Gadgets :: 2016 February 8

by Gregg Ellman

Thanks to a tip from a reader (Ray) in Palmetto, Fla., who asked me about the Telme2 TosBlue-X device.

With the TosBlue-X connected to a non-Bluetooth TV, you can convert it to Bluetooth device and use a Bluetooth speaker or headphones.

Ray originally told me via email that he was looking for a device like this to add to his TV because, “My hearing is not as good as my wife. Therefore I am looking for a Bluetooth transmitter from my TV to my speakers.”

After testing the TosBlue-X along with the company’s BHX Bluetooth headset, I was happy to inform Ray that they work great.

The installation took less than 2 minutes, including opening the boxes. After opening it, don’t trash the box just yet because the instructions are on the back.

All the cables you need are included; you must choose to have your audio connected using either the standard 3.5 mm or the optical cable, but just one.

The instructions are kind of vague on the either/or part of the audio cables, along with what to do with the USB cable, which was obvious to me but might not be to others; it’s for power so I connected it to an AC/USB power adapter (not included).

If your TV has the optical connection, use that one. If it only has the 3.5 mm port, you have no choice and I used since my TV was mounted to a wall and I didn’t want to remove it.

There’s double-sided tape on the TosBlue-X to attach to your TV; be sure the front part is exposed to where you audio source will be.

I charged the headphones, turned on my TV and hit the pairing button on the headphones and it worked perfect, it’s that simple.

Every time I turn the TV and headphones on and off the connection returns without needing to pair it again. The headphones have padded ear-pads, an adjustable headband and volume controls on the side with the power button.

A charging cable for a specific connection is included.

Thanks for the tip Ray, definitely a great device, which will solve your issue. $69.99 for the TosBlue-X, $99 for the Bluetooth headset

ToughTest portable mobile accessories really impressed me when I had my first look at them recently and persuaded me that they are really as tough as advertised.

They inspect the products three to five times the level of typical manufactured smartphone accessories and before even using them you’ll see how durable they are just by the feel.

You might not think there’s a big difference between USB charging cables but after buying cheaply made versions, you can see the difference when you get the company’s ToughTested 6-foot USB cable with lightning connection ($29.99 and also available with a microUSB connection).

The high-speed USB 2.0 cable is made with 4 mm heavy-gauge cables inside a tangle-free jacket. This keeps it from shorting out and becoming useless when a corner bends, gets pressed or caught in a drawer.

A cord manager is included for when the cable is not being used.

The Marine stereo earbuds ($79.99) are IP67 waterproof, which translates dust and sand resistant and tested underwater for 30 minutes under up to 1-meter of water.

They have noise reduction technology, in-line control for answering calls and controlling volume, a stress release cable, sports fit in-ear hooks to keep the earbuds in place and come with three sizes of Flexfoam ear tips.

Use them while fishing in the rain, exercising or anytime in dry or wet environments.

The ToughTest Power Share Pro ($34.99) charges up to three USB devices (sharing 4.2 amps)  simultaneously at a fast rate along with InstaSense technology.

This allows the charger to recognize the device being charged and give it the proper charging for the amperage requirements.

The AC connection prongs rotate 180-degree to ensure it will plug into any wall or power strip outlet.

Thumbtack Study Predicts 2016’s Biggest Wedding Trends

The largest survey of U.S. couples to be married in 2016 finds that couples will spend 20% more on wedding services this year, or $12,189 on average nationwide. Weddings will feature formal and intimate dinners, subtler personalizations, and interactive mementos like social-media friendly cinematic highlight videos.   

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — February 3, 2016 —Thumbtack, an online service that connects consumers with skilled professionals, today released the results of its first annual Thumbtack 2016 Wedding Trends Report. Thumbtack reviewed data from hundreds of thousands of wedding requests to uncover the trends and spending habits of real couples in America.

The study includes statistics on upcoming wedding trends and unveils average pricing for wedding services both nationally and regionally. Full results are available at

“This year we’re seeing couples investing up to 20% more to create a memorable, classic affair,” said Ashley Brasier, Wedding Director for Thumbtack. “The reception is the focus of this extra spending, with couples turning away from themed weddings and instead focusing on finer touches like formal plated dinners, lasercut place settings, and bold floral choices.”

