Saying Goodbye to Phanfare


Awhile back I wrote a post about how much I liked Phanfare and until now I have been really happy with having them host my photos and videos. It gave my family a way to keep in touch with us and provided a window into the events of our lives that they were not able to be there for. Unfortunately Phanfare has decided that in order for them to continue to exist, they need to charge a minimum of $100/yr regardless of your usage. This is just for the basic hosting package. So it seems that it costs them as much to hold onto my 5GB of data as it does for someone else to store 50GB. This price increase is almost DOUBLE the amount that I have been paying up until this point. Possibly the worst part is the lack of notification to their existing customers. I found out, not from any correspondence from them, but through a little notification in my account settings that I happened to stumble onto.
It is unfortunate that they decided to go this route, and not consider the people who don’t store a ton of information on their servers. I felt that I paid them a lot of money for the space I was actually using, and I did it because they had some of the best photo and video management packages I have seen to date. In the end it doesn’t matter how good an application they have if I can’t afford to use it.
So with that I have downloaded my information off of Phanfare and will be cancelling my account with them before they automatically bill me for another year. I am really unhappy to have to find another site, when I felt I had finally found a solution that worked so perfectly for me. Thanks Phanfare…it was good while it lasted.

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Favorite 4th Gen iPod Touch/iPhone Photo Apps

I recently replaced my 16GB 1st Gen iPod Touch with a 32GB 4th Gen iPod Touch. I’ve had a chance to try out quite a few apps, some of which are new and some which are old favorites of mine. What I wanted to do was to put together a list of some of the apps that I enjoy most from the various categories.

Rather than trying to list all my favorites apps from all the categories in one post, I will just focus the ones relating to photography right now and cover the others in subsequent posts.

If you don’t have an iPhone or have an iPod without a camera, then  obviously some of these apps will be of no use to you.  There will be many listed in future posts though that will be worth checking out.

I will list a short description and a few reasons why I think each one are worth checking out.  These are not necessarily in a particular order.

Photography

Diptic – This is one of my favorites.  It allows you to combine multiple pics (either from the camera  or from your stored photos) into one and gives you  a bunch of different layouts to choose from.  You can then easily e-mail your photo or upload directly to Facebook from inside the app. Diptic is an amazingly simple program to use and it does just what I need it to.

If you head on over to Flickr and check out the Diptic App group you can see some great examples of what this app can do.

Hipstamatic – This is cool photo app that simulates a wide variety of old lenses, flashes, and film types.  I feel that  in-app purchases of what they refer to as “Hipstapaks” are necessary to get the most enjoyment out of this app.  Hipstapaks are different groupings of lenses, film, and flash add-ons you can purchase to simulate additional equipment.  This would be especially cool on the iPhone which has a far superior camera.  The fact that the photos are designed to have that “old photo”  look to them might help hide the subpar quality of the pictures taken on the iPod.

If you want some examples of the type of photos you can take with this app, head over and check out the Hipstamatic group on Flickr where you can see over 85,000 examples from more than 7,000 group members.

Pro HDR – This is a pretty decent app when it comes to bringing out detail in darker areas.   It takes a series of two or three pics that it merges to create a photo that has good all-around exposure. The multiple shots take a little bit longer than I would like.  If you can hold your camera somewhat steady though, it does a pretty good job of combining them together.  It obviously won’t match the quality of what you could put together with a program like  Photomatix, but for an app it does a respectable job.

Goomifier – I love this app. Take a photo and easily morph it into something hilarious. You can shrink people’s heads, stretch out their noses, give them crazy expressions, or whatever other things you can think of, and then save, e-mail, or upload your creation to Facebook. If you make a mistake or want to revert to the original, just give your iPod a quick shake and watch it morph back to normal. This is a great time waster and never seems to get old.

Incredibooth – This is a fun app that simulates a B&W photo booth. It snaps four consecutive pictures and then presents them in a sheet of black and white prints. Simple and fun app that should provide a lot of fun at parties or when just goofing around with friends. It utilizes the front-facing camera and you can see yourself on-screen so you know exactly what will show up in the picture when you take it.

Pano – This is a slick app for creating panoramic photographs. It walks you through each shot, and provides a ghost image of the previous shot so you line up your pictures better. It does a pretty good job putting them together and is an overall cool photo app to have on hand.

PicBounce – I was not going to put this in my list because of one big reason. The user agreement for this app required that you agree to let PicBounce access your Facebook account even when you are not using the application. This did not sit well with me at all and that was unfortunate because I loved the program. I just went to iTunes a minute ago to see if others had the same concerns and it appears that I wasn’t  the only one. Their most reason update, which was yesterday states “You spoke and we listened. PicBounce 1.3 no longer requires ‘offline access” to your Facebook account.” This is good news and removes the one problem I had with this. PicBounce is a great program for taking a picture and uploading to either Facebook or Twitter (or both at once). You take the picture, write a description, and upload. That’s all it does and if that’s all you need, then this app is perfect.
This app is also free right at the time of this post, so there is no reason not to check it out.

Phanfare – This app is good if you host your photos on Phanfare and if you do, you are probably well aware of this already. Phanfare is still the most complete online photo site I have found to date. You were already able to manage and edit your pictures online and even offline using their awesome desktop application. Now you can add your mobile device to the mix and do many of the same things right from inside the Phanfare app.

