherwise known as follow me mode, which locks the camera onto your movement). Very handy if you're a mountain biker, skateboarder etc.  A lot of bloggers and videographers would recommend the Mavic Air if you're just starting out or the Mavic Pro (which is the drone that I personally use).

The Mavic Air/Pro comes with Active Track so it can zero in on moving targets. It's renowned for being extremely lightweight and portable, folds up and easily fits in a camera bag. Perfect for travel. Though I strongly recommend you seek out the travel allowance for airlines and countries. 

Lithium batteries are on the banned and restricted list for British Airways flights, this is direct from their website:

Due to the potential fire risk associated with lithium batteries, hoverboards and other self-propelled electrically-powered vehicles such as Air Wheels, Solo Wheels, skateboards, scooters and Hover Karts are completely forbidden.

Some countries require a permit; others simply won't allow them into the country. Morocco for example. 

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And what are the new laws coming in I need to be aware of before flying my drone? 

The chances are all the spectacular footage you've seen on YouTube of drones circling over cities and hotel resorts have been captured illegally. 

Consumer drones (classed as those that weigh under 20kg) must be flown no higher than 400 feet (120 metres), and be kept at least 50 metres away from people and private property, and 150 metres from congested areas and organised open-air assemblies of more than 1,000 people.

New restrictions soon to be implemented will mean restrictions around airport boundaries have also been clarified stopping any drone flying within 1km of them.

Also, people who own drones weighing 250g or more will have to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Make sure you check the weight of your drone if you're augmenting its features. I.E adding your own camera.

Users who fail to adhere to the flight restrictions could face unlimited fines, up to five years in prison, or both.

 

I’m glad they are taking a reasonable initiative to ensure the safety of the public and drone pilots alike. Drones are getting cheaper and a lot of people are taking them out of the box and flying them without understanding the rules and limitations. The new law won’t stop people from buying them but allow them to fly safely and with confidence.
— @GadgetsBoy | Instagram

TIMEX LAUNCH - Fairfield Contactless Payment Watch

This month sees the launch of the Fairfield Contactless Payment watch by fashion heritage watch brand TIMEX, Powered by bPay. It's new to the range for SS18 and a debut for TIMEX in the contactless genre. 

Founded in 1854, Timex Group is headquartered in Middlebury, Connecticut, with multiple operating units and over 4,000 employees worldwide. As one of the largest watch makers in the world, Timex Group companies produce watches under a number of well-known brands, including Timex, Guess, GC, Versace, Versus, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Nautica. Launched in 1950, Timex sells millions of watches each year worldwide.

For someone that is stationed south of the river, I'm forever back and forth to the city for meetings and press events. The introduction of a contactless strap actually appeals to me.  Though this is not the first collaboration of its sorts for bPay. In 2016 bPay and Lyle & Scott collaborated on a contactless jacket, inserting a contactless payment chip discretely hidden in the cuff of the right sleeve. Although at first glance, I can no longer see the jacket on their online store.

Of course it's not just designed to make life easier on the tube, you can also finally impress the cute girl behind the coffee counter by performing your 'Master Jedi wofty-hand trick'.

Aesthetically it's modern, with a 41mm case, which is very on trend at the moment. Even Montblanc are dialing their 1848 collections back to a 40mm casing for 2018. A lot of people I speak to have compared the look to a DW, but I'd say with the 3 sub-dials and white face it's more reminiscent of latest ADEXE London THEY timepiece. However, with the added bPay payment chip, TIMEX certainly has the upper hand in the utility department.

The bPay payment chip within the watch strap is available to anyone with a UK-registered Visa or MasterCard debit or credit card. Users can conveniently add funds to their digital wallet ‘on the go’ using the mobile app, online through the bPay website, or set their account to top-up automatically when their balance falls below a pre-set level.

“bPay is designed to meet the needs of time-pressed shoppers who are increasingly looking for easy and convenient ways to pay for everyday goods and services. September marks the 10th anniversary of Barclaycard introducing contactless payments to the UK and our partnership with TIMEX represents another exciting way ‘touch and go’ technology can be simply and stylishly integrated into fashion and accessories.” - Tami Hargreaves, Director of Innovation and Partnerships at Barclaycard Mobile Payments

The new contactless straps will be available in black or brown, and also available to buy separately. 

RRP: £149.99 Available now on www.timex.co.uk and other fine retailers. 

The Benefits of Using Klarna - The Safest Way to Shop

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There is a new movement coming from the Scandinavian shores when it comes to buying stuff online called Klarna. In a nutshell Klarna provides a transaction approvement on your behalf ensuring the payment to the merchant is guaranteed. Klarna takes care of the invoicing and the money collection, which leaves the end users (you and I) with two choices: pay by invoice or pay by account. Pretty simple and straightforward. Klarna is now one of Europe’s largest banks and is providing payment solutions for 60 million consumers across 70,000 merchants in 14 countries. 

