Top 3 edits you should make to every photograph

Earlier this week an infographic design agency, NeoMam Studios, sent us an infographic about 'smoasting' which they'd produced on behalf of print company Photobox. Once I'd got over the shock of awful elision of 'social media' and 'boast' to form the ghastly portmanteau word 'smoast', there was one particular statistic that caught my eye. Take a look at the infographic and guess which it was.

Despite the prevalence of Instagram, the host of editing features that are built into apps such as EyeEm, Facebook, and Twitter, and the plethora of free-to-download editing programmes, only 28% of photos are cropped or styled in some way? Wow! I am surprised. And it's something I think deserves remedying.

While Team Photocritic advocates getting as much right in-camera as possible—you'll certainly not be able to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse—we're not beyond a little post-processing, either. If it's good enough for Cecil Beaton and Horst, it's good enough for us, too. A snip here and a swipe there can elevate an ordinary image into something a bit more special.

This isn't about air-brushing away half of someone's thigh, but about making minor adjustments to three specific areas: the crop, the colour, and the contrast. Here at Photocritic we call them The Three Cs. They're not complicated and they'll make a world of difference.


However well composed you think your image is, it will almost certainly benefit from having a few pixels shaved off it. It might be a case of reinforcing the rule of thirds, removing a bit of unwanted background that crept into the frame, or getting a bit closer to your subject.

The original isn't that bad
The original isn't that bad

Being a purist, I tend to stick to traditional 4:3 or 3:2 ratios, but don’t feel limited by my prejudices. Select from any of the standard crops, from square to 16:9, or free-style it to adjust the crop any way you like.

But a crop does make it better
But a crop does make it better

At the same time as cropping, make sure to straighten your image, too. Unless you are deliberately tilting the frame for creative reasons, uprights should be upright and horizons should be level. When lines that are expected to be upright or level are wonky, it has an unpleasant impact on our sense of balance. By correcting wonky lines, you'll produce a stronger image.


Light has a temperature, and depending on the source of the light, or the time of day if it’s the sun, that temperature will vary. When the temperature varies, so does the colour of the light. As a general rule, we don’t notice the variation because our eyes cleverly adjust to the changes. Our cameras on the other hand aren’t quite so clever.

Notice how the sheet and Cookie's white fur has a blue tinge?
Notice how the sheet and Cookie's white fur has a blue tinge?

Have you ever noticed how white objects in your photos can show up with blue or yellow casts? That’s because the white balance in your photo was off.

Corrected by nudging the white balance slider to the right
Corrected by nudging the white balance slider to the right

It's a relatively easy correction to make using the 'Warmth' or 'White Balance' function in an editing programme. If you think the whites are looking a bit too blue (or if an image looks a little 'cold' over all), nudge the slider to the right. If the whites are too reddish in tone, or the photo looks a bit warm, slide it to the right. It's a case of trial and error to make the right adjustment, but the more that you practise it, the better you'll understand the shortcomings of your camera and how it reacts to different types of light.

Now if you want to intensify or tone down your colours, you can do so using the saturation slider. I don't recommend bumping up the saturation too much; it can result in a cartoon effect rather than a photo!


Contrast is the difference between the dark and light tones in your photos. Images shot on bright sunny days tend to have a lot of contrast, with dark shadows and bright highlights, but those taken in fog won’t have a great deal of tonal variation and will be low contrast. From time to time, you’ll want a low-contrast image, but, generally speaking, your photos can be improved by increasing the contrast a touch. It brings definition and depth to them.

The original looks good enough to eat
The original looks good enough to eat

Don’t go overboard, though, as too much of a good thing can turn bad. You’ll find that if you over-cook the contrast you’ll lose too much detail and end up with an ugly image. Subtlety beats brickbats.

But increasing the contrast can bring some depth
But increasing the contrast can bring some depth

If you use Snapseed to make your edits, it's worth getting to know the ambiance slider, too. I've often found that this is a preferable alternative to the contrast slider.

Anything else?

At this point, any other adjustments are gravy. I'm a fan of Snapseed's 'centre focus' options and often apply one of those. You might want to play with a tilt-shift effect. Or there's the waterfall of filters you can try in any programme, but you might find that you prefer your own edits to prefabricated filters, now.

