How to take family photos like a pro – Walmart Live Better

As seen in Spring 2013 edition of Walmart Live Better magazine, available FREE from your local Walmart Supercentre.

Camera Tips - Walmart Live BetterFor taking snapshots of your kids at the park, or sneaking a sweet pic of your tot at her first day of preschool, the camera built into your mobile phone will get the job done.

But if you’re looking to boost the quality of your family photos, a “real” camera is the way to go. With dozens of different kinds of cameras on the market today, though, it’s easy to get lost in the photography aisles. So here are tips for finding the perfect camera to fit your lifestyle, budget and picture-taking needs.

Choosing the right camera for you

Do you want to keep a small camera in your handbag so it’s at the ready for your kids’ next adorable moment? Look at point-and-shoot models like the Nikon COOLPIX L610 ($208). These foolproof cameras allow you to capture higher-quality images while letting you explore your photographic creativity.

If you’re a budding photographer looking for something more high-end, try out a DSLR camera like the Canon Rebel T2i ($536). This style of camera is the kind professionals use, and they are typically larger, heavier and pricier.

Or does your photographic style fall somewhere in the middle? Mirrorless cameras (also called micro 4/3 cameras) offer many of the features seen in DSLRs, but they’re less expensive and more compact.

Making your snaps look professional

Sure, taking a picture is as easy as pushing a button, but if you want quality photos you’ll be proud to display, take a quick minute to set up each shot before you snap. Where is the light coming from? You never want to take a photo with a sunny window in the background – your kids and their puppy will appear as faceless silhouettes. Instead, find natural light and use it to your advantage – place your subjects so they’re facing the light, and turn off your flash. For best results, take pictures at eye level with your subjects, rather than looking down or up at them. If you’re trying to capture snaps of your busy toddler, get down to her level, and use a tripod if you need help to keep the camera steady.

Using special settings

With digital photography, you can take as many pictures as you want without wasting film – all you need is a good-sized memory card. Many cameras allow you to set a continuous shooting mode where you can hold down the shutter button to capture multiple images – perfect when you’re shooting hockey games or dance recitals (you can always delete any bad shots). Flip through your camera’s manual and you’ll find many modes to suit your needs. Experiment with them!

Sharing and saving

You’ve taken thousands of priceless photos on your digital camera…. Now what? You’ll probably want to upload them for safe storage, print some hard copies as keepsakes, as well as share them with friends and family on your favourite social media networks. Secure Ditigal, or SD, cards let you upload securely to the web. The 32GB Lexar High Speed SD card ($36.98) slides right into your camera’s SD memory card slots and can be programmed to connect to your Wi-Fi network. Once connected, the card will automatically set your privacy settings and send photos to your predetermined social media sites.

A high-quality memory card is an easy way to minimize the chance of losing your precious photos and corrupting files. Depending on how much you plan on spending, you can purchase a variety of “class cards.” As a rule of thumb, the higher the class, the higher the quality of the memory card. If you are simply capturing photos, a low- to mid-class memory card will do. If you are also capturing hours of HD video alongside photos on a digital camera, invest in a higher-quality memory card that will allow you to record video at a much higher speed.

Creating backup copies is the best way to preserve your photo memories. Walmart PhotoCentre offers secure, free storage of your digital images. So if you lose your computer, or your hard drive gets fried, your photos will still be safe. Plus, you can access your photos anytime through your mobile phone using the free app.

Get in the picture, mom!

Flip through your photo albums or digital files and you’ll probably notice there aren’t too many shots of you with the family – the photographer misses out on being in the picture. To put yourself in more pics, we recommend a GorillaPod by Joby ($51). It’s a tripod with flexible legs that bend around any object and adjust to any height you need, while keeping your camera steady. Set a self- timer, then jump into the picture.

Photo gifts

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, skip the box of chocolates and consider a personalized gift from the Walmart PhotoCentre that will let the moms in your life know you’re thinking about them on their special day. The best part? Many gifts (including mugs and photo canvases) can be printed in an hour.

There’s an app for that!

