Saturday 26 May 2018

Digital DIY Part Two: A step-by-step guide to becoming an online consumer

Irish Independent technology expert Adrian Weckler.
Irish Independent technology expert Adrian Weckler.
The Dropbox app.
Casting light on the digital camera world.
Photos are a huge part of our lives, and how to manage their storage is becoming increasingly challenging.
Sony RX100ii
Canon 100D
The Sony Xperia Z3+ (20 megapixels, 5.2-inch screen): €600 or from free on operator contract.
Huawei G7 (13 megapixels, 5.5-inch screen): €275.
The Panasonic 'Image App'.
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Digital photography: a late adopters' guide Photos are a huge part of our lives. This year alone, we will take an estimated 900 billion of them on our phones. Yet we're becoming bewildered by the mess that hundreds (sometimes thousands) of digital photos make sprawled across our many phones and computers. Our technology editor looks at some of the options available for arranging, storing, sharing and printing our digital photographs

Part Two: How to build your online picture album

'I now have thousands of photos between my phone, camera and computer. Is there any easy way of organising them?'

This is one of our most common problems. Because of our phones, we now have hundreds and thousands of snaps of kids, pets, parties, festivals and more. It's clogging up the phone and it's getting hard to find anything anymore. What can we do?

1. Phone

The most accurate way of organising your photos is to tap the ones you think are best and put them into a folder. On an iPhone, this is easy: tap the 'Select' button at the top right of the screen and just tap away on as many photos as you like. Then tap 'Add to' at the bottom of the screen and choose 'New Album'. You'll be asked to name this new photo album. Then just tap 'save'. You now have an album of the photos you really want to categorise.

If you want to actually delete photos, just repeat the 'select' process above and tap the small dustbin icon in the bottom right corner of the screen. One handy thing about iPhone photos is that if you delete something by mistake, you can retrieve it by going into the 'recently deleted' folder you see.

It's a fairly similar process on an Android (Samsung, Sony, HTC) phone. However, if you have hundreds (or even thousands) of photos, this can take some time. If you want to try an automated approach, several apps - such as Picjoy, MyPics or Photo Manager Pro - look at your photo gallery and let you search your pictures by certain details or appearances, date or location. But a word of warning: they can be hit and miss. For example, Picjoy's suggestion to search for 'rainy' photos on my phone brought up pictures with no rain or weather in them at all.

2. PC

On a home computer, there are lots of programs to organise your photos automatically for you. If you have an iMac or a MacBook, Apple's iPhoto now has facial recognition that will search your library and tag photos of the same person. On a Windows PC, free software such as PhotoMove 2 will automatically create folders for you based on the date the photo was taken (it can read this information from the photo's 'exif' data).

3. Online

If you have backed up stacks and stacks of photos to online services such as Dropbox or Flickr, there are some tools that make it a little easier to sort them from each other. Carousel for Dropbox (it's a free phone app download or, online, go to carousel.dropbox.com) is an excellent tool that arranges your photos largely by date. (It also encourages you to upload all photos you take from your phone automatically.) Flickr and Google Photos organise by date by default and allow batch deletions.

'My iPhone is full. I want to free up space without deleting any photos right now...'

This is a common problem as many people buy phones without enough storage on them (16GB is not enough for a new iPhone if you use it to take photos). There are two simple ways of backing photos up.

1. Get a free online storage account

While iPhones give you 5GB of free online storage with iCloud, that runs out very quickly before you'll be charged €1 per month (for 20GB) or €4 per month (for 200GB). There are lots of good free alternatives that give you more space. The biggest of them is Google Photos, which gives free unlimited storage for your photos, as long as they're 16 megapixels or less (which is almost all photos taken on most phones).

Once you download it, the app will automatically upload all your photos to Google Photos, which you can get into on a PC or tablet by simply using your Gmail log in. Flickr (app and online at flickr.com) is a good alternative. It gives you 1,000GB of free storage with no size limit.

Microsoft OneDrive is another option, as is Dropbox - both of these are available as app downloads and accessible afterwards from your PC. Once your photos are copied into your online storage account, you can copy or download them onto any other device like a tablet or a PC.

2. Copy photos directly onto a PC

This used to be the main way of storing photos, but fewer people are now using laptops or desktop PCs at home. Still, it's an effective way of backing up photos. Just connect your phone (iPhone or Android) to your computer using the charging cable (one end goes into the computer's USB port). The PC should automatically give you options on what to do. If you're connecting an iPhone to an Apple Mac, it will automatically open up iPhotos and you can copy them over.

On a Windows computer, you may need to open 'file explorer' to see the connected phone folder. Once you open the folder, you can simply highlight all the photos and drag them into another folder on your PC. From there, you can back them up onto an external hard drive (like a USB key) if you want.

