• 9 things I learned at the Jessops Academy

    by  • September 25, 2014 • 0 Comments

    Jessops are back, and running some excellent photography courses in six branches across the country. I tried the DSLR Level 1 course this week, and while I probably won’t be booked for Cara Delevingne’s next photo shoot, I did pick up some tricks and tips that you might find useful.

    Fancy having a go yourself? Prices start from £119 and you can click here to learn more.

    1. Before you use a DSLR camera for the first time, locate the ‘eye diopter’ – a small dial next to the viewfinder. Turn it until the numbers that appear in the viewfinder are sharp – then whenever you look through it, you’ll always know your photo is in focus.

    EYE DIOPTER | JESSOPS ACADEMY | girlabouttech.com

    2. Always use your dominant eye to look through the viewfinder. To work out which eye this is, hold your finger out in front of you, then try to focus on an object beyond it. Close one eye and then the other. Does the object seem to ‘jump’? If it DOESN’T, you’re using your dominant eye.

    3. There are three key things to consider before taking a photo – the ISO, the shutter speed and the aperture.

    4. To take a close-up picture of an object or person with an arty blurred background, put your camera into Aperture Priority mode – usually denoted by A, or Av. Now set the f-stop to a small number – say f1.8. This means your aperture will be wide – in other words, you’re creating a big hole that lets lots of light into the camera. This creates a shallow ‘depth of field’, so it the camera makes things in the foreground look sharp, but the background blurry.

    APERTURE PRIORITY | JESSOPS ACADEMY | girlabouttech.com

    In the image on the left, the f-stop is f5.6 – on the right, it’s f16. The latter creates a wider depth of field so that more is in focus, and is the way to go if you’re shooting a landscape.

    5. Changing the shutter speed – measured in seconds – helps when you’re photographing moving objects. To capture something – or someone – moving fast and make them look as though they are still, the shutter speed should be at a fast setting.SHUTTER PRIORITY | JESSOPS ACADEMY | girlabouttech.com

    These shots of a water balloon bursting and my instructor Ian jumping were taken in Shutter Priority mode, denoted by S or, for Canon cameras, Tv. The speed was set at 1/500 of a second, and I put the camera in burst mode, so it was continuously taking shots to give me a better chance of capturing the moment.

    6. If you’re photographing fireworks, time how long it takes for them to burst, then set the shutter speed to the same time – so if it takes two seconds, set the speed to two seconds.

    7. For more interesting shots, use the ‘Rule of Thirds’ when framing it up by dividing your composition with an imaginary grid of nine equally sized boxes. Striking features – such as a person’s eyes – should fall where the lines intersect. If you’re taking a picture of a horizon, line it up along the top third or bottom third of the photo, rather than have it run dead centre.

    8. Always focus on the eyes when taking portraits. Many of us simply aim in the general direction of the face, then find the nose is in focus, but not the eyes! Also try to frame your subject off centre, so it doesn’t look like a mug shot!

    9. Finally, try this. In a darkish room, set your camera’s ISO to 200, then go into Shutter Priority Mode and set it to four seconds. Now focus, then get a friend to spell out a word in front of you using the torch on their smartphone. The result should resemble something like this…

    LIGHT TRICK | JESSOPS ACADEMY | girlabouttech.com

    For more tips, check out my post on How to Take Better Photos.

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    Bose goes barmy for Bluetooth!

    by  • September 17, 2014 • 0 Comments

    Bose have launched not one but two new Bluetooth products this week, the scamps. Let’s have a look, shall we?

    SOUNDLINK COLOUR BLUETOOTH SPEAKER | BOSE | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    These Soundlink Colour Bluetooth speakers cost £119.95 each and are handy size, measuring H13.5cm x W12.8cm x D5.3cm. They’re also intended to be quite base-led in sound, because in case you haven’t guessed from the vibrant colours, they’re all about having Fun with a capital F.

    Next up we have some cordless headphones that you can hook up to your smartphone or tablet or laptop or whatever with Bluetooth.

    SOUNDLINK BLUETOOTH ON-EAR HEADPHONES | BOSE | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    Known as the Soundlink On-Ear Bluetooth headphones, they’ll set you back £219.95, but come with some rather snazzy features. Like the special ‘two-mic system’ that can compensate for the noise of the wind so you can have clear phone conversations even when it’s blowing a gale.