Using the Walmart Photo Prints app (available for iOS devices), you can order your favourite photos for print and pickup from the comfort of your smartphone via your Walmart PhotoCentre account – perfect if you’re looking for last-minute gift ideas.

Repost from Walmart Live Better magazine

Last-minute gifts for the tech lover – Toronto Star

Apple iPad mini, starting from $329.99, at Apple retailers or

Ideal for: Whiz kids who want the newest tech toy to working professionals who need to stay on top of emails. The small form-factor (it has a 7.9-inch [20-centimetre] screen) allows you to handily carry the device while the screen is large enough for easy readability.

What we love: It has optional cellular connectivity. You can reach up to lightning-LTE speeds, all without a contract or long-term commitment from the wireless carrier – just pay what you use.

Breakthrough features: This tablet is Apple’s smallest – measuring 23-per-cent thinner and 53-per-cent lighter than Apple’s iPad 3, and can fit in the palm of your hand.

What’s disappointing: With Apple focusing on keeping it affordable, the mini lacks a high-resolution retina display, a regular feature on other tablets like the recently announced Google Nexus 10.

Canon EOS M camera, starting at $829.99, at Canon-authorized sellers

Ideal for: Budding videographers and photographers in your life – novice to professional.

What we love: The mirrorless technology gives you the stunning image quality of a DSLR camera with the convenience of a point-and-shoot, minus the bulk. Plus, the APS-C-sized CMOS image sensor makes it a lightweight to tote.

Breakthrough features: With the new stepper motor built into the lenses (they’re included) the Spielberg in your family can capture HD movies in 1080p. The autofocus setting means you can simply hit a button and record up to 44 minutes of HD footage on a 16GB SD card. Now you’ll never miss another birthday or graduation.

What’s disappointing: Theabsence of traditional, standard digital camera features like a viewfinder and built-in flash; you have to carry a separate flash unit (included in the kit).

Sony VAIO T13 with Windows 8, $899, at most electronics retailers.

Ideal for: Those who thrive on processor power and need a machine that can take some abuse (it’s made out of durable aluminum and magnesium construction), all with an affordable price tag.

What we love: You can experience Windows 8 in all its speedy glory. Its elegant build, excellent battery and moderate price point makes this computer an overall mid-range laptop.

Breakthrough features: It comes equipped with all the bells and whistles like a full HDMI port, Windows 8 and a generously spaced keyboard. The touchpad supports multi-touch gestures and allows you to scroll and pinch-and-zoom photos.

What’s disappointing: This computer measures heavier (1.5 kilograms) than rival computers in its category. The keyboard isn’t backlit and the fan can be intrusive.

Samsung GALAXY Note II, $599.99 no term, at major wireless carriers.

Ideal for: The consummate traveller who needs a mobile office. It’s only 5.5 inches [14 centimetres], eliminating the need for both a smartphone and a tablet computer.

What we love: It’s a smartphone/tablet hybrid with a large, vibrant HD Super AMOLED 5.5-inch screen giving you quality and quantity. The included S-Pen allows you to be creative: draw fun pictures and take notes on the large screen.

Breakthrough features: While other phones have similar motion-gesture features, Samsung has perfected it to integrate directly with the operating system making it easier to use: silence calls when the phone is flipped over, and just shake to connect to Bluetooth.

What’s disappointing: The larger screen may be a tight squeeze for your pocket or your clutch. LTE data is battery-intensive, so turn it off when not in use.

BlackBerry PlayBook 4G LTE, $549.99 no-term, at major wireless carriers.

Ideal for: The workaholic who can leave his or her laptop behind, but still have access to email, media and productivity tools like Microsoft Office via Documents To Go, or the teen who doesn’t like waiting for movies to load before watching them.

What we love: It’s the size of an e-reader, but offers more features such as 4G LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity, a wide-selection of apps from Blackberry App World, two 1080p HD cameras and HDMI. It also brings the BBM service to a bigger, tablet-sized screen.

Breakthrough features: The BlackBerry Bridge app allows you to switch between your BlackBerry smartphone and PlayBook – giving you access to a larger screen. wide-selection of apps from Blackberry App World, two 1080p HD cameras and HDMI. It also brings the BBM service to a bigger, tablet-sized screen.