Oh, and don't forget that it all starts with a decent photo, so check out our eight tips for better smartphone photos, too.

The handy-dandy social media photo sharing guide

One photo, so many options. Where on this huge web of interconnected social media outlets are we best sharing our quick snaps, our painstakingly created works of art, and our selfies? Really, it all comes down to whom you want to see them. The chances are that different people follow you in different social media spaces, and if Twitter's mostly a work thing for you, selfies on the beach aren't all that appropriate a posting there. You're probably best putting those on your friends- and family-only Facebook account. It only takes a few moments of thought, really, but if you're new to the social media fandango, seeing all those apps lined up on your phone can be a little overwhelming. For a bit of fun, I drew up (quite literally, it involved an enormous sheet of paper and felt-tipped pens) this handy-dandy guide to sharing your photos via social media. Of course it isn't meant to be taken deadly seriously, but it's a pretty useful starting point all the same.

Click for bigger!

You can find it looking even more beautiful in print in the delicious-looking Social Photography, which is available now, either in print or to download!

Social Photography on sale in the US!

I've heard a rumour that my newest—and possibly prettiest—book, Social Photography is now on sale in the US! Naturally I'm incredibly biased (although my father probably wins the prize for most enthusiastic cheerleader), but I am very proud of it. In a nutshell, it's a guide to making the most out of your smartphone, from taking better pictures to sharing them astutely. social photo cover

You can go into a bricks-and-mortar store to purchase it, use your preferred online retailer, or download it as an ebook.

For people in the UK wanting to lay their hands on a physical copy, they'll be here next month. Of course I'll be sure to tell you when! That would be now! Woohoo!

Advertisements now part of Facebook's auto-playing video repertoire

When Facebook rolled out auto-playing videos into its users' mobile and desktop news feeds last week, along with a collective groan came the question, 'How long until those videos include adverts?' Five days is the answer. Auto-playing advertisements aren't coming to all Facebook users immediately; it's a test group that is currently receiving them, and the adverts are for Divergent, a film due to be released next year. Given it's a trial run, if the users find it abhorrent enough and say so loudly enough, it's possible that the plans could be shelved. However, Facebook does have to fund itself somehow and this is likely an appealing pitch to marketers.

Facebook's trialling auto-playing videos with some of its users

Much the same as with the auto-playing shared content videos, they'll be soundless until you click on them and you can ignore them by just scolling on by. When you're using a mobile device adverts will still play automatically if you're on a cellular connection but they would have been downloaded the last time that you were connected to wi-fi, which should help to prevent data-gobbling. If you watch a video avert through to the end, two further adverts will appear. This, says Facebook, is to make it 'easy to continue to discover content from the same marketers.' It's the price we pay for something that's 'free'.

(Hedsup to Techcrunch)

Auto-playing videos come to Facebook

Oh joy! Facebook has embarked on a steady roll-out programme to bring auto-playing videos to all of its users. It started with Android devices, progressed to iPhones, and now the team at TechCrunch has noted that it has made it to desktop. Let us, however, be thankful for small mercies: these self-playing videos will remain silent until you click on them to enable the volume. At least you won't suffer the indignity of perfect strangers knowing that you're checking Facebook in a public loo, or being shown up at work as not concentrating on that deeply thrilling spreadsheet as much as your colleagues believed you were. It's only videos that have been uploaded directly Facebook or shared from Instagram that will play automatically; anything else sits in suspended animation. Do then, be kind to your Facebook friends and link video from YouTube, Vimeo, or elsewhere. Of course, this move fits in with Facebook's need to make make money. Next stop: auto-playing video advertisements.

Facebook video screen shot

There's no way that you can disable video auto-play entirely. However, if you need to watch your data download limits on your mobile network, you can ensure that videos will only auto-play when you're connected via wi-fi. For iPhone users it's Settings > Facebook > Settings > Auto-play videos on WiFi only. Not that this is much consolation for people living where wi-fi bundles aren't cheap and data limits are tight.

Adobe updates Photoshop Touch

For anyone who uses Adobe's Photoshop Touch on their tablet, there are a few updates waiting for you with version 1.4. For anyone who was thinking about installing it on their baby-tablets, then the latest version is optimised for your iPad Minis and Nexus 7s.