Every year, hundreds of thousands of couples come to Thumbtack looking for wedding professionals across nearly 50 categories of service— from wedding planners and photographers to catererslive bandsfloristshairstylists, and makeup artists. Couples submit requests sharing details like the size of their guest list, their style preferences, and their geographic location, so Thumbtack can match them with the best service providers for their needs.

As a result, Thumbtack’s study reveals a unique look ahead on what will trend at weddings to come this year — not just what happened at weddings last year.

2016’s Top Wedding Trends

The new theme is no theme: Couples are increasingly focusing on small details — not big themes — to set their weddings apart.

  • Highlight videos are hot — Videographers are seeing an 8% uptick in requests for highlight videos, which incorporate personalized messages from guests and are created for social sharing.
  • Laser-cut details are everywhere — Featured on invitations, place-cards, and even place mats, laser-cutting will be especially popular.
  • Cupcakes aren’t going anywhere — 10% more couples will feature cupcakes for dessert in 2016, compared to 2015, showing that this personalized touch has staying power.

2016 couples are upping the ante: This year’s couples are spending noticeably more on wedding essentials compared to 2015.

  • 20% increase in spending — The average couple will spend about $2,000 more on average, with much of that going to a more upscale dinner experience.
  • Formal receptions on the rise — For 2016 weddings, there’s been a 26% increase in couples requesting servers for formal dinner receptions, and a 32% increase in couples requesting plated meals.
  • Traditional tiers — Cakes are also getting taller than ever, with a 55% increase in couples requesting a 3-layer cake this year compared to last year.

Big, bold visuals have arrived: From wedding theme colors to bridal beauty looks, expect 2016 weddings to feature big visuals.

  • Glam beauty — More and more brides are eschewing the “safe” natural and romantic beauty look: there’s been a 75% increase in brides requesting glam hair and makeup, with touches like highlights and contouring and bold lip colors.
  • Beyond natural — Brides plan to go beyond “born with it” in 2016. The data shows a 70% increase in requests for false eyelashes and airbrushing. There’s been a 15% increase in brides planning to wear a classic veil.
  • Bright palettes — Popular colors this year include bursts of reds and bright blues, along with pops of yellow as an accent, and gray neutrals to hold it all together. Metallic accents stay popular this year, emphasizing the glam factor.

The Real Cost of Getting Married

Based on average price quoted for wedding essentials for Thumbtack weddings in 2016

National Averages – Costs and Customer Profile

  • $12,189: The amount the average American couple will spend on essential wedding services in 2016, excluding the venue, dress, and rings, for a wedding with 98 guests on average.
  • 33: Average marrying age of Thumbtack couple
  • 75%: Thumbtack couples who are employed full-time
  • 5%: Thumbtack couples who are students
  • 45%: Thumbtack couples who are homeowners

Top 5 Most and Least Expensive States to Get Married

Most and least states to get married
Top 5 Most Expensive States to Get Married

  1. Connecticut – $17,211
  2. New York – $16,305
  3. District of Columbia – $15,835
  4. Rhode Island – $15,233
  5. Pennsylvania – $14,722

Top 5 Least Expensive States to Get Married

  1. Missouri – $9,031
  2. Nevada – $9,095
  3. Arizona – $9,593
  4. Kentucky – $9,712
  5. Utah – $9,804

Top 25 Most Expensive Metro Areas to Get Married (Wedding Essentials) 

  1. New York, NY — $16,077
  2. Philadelphia, PA — $15,434
  3. Pittsburgh, PA — $14,287
  4. Baltimore, MD — $14,261
  5. Providence, RI — $13,990
  6. San Francisco, CA — $13,734
  7. San Jose, CA — $13,418
  8. Cleveland, OH — $13,416
  9. Washington, D.C.-Northern VA — $13,303
  10. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN — $13,173
  11. New Orleans, LA — $13,089
  12. Boston, MA — $13,028
  13. Miami, FL — $12,923
  14. Los Angeles, CA — $12,709
  15. Chicago, IL — $12,449
  16. Milwaukee, WI — $12,197
  17. Seattle, WA — $12,149
  18. Detroit, MI — $11,819
  19. Memphis, TN — $11,805
  20. Portland, OR — $11,714
  21. Columbus, OH — $11,692
  22. Austin, TX — $11,519
  23. Rochester, NY — $11,472
  24. Charleston, SC — $11,448
  25. Sacramento, CA — $11,349