What’s disappointing: It’s designed to work with a BlackBerry smartphone via the BlackBerry Bridge application. iPhone or Android users may not appreciate the unified BlackBerry experience.

Kobo Arc, $199.99, at Indigo.

Ideal for: The literary aficionado or student who doesn’t want to tote around a dozen books at a time.

What we love: Kobo has one of the largest e-bookstores (access to over three million e-books — one million of which are free!). Its dual-core processor allows you to turn pages without lag, smoothly surf the web and speedily check your emails.

Breakthrough features: It’s not just your personal library. It allows you access to movies, music, apps and games — all in colour, and lighter than a traditional computer.

What’s disappointing: While it hasadditional tablet capabilities (load apps, music and movies), this shortens the battery life.

Sharp 60-inch LE845 TV, $2,699.99, at most electronics retailers

Ideal for: Families making the big upgrade for the family den, or a new toy for Dad’s man cave.

What we love: This sleek LED TV features Sharp’s Quattron four-colour technology, including a full 3D-2D conversion experience. The 240Hz edge-lit LED panel means your TV will deliver a natural and vibrant picture.

Breakthrough features: SmartCentral, Sharp’s link between TV and the Internet. Through Wi-Fi, you can download and access some of your favourite social apps or surf the web – all from the comfort of your own remote control.

What’s disappointing: The steep $2,699.99 price tag.

Eating through The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair 2

From locally-made salt-water taffy to hand-pulled pork shoulder, visitors are getting more than a taste of the lives of Canadian breeders, growers, and agricultural exhibitors.

“Five years ago, one would have never imagined ‘Cowboy Fries’ offered for sale at The Royal,” said Frank Caputo, vendor and owner of Toronto food truck, “Hank Daddy.”

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, taking place at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place until Nov. 11, is quickly becoming a destination for lovers of all things food.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair - Chefs Competition

Courtesy Scott Vivian, Beast Restaurant –

Vendors on hand are highlighting out-of-the-ordinary food items – often available only in specialty shops – and you can sample your way through a plethora of vendors serving up everything from succulent barbequed meat, to gourmet confectionary, to fresh-to-order hot apple dumplings.

Caputo’s number-one offering, the “Pulled Pork Parfait,” is made with crispy sweet potato fries, soft-pulled pork, and a crunchy cabbage slaw – a dish he and his daughter created four years ago.

For Caputo, this is only the first step in bringing more gourmet food trucks to the streets of Toronto.

“Demonstrating the passion we put into our food to the thousands who come through The Royal – even if it’s served from a food truck – is crucial in changing the way Torontonians consume street food.”

Jordan McLelland and his seven-year-old daughter have visited The Royal for the past three years.

“I’ve never seen so much focus on the show for ‘foodies,’” McLelland said.  “I knew there was a ‘food truck revolution’ happening all over the U.S. and Canada, but seeing so much food highlighted at The Royal this year is surprising.”

New this year to celebrate the show’s 90th anniversary, Food Network celebrity chef Curtis Stone will be hosting the Chefs Competition taking place Saturday at the Royal Culinary Theatre.

Food Network personalities Bob Blumer (World’s Weirdest Restaurants) and Kevin Brauch (The Thirsty Traveler) hosted the Royal Mixology Competition Monday, pitting local mixologists against one another in a competition for top cocktail made with Ontario ingredients.

“Food is a large part of The Royal’s history, and business is booming,” said Carl Marquardt, a confectioner who has been at The Royal for 30 years.  “The new competitions and wild culinary offerings this year only solidify what is already an exploding ‘foodie’ culture.”

Canadian textual phone habits revealed 2

Virgin Mobile Canada finds that as the weather gets cooler, Canadians are turning up the heat – shockingly sending steamy messages at work, church, and even family reunions.

“The facts are in.  Whether it’s sultry or sweet, daters love to have good text in their life,” said Andrew Bridge, managing director at Virgin Mobile Canada.

