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Organizing and Displaying Your Digital Photographs

Once you have taken the plunge into digital photography, you have a wide range of choices of where and how to store and display your works.  With your film camera, you took pictures and took the film into a commercial processor for prints.  Your processor gave you back your prints and your negatives.  If you found some prints of particular interest, you could give the negatives to your processor and ask for enlargements.  Unless you invested in a home darkroom and took the time and effort to learn photo processing, a complex science of chemistry and art, you were limited to relying on your commercial processor. 

With digital photography your options broaden significantly.  First, you can review your photos directly on your camera.  If you find some that just aren’t acceptable, delete them there and then.  On many cameras today, you can even perform some routine editing right on the camera, to crop or improve the photo.  Then you can transfer your digital images from your camera to your personal computer for editing, printing and permanent storage. 

The Quick and Easy Approach: 

But wait a minute; with your digital camera you can also just continue to process your prints much as you did with your old film camera.  Most film processors, such as your supermarket, camera store or drug store, offer digital photo processing.  In many cases this is available at a kiosk located in the film developing center.  Here you just insert your camera’s memory card and wait for your prints.  If you use a self-directed kiosk, you can review and edit your images and select, within limits, the number and size of prints you desire.  The kiosk may produce your prints while your wait or make them available at the counter in a short time.  If you drop off your memory card at the film processor, you probably can pick up your prints within a few hours or less.  In either case, along with your prints, you get your memory card back for reuse in your digital camera. 

So you can make that move from film to digital photography without changing much in your personal photography routine.  But with digital photography you now have more options, and the ability to take more personal control over the pictures you have taken.  First and simplest, you can cut out the trip to your film developer all together by using a photo docking station or a photo printer with a memory card slot.  Either of these options lets you insert your digital camera’s memory card directly into your printer and print your photos without even turning on your computer.  A camera docking station allows you to plug your digital camera into the docking station/printer and print your photos without ever removing the memory card from your camera.  For a discussion of docking stations and printers with memory card slots see the link Printing Directly form your Camera or Memory Card.  Docking stations and digital photo printers with memory card slots usually have a preview screen to let your see the images before they are printed to reject those found unsuitable and on some models even perform some basic editing. 

Editing and Enhancing Your Photographs 

Printing directly from your camera or memory card is easy and fast, but you forfeit some of the greatest advantages of digital photography.  When you purchased your digital camera it came with some basic photo editing software.  You can use this software or you can purchase other digital photo editing software to enhance your photographs before you print them.  To learn more about photo editing software see the article Editing Software for Digital Photography.  In its simplest form, your digital photo editing software lets your crop your picture (cut away portions of your image that distract from the main elements); adjust the brightness and contrast of you image; remove the “red eye” effect often occurring when using a flash and possibly perform other adjustments such as changing lighting, removing scratches, etc. 

When using your digital photo editing software, you will connect your camera or your camera’s memory card to the computer either by a plug and cord that came with your camera; by putting the memory card into an attached disk drive (such as using your CD drive to read images off of a CD, or a specialized photo memory card disk reader); or by using the memory card drive on your photo printer if there is one.  Your software will ask for the source of your photos then, when you instruct it, read those electronic files into the software, usually putting the files into “thumbnail” images so you can see what each of your photos looks like.  You can transfer the image files to your computer or you can perform your editing from the camera or memory card, but bringing the image into your computer will permit faster editing. 

Editing your digital photo images can be as simple as using the automatic brightness and contrast features in almost all digital photography editing software to whatever level of creativity and complexity your software and imagination will allow.  We will include photo editing tips and techniques in later editions of Photo Talk.  For now, remember that when editing your digital photos on your computer your edits can be made to your original photo image file, depending on the file type you use, on layers added to your image file or on a separate copy of your image file.  If you edit your original image, you often cannot go back and undo the edit later.  A good rule of thumb then is to keep the original image file in tact and do your editing on a separate file. 

