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Sharing your photos with family and friends

Do not email large pictures to family and friends; you will soon have everyone annoyed at you. Never send any photo files except jpegs (with a .jpg extension). If you have a digital camera this is how your files are produced. If you have a scanner make sure to convert your images to jpegs before you send them or upload them. The pictures that come from digital cameras and, often, ones that are scanned into your computer are much larger than they need to be for viewing on the internet or attaching to emails.  You must use some photo software to reduce the size first.  800 X 600 pictures or even smaller is best for this purpose.  You keep the large files for printing.  Windows XP will take care of this resizing for you.  Just go to My Pictures folder, select a picture and click on Email this picture. If you have Vista go to Pictures, select a picture, right click and choose Send To, them mail recipient.  A box pops up and allows you to choose what size you want.

Both Microsoft and Google have come up with pretty good solutions for emailing photos. If you download the free Picassa program from Google you just highlight a photo (or photos) that you want to send. Then you click on the email button at the bottom. A box will pop up asking whether you want to send the photo(s) using Google mail or your default email program. Whichever you choose, Picassa will resize the photo and prepare an email for you to send out.

Microsoft has an even better solution. If you download the free email program Windows Live Mail, you can send "photomail". You do need to have a Windows Live ID. If you already have hotmail or msnmail then you already have the ID you need. You can run Windows Live Mail and choose Add Pictures, then choose the pictures on your computer that you want to send. Google's Picasso and other programs choose a size for you. With Windows Live Mail you have all sorts of options for having the photos in your email appear small, medium or large. But the story gets even better. Windows Live Mail will send the smaller versions to your email recipient. It will also upload and store larger versions on Microsoft servers, at least for a while. Thus your recipient can run a slide show or even download larger versions of your photos for printing. They really have it all covered - this is the best way to send photos by email. You will also want to download Microsoft's program Windows Live Photo Gallery. This is an extremely useful free program for managing your photos and even doing some fundamental editing. It's essentially a huge improvement over the photo handling capabilities that are built-in to Vista and XP. With the built-in Windows functionality you can right click a photo, choose Send to Mail Recipient and have the photo resized or embedded in photomail (if you have Windows Live Mail). With Windows Live Photo Gallery you choose a photo or photos and click on the email button at the top of the program.

An even better way to share your photos is to put them up on the world wide web and tell your friends where they are.  They can much more easily view them than if you send them the files via email.  If you use one of the online photofinishers to get prints you're all set.  They have facilities for sending your friends an email with a link and instructions for them to view your pictures.  They can even order their own prints (saving you some money). 

If you haven't uploaded your pictures for printing you can still upload them to sites which specialize in photo sharing.  Many of these used to be free but a lot of them went out of business. Those that remain charge a nominal fee; it's worth it if you share a lot of photos.  The best one is www.smugmug.com You can do a 7 day trial and after that it costs about $30 a year.  Use coupon code qM2NMiCheGNbM to save $5. Another good one is www.flickr.com now owned by Yahoo. It's definitely got a "community" atmoshpere so if you're looking to participate with others, meet like-minded photographers and the like, try it out.  They offer a free membership but it has pretty severe limits on how much you can upload in a month and has other restrictions (only three "sets" or categories).  If you try the free service be sure to answer "yes" to the box that pops up asking if you want your pictures resized.  Otherwise you'll run through your monthly free allotment in no time.  If you have a lot of pictures you're going to end up upgrading to a "pro" account which costs $24.95.  So if you have a lot of pictures you may just want to go with www.smugmug.com in the first place. At smugmug you can get help directly from the owners; it's a family run business and they are serious about quality.   www.webshots.com and www.fototime.com are also good ones.  If you use Windows Live Photogallery from Microsoft (http://explore.live.com/windows-live-essentials ) you can upload your pictures to Microsoft picture album site right from the program.  As I noted above the free email program Windows Live Mail is also excellent for emailing pictures to your friends.  If takes care of showing them small versions of your pictures and then giving them a way to view the larger one which it has automatically stored for you. You can also upload directly to your Windows Live Photo Albums using your browser.  Google offers photo sharing through it's Picassa Web Albums http://picasaweb.google.com

 Another recent option for sharing is to create a blog.  Go to  www.blogger.com or www.wordpress.com

 

You can also share pictures at these sites but the emphasis in on ordering prints.  The sharing features may or may not be what you're looking for.  www.shutterfly.com www.kodakgallery.com  www.dotphoto.com  www.clubphoto.com  www.snapfish.com

Software

Adobe Photoshop is unarguably the standard for manipulating images.  It is, however, very expensive and somwaht hard to learn.  If you are relatively new to modifying and manipulating photographs go with Windows Live Photogallery from Microsoft.  It is very easy to use and will handle simple adjustments.  A lot of people also like Picasa, a free program from Google at http://picasa.google.com/ It's pretty good for organizing and viewing and has some interesting editing effects. If you are a little more advanced your best choices are Adobe Photoshop Elements or PhotoImpact. Photoshop Elements is a reasonably priced product from the makers of Photoshop. It is targeted at photographers and home users rather than professional graphic artists.    It is also marvelous just for viewing and organizing your pictures.  Don't overlook the free programs from Google and Microsoft.  Picasa is the program from Google and Windows Live Photo Gallery is from Microsoft.

