I can hardly believe it's really only been a few years since 'everyone' has had a digital camera! Can you believe that only ten years ago, hardly anyone had even heard of such a thing?!? Now I think the question is really what kind of digital you have, rather than whether or not you have one.
We got our first digital about two and a half years ago, a Canon A70, and last summer I was ecstatic to finally get a digital SLR to continue my photography obsession - a Canon Rebel XT. In the two and a half years since we've 'gone digital,' I have taken something in the neighborhood of 3,500 photos (well, that's how many I have on the computer...I'm sure I've actually shot a lot more than that).
I realized very quickly after getting the digital camera that regular folders on our hard drive were just not going to cut it. Sure, I could sort them into folders based on the month and year they were taken, but then what happens later when I'm looking for that cute picture of Little G at the park and I have no clue whether it was taken during that warm spell in April, or in September? And even if by some miracle (and it would take a miracle, let me tell you) I do remember the correct month, I still have to sort through all kinds of cryptic 'img2846729209.jpg' names and squint at the little thumbnail pictures to figure out which of the 50 pictures I took that day is the one I'm looking for.
What usually happens? I'd just give up on finding it at all.
But thankfully I found a program that has saved me from this predicament many a time - Adobe Photoshop Album. They are on version 3.0 right now, but from what I can tell I prefer my v2.0 - the newest update doesn't seem to have the same backup capability as mine does. The key to this program is 'tags' - basically the equivalent of little sticky notes put on each photo to categorize them. You can set up however many tags as you wish, and sort them into categories (I have 'people,' 'places,' 'events,' etc.). Then all you have to do is click and drag the tags that apply to your photo on top of it, and they are labelled with that category or categories. Searching for just the right photo later on becomes easy - I just check the boxes for 'Little G' and 'Outside' (I have a lot of categories based on the kind of scrapbook pages I would do) and voila, up comes all the pictures that have those tags assigned to them, regardless of where they happen to reside on my hard drive. I can even take older pictures off of our computer and archive them on CDs, and the program still retains a thumbnail of the picture so I can still search for those photos.
As I mentioned, the program has a great backup utility (although it doesn't seem to be as complete in v3.0), and the ability to create and share pictures and slideshows with others. One of my favorite things is that is automatically resizes your photos to whichever size you choose (small, medium, large) when you share by email - something I'm sure your friends and family would appreciate if you've been clogging their inboxes with giant photo files!
The other decision digital camera users face is the question of how to share their pictures online - one of the main reasons for going digital, if my friends are any indication. There are a myriad of options available today, which makes choosing one very difficult. I think I probably have accounts at at least five different sites that I tried before finding one I was happy with!
There are several free options, which may work for you for a while, but let's face it - nothing is really free. There is always a catch - either your photo page is covered in ads, your friends have to give a lot of information to set up an account to even see your pictures, or there's a limit on how many pictures you can upload and store in your account...or usually all of the above.
After all my experimenting with various options out there, I finally heard about Smugmug. Out of all the choices on the net, Smugmug received the Editor's Choice recognition from PC Magazine as 'the best.' And it is. After a free trial so you can check it out, it will cost you ($39 a year), but what you get for that price is pretty great - and I'm a cheapskate! You get:
- no ads
- unlimited storage (like no limit...ever)
- your friends and family don't have to go through the bother of setting up an account to view your photos - just visit your homepage (which will be yourname.smugmug.com)
- the ability to password-protect all or just some of your galleries
- online ordering of prints and gifts (at prices very similar to our local Walmart - and great quality!)
- email support from REAL people - I've emailed them a couple of times and I couldn't believe how quickly they responded and how helpful they actually were
- if you're a bit of a photographer wanna-be like me, you'll love how the default black background make your pictures stand out and look their best (but there's lots of choices for those who like to change things around too!)
- they have their own forums with lots of opportunities for photo sharing, asking questions, etc.
I have been thrilled with Smugmug, even though I was admittedly a little reluctant to part with my hard-earned cash! It works for me - maybe it will for you too!