So what's in it for Klarna? I'm curious to know where the catch is with deals that seem too good to be true. The truth is that Klarna is a win-win for both merchant and end user. If you're a business owner, then Klarna will secure the payment and prevent people from being detracted from the gateway. It also enables cash flows within companies. Suppose you're a startup company and I went on one of my notorious spending splurges and bought a couple of grands' worth of denim from your shop (not happened to date but the day is young) and the monies only transfer into your account only once you deliver that product. Klarna makes money by charging the merchants a percentage and by charging the customers interest if they want to make payments.

HOW DO I USE KLARNA

This was an interesting experiment for me. For one, the checkout experience when shopping at the multitude of merchants now offering the Klarna payment is now a breeze. I did the bulk of my haul through Asos, but there many more brands using Klarna, Topman, Burton Menswear, Schuh to name a few. 

I'm not a fan of submitting bank details online so fast tracking the payment process and having the added security of not needing to provide merchants with my credit card info is an immediate thumbs-up. 

 

From the haul you'll see that I treated myself to a the Muscle Harrington Jacket In Green, the Pull & Bear Faux Suede Bomber Jacket In Beige and the Skinny Denim Jacket With Cord Collar In Mid Wash. These are very staple pieces that will upgrade any man’s casual wardrobe. Their neutral and muted hues make them highly interchangeable with my other picks such as the grandad lightweight tee and the New Look Skinny Stretch Denim. The price point on those denim is insane. For anyone looking to sabotage or play around with abrasions, tears or tye-dye then start with these jeans. For £19.99 you can't go wrong, even if you go wrong! Here are the items I decided to buy:

With the buy now pay later capability it increases my optionality tenfold. For a start it alleviated the pressure of decision making. For example, if I'm meeting someone, friend or client, I like to dress in a different outfit to what they most likely would have seen me wearing in an INSTA post the day before. But having to pay for a dozen outfits at once just to keep people on their toes isn't the game plan. Klarna certainly helped me make some quick decisions which enabled me to pull the trigger on my outfits, and because of the delayed payment it nullified any immediate panic or buyer’s remorse. It's also convenient for me to structure my payments so they don't clash with other outgoings, like Netflix, utility bills, caffeine replenishments. 

LASTLY

Save the best to last, but one of the biggest benefits of using Klarna this month is that I get to inspect the goods before settling up. This is especially useful with fashion because how many times have you had to send stuff back, either wrong sizing or faulty goods etc. It's not good practice but I know from being an E-Tailor that a lot of people like to buy a few sizes in the same garment, knowing from the onset they'll be sending the ones that don't fit back. 

SUMMARY

In my opinion a very good experience. Enabled me to shop without feeling the weight of imminent payment, gave me great optionality, provided security and peace of mind and I feel more empowered knowing I can inspect any goods before having to pay. 

Here are the outfits I've styled, which outfit do you love more?

Further Reading & References:

https://www.klarna.com/uk/smoooth
https://www.klarna.com/uk/shop-directory/

*This sponsored post was created in collaboration with Klarna.

How to: Up Your Street Photography Game INSTANTLY

No doubt about it, Street Photography is a wave to be jumped. It takes balls. There is no safe spaces or comfort zones to be found if you want to become a great street photographer. The hum drum reality of photography is that a picture will often define the personality of the photographer.

Whether it’s the way it’s been edited, the subject matter or the composition, the shot you present to the world on your chosen platform says something about you. I am by no means a vociferous street photographer. My appreciation skills for street photography far out weight my own accomplishments in this field. However, I’ve hung around enough photographers and expunged as much wisdom as I can on the subject, which I’d like to parley onto you.

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1.   PICK YOUR SPOT

I have a pal that visits Westminster on his days off and just takes pictures of people coming out the underground. He says it’s the easiest, safest way of getting cool images. For one, people are coming into your space, you’re not invading there’s and also its super touristic. Most people think you’re taking pics of Big Ben over their shoulder. So pick a spot with high footfall, and just be patient.

2.  “OH WOW”

Another pal I know uses that line all the time when she sees someone dressed ostentatiously in the street. “Oh wow” she cries, “look at you! You have to let me take your portrait”. I’ve seen her in action and it’s dead easy, most people like having their ego fed, especially those that dress flamboyantly. Plus, using the word portrait instead of picture makes it sounds like you know what you’re doing.

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3.  IT MIGHT NOT BE WASTED

Just because you didn’t get the perfect snap, doesn’t mean it should hit the cutting room floor. Street photography by its very definition should display facets of vulnerability. It should have its faults and equally, not just be forgiven for them, but appreciated and loved all the more. Bit like how you love your missus for farting in her sleep!

