Get up to speed on your digital photos

Get up to speed on your digital photos

Lisa Hutchurson

(December 31, 2005) — It used to be so simple, those shoeboxes stuffed with photos.

Now, in the age of digital photography, we’ve got thousands more images stuck in our cameras and computers. As the images multiply, so do our choices for managing them.

"The biggest challenge is customer confusion," says Austin Haines, head
of Rochester imaging centers called Clix. "It’s like, ‘What do I do
with it now?’"

Printing

You have three basic outlets for printing digital photos: home printers, an online service or an in-store service. The versatility and control of a home printer might be for you, especially if you’re an avid scrapbooker. Good Housekeeping magazine, which tested a Hewlett-Packard, an Epson and a Canon, said it’s clear from all three that home printers have come a long way. You have to invest in the printer and pay for paper and ink, though.

Some companies, including Eastman Kodak Co., also make PC-free snapshot printers, some with docking stations for their own cameras and others that work with cards from most cameras.

If quality’s your top concern, Good Housekeeping had a professional photographer study prints from a home printer, a Web site and a kiosk, and they all looked good. Ranking highest in looks were prints from Fujifilm’s GetPix Digital Dropbox, a freestanding unit combining a traditional film drop box with a digital order terminal.

Good Housekeeping found Shutterfly, Snapfish and Kodak EasyShare Gallery (www.shutterfly.com, www.snapfish.com and www.kodakgallery.com) the fastest way to order your pictures, but the slowest way to get them. Prints arrive by mail in five or six days. Retailers such as CVS, Wal-Mart, Kmart and Wegmans offer shipping or in-store pickup of prints.

If you’re looking for the cheapest route possible, Good Housekeeping found Fujifilm kiosks (at Wal-Marts in our area) the cheapest for 4-by-6-inch prints at 15 cents each (although retailers set different prices for kiosks). Home printers were the most affordable when it came to 5-by-7-inch photos and larger, and Snapfish was the best overall value because it had good prices on 4-by-6-inch and 5-by-7-inch prints.

Viewing and sharing

As more digital photographers add video and sound to their images, the options keep growing.

Camera phones, iPods and PDAs are becoming portable image galleries, says Nancy Carr, vice president of marketing for Kodak.

One company, Photoco, has created a framed LCD screen that allows you to display and transport moving and still images. Sites such as Snapfish, Shutterfly and Kodak EasyShare Gallery allow visitors to upload photos from their computer for sharing with friends and family. This not only cleans up your hard drive, it saves everyone the trouble of receiving large e-mail attachments.

You can also create your own photo Web site. Some sites, like Funtigo (www.funtigo.com) allow you some basic services for free. Or, take it a step further with Kodak EasyShare Gallery’s premier service ($24.99 a year), which allows you to create a home page on which members of a group — your extended family, for instance — post and publish photos.

You can also create slide-shows and other multimedia products by transferring images to Web sites like SimpleStar (www.simplestar.com). The photo software company will mail you back a DVD you can view on your computer or TV.

"Picture taking has evolved to picture sharing, which is evolving to storytelling," Carr says.

With this has come photoblogging, or online storytelling with digital images. Just transfer your images to Web sites like Image Swarm (www.imageswarm.com) and Flickr (www.flickr.com ). Visitors can then type in a keyword and get related photos.

A related option is SnapJot community scrapbooking (www.snapjot.com). The free Web service lets users pool digital photos, Web clips and commentary to make a collaborative album or DVD around shared experiences.

Meanwhile, retailers are working to make the in-store process more user-friendly and even social. Haines says Clix is introducing design stations that offer more multiple-image options than kiosks, plus user support in the form of real, live human beings.

You bring in your digital images via memory card or disk, then log onto a computer and make customized photo products like collages, scrapbooks and multimedia shows. The company’s even planning to host digital scrapbooking parties in January.

"The whole premise is that people want a total memory, not just single snapshot," says Haines. "Their shoebox is now their hard drive, so they’re looking to take that shoebox and make memories out of it."

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