In addition, there's now support for three iPad-compatible styli, the Pogo Connect, the Jot Touch, and the Jaja Stylus. You can share your completed images with Facebook and Twitter direct from the app in new ways. Some new effects have been added, including lens flare and stamp patterns. And there have been some enhancements to performance and workflow: brush strokes should be smootherand there's a new colour selection workflow.

If you're already using Photoshop Touch, the update is free. If you'd like to download it and give its tablet-ised image editing magic a whirl, it's £6.99 ($9.99) from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

You are bad at photography: Improving your work whilst managing self-confidence

Flipping Nora Madcakes - this is proper rubbish!

After a manic six weeks, I'm finally taking a day off. It will involve Olympics-watching, novel-reading, and cake-baking. Whilst I'm lounging on the sofa, I shall leave you in Gareth's capable hands to tell you that you're a bad photographer, but it isn't as terrible and soul-crushing as you might think.

You'll be glad to hear that I'm not here to shamelessly plug something, or big myself up (I think that phrase went out of fashion in the mid-nineties), or to give you the bottom line on how to use a particular lens, or how you should photograph faces, or plants, or the sky, or... anything, actually. I'm not here to shove a project in your face, either (the next edition of that will be in a couple of weeks or so, I imagine).

I'm here to tell you that you are bad at photography.

You are a bad, bad photo person. Yes, I know that shot you posted got favourited twenty times on Flickr and you were invited to add your image to the group called "Baffling HDRs of Random Nonsense!", but you are bad at photography. I know that portait session with your friend was a lot of fun, and she loved all the images, and she put them up on Facebook where they got dozens of likes, but you are bad at photography.

You are bad at photography and so am I. Why do I say this? To be honest, I mainly say it to get a reaction out of you so you actually bother reading my nonsense (it's known as "The Tabloid Tactic"). Manipulative, I know. I imagine you are currently puce with pure, unbridled photo-rage, clawing and scratching at the screen with your bare hands, fingernails now bleeding, in the (utterly insane) belief that you can physically harm me via The Internet: you're shouting "I think you'll find I came third in The Guardian's Photo Competition last week, you ingrate! The theme was 'tranquility'! TRANQUILITY!", before breaking down and sobbing into your brunch. Which you just took an Instagram photo of. Tear-sodden Eggs Benedict.

Calm down, this is not a personal attack, I promise. What I'm really trying to say, or rather ask, is, what do we gain from considering ourselves "good" photographers? What use is there in looking at an image you've taken and thinking 'Yep. Maximum art achieved. I have mastered the art of photography, right there. Nothing left for me to learn'?

Here's where I get serious for a whole three sentences: I think "good" is a dangerous word in photography, because it lets you settle. You snuggle up in that comfy 'I'm good now' seat and you remain at that skill level; in short, you stagnate creatively.

I know it's not nice, but it's necessary: critique, both self and from others, is what improves our images. If there's one thing you should do to every photograph that you take, it's to evaluate it. It should be noted, however, that it is very possible to go too far the other way: maintaining a healthy balance is the key. Instead of saying 'This photo is great,' I tend to go with 'I'm happy with this shot.' Similarly, it's better to identify what you could have done better with a photo you're not happy with, as opposed to sitting, head in hands, wailing uncontrollably because your subject isn't quite on the rule of thirds. Not that I've ever done this. Nope.

So where the piggles do I get such critique, I hear you collectively ask? Well, I happen to know that Daniela is turning her attentions to this very question in the not-too-distant future, but until then, one place to get some useful feedback is on DPChallenge. It's a good place to begin, but my personal advice would be to take critiques with a pinch of salt – the members of DPChallenge tend to be very focused on technical elements of critique. This certainly isn't an awful thing to focus on, but there will come a time where you are much more comfortable with the technical basics and you want to experiment with rule breaking. It all depends on your current skill level, really, but you'll definitely learn a thing or two, regardless of experience.

Immerse yourself in as much critique as possible – look at images that you really like on the site, images that you think are stunning and you feel a million miles away from, ability-wise. Now have a look at the critiques and what people think the photographer could have done better. The more critique you read, the better you will get at critiquing images yourself, including your own. Hey, look: you're getting better! Soon you'll be looking at work you create six months ago and thinking 'I can't believe all the mistakes there are in that photo – what a load of rubbish!' You see that? That's progress.

