July 22nd, 2016

7 Tips for Taking Better Smartphone Pictures

 

take better smartphone pictures photolab app

Flickr photo: “iPhone Photography” by Olle Eriksson

The capabilities of most smartphone cameras have increased enormously over time. Using iPhone as an example, you can see dramatic improvements with each iteration. Celebrating these advances, Apple has even used snaps by users in the recent Shot on iPhone 6 ad campaign.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 3.00.52 PMIt’s also becoming more common to professionally print smartphone pictures; they’re getting that good. Our own Photolab iOS app makes this process fast and easy — available soon for Android, too.

Of course, smartphone picture quality still lags behind results you’ll get from a high-end DSLR camera, or even from an advanced point-and-shoot model. With this in mind, we offer this collection of useful tips and tricks for taking better smartphone shots. (We hope by now everyone knows to press the screen to auto-focus!).

Here are seven ways you can improve your smartphone photography today:

7. Keep Your Phone Still

L8719767This might sound like a given, but it’s well worth stating to avoid image blur: especially when capturing movement or when being moved (for example, while riding in a vehicle), try to keep the camera as still as possible.

In a pinch, simply intently holding your hands as still as you can is a good start, but placing your phone on a solid surface is much better. We suggest trying one of many special tripods designed just for a smartphone.

6. Make Light Work For You

better smartphone pictures photolab app

Flickr photo: “Standing Guard Over a Rough Lake” by Jim D

The lessons of Photography 101 classes apply equally, if not more, to smartphones. This means avoiding back lighting, except when using it for effect. Any back-lit shot will have poor foreground detail and show only shaded silhouettes of people and objects. You’ll also likely get glare in the lens.

Instead, keep the light source behind you. Another standard tip is to take outdoor shots in the morning, evening, and when skies are overcast to avoid the harsh light of midday. Other basic photography rules also apply, including the classic Rule of Thirds.

5. Use Selfie Sticks Creatively

L8882581Since being named Oxford’s 2013 Word of the Year, “selfie” has remained in common use. Arguably, the selfie fueled the rise of social media giant Snapchat, and there’s even scholarly research on the selfie. Point is, they’re here to stay.

Then there’s the selfie stick. It allows you to capture selfies of more people in more places than ever before. Even better? A quality selfie stick allows you to get other types of pictures from previously impossible angles. It can be especially helpful for getting concert shots from above the crowd or from above and around other obstacles.

4. Avoid Using “Flash”

Even in low light, a smartphone’s “flash” won’t help much. That’s because it’s really just a very bright LED. So it won’t effectively freeze a moment in time. It will only brighten it somewhat, usually unevenly. These “flashes” also tend to cause the dreaded red eye. Instead, try improving the lighting or using shadows to create an atmospheric effect. Of course, if it’s nearly or completely dark where you are, the LED flash might be your best option. But first try tapping the darkest area of the shot before taking the picture, which prompts the camera to adjust the lighting as needed on most smartphones.

3. Lens Add-Ons

L8955759For those accustomed to using interchangeable lenses on a DSLR camera, the single lens embedded in a smartphone can feel limiting. It is possible to take macro shots and landscapes. But neither are as effective as they would be with the appropriate lens.

Luckily, there are handy clip-on lenses available. Some are designed specifically to work with a particular phone, but many work universally with virtually any smartphone. Once you have a set of these little marvels, you’ll wonder how you got by without them.

2. Upgrade Your Camera App

While the quality of smartphone cameras has improved dramatically, the pre-loaded software on most phones has not. They generally lack advanced options like burst shot and macro mode that can take your smartphone pictures to the next level. So why not upgrade? There are many camera apps available, some are free and some cost a small fee to download. Be sure to read the ratings and comments before trying one out. If you’re using an iPhone, Camera+ is a pretty clear favourite for serious photographers.

