Are your digital photos nothing but a bunch of lifeless ones and zeros occupying space on your hard drive? Here are some ways to bring them to life. By Jorin Sievers
Your computer’s hard drive probably contains a significant number of digital photographs. Most people’s computers will have anywhere from a few hundred megabytes to dozens of gigabytes of digital memories hidden in the shadows. Well here’s a newsflash: if your images are nothing but a dusty collection of files on your computer, then they’re basically wasted. A good digital image is a living, breathing, human document, but without human interaction it is meaningless.
There are two ways to free your trapped images from the lifeless depths of your hard drive: by making a physical copy and by sharing them online. If you seldom do either of these things, you’re doing your photos an injustice. How many beautiful images are gathering dust on your hard drive? Why not set them free? Let me show you how.
Sure, photos look okay on a computer screen, but at a typical resolution of less than 100ppi (see box “DPI and PPI”) you’re not making the most of them. In fact, compared to the glorious 300ppi resolution you get with a good quality print, they’re embarrassing.
Although many people like tinkering with DIY home photo printing, I recommend paying a photo lab to do the job for you. While DIY home printing can be great fun, it can also be a frustrating exercise that produces lots of wasted paper and ink. Also – unless you spend thousands on a top-of-the-line printer – the results are always of a lower quality than those which photo labs produce. Even if you do buy all the expensive printing gear, confusing details like colour correction, monitor calibration and paper type will take a long time to master. The professionals use top-quality paper and inks on perfectly calibrated machines to produce results you can’t match at home. Best of all, photo labs do the job quickly and for very little expense.
For example, standard 6x4-inch photos typically cost less than 30c each and big glossy A3 prints are usually less than $20.
Gone are the days when your only options for printing photos were picking a size and choosing between glossy or matt paper. These days, advances in ink and printing technologies mean a huge range of materials like plastic, ceramic and textiles can have your photo reproduced on them. This ever-expanding array of novelty photo items like t-shirts, bags, cushions, drinking mugs, and even snow globes can be produced at affordable prices (see boxout). Other, less kitschy, printed items that are perennially popular include greeting cards, calendars and coffee-table style photobooks.
One of the best ways to really show off a photo is make it into a piece of art – on a huge canvas. These spectacular photo canvases make ideal conversation pieces to adorn the walls of your home. Enormous A0 size (more than 1m wide) canvas prints can be produced for around $100, which makes them very affordable home artworks. They’re also great gifts for family and friends – being especially meaningful because they are something you created.
In the frame
There’s nothing worse than your crisp new photo print lying around and becoming all dog-eared and stained. A good photo needs a good frame to protect it and draw attention to it. The type of frame you choose is down to personal taste, but try to select a colour, thickness and style that complements the image instead of distracting from it. Make sure the frame comes with the appropriate backing hardware to suit how you intend to display it. In order to hang the frame from a wall, it needs eye hooks or a triangular wire loop on the back. Alternatively, to display the frame on a shelf, look for an easel-style stand on the rear to enable it to sit on a flat surface. If you’re really serious about long-term protection of your photo print, talk to a professional framer about things like acid-free backing paper and UV filtering glass.
Share it with the world
A great way to make the most of your favourite photographs is to share them with a global audience. It’s not about getting famous or showing off; it’s about sharing your unique perspective with other photo lovers. With the power of the Internet, thousands of people can enjoy your photographic creations. This can lead to stimulating online discussions as fans of your work ask how you captured that perfect moment. Who knows – maybe you’ll even sell a few images.
Free online galleries are where most people choose to show off their images because they’re simple to use and – most importantly – free. There are dozens of photo gallery sites on the Web, all with their own unique features. However, three of the most trusted and popular are Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa. Simply sign up for a free account, upload your photos, add captions (if you wish), then wait for people to visit your page. Visitors are tracked and you’ll be informed how many people have seen your photos. However, make sure to consider your account’s privacy settings. You might be happy for everyone in the world to see the images you upload – or you might only want friends and family to be able to view them. One further word of warning: if you allow anyone to make comments on your images, be prepared for criticism. This is great if you like interaction and feedback; bad if you can’t deal with heartless Internet hecklers.
For complete control of how your images are presented to the world, consider making your own Web site. However, realistically, you’ll want a big selection of really top-notch images if you’re going to the trouble of creating a site and paying for the annual hosting bills,. A simple (and free) alternative to a full-blown Web site is to start a photoblog. These are basic personal Web pages hosted by a larger site, where you can upload your images and write text to describe them. Most blogs also allow visitors to comment on your work. Get started with a blog at www.fotolog.com or www.blogger.com
Sell it online
Finally, if you think you’ve got some really special images – good enough to be in a magazine – why not try your hand at making some money from them? There are dozens of so-called ‘stock photo gallery’ Web sites that will market your photos to the world, where art directors and graphic designers may pay to use them for creative projects.
Getty (www.gettyimages.com) and Corbis (www.corbis.com) are the two major stock photo galleries that pay big bucks for images. But to have them represent your work, you’ll have to have a huge selection of truly world-class images to offer. It’s more likely you could pick up a few dollars on stock photo galleries like www.istockphoto.com, www.alamy.com and www.shutterstock.com Such sites are where most amateur photographers sell their photos online. But don’t expect to get rich; you might only make a few dollars for each sale.