Same theory with street photography. No picture will be perfect, it might be in focus then something will be in the background distorting the aesthetic, or it’s in focus but the expression on a kid kicking bubble-balloons make him look a demon child. Still the essence has been captured. The moment has been distilled and it’s honest.

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4.  SHUTTER SPEED

This is a technical one. With shutter speed I tend to go for a small aperture. If you’re shooting without a tripod, on the go and need to encapsulate a decent depth of field, then a smaller aperture will help you with achieve a faster shutter speed. For further reading on this I recommend you look up James Maher, although he goes for an f/8, f,11 or f,16, I’m much more inclined to go lower and whack up the ISO’s, perhaps it’s because the UK light is less forgiving.

If you are like myself and use a SONY A7S2 Camera, you can read my blog post on how to setup your Sony a7s2 camera.

5.  LOOK AHEAD

People hustle down the streets at breakneck speeds these days. You have to check the deepest points on the horizons for your potential subjects. Thus, when they move into shot you can get them coming in to your space and it’s less obvious. Also, I’ve only ever had one person tell me to delete a picture on my camera. (And he was dodgy, probably caught him in the middle of a drug deal). Yes, you might be invading someone’s privacy by getting a shot of them, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s really nothing. It really is.

6.  EXHIBITIONS

You need to go to as many photo exhibitions as possible. Personally I love photo exhibitions and if I had the money I’d not only have a walk in wardrobe, a personal assistant who would walk Charlie and break in my new shoes, I’d also have a separate wing of the house dedicated to photography books. Sadly, they’re often super expensive. But there’s no better way to get inspired than by going to an exhibition. Maybe set one up? Why not hire a space and do one yourself?

In the meantime, here are a list of decent London based Street Photographers you can draw inspiration from:

My Thoughts on VERO | The New Social Media Platform

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Coined the new Instagram without the algorithms. Vero is the new social media platform that has peaked my curiosity of late.

First off, what is it?

Well it’s like Instagram, it allows you to upload images, links, locations, recommendations for books, films etc. Where it differs is the taxonomy of the posts on your news reel. Instagram introduced a rank feed 2 years ago which means you see popular posts first, on VERO it rhapsodises about the key differential. NO ADVERTS. No adverts mean no algorithms which allows you to see photos in reverse order from when they were posted.

The purists would claim this is social media; how God intended. Although I’d contest that God would love for you all to go back to the trees and try naming all the plants and animals. As Bill Hicks would once say, ‘the fact that we can’t name all the plants and animals on our planet suggests we left the garden (of Eden) too soon’.

What I like

I like the exclusive marketing ploy. If you are one of the first million subscribers you can use the platform for free, after that you have to pay. This has somewhat backfired as the supply has not met the demand, a welter of subscribers joining recently (current count of over 3 million) has melted their servers which are hampering the platforms performance. Complaints of glitch and unstable feeds. They have since binned the payment policy temporarily.

I’m curious. I have some friends who get seemingly brow beaten by the cornucopia of ‘faddish’ social media apps. You seem to master one and then a new one crops up and all of a sudden you’re back in that dreaded no man’s land of virtual uncertainty. You have to pack up your binary belongings and move out west like the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889.

I like shiny new things and I’m naturally curious as to what could potentially be the next shiny new thing could be. An excellent article by Senior Influencer Manager at Socialyse Nik Speller, compounds this theory of people wanting curiosity.

Human curiosity is the ‘lifeblood’ of social networks - the reason for their existence, growth, and survival’.  – Nik Speller

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I’m unsure about

The tiered system of connect and follow. It has a privacy setting with 3 levels. These varying degrees stipulate how well you know a person and how much you want the public to know about you. A neat idea for some. I know that some people don’t want their boss to view their INSTA stories because who wants their boss knowing they’re eating at The Dorchester on a Saturday night, right? Your boss will be seeing posts of you wolfing down caviar and tournedos, drinking the finest wines available to humanity all the while thinking, ‘hey asshole, at least have the verisimilitude that you’re under paid’.

For me, it’s just a bit awkward making that proclamation of how well you know someone and an unnecessary conversation to have.

The ethics. Apparently the Saudi billionaire that founded the company is being sued by the 30,000 disgruntled workers who certainly aren’t having conversations about which is the best hors d'oeuvre at The Dorchester around the water cooler.

Deletion is not great. I second the thoughts of Sara Tasker that if you’re not onboard with Vero, you can’t simply press the delete button. You have to jump through all the hoops, emailing and asking permission etc. At some point I fully expect General Gogol to arrive at my door with Dolph Lundgren over his shoulder. He’ll kindly remind me that nobody ever leaves the KGB before turning on heel and getting the first Aeroflot back to Moscow. (A View to a Kill anyone?)