1. Take Lots of Photos

take better smartphone pictures photolab app

Flickr Photo: “Boom Lake Alberta, Canada” by DaveBlogs007

Ever looked at a photography feed you really admire and wondered, “How do they get such gorgeous shots?” Chances are, whether it’s a professional photographer with thousands of followers or just an acquaintance with a particularly good eye, their big secret is the same. They take a lot of pictures.

For every one that makes it into their feed, they likely snapped dozens that didn’t make the cut. That’s just how it works. So get out there and be creative. Try different angles and lighting sources. If you take enough pictures, and try to compose them well, at least a few are bound to be pretty amazing.

Want more tips on taking great smartphone shots? Start here:

[35 Mobile Photography Tips That’ll Help You Take Much Better Smartphone ShotsFrom 500px ISO

Whether you’re interested in cameras, smartphones, photography accessories, or simply more expert advice, think London Drugs and shop in-store or online.



July 21st, 2016

11 GIFS to Prepare you for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

July 31, which is both Harry Potter’s birthday & JK Rowling’s, is also the release date for the newest book: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! (Pre-order it here for the Potter fan in your life)

It’s been 9 long years since the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

And you’re still in love with the series? After all this time?

Great, because it’s a good time to be a Potter fan. There’s a new Harry Potter story coming!

It’s set 19 years later, with grown-up Harry, Ron, & Hermione.

The problem? It’s in the form of a play, which is only playing in London, and tickets are sold out until 2018.

But never fear! The script of the play is going to be available worldwide on July 31.

Wait, what if it sells out? Missing out on the global release would be a disaster.

The solution? Pre-order today. Then it’ll ship ASAP, and arrive at your door.

You’re officially set for the 8th Harry Potter book. You’re welcome.



Preorder Harry Potter and the Cursed Child here.

 



July 19th, 2016

How to Make Your Own Summer Safety Kit

With warm weather comes adventures and activities – but it also brings scrapes, burns, cuts, and bites.

summer safety first aid

You should always have a first aid kit in your home and car, but what about when you’re out and about? You probably already have a lot of these items lying around the house, so take the time to keep your family safe this summer and create your own Summer Safety Kit. This DIY kit will make sure you have everything you need when an inevitable scratch or sting comes your way.

Start with a basic first aid kit. This one includes bandages, antiseptic towelettes, tweezers, scissors, a cold compress, gauze pads, and more great first aid items, like latex gloves. (If you have a latex allergy, non-latex gloves like nitrile should replace the latex.)

summer safety kit for summer fun

But it wouldn’t be a Summer Safety Kit without a few seasonal additions! Here’s what we recommend for every common ailment.

Bugs

Worried about mosquitos or wasps? Remember to always use insect repellant. But if you get bit, Benadryl’s bug bite relief  is compact and will soothe bites instantly. If it’s irritating plants (like poison ivy!) that have you worried, Go Calamine Lotion will temporarily relieve skin irritations, and comes in a handy travel-size bottle.

Burns & Wounds

Don’t let a day at the beach lead to angry red sunburns. Always use sunscreen, and be sure to reapply every 2 hours. But if a burn does happen, we recommend Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gelly.

For cuts and burns, an antibiotic ointment like Polysporin is essential.

Feeling like your first aid kit is getting a bit heavy? Witch hazel is a great option for bug bites, stings, bruises, and sunburns, and can also be used to clean wounds before bandaging. Witch hazel is also said to slow bleeding on minor cuts, so it’s a handy multi-tasking ointment for a summer kit. Another option is tea tree oil, which is an excellent first aid antiseptic.

Aches & Pains

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is a great topical treatment for bruising, sprains, and muscle aches.

It’s a good idea to pack along a few over-the-counter medications. Tylenol, Benadryl, diarrhea relief, Pepto-Bismol, and travel tabs are a good start.

You might like to also have a few cold/hot packs available to soothe sore muscles after a strenuous kayaking, swimming or hiking adventure.

Is that first aid kit getting a little full? A cute makeup bag might be just what you need. What are your favourite summer safety essentials? Let us know in the comments!