Regional Differences

  • Northeast and Mid-Atlantic affairs tend to be more expensive: This higher cost is most often driven by formal dinners and a large number of guests. In New York, 33% of couples request plated dinners. In Washington, D.C., 48% of couples request hors d’oeuvres.
  • Midwestern states throw the biggest weddings: Weddings are the biggest in Midwestern states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, where over 60% of couples welcome 100+ guests. The smallest weddings are in destination wedding locations like Hawaii, where 43% of couples welcome fewer than 20 guests.
  • BBQ and Mexican catering vs. Italian and American cuisine: Italian and American food are crowd pleasers at weddings across the country. In fact, there are only two states that would prefer another type of cuisine at weddings – both Kentucky and South Carolina prefer BBQ. Unsurprisingly, Mexican is popular throughout the Southwest, with 43% of couples in New Mexico requesting Mexican food.
  • Pop music reigns at the reception, but country’s close behind: Wedding guests across the majority of the United States (46 states) prefer pop music, but country is a close second choice in several states, including Texas.
  • Vermont braids and Southern locks: Brides across the country love a timeless romantic look. Brides in Vermont prefer to accent their look with braids, while brides in most other locales prefer a half-up / half-down look. Long curly hair is especially popular in Southern states like Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.


The Thumbtack 2016 Wedding Trends report captures data gathered from hundreds of thousands of requests for wedding services placed on Thumbtack. Quantitative trends were gathered from answers to questions Thumbtack asks couples to match them with the best service provider. Qualitative trends were gathered from customer and vendor interviews. Pricing data is based on thousands of price quotes provided by vendors to our customers.

About Thumbtack

Thumbtack is the destination for getting things done — from house remodeling to event planning and more. Each year, more than 200,000 skilled professionals across the country service a growing 5 million Thumbtack projects in almost 1,100 unique categories. Thumbtack wedding professionals offer services in 47 categories. Visit Thumbtack to find wedding photographerswedding plannerswedding officiantswedding DJs and more.

Follow Thumbtack on Twitter and Instagram @thumbtack.

Gadgets :: February 1, 2016

By Gregg Ellman

The new Magellan eXplorist TRX7 GPS navigator system takes mapping to a whole new level for off-road navigation.

When you first open the package it’s hard to not admire the 7-inch color touchscreen (6.7-by-8.7-by-5.2 inches 1.3 pounds). The extra-large display is enclosed in a waterproof, drop resistant and dust-proof casing.

Right out of the box, the TRX7 is preloaded with more than 44,000 (and growing) off highway vehicle routes.

Once you find a trail to explore, just click ‘follow’ and you’re set to go. If you decide to veer off the trail, the system can record where you’re going so you can capture the route or just find your way back to where you started.

Maps can be filtered by difficulty, distance, name or rating.

If you find trails that are unique and not yet published, Magellan has a great feature to let you share your findings with the world.

The TRX7 can create and personalize routes and then connect to Wi-Fi and go to a site within Magellan to publish it. This lets you name the trail, tell about any unique attributes and any other points of interest you find.

The maps are displayed with 3D terrain and 2D topographic maps, showing features you encounter on the routes along with the elevation.

A heavy-duty high-strength genuine RAM suction cup mount is included for use on any smooth non-porous surface. $649.99

Lola high fidelity headphones from Blue Microphones have the total package; great looks, amazing sound and a fair price.

When you first see the headphones, they almost have a retro look, which I loved. So many of today’s headphones look the same, so it’s nice to see a company thinking outside the box.

According to Blue, the Lola headphone was inspired by Blue’s radical holistic design for optimized performance, a personalized fit, and a new lighter, slim-fit headband. They stated in a press release that the headphones were designed without any preconceived notions about what headphones are ‘supposed’ to look like

The slim headband has pivoting arms and what they call a four-point multi-jointed linkage system. This system makes it really easy to get a comfortable fit.

Another neat feature is the ear-cups. Ear-cups are almost always rounded on headphones but how often do you see round ears? With the ear-cups on the Lola headphones, they are shaped with a more vertical design in big cabinets to mimic the shape of the common ear. This is a great help to get a natural fit and ensure you don’t have any sound bleeding away from your ear.