    They also connect up to two devices at a time and let you switch between each, so you can watch TV on your tablet, but then easily answer a call on your smartphone. Simple voice prompts identify who’s calling and tell if you have a low battery, and there are controls on the earcups for turning your headphones on and off, answering and ending a call, adjusting the volume, and  playing or pausing tracks.

    The sound from them is smoother and less base-led than the Colour speakers, and they will give 15 hours of listening on a single charge. Or, if you’re short of time, charge them for 15 minutes and they’ll last for up to two hours. You can buy them now here.

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    6 things you need to know about the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

    by  • September 10, 2014 • 0 Comments

    IPHONE 6 | IPHONE 6 PLUS | APPLE | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    1. They’re bigger.
    Apple fans where hoping for a larger iPhone display… and that’s exactly what they’ve got. The iPhone 5 had a 4in screen, whereas the new iPhone 6 boasts a 4.7in screen, and there’s a 5.5in display on the iPhone 6 Plus. This brings them in line with competitors like the 5.5in LG G3, the 5in HTC One (M8), the 5.1in Samsung Galaxy S5 and the 5.7in Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

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    4 appliances that blew my mind at IFA 2014

    by  • September 9, 2014 • 0 Comments

    INDUCTION-HOB-WITH-3D-GRILL-_-PANASONIC-_-IFA-2014-_-GIRL-ABOUT-TECH

    1. Panasonic’s induction hob concept
    Prepare to be amazed! Though it’s still a prototype, this induction hob doubles as a power unit, so you can place small appliances on it and they will work without you having to plug them in. Panasonic demoed this technology at IFA 2014 with a blender, a 3D grill (above right) that cooks both sides of the food at once, and a self-stirring cooking pot that uses electromagnetism to rotate a small spatula. Let’s hope it’s not a flash in the pan…

    Chef Collection dishwasher | Samsung | IFA 2014 | Girl About Tech

    2. Samsung’s game-changing dishwasher
    Next, we have a product that is coming to market – in October, to be exact – and it’s a true innovation in dishwashing. Part of Samsung’s posh new Chef Collection appliance line-up, it’s the first model to ditch the traditional rotary spray arm that flings out water like a whirling dervish.

    Instead, it’s got a bar of powerful vertical water jets, which moves back and forth along the bottom of the machine. This ‘WaterWall’ gives a corner-to-corner clean, and there’s a Zone Booster, so that you can place your dirtiest dishes on one side of the dishwasher and blast them with a more powerful spray. No price has been given yet, but I don’t expect it to be cheap, especially not with that smart steel trim.

    S100 SMART WINDOWS FRIDGE FREEZER | HAIER | IFA 2014 | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    3. Haier’s see-through fridge freezer
    The S100 ‘Smart Windows’ fridge freezer has a nifty panel in the fridge door, which switches from opaque to transparent when you get close to it. So rather than open the door to check whether you’ve got the right ingredients for tonight’s dinner – and let all that cold air out, wasting energy – you can just gaze through the glass.

    The Smart doesn’t end there. The fridge freezer is Wi-Fi connected so you can control its temperatures, alarm and so on using an app on your phone or tablet, and it will alert the Haier after-sales team if a fault is detected.

    Like Samsung’s Food ShowCase model, the fridge also has two layers of doors. Open the first to grab your favourite drinks and snacks from easy-reach sections in front of you, while the rest of your food stays nice and cool behind a second door.

    APP CONTROLLED OVEN | AEG | PANASONIC | IFA 2014 | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    4. Panasonic and AEG’s Smart ovens
    Apologies for the terrible images here people, but in case you can’t tell, these two prototype ovens by AEG (left) and Panasonic (right) can both be controlled by an app. They even have a camera built in, so you can get a live view of your food as its cooking, and get alerts when it’s done. Think your chicken needs another five minutes? Don’t worry about getting up. Just check the live view, adjust the timer, and relax…

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    Berlin calling… my IFA 2014 preview

    by  • September 2, 2014 • 0 Comments

    IFA 2014 PREVIEW | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    Comfortable shoes. A spare-spare phone charger. A decent camera and a memory card cleared of holiday snaps, dodgy or otherwise. At least two European plug adaptors. Laptop. Underwear. Toothbrush. Last-minute packing for Europe’s biggest tech show is a lot like playing The Generation Game, without the fondue set or cuddly toy. But tomorrow’s 5am start will be worth it, I’m sure, for all the lovely tech I’ll see at Europe’s largest technology fair, the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (better known as IFA).

