PHOTOS are a fundamental part of our lives. Yet many of us are confused about what to do with the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of digital photos we take on our phones and cameras every year. Here is a guide to the most popular ways of handling your digital snaps.
BEST OPTIONS FOR PRINTING DIGITAL PHOTOS
1. Commercial photoprinting machines
Probably the most popular way of printing photos is by using a photoprinting machine in a pharmacy, photo shop or general supermarket. These guide you through the process and require you either to insert a memory card or, if you're using a phone, to transfer your photos wirelessly using your phone's Bluetooth facility. Most machines offer a variety of sizes and some even offer the ability to change the photo (crop it, make it brighter or other options). Photos typically cost 50 cents each or less if printed in batches of 10 or more.
2. Photo printing apps
If you have an iPhone, there are some good apps that allow you to simply upload your photos directly from your phone to be printed and posted out to you. Two good examples are SimplyPhoto and Conns Cameras Photo Lab, both available in the iPhone's App Store. SimplyPhoto receives your uploaded photo, prints it and posts it to you in the mail. It costs €2.40 for five 6x4 prints or €3 for five 7x5 prints, including the postage price.
3. Photobooks and canvases
One impressive way of getting photos printed is through the medium of photobooks or canvas prints. Services such as Snapfish.ie or Apple's iPhoto guide you through the simple creation of a book, with text, using your own photos. They cost from €10. Canvas print options such as Cork-based lab The Canvas Works (TheCanvasWorks.ie) produce beautiful pieces from €25.
4. Dedicated photo developers
For good quality snaps, photography shops are often the best option. Most will accept photos sent by email. However, note that there is a size limit using this option, with no more than 10 or 15 mailable at the same time.
With digital cameras (and cameraphones), it is possible to print your own photos at home. While many printers will print photos on ordinary paper, a quality option usually involves purchasing a dedicated photoprinter. There are pros and cons to this. Affordable models such as Canon's Selphy CP900 (€125) have Wi-Fi and print from memory cards but do not have Bluetooth, meaning they are almost useless for smartphones (the main camera devices used by most people). Replacing ink and paper is also not cheap, with photos working out at around 35 cents per 6x4 shot. More expensive models from Epson give more variety in photo sizes and do include Bluetooth, but cost over €300.
WHERE TO SHARE OR STORE DIGITAL PHOTOS
1. Flickr (www.flickr.com or 'Flickr' app)
This is a free online service that lets you share photos or just store them. You have to create an account (if you have a Yahoo Mail account, this works fine) and then it will guide you on how to upload your photos from your PC, tablet or smartphone. The big advantage to Flickr is that you get loads of free online storage space. In fact, its 1,000 gigabytes is way more than any rivals. You can also store large pictures there, which you can download again if you want to print at a later stage.
2. Instagram ('Instagram' app)
This is a free smartphone (and tablet) service that is now very popular. It acts as a camera function with optional filters (for making your photo look brighter, darker, more colourful or whatever). Once snapped, you then 'post' (upload) your photo to your Instagram account, where other people ('Instagram friends') will see it. The service is designed to be a sharing one, so it's not for people who want to store private photos. Snaps are also very small and so cannot be downloaded.
3. Dropbox (www.dropbox.com or 'Dropbox' app)
If you really just want somewhere to store photos, this is one of the best free options for a PC, smartphone or tablet. Once you start an account, you can just 'drag and drop' photos on to the web page from your computer's home screen. On a smartphone, you can tick a box, which says that all photos you take on the phone will automatically upload to your online Dropbox account. Just like any internet account, you can log into it anywhere, from any other PC, phone or tablet. You can store big photos, too.
4. Facebook (www.facebook.com or 'Facebook' app)
This is where most photos are shared. You need to have a Facebook account. If you do, click 'upload photo' at the top of the screen and it will guide you through the three-step process. The downside to Facebook is that the website shrinks your photos, meaning they'll be too small if you want to go back and print any off.
OPTIONS FOR PICKING THE BEST DIGITAL CAMERA
1. A good smartphone
Most photos are now taken on cameraphones. Even budget models have cameras of five megapixels or better, while high-end phones from Apple, Sony or Samsung have cameras of up to 20 megapixels. These high-end cameraphones are sufficient for well-lit photos (such as outdoors in the daytime or well-lit indoor shots).
Pros: Great screens; immediate sharing options; you always have it with you.
Cons: Very poor zoom, poor flashes and not good in dimly lit situations (such as christenings, weddings and parties).
Best buy: Sony Xperia Z1 (20 megapixels, 5-inch screen); €600 or from free on operator contract.
2. A compact camera
Although these are becoming less popular, their advantage over smartphones is that they have much better zooms, flashes, and generally take higher quality photos. They have also tumbled in price.
Pros: Better quality photos; good models priced from just €60.
Cons: Often unnecessary where a smartphone will take an adequate shot.
Best buy: Canon Ixus 135 (16 megapixel, 8x zoom); €100 (in PC World).
3. A beginner DSLR camera
If you want really good quality photos, a basic DSLR camera might be the best choice. These are the (predominantly black) bulky cameras, which accept different lenses. You can simply choose to use them on idiot-proof 'automatic' if you like and they'll still take great shots.
Pros: Best-quality shots; choice of specialist portrait or zoom lenses; fun for those seeking a new hobby.
Cons: Much bulkier; accessories are sometimes confusing.
Best buy: Nikon D3200 (24 megapixels, 18-55mm lens); €470.