The sound comes from 50 mm drivers (frequency response: 15Hz-20kHz), which delivered incredible detail to any music I tried. This included my personal iTunes playlist, satellite radio and other online sources during my week of testing. I even had it connected to a turntable I started testing and the vinyl sound was awesome.

You also get a soft-sided travel case, a three-meter audio cable and a 1.5-meter cable with built-in microphone and Apple controls. $249.99 available in charcoal black or pearl white

Music junkies who want to create and combine tracks will love the Braven Fuse Bluetooth hand-held mixer.

This enables you to combine multiple sources of music, sounds or any audio to create single tracks

Everything is really easy to access on the top. These include control knobs (low, mid and high range), volume controls, Bluetooth connections (two devices and two Bluetooth speakers), and cross-fade controls. All this lets you splice tracks together, while letting them fade in and out with perfection.

Headphones and aux-in and out ports are on the side.

If you’ve never mixed before (like me) it takes some getting used to and making some bad tracks in order to learn from your mistakes.

After a while I did some simple things like taking 10 songs from my playlist and combining them into one. An easy answer for why would I do that, because I can with the Fuse.

An internal rechargeable battery should last for about 12 hours of use. $99.99

Gadgets :: 2016 January 18

By Gregg Ellman (#greggellman)

I always think the portable Bluetooth speaker market is so good and so crowded that there isn’t room for another. Well, the Mass Fidelity Core system proves me wrong.

Right out of the box the setup took seconds to get a head-turning sound from the internal 120 watts of digital power.

After pairing and cranking the speaker up, I agree with the Mass Fidelity’s statement, “The Core produces a huge multi-dimensional sound image that’s like listening to a pair of separated high-end speakers.” This allows the sound to be consistent from any angle of the speaker, which you don’t see very often.

They have packed inside of the handheld or desktop speaker (6 x 6 x 4-inches) five custom-designed speaker drivers with a downward-firing woofer.

They have combined the hardware with Acoustic Holography technology, which is new technology to me. That translate to big sound from the small speaker.

Bass is my favorite, but not a head banging amount. The Core delivers the right amount to enhance the sound, not distract you from it.

If you want a complete multi-room system, you can connect up to eight Cores without needing Wifi or any other network. It creates its own network whether you use the speakers together or independently.

The internal battery will give you about 12 hours before a charge is needed. There’s also a USB port for charging your device, aux input for a wired connection and an optical input for a cable/satellite box, Roku or Apple TV. $599

Among other things, I guess my house can now be considered a home brewery after using the Fizzics draft beer system.

It’s not really a home brew system but the concept is to take any beer and create a beer tap system.

I set it up and put a low-end beer in the Fizzics, I had a friend over who is much more of a beer drinker than myself.

The system works with any carbonated beer (can or bottle), which you place inside a canister of the system and insert a plastic tube. Your beer is now ready to dispense through the tap system.

There’s no need for any COS or nitro cartridges. All you need is the Fizzics, a beer and a glass.

I told him about the system and I wanted an honest answer on what he thought after I pulled the lever forward and poured him a beer into a chilled mug. After the glass was past halfway full, you pull the lever backwards to create a great foam head, which is critical to any tap beer lover.

After a few sips and some pondering I asked what he thought and his honest answer was “I don’t think this is a top shelf beer but it’s definitely not a low end either.” He was quite surprised when I showed him what he was drinking.

I personally loved the concept of an inexpensive system to pour draft beer. I’m not a big beer drinker but I would surely enjoy it more, when I drink on occasion.

It works off of 4 AA batteries (not included), which should last for over 100 pours of a 12 ounce beer. $169.99

The Reachcase (r79x) is designed to extend the signal for an iPhone 6/6s and iPhone 6/6s plus.

It’s well-built and rugged case protects your phone and is certified with drop-test protection, which exceeds military drop standards.

What makes it more than another case is that it automatically extends your smartphone’s internal antenna.

Specifically, the case has an internal multi-patented, micro-thin antenna, which automatically couples with your phone to expand and extend your antenna, resulting in clearer conversations and fewer dropped calls.

Just put the case on your phone and the back-sided antenna slides out.