July 14th, 2016

10 Outdoor Summer Entertaining Must-Haves

Before planning any backyard, block, pool, or patio parties this summer, consult our list of must-haves for 2016. You can probably do without some of them. But do you really want to?

Backyard Patio Party Tips

L870098110. Solo Cups

No patio party gets started right without the appropriate cups, and Solos are true originals. Sure, you could risk your own glassware. But then you’d also have to wash them afterward.

Plus, sticking on nametags or writing names directly on the cups with permanent marker is a great ice-breaker.

9. An Ice Cream Maker

Automatic and hand-driven versions are available, but an attachment to your current mixer might also work. Either way, the results are extraordinary. You get full control over ice cream or frozen yogurt recipes. Best of all? Prep time is minimal, which beats baking pie from scratch in the summer heat.

8. Mosquito Defenses

Don’t let your garden gala end in muttering, itching, and slaps (of bugs, of course). Short of requiring repellant in the dress code, the best option is to prepare for the oncoming swarm. Electric zappers work great and there are new non-electric versions, too. If you prefer to only keep away from winged tormentors, stick to candles and torches.

Patio Lights7. Patio Lanterns

A great Canadian once said, “Those patio lanterns / they were the stars in the sky. / Those patio lanterns / lighting up our lives.” Indeed, there’s nothing quite like trading a fast fading Canadian sunset for the warm glow of these stringed bobbles.

With so many options, including battery-operated LED lights, now you can be more creative than ever.

6. A Swinging Chair

Having at least one swinging seat provides character, and potentially some extra shelter, to your patio. It gives guests a chance to relax and recharge, as needed. And let’s face it, they’re just plain fun. There are many colours and unique designs, just pre-measure the space to ensure ample room to swing.

Fire Feature5. An Outdoor Heater

These are becoming an increasingly popular accessory, especially for those cooler Canadian nights during late summer. Your options range from functional floor models to restaurant-style overhead heaters.

If you’re especially daring, another fantastic option is one with an open flame.

4. Entertainment

Even if you have a live band, they’ll probably want a break at some point. So a quality portable speaker system is a good investment. Some designs are even cleverly patio optimized. And these days, many can conveniently stream music straight from your smartphone.

3. A Patio Set

Without a great patio set, where will everyone sit? More importantly, where will you put the food? Luckily, we have some great deals on smaller sets at LD. We also have table cloths, folding chairs, and even a folding picnic table.

New BBQ2. A Barbecue

It simply would not be a patio party without the ability to grill long into the night. Depending on the size of your party, you might even need one with over 50,000 BTU.

And don’t forget, barbecuing isn’t just for carnivores anymore. Check out these great vegetarian grilling recipes.

1. Your Family & Friends

Okay, forget everything else. You’ll always have an amazing time as long as you remember to surround yourself with loved ones as often as possible this summer. And really, how could you forget?

Enjoy your summer, Canada.

To stock up for your next patio party, join London Drugs online or at a location near you.



July 12th, 2016

LD Picks: How to Host a Foolproof Barbecue

We all want to impress our friends this season by throwing the best barbeque on the block. Are you looking to show off the latest grill in your backyard, host a friendly competition of lawn bowling between pals, or judge a BBQ sauce showdown at your summer staff party? We can help! Thankfully, these tips will not only offer easy grill cleaning hacks and last minute party planning solutions, but will solidify your status as grill master and foolproof barbecue planner.

Master the art of BBQ sauce

throw a great bbq

Sure, buying pre-made BBQ sauces works in a pinch (Newman’s Own is a trusty favourite – your secret is safe with us), but if you really want to impress your guests, we suggest making your own. BBQ sauce is not as difficult to make as you may think – and the best part? You can tweak it to your taste – add a dash more spice here, a little more sweetness there. A good sauce base is essential in your summer cooking repertoire, so here’s one to try on for size: Basic Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce. With just a few basic ingredients, like brown sugar, cider vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire, and mustard, it’s a simple recipe! Pick up some Cholula Hot Sauce for an extra kick, and don’t be afraid to experiment with the spices in your pantry. We trust you.