Here's your homework, then: get some proper, constructive feedback and critique on your work and learn something from the experience. It's daunting at first, but take it on the chin and keep working at getting better. Not "good", not "great", just better.

Nikon: "A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses"

So, what do you do if you're working at Nikon, and you realise that, from your point of view, too many people are using non-Nikon equipment? You try to influence the unwashed masses into thinking that it's all about the equipment.

Over on their Facebook group, the Japanese photography giant posts that "A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses, and a good lens is essential to taking good pictures! Do any of our facebook fans use any of the NIKKOR lenses? Which is your favorite and what types of situations do you use it for?"

Well, there's something wrong with that statement; the bottleneck of any photographic process is the photographer who's behind the controls. It appears that even people who follow Nikon are acutely aware of that, resulting in a PR backlash of epic proportions:


Maybe it'll teach them...

Is 500px encouraging copyright theft?


The problem is the 'embed' functionality that's built into 500px. In the social networking box, there are your standard 'like' on Facebook, 'tweet' on Twitter, Submit to Stumble Upon and all that jazz.

One of these buttons reads 'Embed', and gives you a HTML snippet that makes it easy to embed photos into your blog. In fact, the Embed code goes further, and actively encourages it: "Copy the code to your LiveJournal or Wordpress blog".

I don't want to be difficult, but I haven't given permission to 500px to dissaminate my photos like that. Not without my permission, not without a licence in place, and (probably) not without paying me.

If I find a series of my photos on someone else's website, where they are being exploited commercially, I'd send them a takedown notice and an invoice.

screen_shot_2011_06_28_at_142649.jpgThe problem, then, is that 500px seem to be encouraging its users to commit copyright infringements of my copyrighted materials. They claim, apparently, that it is "good exposure" for the photographers. Personally, I strongly disagree - I'll decide what is good exposure for my own photos, thank you very much.

Right-clicking on a photo on Flickr has a completely different outcome: You get a pop-up reminding you that the content is copyrighted.

Against their own T&C

Okay, I'm showing off my geekdom properly, in admitting that I am actually reading the Terms and Conditions on the sites I visit, but allow me that.

On the 500px site, in the Terms of Service, it states "By submitting photographic or graphic works to 500px (...) you agree that this content fully or partially may be used on 500px web-site for promotional reasons (such as photos at home page)". 

There is no mention whatsoever about re-distributing my images to a wider audience, whether via blogs, LiveJournal, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Enabling (nay - encouraging) users to embed my copyrighted photos on their own blogs, then, is against 500px's own terms and conditions.

Thanks, but no thanks

I understand what 500px is trying to do: Opening the internet is admirable, and wanting to share content all over the place is a great idea. But it's only a great idea when you own the content, and when you've decided that this fits in with your business objectives, and your approach to copyright.

500px deciding to share my photos with the world, encouraging people to commit copyright infringements via a feature I cannot turn off, is not my idea of a well thought-through website.

Let me turn off Embed feature, at least...

...Unless you are happy to receive a ream of invoices from me, of course. In which case, carry on, and could you send me the address to your invoice payable office, please?

Hat tip to @phillprice for the tip re: this article

Flickr's Favourite Camera and How it Really Doesn't Matter

Disgustingly, I took this using my phone. Is it a photograph? Yes, yes it is.

A follow up to a recent TechCrunch article caught our eye here at Small Aperture. The essence of the articles is as follows – the iPhone 4 is dominating Flickr stats as Flickr’s most used camera. The tone taken seems to be one of pure dismay, the Instagram app being the currently favoured target of demonisation. The suggestion is that the saturation of images taken using a camera phone is indicative of “the state of photography right now”. Personally, I am not convinced this is a bad thing.

With the advances in technology over recent years, those who could be classed as “casual photographers” have been able to enjoy the freedom of taking a photo using their phone, adding a few fun effects to it, and uploading it to Flickr, Facebook and other such social community sites to share with their friends incredibly easily and quickly. This upsets some, who feel that photos should only be taken with a “proper” camera, and that to take an image with a smartphone, upload it to Flickr, and have some of your friends praise it, even though you don’t even have an official photography degree or qualification of any kind, is a terrible insult to and a threatening encroachment upon our precious medium.

