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Digital Photography Workflow

Transferring Images

Card readers are often connected to a computer's USB port, or may even be built in. Cards inserted into a slot are treated just as if they were removable hard drives. Cards vary in size and have different connections so many readers now have a variety of slots. Photo courtesy of PQI atpqi1st.com.
If a card is smaller than a slot, or if your notebook has an ExpressCard Slot you can usually find an adapter that mates your card to the slot. Here is Delkin's adapter that lets you read CF cards in an Expresscard slot. Some adapters accept a variety of cards Courtesy of Delkin.
Click for an animation on dragging and dropping files.
Sandisk makes an SD card that folds to reveal a USB connector so it can be plugged in without using a slot or card reader.
The Kodak EasyShare One's WiFi compatibility lets you post images on a Web site or e-mail them using a home network or public hot spot. Photo courtesy of Kodak at www.kodak.com.
A Nikon camera with WiFi connectability.
Storage in the camera is only meant to be temporary. When you want to use or edit the images, or make room for new ones, you transfer the images on the card to the computer.

Almost all digital cameras come with software that will transfer your images for you as do newer photo-editing and image management programs. As useful as these tools are, you should also know how to use your operating system's tools. Here are some reasons why:

  • Availability. Operating system tools are on every computer of the same type, anywhere in the world.
  • Change. If you change applications, what you have learned about operating system tools remains useful. What you have learned about the old application might as well be forgotten.
  • Control. Many programs have a mind of its own and rename and store files in a manner you may not choose were you given the choice. Operating system tools let you use your own file management system.
Regardless of how you transfer the files, you have to choose whether to move or copy them.
  • If you move files from the camera's storage device, they are first copied to the computer and then deleted from the storage device. If anything goes wrong during the transfer you may loose image files.
  • If you copy files, they are not automatically deleted from the storage device. You either have to do that using your computer or one of the camera's commands. Although deleting the images after the transfer is an extra step, this procedure is safer than moving files because if anything goes wrong you still have the original images on the card.
To transfer files you have to connect the camera or memory card to the computer or other device and there are a variety of ways to do this.

Card Readers and Slots

One of the most common ways to transfer images to a computer is using a card reader or card slot that accepts your card with or without an adapter. Card slots are increasingly being built into computers, printers, and even TV sets. If your system doesn't have one, there are inexpensive card readers that will plug into a USB port.

Some home printers, print kiosks in public locations, and even TV sets have slots that accept cards directly from your camera so you can view or print images withouta computer. Courtesy of Hewlett Packard at hp.com.

One thing to be aware of is that newer computers and card readers have a ExpressCard slot instead of the older CardBus PC card slot. If your computer is equipped with one of these newer slots, your old adapter for memory cards won't work and you will have to get a new one. Shown here on the left is an older PC card. To its right are the two ExpressCard module sizes-- 34mm or 54mm wide by 5mm thick by 75mm long.

Cable Connections

Another popular way to transfer photos is by way of cables. The most popular connections at the moment are USB 2.0 and Firewire 800 (IEEE 1394b).

Almost all cameras come with a USB or Firewire (IEEE 1394) cable that connects it to a computer or printer. Courtesy of Canon at www.powershot.com.

Cable connections on the back of Apple's Mac Mini with USB and Firewire (IEEE 1394) logos and connectors are shown here circled in red. Courtesy of Apple at www.apple.com.

A dock lets you easily connect a camera to a printer or computer and even charge the camera's batteries. Unfortunately, docks are camera-model specific so if you buy another camera you'll need another way to make your connections. Courtesy of Kodak at www.kodak.com.

USB cables have a standard plug at the computer end but those on the camera end aren't standardized-a source of endless frustration for those with more than one camera. Luckily there are adapter kits like this one from www.wiredco.com.

Wireless Connections

One of the latest trends is using wireless connections between your camera and you computer or printers, and between your camera and a network so you can immediately share your photos using e-mail, photosharing sites, or photo blogs. There are three basic approaches:
  • Infrared connects line-of-sight devices where the infrared beam isn't blocked.
  • WiFi connects to wireless printers, kiosks and WiFi networks like those in home networks and public hot spots. It is built into a few cameras and can be purchased separately for others. Camera phones often send photos over the operator's network but you are at their mercy when it comes to pricing. Luckily, some camera phones also let you connect to WiFi networks so you can cut your transfer costs. These cameras adhere to the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standard, which works with WiFi 802.11b/g networking. This allows them to communicate with each other as well as a WiFi network and other entertainment devices in the home.
  • Bluetooth is inexplicably named after Herald Bluetooth a 10th Century Danish king. It is relatively slow, much slower than WiFi. Initially developed to replace all of the cables hanging off your desktop, Bluetooth is finding a home in photography because it uses very little power, preserving battery life, and unlike infrared technology, Bluetooth devices don't have to be in line of sight contact with each other in order to transfer data. Photo kiosks are often equipped with Bluetooth so you can beam your photos to the printer. With both digital cameras and camera phones equipped with Bluetooth you can even take pictures with the camera and send them with the camera phone. There are also PC Card and USB adapters that let you use Bluetooth to wirelessly transfer images from your phone to your computer.

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