Tips on Digital Photography
Posted on: March 2nd, 2011
The emergence of digital photography made taking pictures very easy and inexpensive. You no longer need to worry about using up too much film just to capture the right moment. You don’t need to wait for the film to be developed. You have digital copies directly from the camera that you can duplicate, back up, send to friends, etc. Most camera can also record short videos. These are huge advantages over the 35mm cameras. But working with digital cameras require more “techie” knowledge than using the old fashioned cameras. In this article I try to give some tips and advices that could help you on this subject.
Cameras and Their Software
Contrary to popular belief most cameras don’t require any kind of software installed. Especially with new versions of Windows the necessary software is already built-in. If you get a camera, I’d recommend testing whether you’d need to load any software or not. To do that simply take that USB cord out of the box, connect the camera up to the computer and turn on the camera. Chances are the you’ll get a pop-up window that tell asks you whether you want to import your pictures from your camera. It that’s the case, leave the disk that came with the camera alone, no need to junk-up the computer
A very useful photo organizing software called Picasa (free download from Google) can also handle the import from cameras, even from many of the higher end ones. I’ll talk more about Picasa in the next tip.
Organizing & Finding Pictures
Digital cameras make it possible to take hundreds, or even thousands of photos and video clips in relatively short period of time. This presents a challenge: how to find a picture that you are looking for in that massive collection?
Fortunately there are software that can handle this task. My favorite is Google’s Picasa: http://picasa.google.com/ which is a free software that you can download and install it. Once installed and started it’ll offer your to index your existing pictures. One thing that I recommend doing right after installation is turning off the face detection feature. It’s a feature designed to find people that show up on various pictures and help you mark them automatically whether Jane or Joe is on a picture. In theory that would be a useful feature, but in practice it has a high rate of false recognition and it’s a painfully slow process that can slow your computer down significantly. To turn it off go to Tools -> Options -> Name Tags tab -> uncheck “Enable Face Detection” and “Enable Suggestions”. That will take care of it.
You can add tags and captions to the pictures and organize them into folders. I use the feature when Picasa puts the images into folders by date, that’s one of the options you have when importing the pictures from the camera (under Folder Title). If you added captions and/or tags to the pictures then you’ll be able to find the desired picture with a quick search. Picasa is also very fast in letting you flip through your album.
There are tons of more options that Picasa offers (eg: corrections, red-eye removal, etc). But it’d be too long to list them all. You can check out their tutorials and help content for that.
Sharing the Pictures
You probably want to share some of your pictures with family or friends, etc. Fortunately, with digital images this is very easy to do. You can attach pictures to emails, you can upload them to online albums, etc.
Attaching pictures to emails is usually easy but you might need to keep in mind that there are limitations on the collective size of the attachments. High resolution cameras (8-10-12 megapixel) generate quite a big pictures. You can safely resize images without losing much detail but getting a much smaller file. Strangely enough, re-sizing an image is not a very straightforward process. I looked around and the software that seems the easiest to use for this purpose is called Free Picture Resizer: http://download.cnet.com/Free-Picture-Resize-Starter/3000-12511_4-10297789.html If you reduce the width and height of a picture by half then you’ll get a file that’s about 1/4th of size of the original but usually not significantly worse looking.
Another way of sharing pictures is uploading to online photo albums. The two most well known services are flickr.com and Picasaweb (picasaweb.google.com). Both of these offer basic picture sharing for free and for a small yearly fee you can get a lot more space to store your pictures and videos online. The big advantage of doing online sharing is that you are not bound by the limits of email sizes, you can just email the link to your online photo album and people can see it there. The Picasa software gives you very easy ways to upload your photos and video to Picasaweb.
Protecting Your Cherished Memories
One important thing to remember with digital photos is that they are very easily created but they are just as easily wiped out. While regular printed or developed photos require fire, water or some other substantial physical damage to be destroyed, thousands of digital pictures can be wiped out by a hard drive crash or an inadvertent delete operation. So I’d highly recommend to have your pictures backed up so that they are on at least two physically separate devices.
External hard drives work well for this purpose. But do not make the mistake of putting your pictures or videos on the external hard drive and then deleting them from your computer “to make space”. It’s a very bad idea. External hard drive can crash, sometimes more easily than the internal drives in a computer. We had one case when someone’s baby’s photos were transferred to an external hard drive which subsequently crashed and the data recovery was unsuccessful so all those baby photos were gone for good.
Online backup is also a good way to have a backup of the pictures but you need to be alert that videos are normally not backed up by online backup programs (eg. Carbonite), unless you specifically tell the software to do so. So if you are using an online backup then periodically check what’s being backed up and see if all the important files are there. You can read more details on this in our other article: Online Backup: What’s really getting backed up?
Making Photo Prints
Sometimes you want to have some pictures printed out so that you can hang it on the wall, put in a frame or just to send it to someone who doesn’t have a computer. Most currently used color inkjet printers can produce decent quality photo prints if you are using a photo paper. However, this only makes sense financially if you print a lot of pictures, maybe not even then. The cost of printer, ink and photo paper can add up quickly.
I found it much easier and cheaper to order prints from a local store. I use Walgreens for this purpose because they are walking distance from my house and they are very reasonably priced and don’t have minimum order requirements. Walmart, CVS and probably a few dozen other chain of stores provide this service as well. They are also allows you to upload photos and order the prints online & get notified by email when it’s ready. I found it very convenient & inexpensive to get my photo prints that way.
I hope you found some tips in here that you could use to get some digital photo related tasks done, or make things easier for you.
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