[More at The Kitchn]

Utilize your space

throw a great bbq

If you have access to a backyard and have space for a cozy patio lounge, we suggest investing in a good grill. Not only will a 5-Burner allow you to feed a large party, but it can be used even in the off season whenever you get a hankering for a steak or a smokey.

On the other hand, those of us who don’t have access to a patio or balcony often want to host our own barbecues, but simply don’t have space for even a compact grill. This is where a cast iron grill pan will not only satisfy your barbequing needs, but will fit in the smallest of apartments, and can be whipped out at a moment’s notice. A quick tip for ensuring your whole party leaves feeling full: avoid large cuts of meat such as pork shoulder and prime rib as these will take the longest to grill, and take up the most amount of space. You can also bring out your slow cooker to take care of roast veggies when feeding a crowd, or when it gets too warm to turn on your oven.

[More at Shape]

Entertain the masses

throw a great bbq

Who said board games are for kids? Not us! We carry a number of different party games suitable for every BBQ theme – a child’s birthday party, a graduation celebration, an after-work gathering. If there are too many (or not enough) guests to play the games you have on hand, look into grabbing a bocce set. This is perfect for BBQs on the go – if you’re afraid of losing puzzle pieces at the beach and want to kill some time while waiting for your hamburgers to cook, bocce is the answer.

If you want to get a little exercise before chowing down, a badminton kit is also a great option. Keeping it simple? A JENGA! tower and a few friends are all you need.

[More at Apartment Therapy]

Keep it simple with last minute plans

throw a great bbq

Did you invite “a few friends” over for dinner Friday night, just to see a dozen RSVPs in your phone after work? Don’t stress. If time isn’t on your side for this barbecue, with a little help from your friends, you’ll be able to pull off an effortless and minimalist last minute party.

Suggesting a potluck-style barbecue is an immediate life-saver. If you’re able, split up the dishes your pals will bring (appetizer, side, dessert) beforehand so that you only need to worry about the main course. Alternatively, offer up your grill, but have your guests bring their own protein. This way, you can easily cover the starters and sides with a plate of hummus, delicious crackers, and seaweed snacks. For a quick treat that will definitely impress your party, throw some pineapple rings on the grill to go with the meat.

[More at BBC Goodfood]

Plan ahead with quick cleaning hacks

throw a great bbq

Are you hosting a large party and wary of the mess that will undoubtedly follow? Party maintenance should be at the back of your mind when you’re grilling and having fun with your friends and family. The solution? Before your guests arrive, strategically set out a couple of large garbage bags. For any organics and recyclable materials, make sure you have your recycling bin and compost container out and easily accessible. If you want to avoid scrubbing dishes into the night, opt for earth-friendly compostable plates and cutlery. To prevent spreading any sticky sauces or potato salad residue on the furniture, have Wet Ones or another handy antibacterial cloth available at all times.

Of course, one of the most frustrating parts to barbecuing is cleaning the grill post-party. Instead of using foil underneath the grill, try out a reusable barbecue sheet for no-fuss cleaning that also helps reduce waste. Another helpful trick is to use half a raw onion –yes, an onion – dipped in 1 tbsp of oil to rub away grit and nicely season your BBQ for the rest of the summer.

[More at Dad What’s 4 Dinner]

Splurge on some cool grilling gadgets

throw a great bbq

Nothing beats a traditional barbecue like showing off the latest and greatest in non-traditional gadgets. A burger press creates the perfect patty while you cook up some veggies in a grill pan. Want to ensure your steak is seared to absolute perfection? Try an instant-read thermometer to differentiate between medium rare and well done. If you’re a real stickler for sauce, indulge in a cast iron sauce pan that you can use on the grill or on the stovetop.