Passive aggressive sarcasm aside, my point is that I really don’t think it matters that a smartphone camera is at the top of Flickr’s most used stats, whether you’re of the opinion that Flickr is being used incorrectly or whether you’re seeing it as representative of photography’s general decline. In actual fact, I feel there are several positives to draw out of the significant increase in casual photography. Yes, I’m going to begin addressing them now, in a new paragraph which is coming up next. Seamless.

Disgustingly, I took this using my phone. Is it a photograph? Yes, yes it is.

First, it could be argued that the increase in the use of smartphones as cameras has shifted the market and helped to create better defined demarcations between the “casual user”, the “enthusiast” and the “professional” photographer. At one time, anyone with a passing interest in photography and a disposable income would have grabbed themselves a higher end point and shoot or even an entry level DSLR or bridge camera. These would be used purely for better quality family snaps, in anticipation of travelling abroad to document their time visiting various countries or, god forbid, to pursue it as a casual hobby, for fun. This still happens, of course, but now there is a greater degree and freedom of choice for people who enjoy dabbling in photography but can’t or don’t want to spend too much money. I can’t see how this is a negative development. Unless you hate people.

Essentially, we are witnessing the birth of the next generation of photography snobbery. The first generation (sadly still lingering, grumbling in the corner with its slippers and pipe) are the “film is just better” crew. It’s not photography if it’s not film, digital is cheating, I miss inhaling dangerous chemicals and so on. There is a place for both film and digital photography. Film is absolutely beautiful and has that romantic, inimitable quality to it, but when digital came along it brought photography to a brand new audience of enthusiasts and professionals, expanding and developing the medium. This is happening again: we will see photography tackled in new ways and artists will pick up and find a way to embrace the advantages new technology brings.

Another plus to introducing new people to photography is the overall increase in appreciation of the medium. The more commonplace it becomes, the more accepted it is, and we will suffer fewer problems down the line. It’s a bit like one of the other largely demonised interests in my life – videogames. Since the Nintendo Wii came along and introduced casual gaming to a massive new audience, when someone notices a games console in my house, they no longer immediately consider me a dangerous recluse who spends all his time dreaming up violent fantasies, entrenched in his own filth in a basement somewhere, not eating for fear of losing precious gaming seconds (I save all that for weekends). Similarly, the stigma and prejudices aimed at photographers, of which there are many, will start to soften and melt away.

An image from Michael Wolf's "Paris Street View" series, taken by photographing and cropping an image found using Google Street View. See more of Michael's work here - http://www.photomichaelwolf.com

The important thing to take away from all this is that it is problematic and dangerous to hold the stance of “the better the camera, the better the photograph”. Photography should be seen as independent of the equipment used: for me, photography lies in the intangible essence of what you are trying to achieve. It’s about composition, choice of subject, timing and the story you tell by combining all these elements. A stunning example of this is a series of photos that have caused significant controversy this year – a series of images taken using Google Street View by Michael Wolf (link to a February BJP article here). I won’t go into depth on my thoughts of it here, that’s for another article, but I admire the thought process behind this series and applaud it. The outrage caused is most likely the same outrage from those who are upset by the increased use of smartphones being used to take photographs.

This all reminds me of the story of a good friend and fellow photographer of mine. He was once complimented on one of his images by an unwitting fan, who had no intention to offend by any means: “wow”, he enthused, “you must have a really good camera!”.

Visibly disgruntled, he replied “yeah, and Shakespeare had a really nice pen”.

GRID: keeping track of all your social media photos


How many different places do you post pictures? On Flickr, perhaps? Maybe to FaceBook? How about on Twitter? I could on listing sites, but you’d get bored. I don’t want that. But the point is that people post different pictures to different places, and keeping track of them can be a bit tricky. How would you like a site that tracked all your images by date and displayed them on a huge grid?

Guess what? Someone’s thought of it. It’s called GRID, it was inspired by Mike Harding’s Coffee by week, and it’s being developed by a start-up called vvall. Right now, it can only track images uploaded to DailyBooth, FaceBook, PicPlz, and TwitPic. They’re working on Flickr, Instagram, and the like. With so many different platforms to share pictures, and so many ways to get them there, it’s taking a bit of time.