Perfect Photo – Nice app that allows extensive tweaking of photos and also provides some instant affects you can apply like Posterize or Pencil Paint.
It relies heavily on sliders to make adjustments and would be nice to have numbers that would reflect the position of the slider, but that isn’t enough of a gripe to make it a deal breaker.

Well, that’s a list of the photo apps I enjoy and use most often.  If there is one you think I should check out, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I will be covering another category of apps in a future post.

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Big fan of Phanfare

Awhile back I decided on Smugmug as the best photo/video hosting solution for our family photos and movies…or so I thought. I really enjoyed the look of Smugmug and the customer service was first rate, but it had one major flaw. I fought continuously with it when trying to arrange my photos. It seemed like so much more hassle than it needed to be and the changes I would make never seemed to stick. I think that when you are one of the more expensive photo hosting sites that it should be a superior experience all around.

So I went searching for something better and took a closer look at Phanfare. I had looked at Phanfare before, but passed it up for some reason the first time. Is it possible that there have been improvements since the first time I used it? Maybe, but all I know is that I have been really impressed with it so far. I love the desktop client and really enjoy the ease of organizing my photos and videos. I am not going to say it is hands down the best designed photo site, but if I have to choose between the slight edge I think Smugmug has in the aesthetics department or the ease of use and functions that Phanfare has I will choose the latter every time.

Recently I was pleasantly surprised by the news that yearly subscriptions would be dropping to $49.99 which is just icing on the cake. I think that this is a fair price for the ability to share pictures and video with family members wherever they may be. I really feel that this is a smart move to encourage people to host with them and I applaud them for giving consumers a break in a time when we could use it the most.

Phanfare Website

UPDATE 8/14/09

After seeing the details of the new pricing scheme, I am less inclined to recommend Phanfare to new customers. It seems that a Premium account costing $49.99 only gets you 5 GB of storage and the Pro account gives you 20GB for $99/year (with additional 20GB for another $49.99/year). From the sounds of it, current users that have unlimited storage will retain that feature, but can most likely look forward to price increases before too long 😦


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Favorite Twitter Feeds

I was searching for some interesting Twitter feeds to mix things up a little and thought I would list some of my current favorites here for anyone looking to add to theirs.

My Feeds
———-
Engadget – Good source of tech news
MacRumors – Latest Apple related rumors
Leo Laporte – This Week in Tech host
Patrick Norton – Tekzilla host
Kevin Pereira – Attack of the Show host
Kevin Rose – Diggnation founder
Alex Albrecht – Diggnation co-host
Chris Pirillo – Lots of good tech news and info
Veronica Belmont – Tekzilla host
Chris Hardwick – G4 correspondent/nerdist.com
Digg 2000 – Stories that reach 2000 diggs
Sarah Lane – This Week in Fun host
Ubuntu Geek – Ubuntu news and tips
Jimmy Fallon – Comedian and host of the Late Show w/ Jimmy Fallon
Jim Norton – Comedian
Jim Gaffigan – Comedian
Chelsea Lately – Chelsea Lately host
TMZ – Hollywood news and info
Tiny Buddha – Inspirational quotes
Tony Robbins – Always inspirational with helpful info to better yourself
Rob Dyrdek – Skater and star of Fantasy Factory
John Mayer – Never had any of his cds but am entertained by his humor
CNN Breaking News – Latest CNN breaking news
Current News – CurrentTV
Alaska HDTV– Keeps me up to date on Alaska HDTV episodes and info
Conor Knighton– Host of Infomania

This isn’t a comprehensive list of the best Twitter feeds, but simply the ones I find enjoyable and useful. Feel free to suggest others you think might be interesting, useful, or funny.

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PVC Background Holder Assembled

I picked up all the necessary pieces from Home Depot yesterday and finally got my background holder finished tonight. I was hoping that it would be a little sturdier than it is. I would hang a simple cloth backdrop but don’ t know how comfortable I would be using something heavier like a muslin fabric. I could possibly make it stronger by cutting the side supports and adding a crossbar in the middle but I haven’t decided if it want to disassemble it just yet. I might try another design in the near future, but I think I will hold off for a bit, as my wife has already asked me if I recently bought stock in PVC : )
Background Holder

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Toys aren’t just for kids

Randall figurine I decided to raid my daughter’s toys today looking for things I can shoot. I ran across a few figurines that I believe came out of happy meals, and I figured they would do in a pinch. I don’t remember the exact setup of this shot but I believe I had the figure sitting on white foam core with a flash behind it to camera left, and an LED light in front shining upwards. There also is a white sheet to the right which may have provided the slightest bit of light reflection. After I shot and went through the pics I had made so many changes that I lost track of how each individual shot was constructed. There is a little work afterwords, with contrast, saturation, and exposure.

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Do-It-Yourself PVC Background Stand

While looking around online I ran across a good set of plans for a PVC background stand that looks like it would be pretty easy to put together. There is more than one way to construct these if you look around online, but this looks like a fairly easy project and a great way for me to get a background stand of my own without having to spend a ton of money on it. I will pick up the supplies on Monday and hopefully have some pics up by the middle of the week. Check out the plans here.

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