These also make great presents for the grill jedis in your life, even if all you need are the bare bones grilling essentials. So if you’re in the mood to treat yourself and add a little sparkle to the grill, or if you just can’t part with your tried and true grilling tools, we’ve got you covered for the rest of the BBQ season.

[More at Health]



July 11th, 2016

Printing Pictures is Easy with the Photolab iOS App

Photolab_App_BlogHeader

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 3.00.52 PMEver taken a picture with your phone or tablet and wished it was easier to have it professionally printed? Yeah. Us, too.

That’s why London Drugs is proud to announce our exciting new Photolab iOS app for iPhone and iPad. It’s free and lets you order prints of all your photos at the touch of a finger.

Don’t worry Android users, we’re also creating a version for you. We’ll announce the release date as soon as we can.

Photolab iOS appPhotolab App Details:

You can pay for prints in-app or in-store and choose between delivery or pick-up at an LD location.

Select from any size of print offered at LD, including enlargements and fine art prints. You can even add borders.

If you already use our Photolab website to order prints online, you can sign into your existing Photolab Account and place orders from your Collections.

If not, sign-up is quick and simple.

Get it Now:

The Photolab app became available from Apple’s App Store on July 5, 2016. So it’s still pretty new.

Expect more amazing features and updates coming soon.

In the meantime, we’d love your feedback: ldonline@londondrugs.com

 



July 9th, 2016

The Ultimate How-To Guide for Surviving a Canadian Summer

Canadian summers are short, causing our great annual migration outdoors. Whether camping, canoeing, or chilling on patios and in parks, Canadians are incredibly active during summer. But there are many hazards to avoid. Luckily, LD takes care of that with solutions to carry you comfortably into September.

Canadian Summer

Seton Lake in Lillooet, B.C., Canada.

1. Avoid a #SunscreenFail

When exposing long-covered skin, most Canadians remember sunscreen. But are you wearing it right? The experts insist on broad-spectrum, SPF30 if spending all day in the sun. But also be sure to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before leaving shelter—allowing it time to take effect. And don’t forget to reapply periodically, especially after swimming.

 

[More at Canadian Cancer Society]

* * *

2. Exercise Smarter, Not Harder

During summer heat waves, many Canadians are tempted to get right out there and start sweating like crazy.

If that’s you, remember these tips. Hydration is key, so mind your electrolytes. Breathable, light-coloured clothing is best. And it’s especially wise to run, jog, bike, and hike on shaded trails whenever possible.

Most of all, listen to your body. If you’re feeling woozy or at all faint, just stop. Really. Stop.

[More at Active]

* * *

3. Remember to Eat Well


The point of eating healthy all spring is to look good for the beach during summertime. But then it’s time to ditch the diet, right? Wrong. Eating more treats, like ice cream and sugary drinks, as well as having later meals at night, may be inevitable. But don’t forget to fit in all your servings of fruit and veg.

You can throw everything from peppers to squash right on the grill. Best of all, fresh produce is most affordable during summer.

[More at The Health Site]

* * *

4. Keep Toddlers & Pets Safe


This is clearly a year-round priority, but summer poses unique challenges. Give young kids hats with 360° brims for full shade coverage. (Then try your best to keep the hats on their heads.) Also, give them a feel now and again. If children are overheating, they may not say so. Or even know it.

And your pets? For pooch’s sake, crack your car windows, and those at home too, whenever you’re gone. Making sure your fur babies have access to lots of water is also a good idea.

* * *

5. Beat Back the Bugs

Don’t let mosquitoes, wasps, and black flies ruin your summer fun. If you’reCanadian Summer camping, apply plenty of bug repellent, ideally one containing DEET. There are other effective options, too. Whichever you choose, remember to cover up at night or stay close to the fire.

Also available: Amazing new bug “zappers”  that don’t even require electricity.

As for wasps, there’s always the trusty pop bottle trick. Just be careful to avoid harming honey bees. They’re helpful and rarely sting.



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