'I want to send multiple photos to friends without having to do it one by one...'

This happens a lot if you're at an occasion like a wedding, or a family get-together. There are lots of photos of different people or things you'd like to share, but you don't want to post them on a social network. Sending them individually takes time and email size limits often won't allow you send more than a few at the same time.

The handiest way of doing this over email is to pick the photos you want to send and upload them to Dropbox (free to download as an app or sign up at dropbox.com in your internet browser). This is relatively easy to do: just select a group of photos in your phone and pick 'share' or 'upload' to Dropbox from the phone's options.

Then open Dropbox itself (either in the Dropbox app or online). Pick and tick the photos you want and then select 'share'. You will then be prompted to enter the email address(es) of anyone you want to share the photos with. They'll get an email with a link to the photos on Dropbox. They don't need to be subscribers to Dropbox to view or download the photos to their own devices.

'Where do I share or store digital photos?

1. Flickr (www.flickr.com or 'Flickr' app)

This is a free online service (and app) 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 most 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 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 onto 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 (free) Facebook account. If you do, click 'upload photo' at the top of the screen and it will guide you through a three-step process. The downside to Facebook is that the website shrinks your photos, meaning they're quite small if you want to go back, re-download them and print any off. On the other hand, it does let you create albums with lots of photos attached.

'What options do I have to print my digital photos?'

1. Send directly to printers from your phone

One of the quickest, handiest ways to get photos printed is just email them or upload them from your phone. There are plenty of services that offer free apps which do just this. Options such as Fotostore and Photobox let you upload photos and will post the prints to your home. They generally cost between 10c and 40c per photo, including postage. Other options, such as Conns Cameras Photo Labs, allow you to upload photos from your phone but require you to pick them up instore.

2. Instore photo-printing machines

The most common way of printing photos is by using a photo-printing machine in a pharmacy, 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 from 30 cents each for 6x4 or 7x5 prints.

3. Home photoprinter machines

With digital cameras (and cameraphones), it is possible to print your own photos at home on a dedicated photoprinter. There are pros and cons to this. Affordable models such as Canon's Selphy CP1000 (€120) have wifi and print from memory cards but do not have Bluetooth, meaning they are limited use to smartphones. Replacing ink and paper is also not cheap, with photos working out at around 35 cents per 6x4 shot. Finally, the quality from cheaper home photoprinters doesn't match that from specialist printer shops.

4. 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 with options from €25.

Snap happy: Three options for picking the best digital camera

1. A good smartphone

Most photos are now taken on cameraphones. Even budget models have cameras of eight 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 Z3+ (20 megapixels, 5.2-inch screen, pictured left): €600 or from free on operator contract.

Best budget buy: Huawei G7 (13 megapixels, 5.5-inch screen, pictured above): €275 or from free on operator contract

2. An advanced compact camera

While there is little difference between today's smartphones and basic compact cameras, advanced models offer much better zooms and generally take significantly higher quality photos because of their bigger camera sensors and better lenses.

Pros: Much better quality photos in a compact camera size

Cons: Expensive: usually over €500

Best buy: Sony RX100ii (20-megapixel, 14x zoom, pictured right); €550 (in PC World and Conns Cameras)

3. A Beginner DSLR Camera

If you want to get into photography as a hobby, 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 different lenses, fun for those seeking a new hobby

Cons: Much bulkier; accessories are sometimes confusing.

Best buy: Canon 100D (18 megapixels, 18-55mm lens, pictured left): €550 (in Conns Cameras)

Beginner's tip: How to transfer photos from a camera to a tablet, computer or phone

Your camera uses one of two methods to transfer photos to a computer, phone or tablet.

(i) Wirelessly

An increasing number of cameras now have wifi built in. Switch it on and you'll see the camera wifi signal appear on your wifi selection list on your phone, tablet or PC. Connect to it and enter the password your camera's wifi feature offers up. Note that wifi transfers to phones or tablets usually require you to download the camera manufacturer's app (such as Canon's 'Eos Remote' or Panasonic's 'Image App', inset). Note also that these aren't very beginner-friendly.

(iI) By Physical connection

Apple sells a connection cable (for around €30) that lets you plug your camera's memory card into an iPad or an iPhone. Once you connect it, the photo app automatically opens and lets you transfer whichever photos you want. For a PC or laptop, a connection cable usually comes with the camera that plugs into the USB slot of the computer. From there, you can transfer the photos from 'file explorer' (Windows) or other photo software on the PC (such as iPhoto on a Mac). Some PCs don't need a cable and have a memory card reader built in to the machine.

Irish Independent

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