Printing your pictures

If you want to print your pictures at home you need an inkjet printer for photos.  Hewlett Packard and Epson and Canon are the three biggies. Kodak also has outstanding photo printers and the ink is much cheaper than the others. You probably don't need all the bells and whistles such as printing directly from your camera.  Paper is important. You have to use photo paper to get prints that look like we expect pictures to look.  Be sure to tell your software when to use photo paper.  Many people have put photo paper into their printers and been very unhappy with the results only because the computer software thinks they are using plain paper.  All of these photo printers also do a nice job of printing pictures on plain paper.  Epson claims that if you use their paper your photos should last at least 25 years.   Prints from older inkjet printers will start to fade pretty quickly - a year or two - if they are exposed to a lot of light.

You can also order prints from a photofinisher by uploading them to one of several web sites.  This is a pretty slow process if you have a dial-up connection, quite painless if you have DSL or cable modem. In 2004 I began using www.smugmug.com to share photographs.  This is an excellent site where you and your friends can order high quality prints.  For quality, speed and variety of products you should check out www.shutterfly.com. I have ordered hundreds of prints from them.  They are printed on conventional photo paper by conventional process (not inkjet) so they will last as long as the color prints you are used to.  Another good site is www.kodakgallery.com    If you have lots of prints try www.dotphoto.com  or www.snapfish.com  They are cheaper than the others and produce good prints.    Snapfish was acquired by HP so prices have dropped and features have improved. You can also take your digital camera storage card to a local photofinisher (Ritz Camera for example) and they will make conventional prints for you.  Osco and Walgreens have Kodak photo machines which will quickly make high quality prints from your digital pictures.  You can do some editing and touchups right on the screen of the machine although you're better off doing this at home and taking the finished picture on a floppy disk or putting them back on the camera storage card. You can also upload your pictures to Ritz Camera or Walgreens. I have also heard good things about printing from Costco if you happen to belong there.  You can upload your pictures and either pick them up at a store or have them mailed to you.  Walgreen's has started offering this same service and I think that Wal-Mart does too. Top

Other ideas: You can order calendars, greeting cards, framed prints and note cards from most of the photofinishers such as www.shutterfly.com

Make a book

Check out this link http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/shareit/book.mspx for information about creating your own book.  It's easy and a lot of fun.  I have ordered small books from www.shutterfly.com and www.clubphoto.com with soft covers.  I also did a big leather covered coffee table book at www.mypublisher.com that came out very nice and another at www.snapfish.com There are also photobook offerings at www.kodakgallery.com and www.clubphoto.com
Cards and postcards

One of my favorite places is www.amazingmail.com. You can upload pictures and have them turned into beautiful postcards.  They print them with your message, address them, stamp them and mail them.  Now you can go to www.usps.com (The US Post Office) and send postcards with your pictures.  Actually they just direct you to AmazingMail. If you have access to a computer while you're on vacation it's a great way to send postcards with pictures of you and your family in front of some gorgeous scene or awesome monument.  Another place I like is www.cardstore.com. You can upload a photo and turn it into a custom greeting card.  They will print, address, stamp and mail these for you or send you the cards for your own use.  www.shutterfly.com now also offers outstanding greeting cards. Top

Buying a digital camera

New models come out all the time so I won't even try to deal with which camera to buy.  One of the main decisions points is "how many pixels?" and this is major factor in cost.  For most consumers a 4 megapixel camera will do just fine.  Prices keep coming down so 5 and 7 megapixel cameras are pretty reasonable as well. Get one with a zoom lens and don't be fooled by digital zoom - get one that has optical zoom. Digital zoom is just a fancy term for blowing up the middle of a picture - you can do that on your computer.  Ease of use is an important consideration - some of these cameras are pretty complicated.  If you're willing to dive into a manual and spend a lot of time learning then you'll be okay. If you're looking for simplicity make sure you try the camera out at the camera store.  Kodak digital cameras are designed for people who want things simple. They take good pictures too.  Nikon and  Canon are the two biggest players but there are lots of Sony and Olympus fans too.  Each camera uses some sort of "card" to store the pictures.   There are two good sites where you can read digital camera reviews http://www.dpreview.com/ and http://www.steves-digicams.com/hardware_reviews.html. If these are overwhelming try http://www.zdnet.com/special/filters/sc/camera/.

 

How to email photos using Google's Picassa and Microsoft's Windows Live Photo Gallery. Getting pictures from your camera to your computer Better flash photography