Courtesy Virgin Mobile Canada

In a survey conducted by Leger Marketing for Virgin Mobile, Canadians feel very strongly for having proper texting etiquette – an increasingly important aspect in relationships and dating.

According to the survey, one in four Canadians say that adding someone on Facebook is usually how they make the first move with a love-interest.

62 per cent of young Canadians report engaging with a prospective lover through text, and 40 per cent believe texting has enhanced their love life.

The survey says the number one place for sending steamy messages is in the office.  30 to 34 year olds are most likely to send “sexy textys” while on the clock.

Canadians surveyed most commonly said that texting made them braver and flirtier.

The survey below gives you a crash course on what matters most to Canadians:

–       Your English teacher was right – grammar does matter!  The number one texting turnoff was bad spelling or grammar when texting with potential dates so watch your spelling carefully.

–       Young Canadians want a side of personality with that text.  Don’t be afraid to let the true you shine in those messages, because texts lacking personality ranked as one of the top texting turnoffs.

–       Slow to respond?  You give flaccid text.  Half of women surveyed shared that a slow response time will get you nowhere because an immediate response to a text screams, “very interested.”  Men, just because the clocks fall behind this season, doesn’t mean you can.  Throw out the “three day rule” playbook and text your lady back already!

–       Poke! Poke! has officially replaced the Ring! Ring!  23 per cent of Canadians who are dating like to use Facebook to make the first move, while only 19 per cent would consider calling a potential suitor.  Time to update that Facebook profile!

When it comes to specific texting trends per province, this is what the survey said:

–       Atlantic Canada deserves a big thumbs award.  More than three quarters (78 per cent) of Maritimers using text messaging to keep in touch with a love interest or significant other.

–       Quebecers are the most patient.  23 per cent thought that waiting a week to respond to a text was playing hard to get.

–       To Ontarians, texting is the new wingman!  Half of Ontarians surveyed say that texting makes their love life better.

–       Manitoba and Saskatchewan residents are too sexy to be shy.  When it comes to sending sexy messages, 42 per cent of them admit to this steamy behavior.

–       B.C., the brave.  British Columbia is home to some of the most fearless Canadians, and we’re not just talking on the slopes.  More than half of west coasters surveyed say they are braver via text.

–       Don’t expect an Albertan to kiss and tell.  When asked how exciting their text life is compared to their sex life – one-fifth didn’t know or preferred not to say.

“More than a third of Canadians first ask someone out via text and one-quarter of Canadians do it via Facebook.  And, almost half of Canadians will send a text to their crush after a first date,” Bridge said.  “Daters are just more comfortable making those first few moves with the right steamy text.”

For a full view of the infographic on Canadian textual phone habits, click here.

**The survey was completed online from August 30th to September 7th, 2012 using Leger Marketing’s online panel, LegerWeb, with a sample of 1045 Canadians aged 18 to 34 who own a mobile phone.  A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of ±3.0 per cent, 19 times out of 20. ** 

Teens Gone Wired: Are you ready? – What I’m Currently Reading

In a world where kids are constantly connected to the smartphones and always posting on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, Lyndsay Green’s Teens Gone Wired: Are you ready? (Thomas Allen) is an ideal guide for parents feeling intimidated by the virtual world their teens are immersed in every day.

Teens Gone Wired takes a look at the challenges parents face with their teens constantly wired to the Internet, and includes indispensable advice from dozens of parents who have gone through the experience, along with many helpful  support resources to refer to if you need help.  The book addresses common arguments faced by families including: what’s fun vs. an unhealthy obsession; what and what not to share online; real friends vs. virtual friends; and maintaining privacy/anonymity.

Teens Gone Wired is a great refresher for anyone – even for people who aren’t parents like me – and allows you to brush up on your Internet “street smart” skills.

For parents with teens specifically, if you feel like you’re losing control over your kids and what they’re doing online, this will let you gain some understanding and knowledge, so you can be on the same page as your kids.  At the very least, you will know for which red flags to look out for, and ensure your kids are surfing the web safely.

What are you reading this Friday? Tell us in the comments what books are currently residing on your bedside table!