Organizing and Storing Electronic Photographs: 

Now that you have your digital photo images edited to your satisfaction, what are you to do with them?  Here is where using your home computer and your digital camera creates a whole new world of opportunity for your personal photography.  First, we mentioned before that you can edit your digital photo images while they are still in your camera or can transfer those images to digital photo editing software on your computer.  If you haven’t done so, now transfer those images to your computer, probably into the default file folder set up by your digital photography software.  When you exit your digital photography software, your photo images will be permanently stored on your hard drive.  Now you can use Photo Album Software to categorize and organize your retained images.  Here you can add “tags” to your file images to tell when they were taken, who is in the photo, where you took the photo and just about anything else that you find helps you keep track of the photo.  The value of this is in finding those photos you want later just by sorting through the photo album software. 

Imagine that you have a graduation coming up for one of your children and would like to make a special graduation card.  You can go through all your photographs in an instant to look for those including your child and, lets say, also school events, to find a photo of their first graduation. Photo album software will also let you find a group of photos within the same topics and assemble them into an album.  A simple example of this is using your photo album software to collect all the photo images of your last vacation and copy them into your screen saver file.  Your screen saver will then become a slide show of that last vacation. 

Over time you are going to accumulate a lot of digital photo images on your computer.  Your photo album software will let you manage this huge collection, but at some point your computer’s hard drive is going to fill to capacity.  Even if you think you will never fill your hard drive, you have to remember that there is always the chance that your hard drive will fail and you will loose some of those images.  You want to put your photo images onto some kind of permanent storage medium.  Here again you have a range of alternatives.  The most efficient offline storage is on DVD or CD.  If your computer has the ability to write to CD or DVD the process of copying or transferring (the difference is that when you copy a copy remains on your hard drive as well) is simple.  Remember, however, to keep some kind of logic for your offline storage medium.  For instance, keep offline images on CDs by year, starting a new CD each year.  This way it would be easier to zero in on what disk contains an image you are looking for.  You can use your “ZIP” drive if your computer has one or even your old floppy disk drive (although the floppy disk will only hold five to ten images).  You can also utilize the Internet photo image storage facilities provided by some digital image processors. 

Displaying Your Photographs: 

Now that your have edited, categorized and stored your digital photo images you have the ability to display your works in a number of ways and over and over again without losing any image quality.  Generally, you can display your images electronically or permanently.  Options to display images electronically include the screen saver file discussed above within the discussion of Photo Album Software.  Such software also provides the capability of arranging “slide shows” of images that can be displayed on your computer screen or on your television if you have a computer-television interface setup.  Although this may sound exotic, the software is simple to use and lets your treat your family and friends to the modern version of your home movies in the comfort of your home theatre.  While considering the electronic display possibilities for your photos, don’t forget the electronic picture frames that have been on the market for several years now.  These work just like the screen saver file we discussed above, just use your Photo Album Software to create a folder of images your want to display, transfer that file to your electronic picture frame and you have it. 

Permanent presentation of your digital photo images is best thought of as printing your photos.  You could have done this straight from the camera as we considered above or directly off of your camera’s memory card.  However, by transferring your digital photo image into your computer you have the advantage of using your digital photography software to enhance your image and your photo album software to organize and store your image files.  In addition, you have the ability to print your digital image in a wide variety of way.  Basically, there are three types of printers suitable for printing digital photographs: color laser printers, ink jet printers and dye diffusion thermal transfer printers.  Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and the best choice for you will depend on your individual preferences and objectives in working with digital photography.  We’ll consider each printer type below: 

Color Laser Printers:  When thinking about laser printers, that high volume workhorse laser printer in the office comes to mind.  Laser printers have become cost effective, reliable and consistent in providing clean, clear images.  Now, color laser printers have become affordable to the individual or small office and offer the same reliability and consistency found in the black and white mainstay.  The difference is in the resolution and color range required for good digital photography work.  A color laser printer will serve well in making numerous copies of a newsletter, brochure or flyer, but when used to produce a portrait of grandma for the living room, it will leave much to be desired. 

            Because laser printers are best suited for the business environment, the range of choices of color laser printers for the home is limited.  Laser printers, although they have become reasonably affordable, still cost substantially more than other printer options available to the home digital photography enthusiast.  A fuller discussion of color laser printers and a comparison of their attributes with those of other alternatives are available by jumping to the link Printing Your Digital Photography. 

Dye diffusion thermal transfer Printers:  A relatively new, but growing, printing option for home printing of digital photographs is the dye diffusion thermal transfer process.  Basically, this process uses a dry pigment dye that is vaporized through heating and impregnates a paper with color to produce the desired print.  The result is a very permanent image, usually with the look and feel of the photograph we are used to getting back from the processor when we developed the film of our old film camera.  A finishing coating of the printed image insures protection from scratches and wear while the process itself gives a long life of clear, crisp colors. 