It’s not certified by Apple but the company states an independent third party lab has validated that the case does improve the phone’s internal antenna. $59.99

Gadgets :: 2016 January 16

By Gregg Ellman (#greggellman)

At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, they really upped the security guidelines with shoulder bag and backpack restrictions. With these changes, it was a perfect time to put Quest Vest from ScotteVest to use.

When I say it’s loaded with pockets (42) thats an understatement. There are pockets inside pockets so you won’t run out of storage for any of your digital accessories.

I liked that it looks just like a vest with a pair of outside pockets, with no indication of the accessories you might be storing.

This way you can load it up and it doesn’t broadcast any of the pricy electronics you have inside, unless it is being X-rayed during a security check.

The first day I actually packed too much including my iPhone, iPad with keyboard case, charging cables, a pair of portable USB batteries, keys, notebook, paperwork, snacks, a water bottle, earbuds and a lot more.

A funny problem was I couldn’t remember where I put my stuff so I had to give myself a pat down to find things. But after that it was great and I didn’t have to remember whether I had picked up my shoulder bag when leaving a location because I didn’t have one.

I did switch things around, trying to find the perfect balance, which I did. All the zippers feel like they are well constructed and should last a long time.

The 65-percent cotton and 35-percent nylon fabric exterior is Teflon treated for water and stain resistance, which came in handy since I was caught in the rain a few times. $145

The new Bluesmart suitcase is a good first effort in the smart luggage category.

It’s built with a digital lock, location tracking, trip data tracking and a built-in battery for charing your USB device with ports inside and outside the suitcase.

Before you start packing, the suitcase weighs nine pounds and a built-in scale in the handle tells you what it weighs, inside the app, after you’re packed.

You can’t check the bag in due to TSA airline restrictions because of the built-in battery. It would be nice if the battery could be removed so you have the option to check in the bag, but right now it doesn’t.

Bluesmart (22.4 x 14.4 x 9.8-inches, slightly larger than TSA guidelines of 22 x 14 x 9 inches) is built with a solid construction of a hard polycarbonate shell, a retractable handle, and four smooth rolling wheels.

On my flight it had no problem fitting in the overhead storage on an American Airlines 737. They never asked me if my bag would it in the bag sizer and I didn’t offer to test it. Make sure you check your airline’s carry-on guidelines to ensure it conforms.

It fits whatever you can pack in; clothes, computers, camera gear, etc. Once your packed, you can lock or unlock it with the free Bluesmart app after you make a wireless (Bluetooth) connection, which takes just seconds.

The internal battery (10,000mAh) is charged with the included microUSB cable and can charge an iPhone up to six times. With the internal port you can charge your stuff while flying so its ready when you land.

The outside port makes it easy to charge while waiting for a flight or if it fits in under the seat for close access.

Even though the bag is carry-on only, it has tracking, which I guess can be used if someone grabs your bag and runs. You’ll only have about a 100-feet range to see where it is if you look inside the app. After that the internal SIM card can get you the GPS coordinates sent to your phone.

This was the first suitcase I ever had to read the included instructions (the company website frustrated me to no end with registrations) to work the features. $399

It’s not electronic but I took along the Travelrest memory foam travel pillow on my trip. For now on, I won’t leave home without it.

It’s made from NASA-developed thermo-sensitive memory foam, molds to your head and neck and has non-slip backing to hold the pillow in place.

There’s also a non-slip back and it can be compressed to 1/4 of its size when you’re on-the-go. $39.95

Gadgets :: 2015 December 28

By Gregg Ellman (#greggellman) & Elmo Sapwater (#imaginginsider)

Flicks 1The words on the outside of the Flicks mobile cordless boombox projector box ìA Move Theatre. Impossibly Portable,î perfectly describes the system.

I’ll add that it’s incredibly simple to work, sounds great, projects a great image and doesn’t take up a lot of space.

The all-in-one (5.31 x 11.77 x 6.52-inches) projector and Bluetooth speaker projects a crystal-clear widescreen video in 720p HD with TexasInstruments DLP technology.Flicks 2

I used it with an Apple laptop and connected it with the included-HDMI cable to display a movie, which is projected from the lens on the backside.

The lens is constructed from combination of plastic aspheric and glass spheric to deliver the image in perfect saturation and color quality.

On the product’s website they talk about showing a 100-inch image with the Flicks at just over eight feet from the wall, so I did just that a nd I was as crystal clear as advertised.