I don’t actually make that many of my pictures public, and I’ve a favoured place for those I do unleash on an unsuspecting world, but I do love the idea of being able to see all your pictures in one place organised chronologically. It might be the historian who likes organisation in me coming out, but I doubt I’m the only one.

GRID: social photos displayed chronologically.

(Headsup to TechCrunch.)

How safe is your digital reputation?

If the Evil Bunny gets hold of your Facebook, all hope is lost.

We live in the digital millennium, in a world where your passwords are protecting so much information, that it's probably wise to start thinking about how safe your data really is.

As a photographer trying to carve out a niche for yourself, your digital reputation is extremely important: If my Twitter stream suddenly started being filled with a lot of spam, for example, you'd unsubscribe pretty quickly, wouldn't you? Of course you would.

When you think about it, if someone could look inside your brain and get access to all your passwords, many of us would be worse off than if they stole our house keys.

What happens if someone compromises your passwords?

Stop and think for a moment: What would happen if someone had all your passwords? Could they get into your calendar? Could the hackers see your address book and phone numbers? Could they read your e-mails? Could they access your internet bank and transfer money out of your account? Could they post embarrassing things as you on your website, blog, or social networking sites?

I realised a long time ago that a lot of my reputation and financial stability hinges on my passwords being safe.

So, what can you do to stay safe?

Pick safe passwords

It's no good to pick passwords that people can easily guess; that much is obvious. There's no point in using "Meke" as my password, because anybody who knows me would know that's my sister's name.

Same thing with other obvious pieces of information; It's not hard to find out somebody's birthday (it's often a piece of public information on Facebook) or their mother's maiden name (in these times where marriages sadly often don't last, your mother's maiden name is as likely as not to be her current name). In the case of my own mother; she was remarkably progressive, and never took my father's last name. Whenever my bank asks me for my mother's maiden name as a security question, I sigh and give up. "It has been her name for over 60 years. How is this going to help your security"?

Of course, in the name of security, I made up a new mother for myself, whose name is nothing like my own mother's. (Mum, if you're reading this - I'm proud of you and your name, but you just ain't secure enough for me!)

Anyway; Passwords. Don't use words that are in the dictionary, don't use foreign-language words, and don't use obvious substitutions. "P3SSWORD" is marginally better than "P4SSWORD", for example, because the hackers have figured out that 4 is often used for an "A", etc.

Personally, all my passwords look a little bit like "6MT#2o,UGrI^eBY", "A1_U3YiqR'&guybc" or "3Fs-wOhT/n5MG". Spot a pattern there? No, well that's sort of the point. Use a mixture of upper and lower case letters, use numbers and symbols, and pick something utterly unpronounceable.

Don't use the same password twice

Now that we've learned to use secure passwords, what's next? Well, it doesn't help how secure your password is, if you use the same password for everything.

Why? Well, imagine your password is "asdqwe123", and you have been using it for absolutely everything since the dawn of the internet. You will have hundreds of logins by now, and you will have told each of these sites your password.

Do you really trust all of these sites with all the information you have stored on all other sites? Because that's essentially the compromise you are making.

Don't think that your passwords are safe, neither: A recent case worth keeping in mind was the Gawker network. Last weekend, Gawker had a security breach, where 1.2 million logins and (encrypted) passwords were stolen. In other words: If you are one of the 1.2 million people who ever made an user account to make a comment on Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Jalopnik, or any of their other sites, your password is potentially compromised.

Worse; it seems as if the passwords have already been cracked: Thousands of people were suddenly tweeting about Acai berries, seemingly in connection with the above breach, because people had been using the same passwords on Twitter as on one of the Gawker site.

Password theft is not a one-off, either. The enormous social media site Reddit had a security breach where media containing their backups was stolen, potentially leaking usernames and passwords to criminals.

The list goes on: People have stolen passwords from the government, open source movements and social networks. On top of all this theft, there are a lot of dastardly attempts out there where cybercriminals try to trick you into giving them your details - a practice known as "Phishing".

So, What is a poor social media debutante to do?

I realise this is pretty tricky: As I am writing this, I have no fewer than 576 passwords and logins for various sites. If I were to have a different password for each of those - and especially if my passwords are all resembling "/MZYIougB2)4q" or "3'z1tNgk>Wyq!EjY!" - I would have locked myself out of each account.