Lastly

We shouldn’t forget that whilst everyone has mentioned MySpace being dead. It isn’t. OK so it might not be able to take on the monolith that is Kylie Jenner, if she tweets it’s all over for MySpace like she did with SnapChat earlier this week costing the company 1 billion in stocks, it won’t get off the canvass. But maybe, just maybe, Myspace could be something we all go back to once all the social media dust has settled and there is no more virtual terrain left to stick a flag in. It happened to vinyl. Come on hipsters, do your thing.

Ruark Audio R2 Streaming Music System Review | Tech & Interior Design

This month I've had my interior design hat on whilst transforming a few areas of my London flat but most importantly my front room/dining area. Currently the interior is black industrial with touches of copper on a backdrop of exposed brickwork. The first piece of furniture purchased was an all-in-one utility shoe rack and coat rail from IKEA which fit perfectly in-between my kitchen worktop and home working desk. Used as a storage area to remove some of the clutter thats just sat on the floor or piled up in the corners of the room.  

If you spend most of the week working from home like myself you'll need a workspace that is clutter-free, comfortable and inspiring. I've accomplished this in various ways such as indoor plants that brighten up the room, a KRUPS coffee machine to keep me focused and music in the background rather than the TV because I find I'm much more productive with music playing. 

Usually I play Spotify Premium from my iMac through my TV, although I've found that the sound quality ins't quite up to scratch, so I wanted a new streaming music audio system that not only plays Spotify out of the box but also sounds crisp and looks the part. After shopping around I settled for the Ruark Audio R2 mk3

Ruark Audio is a British acoustics brand, producing some of the most incredible music systems. Compact yet powerful, the beautifully discrete R2 is the perfect ‘all in one’ music system with award winning sound. It incorporates Bluetooth, Spotify Connect and Wi-Fi technologies which allow you to stream your music wirelessly and with a Spotify Premium account you can explore a huge library of amazing music without interruption.

Featuring DAB, DAB+, FM and Internet tuners, high quality aptX Bluetooth receiver, USB playback/power port, wireless music streaming and multi-room capabilities R2 Mk3 is a technological tour-de-force, but what makes R2 really special is its sound. With their experience in high-fidelity sound they’ve created a modern day music system which will bring new enjoyment to your listening experience.

Price £419.99 lick on the images above to be redirected to purchase, otherwise click here to find your local stockist.

The Kronaby Sekel Smartwatch Review

Kronaby is a part of Anima, a company that was founded in 2015 and specialises in purposefully designed smart, connected products. It is now making a significant push with its ambitious smartwatch collection into the SUV car-equivalent sector of the watch industry, the Hybrid - jostling for position in a very cramped sector of the watch industry along with Movado, Fossil and other large watch brands. On first impressions it's a very elegant looking timepiece. The entire collection is made up of four different lines and 24 variants, with unisex models. It's two-tone sterling silver plated dial face has a chic Sunray brushed finish, with contrast white around the applied indexes.

On the outside, it’s an authentic and beautiful timepiece made of materials and components that will stand the test of time. Its magic lies on the inside: we created a movement that can do more than just keep time. We call this approach human technology. This philosophy is the core of our work, from development to design.
— Kronaby

So they talk the talk, but how do they justify the price tag? What can it do that other hybrid smartwatches can't? You'll have to download the Kronaby APP, easy enough. Thankfully the APP is straight forward and I calibrated the the Kronaby Sekel to my smartphone in a matter of minutes. It's a great watch in many ways, and here are takeaways. 

It has some subtle vibration settings that you can amplify for priority. Letting someone know that they're on the maximum wattage of vibration alert has somehow become the ultimate modern day compliment. Conversely there is a Decline Call button, very handy for keeping me present and in the moment when in the company of others. 

I heard ahead of time about the modest amount of fitness-related features. For me this isn't really a problem. I burn most of my calories down the boxing gym and wearing this whilst sparring isn't practical. Any dog walker will tell you they enjoy step count goals. Earlier in the week I set my step goal from the app which meant an extra lap around the park for Charlie so he was happy. You have the option of viewing the progress as a percentage in the dedicated app section or on the secondary dial on the watch.

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As well as a two-year battery life I'd say another great feature for someone like me is the vibration you get when you've been inactive for too long. This is crucial for someone like me when editing video or writing blog posts. Sometimes I can whistle 2-3 hours away sat at the desk and it's important that you take breaks. 

If I had to offer any criticisms, I could say the price point might be just a shade above what I would be willing to spend on a watch that is a Hybrid and not a dress watch. But only just. For a newcomer this Kronaby Sekel can prove it can definitely stand toe-to-toe with the big boys. 

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