    So what will be the star of this year’s show? Here are a few of the contenders…

    SAMSUNG GEAR S | ACER SMARTWATCH | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    Remember this from last year? Well IFA 2014 launches will include, from left, the Samsung Gear S smartwatch, £TBA, and Liquid Leap, £79.99 from Acer. While the latter pairs with the new Acer Liquid Jade smartphone, Samsung’s new device has its own 3G connection. That means you can use it to browse the internet, send and receive text message and make calls in its own right, just like Dick Tracy or Captain Kirk.

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    Pure Pop: it’s the radio you’ve always wanted

    by  • August 29, 2014 • 0 Comments

    POP MIDI RADIO | PURE | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    Simple operation? Check. Great sound. You betcha! Not too big? Absolutely. Built-in Bluetooth so you can use it as a wireless speaker? If you like. It’s as if this radio were made for you (starts dooby-do’ing theme to The TwiLight Zone)… but it’s no coincidence, as Pure’s Pop range has been designed around feedback from you, Ms or Mr Consumer.

    So called because you turn it on and off by ‘popping’ the big button on the top, the Pop will always revert to the last station you were listening to, and at the same sound level, too. Said button doubles as a volume control, and you can search for both digital and FM channels using the smaller tuning buttons.

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    Friday Find: Panasonic’s built-in ovens and induction hobs

    by  • August 22, 2014 • 0 Comments

    BUILT-IN OVEN AND INDUCTION HOB | PANASONIC | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    I know. Stunning, aren’t they? Panasonic certainly wasn’t messing around when it came to designing the new additions to its built-in appliance range. They don’t just look the part, either – the new induction hobs and built-in single ovens (there are two of each) are chock full of features to help you achieve culinary perfection – or at least turn out a passable Sunday roast.

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    Great British Bake-Off appliances: Class of 2014

    by  • August 19, 2014 • 1 Comment

    SLIDE AND HIDE SINGLE OVEN | NEFF | GBBO | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    An Alpine village – complete with ski lift – made of biscuits. Controversy surrounding whether to score a Swiss roll or not. An ice cream cone declared by Sue Perkins as having ‘all of the fun and none of the typhoid’. It can only mean the return of the Great British Bake Off.

    I’ve drawn ‘Stormin’ Norman Calder in the Ideal Home sweepstake, and things initially looked promising, with some ‘scrumptious’ mini cakes and perfect farthing biscuits. But he clearly didn’t have his lucky spoon with him when his showstopper based on a single variety of shortbread left him in danger of being Baked Off. Let’s hope Paul Hollywood’s straight talking and icy stare will encourage him to ‘raise’ his game in time for Bread Week.

    Anyway, to satisfy any GBBO cravings between shows, I’ve compiled a list of the star gadgets used by this year’s baker’s dozen. Thanks to the lovely Jen Owen and Emma Jackson for providing the cute cupcake illustrations!

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    Friday Find: BeoPlay H6 headphones

    by  • August 8, 2014 • 0 Comments

    BEOPLAY H6 OVER-EAR HEADPHONES | Bang Olufsen | Girl About Tech

    What are they? BeoPlay H6 over-ear headphones, £329, Bang & Olufsen
    Why I love them: I do like a pair of over-ear headphones – they sit around your auricles (the flappy bits), enveloping you in sound and making sure your neighbours can’t hear any especially guilty pleasures. And because they can incorporate larger, quality speakers, they’re perfect for using at home with top-quality hi-fi equipment.

    These rather shiny examples have been designed by a chap called Jakob Wagner for Scandi audio experts Bang & Olufsen, and come in Blue Stone, Bronzed Hazel and Graphite Blush real-metal colourways, all complemented by a leather headband that makes them lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day. And as you’d expect from B&O (and that price tag), they sound as good as they look.

