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7 camera hacks to improve your photos

Tips shared through a weekend adventure

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Weekends are sacred. It’s a short amount of time to recuperate, relax, and take care of yourself. You can have some alone time, hang out with your loved ones, or do something fun for the first time. In other words, weekends are a time to enjoy life.

Like every normal person, I hardly ever wake up early during the weekends. I take the time to savor my bed and watch the day unfold. But when it’s time to get moving, I get up and prepare to start my day.

Before anything else, I take a 15-minute swim. It’s a quick exercise to jumpstart your day and refresh your mind from the lingering thoughts while you’re in bed.

Of course, I wouldn’t jump in a pool without taking a photo to post on social media. Luckily, I have a wide-angle camera to use so I can capture the place’s wonder.

Pro tip: Try taking wide-angle shots from a worm’s eye view to make it look like the world is big and exciting.

Not wanting to spend a lot of time on social media, I don’t edit my photos anymore and upload it as is, seeing the vibrancy and saturation of colors are lively enough to give justice to how beautiful the place is. But if you’re going to edit your photos, you can never go wrong with VSCO or Adobe Lightroom.

Weekends give us ample time to rest. When you take advantage of that opportunity, you’ll feel relaxed and consequently, you’ll look good in every photo. That’s why I couldn’t help but take a selfie first before diving in.

Pro tip: Use the camera’s timer and place your smartphone somewhere it can stand, probably a rock or something sturdy. Make sure it has a protective case to prevent scratches or other damages. Lastly, make sure a towel is nearby so you can dry your fingers before touching your phone’s screen.

After an hour of preparation and travel, I went to Makati’s Central Business District. I once saw a post showing how beautiful Makati was during a holiday. There were only a few people and cars passing by.

It gave me the idea to visit it on a weekend knowing the place won’t be as busy as it usually is. I have to say it’s a pleasant experience to enjoy the city on a weekend. The atmosphere was a bit gloomy but it’s fun taking photos while going around.

Pro tip: Make sure to activate HDR to brighten scenes that are unusually dark and against the light.

Ayala Triangle Gardens is a nice spot to walk around and take photos. People are just frolicking, hanging out with their friends, playing Pokemon Go and other mobile games while you hear them chanting and screaming after every win. Some pass by and some sit still, enjoying a patch of nature amid the concrete city.

Considering how limited weekends are, I tried to squeeze in a lot of activities. I feel more rejuvenated when I do a lot of things. This weekend, I tried to host my own surprise party for my birthday celebration.

My friends knew how extra I am in life and in everything I do, and they aren’t allowed to do anything but follow my wishes. While my friends set up the booze and games that we can play at night, I sit down and marvel at the peace this park brings.

Here’s the view behind the park’s entrance. Even when the skies aren’t blue and the city was enveloped in a moody atmosphere, the place was still beautiful.

Of course, I love selfies. Eighty percent of my gallery is comprised of selfies in different angles and lighting conditions.

Pro tip: Don’t be saddened by cloudy skies, take advantage of them. Without the sun’s harsh lighting, your selfies will look balanced since the clouds act as a diffuser. If the photo looks a little bit dark, use light-colored places to bounce light.

Smartphone cameras with built-in filters are a nice thing to have. It adds drama and gives the photo a personality. For quick stories you share, use any social media or camera app’s built-in filter. We spend a lot of time editing our photos only for it to disappear after 24 hours. How about putting that time to better use such as improving your skills in smartphone photography?

As I walked around Ayala Avenue, I passed by this covered sidewalk. Hurrying to visit my favorite coffee shop in Makati, I quickly snapped this photo only to realize it could’ve been better if I stood still and took my time to frame it perfectly.

Pro tip: Find your focal point and utilize leading lines to add perspective. This can be further highlighted by using a wide-angle camera to accentuate the elements. Don’t forget to use filters to set the mood!

Ayala’s underpass is beautiful on a weekend. I was able to magnify its beauty as if it was a scene taken out of a movie, thanks to the wide-angle feature.

One thing I always do when I’m in an escalator is to look up. Few people realize how gorgeous those ceilings are, forgetting the little details in a city’s architecture.

Pro tip: Adding shadows in your photos create a dramatic effect and adds a lot of depth. You don’t have to use HDR all the time.

Since my favorite coffee shop was closed, I went to Starbucks instead and enjoyed a cup of Teavana.

Pro tip: Use glass windows as a background when you use the portrait bokeh mode. It helps with the blurring and it adds more depth.

When I went back to the unit, I was surprised to see my friends prepared. I was only expecting some booze and games, but there was a lot more. Thankfully, the place was spacious enough otherwise I would have had to ask them to compress and use the wide-angle feature once more.

