How to ditch the weird dot in phone sunsets

How to fix it? I can help

We love taking sunset photos on smart phones, but the little camera, as advanced as it is, has a funny way of acting up at certain times.

Have you noticed that green or yellow dot showing up, un-invited during our sunset photos?

Linda Klingner of San Pedro asked this week how to get rid of the dot. Thanks for asking Linda!

Short answer: it’s complicated. But it can be kind of done. It just requires a little camera trickery on your part.  You need to keep moving the camera, and line up the dot in the bright light from the sun to ditch it.

See example below.

The same sun flares show up on expensive cameras too, but we invest in lens shades to help wipe them out. The shade covers the lens, just like holding your hand over your eyes on a bright day blocks the glare. Because the phone cams are built into the body of the device, no smart person has yet to come up with a lens shade for a phone. (If you know of one, please let me know.)

In testing this out the other night, I did all the usual tricks: I moved the camera every which shape to get the dot out of the picture. Didn’t help. I tried to shield the sunspot with my hands over the camera to replicate a lens shade. Neither worked.

Solution: I found that if I lined up the dot within the brightest part of the sun streak, the dot would appear to disappear. Basically I covered it up. Watch below, and you can re-trace my steps.

I’ve seen some chatter online that a smartphone app could help you erase the spot with many suggesting Snapseed and the “healing” tab to remove it, but I found the process wonky and not very effective. (And I love Snapseed) I had better luck with the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom mobile app and the Healing tab there, which lets you wipe the dot away.

If you have access to the desktop version of Lightroom or Photoshop ($9.99 monthly from Adobe) they are even more effective.

Have other questions about smartphones and photography? I love to answer them.

I put together a greatest hits of my 20 favorite smartphone photography tips on my blog: I’d love to add more, so please submit!

News of the week

Siri has a new voice. Well two of them to be exact.

Apple this week made of a big deal about the fact that we’ll no longer be given a female sounding voice by default, a practice which has been called “sexist” in some quarters.

Now, when we set up our iPhones, we will be asked to choose whether we want a male or female voice, which Apple says will make the assistant more diverse and inclusive. Apple has a good point. But it’s still Siri, the assistant that too often responds to queries by showing “what I found on the Web,” instead of reading it to you.

Since Siri began in 2011, the default has been female. You had to go in and change it. FYI, we currently have several iPhone options for Siri: with the voices being male or female, and with an “American, Australian, British, Indian, Irish or South African” accent. On paper anyway. They all sound pretty similar.

The two new voices do sound more realistic, so I’ll give kudos there. But gosh, if I was Apple, I would have invested in making Siri more useful before announcing new voices. That’s my two cents.

Beyond Apple, Google defaults to female for the “Assistant,” but has several American sounding male/female options characterized in the settings as colors, from red to pink, while British Racing Green and Sydney Harbour Blue offers two female United Kingdom or Australia accents.

Amazon’s Alexa doesn’t offer much choice. The default is that annoying female voice who is always eager to buy things for you. The only real change is that you can change the voice from an American sounding accent to one with a U.K. or English with a German accent. You do this by going into the settings, clicking devices and language.

If you have questions about how to do any of this, just hit me up with a reply.

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Been spending money on apps? A new study says you do, and that you’ll be spending more in the coming months. We forked over $138 for iPhone apps last year, up 38%, and according to market research firm Sensor Tower, that will grow to $180 in 2022. That makes sense, since so many apps used to be free, then turned to “in-app” purchases, and while some still do, way too many charge a monthly subscription. I pay $5 for Camo, an app that lets me connect an iPhone to the computer to use as a webcam without branding (it looks way better than a traditional webcam) and that’s about it. I tried out some of the face swap apps after Geoff Fowler at the Washington Post wrote about them, but canceled within a week. However, most of the app $$$ went to casual games like Candy Crush Saga and Gardenscapes, says the firm.

In the coming soon department, Facebook said it would soon tweak its News Feed to be less reliant on the algorithm that decides what you can see, based on how often you interact with your friends and family.  The Social Network will offer a new take on what you see through a “See First,” feature that let’s you decide who you want to hear from first. Or in other words, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Silly sales: Samsung has dropped the price of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 phone by $200. That’s the good news. But it still will cost you $1,800 for a phone that’s been poorly received by the public. Gee, I wonder why? Could it have anything to do with the pricing? Back to planet earth, if you don’t mind a teeny 5-inch screen, Amazon has cut the price nearly in half for the Echo Show 5, the video display unit that works with Alexa, and acts as a digital photo frame and YouTube viewer. Amazon is currently selling it for $49, down from $90. The Show is a nice device, but caution: it won’t connect to the video meeting service that would make it more useful, Zoom. To do that, you’ll need the Echo Show 8, which sells for $75.

(Reminder: you get honest opinion and straight talk in this newsletter. Unlike many tech sites, there are no affiliate fees here. I’m un-bought and un-paid for.)

Saturday Photowalking

This morning, as you read this, I’m exploring the shores of Manhattan Beach with about 15 like-minded folks who enjoy getting up early and taking photographs. Yes, we’re socially distanced and masked up.

I’d love to come to your community and Photowalk with you there as well. Just say the word!

Meanwhile—shameless plug—what could be more fun than spending the weekend binging on my Photowalks TV series on Tubi, the free TV streaming app? We can do a little virtual travel together to the Oregon Coast, Portugal, Big Island of Hawaii, Los Angeles, Catalina Island and Morro Bay/Cayucos.

What’s Tubi? How do I get it? Oh, I’m glad you asked! Read all about it.

A little Moonglow

Another classic from the Great American Songbook. I’ll always associate Moonglow with Artie Shaw (it was the theme song for the great bandleader), but rival Benny Goodman did an amazing take on it with his landmark quartet. The members of that combo were Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa.

Yes, you can say I’m aging myself by talking about a 1936 recording, but I was nowhere the radio then. I didn’t start grooving to Benny and Artie until the 1970s. And it was because of Charlie Christian. Raise your hands if you know whom I’m talking about!

It must have been Moonglow!

There’s more to this pretzel story. And that’s coming next week!

And what’s with the L.A. deli survey question the other day, reader Harry asked?

Very simple. I’m updating the L.A. Deliwalk video from 2019 for Tubi viewing later this year, so I’m out crawling all the local delis again. Someone has to do it, right?

Thanks everyone for reading, watching, listening! If you enjoyed today’s newsletter, please let me know with a reply or clicking the Heart tab. Have a great weekend and for those who celebrate, here’s to many great found chocolate eggs on Sunday!