Nonetheless, the only thing you can do, is to try to find a way to never use the same password twice. That way, if your password to Lifehacker's commenting engine was stolen, at least the thieves can't post embarrassing stories as you on Facebook.

Software to the rescue

Personally, I use a piece of software called 1Password, from Agile Web Solutions. It can generate safe passwords, and it keeps track of your passwords for you. The trick is to use a single, extremely high quality password to protect all your other passwords. I only use that password for 1Password, and nowhere else; Of course, I now have to trust 1Password to not break or lose my passwords, but I'm happier to trust a heavily encrypted file of my 576 passwords, than any other way of doing things.

1Password has a couple of bonuses in addition to taking care of your passwords for you: It stores your bank and credit card details, completely encrypted of course, and supports 'secure notes', where you can basically store anything you like, and whenever you quit the software, it'll be securely encrypted.

The added benefit of using something like 1Password instead of the password saving functionality built into your browser, is that if someone were to steal your computer, they still can't get access to your passwords and sites.

Rotate your passwords regularly

Of course, the two above steps are great containment strategies: You are making it difficult for someone to break into one of your accounts, and if they do somehow manage to break in, they can't get access to any other accounts.

The final step is to regularly change your passwords for high-risk logins.

So, what do I mean by a high-risk login? Let me give you an example: I'm particularly paranoid about my mail e-mail account: All the other sites I use tend to have "Password Recovery" features: You click a button that reads "I forgot my password", and they send you a new one by email. That's great, but what happens if the thieves are controlling your e-mail account? All the hard work you have done to protect your passwords is wasted; they can get at them from the source.

So: Protect your e-mail password as if it was your most valuable possession. It may very well be true. Change it once per month - no exceptions.

The other important passwords worth changing frequently are your internet bank, your PayPal password (because your money is on the line) and your FaceBook password.

The latter is important because you can log into other site using FaceBook Connect; if you lose your FaceBook account, you are effectively losing a lot of passwords at once (That's the case with any OpenID or Single Sign On solution, by the way). In addition, if you lose your FaceBook account details, you may be opening yourself to various forms of blackmail or embarrassment. I'm sure you can think of a few things you wouldn't want your mum to read, thinking it came from you, for example.

In short...

So: A quick summary: Pick a secure password. Only use each password for one site. Change them regularly. Take extra care of your money and e-mail.

Shotblox: photoblogging made simple


There are millions, maybe even billions, of photographs published on the web and quite a few different content management systems to handle them.

How many picture-specific content management systems are there – you know, ones that really focus on your photographs and aren’t laden down with extraneous features that detract from the real image? If you’re thinking: ‘Not that many,’ then maybe Issac and Kasey Kelly, over at Kelly Creative Tech have developed something to fill this niche.

Shotblox.com is a simple-to-use piece of photoblogging software where the photograph is the centre of attention. Once photos have been uploaded directly from your harddrive or from Adobe Lightroom they are saved in galleries and then each gallery is displayed as a clean block of images. Click on an image and it enlarges. Yes, it really is that simple. I was curious so I tried it out.

A funky user interface should help you along as you're building your new site

It took me a few minutes to sign up, a few more minutes to select a typeface colour and a background colour, and a few minutes to upload some images. Almost before I knew it my distinctly amateur-looking photographs were being presented in a professional-looking format, and I didn’t even have to use the video tutorial. There’s an option to notify your friends or followers of your new posts via FaceBook or Twitter, and if you get horribly stuck the Kelly brothers are an email away. My photos are accessed via the Shotblox subdomain, (http://deb.shotblox.com, if you’re that interested) but if you’ve your own domain, you can point that at Shotblox.com.

As Issac told me, Shotblox is really about what the photographer wants. It is primarily user-led with the emphasis being on simple: simple to use and simple in looks. They want the photography to stand out.

So if you do decide that Shotblox is for you, what will it cost you? Well, there are a range of packages on offer from a free sample of ten photos through to unlimited numbers of photos and unlimited bandwidth for US$500 a year, which means that if you’re serious about showing off your photos, there’s probably a package perfect for you.

Take a look for yourself at www.shotblox.com