Projectors typically give off a lot of heat and this one is designed with a cooling system to pull in air and keep it cool on all sides.

On the front is the speaker for the movie audio or to just stream music wirelessly from any Bluetooth device.

A pair of custom-designed neodymium speakers and a subwoofer are inside to deliver the sound, which makes this a complete system at high or low volumes.

All the control buttons for power, volume, pairing, etc., are on the top. On the back is the lens, power, HDMI, headphone and AUX connections.  A master on/off switch is on the bottom.

There’s also a USB port, which can be used for charging (smartphones, tablets, etc.) or direct connection for a streaming music device.

Flicks are available with a 140-watt lithium-ion battery ($599), which is good for 4 hours of movies or 28 hours of music. If you want to double that, just get the 280-watt model ($699).

Both include an AC power adapter to keep it running endlessly along with a wireless remote.


Forrte 1The Twelve South Forté for Apple Watch did the impossible; it makes the luxury wristwatch look even better.

Your Apple Watch sits on the high-quality stand (3.35-inches high by 3.26-inches wide, 3.77-inches deep) and has a cable management system to use your own charging cable.

It’s cleverly designed to allow your cable to be installed or removed in seconds from the top-grain genuine black napa leather base up toForrte 2 the polycarbonate chromed ring. The removable ring secures the charging disk in place.

The base is weighted so your watch sits on the arm for charging and can be used hands-free in portrait or landscape modes at a 40-degree angle. This is the perfect angle when using the watch in nightstand mode.

The Forté is compatible with all styles of the Apple Watch. $59.99

 The AirCharge case for iPhones introduced me to something new — wireless charging for my iPhone 6.

When you combine this made-for-iPhone certified case with the smartphone, you just place it on any Qi wireless charger (sold separately) for charging.

While the Qi charging isn’t imbedded into the iPhone system, the AirCharge case brings  the two together.

When you put your iPhone inside the case, there’s a lightning connector that goes into your phone to transfer the charge from the Qi charging base.

The wireless charging is a magnetic field in the charging base, which transfers power to a receiver (in this system’s charging case) when placed on top of the charger. All cable free.

The case is black and white and protects your device while giving you full access to the functions and touchscreen. $43.99

Gadgets :: Last Minutes Gifts!


For many last minute shopping is routine. If you need ideas check out these terrific suggestions from Gregg Ellman (#greggellman).
Read More: 20151221 Last Minute

Gadgets :: Portable Power


In this special post Gregg Ellman (#greggellman) looks at portable power for all of your devices. A PDF reader is required to open this file. Enjoy!
Read: 20151217 Portable power

Gadgets :: 2015 December 14

2015 December 14

By Gregg Ellman & Elmo Sapwater

A few generations down the road we might have USB charging ports built right into our necks. Until then we need portable power and we want it now.

Fortunately, there are endless of choices to ensure that you have power on-the-go for all of your portable electronic gadgets.

One thing of note, if a portable battery says it will charge a USB device, that includes every manufacturer, including Apple, Android, digital cameras, GPS units, etc. Portable charging is not specific to any brand.

The AC powered Ventev s500 desktop charging hub is probably the most versatile and useful charging system I’ve seen.

It has two surge-protected standard 120 AC outlets built into the top of the hub and three USB ports on the side. All five ports can be used simultaneously.

One of the three USB ports is outlined in orange and is a dedicated 2.4A rapid charging port.

The surge protection lets you reset the internal circuit with the press of a button, after a power surge.

The feature that really makes this stand out is the top sided charging stand. This lets you plug your charging cable into one of the ports and then into your device, which can be placed in the stand while charging. $59.99

The Commuter is an ultra portable 3-in-1 universal battery charger with a built-in 12V car adapter (cigarette lighter for the older crowd), a foldable AC wall plug and an internal 2,600Ah battery.

The USB port lets you plug in your own charging cable to give your starving device some power, which can easily be a full charge from this battery.

What makes this a really great device past the mentioned features is the size; 3.6 x 2.4 x 0.8-inches, which can easily fit in a pocket, glove box or backpack.

There’s also an on/off button to control the power supply and a microUSB cable is included for charging the internal battery. $49.99

And if a 3-in-1 device isn’t enough for you, how about the 6-in-1 Secur Products SP-4003 car charger and life saver.

