Most people think that the camera is a tool for taking pictures. Well, that's certainly true; but the only time they think about taking pictures is during traditional photo opportunities. So day by day, week by week, month by month, the poor camera lies dormant until birthdays, graduations, vacations, weddings, or other photo-ops come along. That's certainly a shame; because most of your best opportunities happen almost every day.
Living Digital Photography
Commentary by Fred Showker
How many times have you said: "Darn, I wish I had my camera!"
The truth is, cameras are for photographing anything and everything, not just special events. But if you don't get into the mode of "living" photography, you'll miss all those great opportunities. One of the most overlooked areas for using your camera is in day to day life. Here are just a few examples of ways to make your digital camera investment pay off. The cardinal rule is keep your camera with you.
Memories of the Day
Since digital photos cost your virtually nothing, why not take lots and lots of of them. You can always throw bad shots away, but you can't always capture the shot later. Making a photographic record of seemingly routine daily activities or events can add up to a visual life diary. It might not seem important to capture the dogs in the trash can now, but five, ten or even fifteen years from now it might be a precious memory. Photos evoke not just the specific event, but the times and experiences which came along with that event.
Many people take pictures of their car. This adds up to a life record of the cars you've owned and the times you had. I look back on my photos of the Jeepster Commando I owned in the early '70s with fond memories. The Jeepster is long gone, but those memories can live on.
Tip: Always make a note or "caption" your photos once you've imported them into your photo album software. Always save photos as JPG, TIF or GIF as a backup to a separate CD-Rom. Extend the margin and write your notes directly into the bitmap so the record always stays with the photo.
Probably the most practical reason to take more digital photos seldom occurs to anyone. Photographing and annotating all your most important or valuable earthly belongings is an important use of your camera. If your home or apartment is burglarized, or heaven forbid, burns to the ground; pictures will be your proof of possession for insurance claims. Photos, along with your commentary will be far more convincing than your mere verbal vouching.
The same holds true for misfortune like storms, crimes or auto accidents -- get the whole picture. Not just the car, but the other car and the entire scene.
Tip: Store the photos in a Universal format -- not in the trendy software of the day! We have many readers who write lamenting that they can no longer access their photos from a couple of years ago because the photos were saved in a proprietary format. Now the software is gone or no longer supported by the current operating system -- and so are their photos. Besides, in the event of the unmentionable, you want to make sure those photos are in a format that any computer can use. And store a backup CD at the office or some other "off-premise" location.
Your digital camera is also a digital assistant. Many of the newer cameras even come with voice annotation or Mpeg capabilities. Use them.
Let's say you're shopping for trim strips to match the existing trim on your garage. No, don't pull off a strip to take to the store, catch a digital photo instead! Be sure to get a close-up. Arriving at the store use the camera monitor as reference to pick out the trim. This works for many other 'life' situations as well; selecting prom or formal attire? Take along a photo of your escort's apparel for the event. Need a part for the washing machine? Photograph the old part in place before removing it. There are hundreds of handy uses for that digital photo, voice notation or video.
Preserving and protecting your photo prints
Unfortunately there are no man-made pigments yet found which are permanent. Many will last a long time if stored properly. We suspect your digital photos stored on CD-Rom will probably have the longest lifetime. (So far the industry is unsure how long because the early CDs haven't died yet.) So, preserving your in prints presents some different challenges.
The biggest enemies of photo prints are light and humidity. Restrict or eliminate these and you've won part of the battle.
- If storing in photo albums, insist on acid-free, archival sleeves.
- Store albums in a low humidity location free of wide temperature swings
- Keep photos away from airborne pollutants like chemical vapors, cigarette smoke, etc.
- If mounting the photos, use acid-free mount board, sold in photo or art-supply stores
- If mounting the photos, use an approved dry mount, or 'tack' prints in the upper corners only to provide expansion. Use only acid-free mounting materials
- Matting is preferable to mounting if framing behind glass. Print should not be pressed against the glass.
- If matting, use acid-free, archival matte board and demand UV-protective glass
- Display the picture in a location away from direct or strong sunlight. Direct fluorescent light will also degrade pigments.
- For the ultimate protection, laminate the print. This seals out all humidity and airborne pollutants
- Always keep a copy of the image file on a CD-ROM in a universal format. You can always make another print... but you can't always take the same picture!
Read the Manual
It really does seem logical doesn't it? However most people don't read the camera manual closely enough. All the above rules plus many more are probably in your manual.
Above all... enjoy
I hope I've given you some ideas and inspiration to start using your camera more often. I keep mine with me just about all the time. In fact I have two; one in a clam-shell design that fits in my cargo pockets, and another, higher quality with lenses, etc., that always stays here at the office for studio situations.
What ever you do, keep taking pictures. Don't ask if it's important enough for a photo -- it always will be. Fill that memory card or stick up every week. File, organize and annotate your photos on CD-ROM relentlessly. Believe me, in ten years you'll be thanking me for this advice.
The only regrets are, that they didn't have digital cameras thirty years ago. Otherwise I'd have a whole lifetime of valuable memories -- accessible in mere moments!
Thanks for reading... and happy picture taking!
Editor / Publisher, DT&G Magazine
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