    They’re available shortly with a free three-year warranty at the Apple store.

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    How To: take better photos

    by  • August 3, 2014 • 0 Comments

    Are you packing a camera in your holiday suitcase, or just planning to rely on your tablet or smartphone? Either way, I have some great tips to help you get brilliant summer snaps…

    1. Work to a theme It could be a person, a colour, physical things such as ‘doorways’ or ‘signs’, or something more ‘arty’ – say, examples of nature clashing with the urban sprawl. You could snap plants growing up through cracks in the pavement, or trees juxtaposed against modern buildings. When you display all your shots together, it will have a more professional impact.

    TZ55 COMPACT CAMERA | PANASONIC | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    Girl About Tech recommends: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ55, £200, John Lewis
    Use this camera’s One Point Colour mode, so as you’re taking your shot you can highlight one colour (for example red) and then capture everything else in black and white. It’s great way to take photos with a coherent theme.

    2. Get in the right position Move around and try different angles to get the best background, avoiding any bright colours or busy patterns that could distract from your subject. Use a mixture of portrait and landscape styles to create interesting images and hold the camera above your head or low to the ground as well to create different pictures. It might help if your camera has a movable screen so you can do this and still frame up your shot accurately, such as the TZ55 (above) or the Olympus PEN E-PL5 with interchangeable lenses, £325.

    3. Be at their eye level ’There’s a reason why people’s eyes are referred to as the “windows to the soul”,’ says Canon photography expert David Parry. ’They’re the most important part of a portrait, so it’s important to focus carefully on them. If you’re photographing babies or children, get yourself on eye level with them for a more engaging and natural picture.’

    4. Zoom in It will blur out the background, so your subject stands out.

    5. Don’t use the flash unless it’s really dark. Try to get by without it and you’ll be rewarded with much more flattering images without a ‘red eye’ effect. It is trickier to shoot without a flash in low light, as with less light entering the camera, the slightest wobble to make for a blurry shot, but a camera or smartphone with a good Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) system will help with this. You could also think about getting a small tripod for your camera to help hold it steady.

    NOKIA LUMIA 1020 | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    Girl About Tech recommends: Lumia 1020, £400, Nokia
    Simply the best camera you’ll find on a smartphone, with a full OIS system that uses ball bearings and magnets to compensate for your shaky hands, so you won’t get blurry shots. The 41MP sensor delivers incredibly detailed shots, and you can adjust the focus, shutter speed, exposure, ISO and white balance like a pro with the Nokia Pro Camera app.

    6. Avoid direct sunlight. You’ll get more attractive pictures if shoot in the shade – the light is less harsh and no one will be squinting.

    7. Hone your skills with an app Canon and Nikon both have ‘companion apps’ primarily designed to introduce you to the settings of particular models and teach you how to use them. But even if you don’t have the kit, they are still worth downloading, as they’re full of tips for photographers of every level – for example, if you slow down the shutter speed of a camera, you can get some fantastic out-of-focus shots of cars, buses, bikes, lights and people as they whizz along.

    1200D DSLR CAMERA | CANON | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    Girl About Tech recommends: 1200D with 18-55mm lens, £350, Canon
    Download the dedicated app to get the most out of this affordable DSLR. It features some great video tutorials and step-by-step exercises.

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    Friday Find: Dualit hand stick blender

    by  • August 1, 2014 • 0 Comments

    HAND BLENDER SET | DUALIT | GIRL ABOUT TECH

    What is it? Hand blender set, £80, Dualit
    Why I love it: As I’ve said before, I’m not the greatest cook in the world, but I’ve decided that needs to change – mostly because I can’t bare the idea of Boy About Tech taking all the glory at every dinner party we’ll ever hold. Apparently, there’s only so much praise you can receive for picking some snazzy napkins…

    Anyway, I think this updated Dualit hand blender might be the perfect helping hand I need, especially after watching it being expertly demoed by Monica Galetti of Le Gavroche and Professional Masterchef fame when she visited Ideal Home HQ a couple of weeks ago. Here are some of her (and my) favourite features:

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