It plugs into your cigarette lighter port and has a USB port to attach your own charging cable for charging a smartphone, tablet or most any other portable USB gadget.

Also built-in is 2,000mAh battery for power on-the-go, a 150 Lumen LED flashlight that will stay illuminated for four hours on a full charge and a window breaker and seat belt cutter.

The flashlight also has an emergency mode, with a flashing red emergency light, which has a run time of 10 hours.

The SP-4003 measures just 1.5 x 4.5-inches, with a weight of just 3 ounces. $34.99.

It you just want portable power, Kensington has a slick 10,400mAh USB Mobile Charger portable USB battery. With that much power you can pretty much guarantee a few charges for any portable device.

The 2.1A USB port is tablet-friendly and a four-LED indicator shows you how much power is left.

Inside is PowerWhiz technology that lets the battery automatically detect what device is charging to ensure it gets the fastest and safest charge possible.

Kensington also has handy car charging cables with the fast charging PowerBolt chargers.

One end has a 12V car connection and the other has a microUSB ($14.99) or an Apple Lightning ($24.99).

Zaggs Power Amp line of batteries can give you anywhere from one plus (3,000mAh) to six (18,000mAh) full and portable charges.

Their big boy, the Power Amp 18 ($99.99) has three USB ports, is 2.4A charging ready and has a built-in LED flashlight. It weighs about a pound and a half, has a cable management strap and lets you charge your devices while the battery itself is charging.

If you want pocket sized, the smaller Power Amp 3 ($29.99) and Power Amp 6 6,000mAh ($49.99) are for you and also have LED flashlights built in.

The whole Zagg Power Amp series of portable batteries are fast charging with Quick Charge technology to ensure a safe change and all come recharged and ready to go.


Five Ways Online Forms Can Help Professional Photographers


We’re experiencing the golden age of photography web forms. I bet you haven’t read that sentence before. But it’s true!

Turn back the clock ten years. While photographers might have had nice websites, showing their work and their passion projects, the forms were lacking. Photography companies either needed to know how to code and embed their own forms — that most couldn’t do since they were busy running their own businesses — or they used outdated information collection methods.

Today is a different story. Savvy photography practices are starting to utilize online form building platforms to streamline their operations and save boatloads of time and hassle, and there’s no reason you can’t do it too. Below are five of the top ideas to get ahead using online forms.


Let clients reserve dates, the number of photographers needed, and the exact times required for service straight from an online form. It’s easier for them to have a presentable form to fill out, and you get the information you need in a scannable, easy-to-understand format.


The beauty of using a contact form in addition to an email address is two fold. For starters, forms can be more enticing for prospective clients to use than sending an email, as they don’t have to log in to their email provider or aimlessly craft a message. Secondly, today’s form platforms neatly store your information in the cloud and integrate with CRM systems so that the information you collect is connected with powerful business tools. It’s just one more way to stay on top of your game.

Collect Payment

The days of depositing physical checks or chasing down clients for their money are officially over. The leading DIY form building platforms integrate with payment solutions. So not only can you whip together a professional form in a few minutes, you can quickly and securely collect payments as well. That way, if someone is serious about your services, then can give you a deposit right from the booking stage without ever even meeting you in person.

Model Release and Agreement Forms

Oh, the marvels of modern technology. Need to get a model to sign and return a release document? You can make a form for that. E-signature capabilities on many form building platforms allow clients and models to electronically sign the online form and send it your way with a single click. No printing, scanning, or mailing required.


Staffing Up

Imagine things are humming along just fine with your one-man practice, but, all of a sudden, a huge event requests your service — an event that requires multiple photographers with expert skill sets and equipment. You could turn it down. Or, you could use a cleverly crafted online form to collect applicants from freelance photographers. Don’t think in terms of standard job applications; create form fields for what equipment they have, years of experience, and even have them submit sample photos straight through the online form.

The real benefit of leaning on online forms is that it frees up your time so you can spend it taking and editing pictures. The best part? Online form builders are cheap. Most of the major ones even offer freemium models where you get the full suite of features for free up until a certain level of usage. And it’s generally pretty inexpensive beyond that. As the photography industry gets more and more competitive, you need advantages. Online forms are just that.

Chad Reid is the Director of Communications for JotForm, a leading online form creator used by photographers all over the world. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his girlfriend and cats.