Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Digital Cameras: A Family's New Best Friend

Time was that taking family photographs remained on a roll of film that eventually disintegrated in a drawer because you forgot to get it developed, or couldn’t afford to pay for it being developed. Or you’d find a roll of film tucked away in the corner of your purse, or rolled to the back of the glove compartment in the car, and wonder who the people are in the photos when you had it developed. Technology has changed all that!

Today, the digital camera is the family’s newest best friend. Although an expensive luxury when first introduced to the market, they are now in an affordable price bracket that puts them within the financial reach of most families who own a computer. Initially you also needed a decent quality printer if you wanted to print out copies of your images to share, nowadays it is good to be able to do that, especially if you want to share the photos, but in many places there is an option of taking your memory card from the camera into a photography store – or print store in some cases – and paying them to produce the prints that you want.

The advantage of paying to have it done this way, as opposed to having a normal roll of film developed, is that you can delete the photos you don’t want copied – the ones with the camera lens obscuring the Grand Canyon, or the ones of headless people who invaded the beach on your holiday to Greece, and just pay for the ones which are left. The screen on the camera, or if it doesn’t have one, transferring the images first to your computer so you can decide which ones to print and transferring them back, offers you the opportunity to select only the ones you know you want to keep.

Digital cameras allow you to involve the whole family in taking the pictures. The ones which have a little screen on the back mean that the picture that’s about to be taken is large enough even for a little one to centre up and get right. Then it’s just point and press (unless you’ve got some fancy camera – in which case you wouldn’t be allowing junior to play with it anyway!), and hey presto, even the kids take great pictures!

Creating a scrapbook is great with a digital camera too because you can collect the images on your computer and then work on them in a graphics package before having them printed. They can be resized to be larger, or smaller than the original to fit with the space you want them to fill. You can alter the tone so that they become black and white, or a soft sepia, with just a couple of mouse moments. Even the most computer illiterate can produce stunning results because of the great (and easy to use) software packages available. Images can be cropped (cut) on the screen so that you only get in the picture what you want, and not that huge expanse of beach, or someone’s fingers down one side. You can rotate the image, and with some software programs you can even crop it into a shape such as a star which means you just have to cut around it once it’s printed and you’ve got the photo in the shape that fits your page.

Sending photos to relatives around the globe is as easy as a touch of button with digital images. All your relatives need is a computer with an online connection, an email address and software for viewing images, and you can share your children’s golden moments with them. No more costly reprints – just a click of the mouse and you can send the image of Jessie’s princess birthday party, or Trey’s prom, to an entire list of relatives around the world within minutes of the photos being taken. Photography can’t get more instant than that!

Selling items for example at an online auction site such as ebay.com is much improved if you have a digital camera to take pictures showing the item you are selling. People are much more likely to buy something if they can see how it looks in a photo first. You can use it to show off your items to their best advantage, or to show that faults are not as noticeable as one might think from their description.

Another way of using your camera to earn a little extra cash would be to purchase an extra memory card, and when on your family holiday, use this card exclusively to take images of famous landmarks, or natural scenes such as sunsets on the ocean, or local wildlife, or even road signs! Pick a theme and stick to it. When you get home, make sure your images are crystal clear and perfect by manipulating them through a software program, and then you can sell these on a cd as either a one-off set of images, or as royalty free images. Create a website, and advertise this in small free ads, and on mailing lists that allow advertising. If you think carefully about it beforehand, you can pick a subject that you know how to advertise well. Many websites and agencies are looking at royalty free images these days and so you might just be able to offset a of your family holiday expenses!

There are many gimmicks and new technologies on the market that have their uses, but for me, the digital camera has to be the best new product on the market for family use. Whether taking pictures for personal use in scrapbooks, commercial pictures to use on websites, or sharing through email, digital images are a cheaper, and more versatile way of recording your family events.

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