            Dye diffusion thermal transfer technology, however, is relatively new and has its limits.  The paper and ink packs required for the process are unique to the manufacturer.  In addition, these printers are generally limited to printing only one size or a very limited number of image sizes of prints, generally 4” by 6” prints.  The dye diffusion thermal transfer printer is specifically for printing digital photography and is not compatible with other printing jobs, requiring that you keep a separate printer for your non-photo needs.  The cost of dye diffusion thermal transfer printing is also reasonable compared to alternatives.  Please look at how these printers stack up with the alternatives by linking to Printing Your Digital Photography

Ink Jet Printers:  The bulk of today’s home photography printing is done on ink jet printers.  In fact, as the interest in home digital photography has grown, the quality of ink jet printers has developed significantly, while the cost of these printers has fallen below reasonable to down right cheap.  Ink jet printers produce their image by spraying small dots of ink onto the paper.  The resolution of the printer, measured by the number of “dots” per inch, provides the limit of resolution in the final print.  Technology has made most of the today’s ink jet printers capable of producing well in excess of the 300 dots per inch or so that is probably the limit of the human ability to define resolution.  But there are a number of other factors that influence the quality of the final print produced on an ink jet printer. 

            Foremost of these other factors is the availability of colors to be used in the process.  Many ink jet printers have two ink cartridges, one of black and one containing the three primary pigment colors; magenta, blue and yellow.  A black can be produced with a mixture of the three primary colors, but it is not a true black and will produce photographs that lack the depth of contrast and color validity that one expects.  As discussed in the link Printing Your Digital Photography, ink jet printers are available today with more that the three primary colors, often six colors, that permits enhanced color presentation and depth. 

            Another factor critical to the digital photograph printing process, particularly in regards to ink jet printers, is the paper on which the image is printed.  Generally, ink jet printers can print on a reasonable range of papers of some variation in thickness, etc.  For printing photographs, however, only a photographic grade ink jet paper should be considered.  This premium paper is prepared for the ultimate presentation of the dots of color the printer will put on it and for the whitest possible background to insure good contrast.  A discussion of papers for the printing of digital photography can be found at the link Photographic Papers and Inks

Digital Photography Gives You a Whole Lot More: 

            Now that you have mastered the basics of digital photography, consider some of the things that you can do that were unavailable or very difficult with film photography.  Your digital photography editing software can be used to add text to pictures, combine pictures and add artistic touches to your photographs.  You can use these tools to design greeting cards, personal letterhead, party invitations and even personal coffee cups, T-shirts and such things as aprons or book covers.  Your home printer can print on a wide range of greeting card stock, T-shirt transfers, labels, etc., all available at your office supply store. 

            Remember, you are now in control of the process and without acquiring the skills of a professional photographer you can produce a wide range of excellent photo works., Inc. is here to work with you in making the most of your digital photography experience while keeping you in control of the process.  Consider turning some of your vacation photographs into works of art that you can arrange and display in your home or office.  Custom photo editing, enhancing, enlarging and framing is available through, Inc.  Visit our article Turning Vacation Photos into Works of Art for more information. 

            You don’t have to print your photos to begin enjoying them.  While you are on vacation, you can e-mail your photos to your home e-mail account or to, Inc. for processing even before you return from your trip.  Or, you could transfer photo files from your camera to a portable disk drive for temporary storage freeing your camera memory cards while on vacation.  See our article Sending Vacation Photos home while on the Road for some ideas. 


You’re now ready to put that old film camera into a drawer and move into the world of digital photography.  If you wish to explore any of the areas we discussed above, just click on the relevant links provided.  If you still have questions, go to our “Contact Us” page and send us your question.  If your question is of a general nature, we’ll add it to our frequently asked questions page to help others as they move into digital photography. 

            Digital photography takes you away from just being a picture taker to being in control of the entire process of taking, organizing, storing and exhibiting your personal photography.  It puts you in charge of every step, with simple easy to use tools and without the need for complicated, expensive equipment and chemicals.  We think you will find the adventure ahead to be exciting and rewarding.



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