My heart was warm. There was pizza!

Pro tip: Stay away from doing flat lays when there’s a limited source of light. Chances are your shadow will ruin the image. Wide-angles are still a no since the distortion will disrupt the flat lay unless you’re planning on cropping the center part.

Photo-ops are a must for any celebration. Hence, I set up the Vivo Y17 on a timer and asked my friends to compress. Without the wide-angle, we were able to fit in. I’m glad that there are a lot of camera modes to use in different situations.

In celebrating my birthday, I opted to put down my phone and be in the moment. Life doesn’t always have to be uploaded on social media. Sometimes, the best memories are those unrecorded.


This feature was produced in a collaboration between GadgetMatch and Vivo Philippines.

Editors' Choice

Best of 2019: Our favorite smartphones

So many choices, so we narrowed them down for you

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There’s really not one best smartphone. We all have different needs and thankfully, the options that brands give us is not lacking at all. Whether your priority is photography, gaming, or just something basic, there is definitely a smartphone for you.

Here are our favorites.

Best smartphones for photography: iPhone 11 Pro, Pixel 4

How good are the cameras? That’s always a topic of conversation when new phones are released. While other brands have made huge strides, the iPhone 11 Pro and the Pixel 4 continue to dominate this category. The iPhone is a no-brainer choice for most people. Consistency is key and Apple has been pretty much consistent with the cameras on the iPhone.

Meanwhile, Google’s computational photography on the Pixel 4 continues to wow reviewers and casual users. Like the iPhone, the Pixel has consistently been one of the best in this category and it appears it will continue to be in the foreseeable future.

Honorable mentions: Huawei Mate 30 Pro, Huawei P30 Pro

Best Android flagship: Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Galaxy Note 10+

While the S Pen continues to set the Galaxy Note 10 series apart, the latest iteration of this Samsung flagship does so many other things at a high level as well. It is still a smartphone that’s literally for anyone, especially with the Galaxy Note 10 being made for people with smaller hands. Audio enthusiasts will lament the lack of a headphone jack for HiFi audio but more casual users are buying wireless earphones for their devices.

Honorable Mentions: OnePlus 7T Pro, Huawei P30 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S10+

Best implementation of a foldable display: Motorola razr

While the Samsung Galaxy Fold dominated this year’s headlines — and not always for the best reasons, it was the Motorola razr that showed us that while it’s notable to be the first, it’s more important to be the first to get it right. The new razr is a buzzer beater entry in this category but it’s also a slam dunk. The device, at launch, just works. No creases, no displays you can tear off, and no threat of software support being banned.

Best smartphone with a 64MP camera: Realme XT

The only two other phones in this category are the Redmi Note 8 Pro and the Vivo NEX 3. We think that of the three, the Realme XT offers the best value. You see, other than the megapixel count, what sets smartphone cameras apart is the phone’s post-processing. The Realme XT consistently produces images with great detail and fantastic color reproduction. It doesn’t hurt that the phone’s white variant looks pretty good too.

Best value smartphone: Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro (Redmi K20 Pro) 

This is 2019’s flagship killer. Not only is it equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 that’s present in most flagships today, it also has a modern all-screen design with a pop-up camera plus its rear cameras more than holds its own against phones that are similarly priced. But the price, that’s where this phone truly sets itself apart. For less than half of most flagships today, you get very near-flagship performance. There’s almost nothing else like it.

Honorable Mentions: OnePlus 7T, Realme 5 Pro

Best budget smartphone: Realme 5

Realme broke out in 2019 like no other brand. They’ve strengthened their foothold in key developing markets by launching devices that punch above their weight class. The Realme 5 is one such device. As one of the few budget smartphones with a quad-camera setup and is capable of basic gaming, it’s a well-rounded device and is perfect for anyone looking to get their first smartphone.

Honorable Mentions: Redmi Note 8, Samsung Galaxy A20s

Best smartphones for videography: iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max 

iPhones have been far and away the best smartphones for taking videos for a while now. The same is true in 2019. The iPhone 11 series has put even more emphasis on the cameras and just took what it was already good at and just became better at it. No one’s touching the iPhone in this category but the challengers have been gaining on them.

Honorable mentions: Huawei Mate 30 Pro, Huawei P30 Pro, OPPO Reno2, Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

Best gaming smartphone: ROG Phone 2

It’s not even about the accessories. Yes, those are cool, but what really makes this a gaming smartphone is its design. We’re not just talking about how it looks. Design should always be how form and function come together. The ROG Phone 2’s features and little touches here and there like the second usb-c port for charging, the flat display, the front-firing speakers — these are all design decisions that address a mobile gamer’s needs. It’s extremely thoughtful of its target market.

Best Android smartphone without Google Mobile Services: Huawei Mate 30 Pro 

Heh. Sorry Huawei, we just had to. ✌

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Hands-On

Motorola razr Hands-On

The popular RAZR is back!

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The new Motorola razr is a modern version of the popular RAZR V3. It still has a sleek design, but now has a 6.2-inch Flex Display with a perfectly executed zero-gap hinge.

It runs on Snapdragon 710 chipset, 6GB RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 2510 mAh battery with 15W TurboPower charger right out of the box.

But does all of that justify the $1499 price tag?

This is our Motorola razr hands-on.

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Lifestyle

I was in Facebook jail for 24 Hours

Banned unjustly without any chance to appeal

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It was a lazy Friday morning when I woke up to a 9GAG article. Chuckling on its narrative, I saved the article in hopes of reading it later again so I can decide if I will share it with a close friend of mine. However, saving the article meant posting and sharing it, according to Facebook. I was given a warning for violating their community guidelines.

Shocked and confused, I unsaved the link. To find out if it’s the real culprit, I saved the link once again and then boom! I was banned from posting, liking, and engaging in any posts on Facebook.

At first, I thought the ban would only affect my profile. Little did I know, the ban would extend to the pages I handle. I couldn’t post, not even the scheduled posts I prepared for the day were posted. It affected my job as a social media manager.

Locked up and grounded

Que horror, the only word I uttered after realizing I screwed up. I asked someone to cover for my work while I channel my frustrations on Twitter and Reddit. Mindlessly, I scrolled through Instagram and I repeatedly had the urge to switch apps and browse on Facebook so I can share memes, just like what I would do on a normal day.

“They know everything, they can see what’s happening, but they just can’t tell the world the situation they’re in.”

However, I couldn’t handle it anymore. Not being able to share or at least react, I felt disconnected from everyone. To free myself from the negative feelings circulating inside, I uninstalled Facebook and did the rest of my work for the day.

For 24 hours, I was impatiently waiting to get my ban lifted. Being in Facebook jail didn’t feel like being cut-off from the world, but it was more like being grounded. It’s like my parents decided to stop me from seeing and contacting my friends just because I sneaked out of the house past 10pm.

But more importantly, being in Facebook jail made me reminisce the prison life in the TV series I used to watch. How people — both criminals and victims of injustice alike — band together in a different, locked-up space, watching the world outside prison quietly. They know everything, they can see what’s happening, but they just couldn’t tell the world the situation they’re in.

Why me?

To make it through the day, I casually searched for people who experienced the same situation — unjustly banned for using a feature that isn’t directly hurting anyone. If I would have said something explicit or any form of hate speech, I would understand. But I didn’t.

“Facebook is just an authoritarian organization doomed for failure.”

If the article I wanted to save and read for later was violating the platform’s nudity policy, then why was 9GAG not reprimanded for posting it at all? Why did it have to be me? Up until today, I still can’t fathom the reason. Not even on Facebook’s useless Help center. It was reading stories that shared the same fate as I did that made me feel better. They made me feel that I’m not alone. “I’ll get through this,” was what I told myself.

It’s funny how being connected through the world’s largest social media platform made it both a good and a bad thing for everyone. It’s good in a way that Facebook helped us maintain the connection and relationships despite the distance. It’s bad in a way that we depend on Facebook to get updates from people through the posts they share and the stuff that goes viral; that we need to stay online and check on everyone through our news feed just so we don’t miss anything that might be discussed in real life.

What I learned

The ban was lifted after what felt like forever and I learned my lesson. It’s like being given a second lease on life. But what I learned, first and foremost, is to never use Facebook’s save feature. Without any strict, proper guidelines on what constitutes a ban according to their policies, Facebook is just an authoritarian organization doomed for failure — a dictator deciding what to censor without any justifications or proper explanations.

Of course, it’s their platform. They can do whatever they want with it, but Facebook is more than a platform. It’s a whole new way of connecting with everyone around the world. A lot of realizations dawned on me through this incident, and there is one more lesson to learn here: Life without Facebook can be a good one, too. One where we rely on real, physical, and intimate connections. One where we only catch up with the people that truly matter.

Now I know what people feel like when they claim they have found freedom after deleting their Facebook accounts. I’m still far from deleting my account, but slowly, I’ll figure it out. Maybe, for now, what I can do is step away and disconnect, and live a day or two without social media.

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