Sharing Full-Size Photos
It's digital photography's very own catch-22: You can't e-mail a full-size 10-megapixel photo to Aunt Carol, because many ISPs don't allow file attachments that large. But when you resize it to a slim, trim 1-megapixel image, it's too small to print at anything bigger than wallet size. When Carol tries to print it out at 8 by 10, she calls you up to complain that the photo is a pixelated mess.
The solution? Don't try to e-mail digital photos at all. Instead, there are ways to share those photos without the hassle and confusion of e-mail.
In the early days of office computers, networks were somewhat unreliable. Sometimes the easiest way to share a file was to copy it to a floppy disk and walk it across the room--hence the term sneakernet.
These days, simply handing someone a disc with a file on it can sometimes still be pretty convenient. Windows lets you copy your photos to a CD, for example, and filling a disc with photos is not a bad solution. But burning discs is needlessly complicated. It's even easier to drag your photos to a USB flash drive. These drives come in capacities that vary from large to enormous, and they've gotten almost ludicrously inexpensive. At PC World's Shop & Compare, I found 8GB flash drives for as little as $20. That's awesome, when you consider that a CD-R has a maximum capacity of just 650MB.
If you're sharing photos with someone farther away than down the hall, consider putting your photos on a Web site instead. I use Flickr.com, for example. You can visit my personal site or the official Digital Focus Hot Pic winners gallery to see some examples. I love Flickr because there are no limits on how many photos you can store there, or what maximum photo size you can save. If you use the free version of Flickr, you're only limited to uploading 100MB in a given month.
To share photos with friends or family, upload them to Flickr, then let people know how to get to your Flickr page. Once there, they can click the All Sizes button above a photo to get to the download page, such as this one from my Flickr page.
Do you like the idea of storing photos on the Internet so certain people can get to them, but you don't want just anyone to be able to browse the photos? Well, you could turn on the photo sharing site's privacy mode; Flickr, for example, lets you mark your photos as private, which limits access only to people you specify. You could also store them at an online storage service. Think of these services as hard drives located in the clouds that you can access anytime or anywhere you have an Internet connection. And anyone you give access can get there as well.
Microsoft's SkyDrive is a superb example of this sort of "cloud storage." After you get a free Windows Live account, you can store all sorts of files--music, photos, documents, whatever--and share them with anyone you choose.
I find that SkyDrive can be a handy way to safely back up my photos when traveling--I can use a laptop to upload images from my camera to SkyDrive, and then they're conveniently waiting for me when I get home. The only downside is that you're limited to 5GB of storage space.
Windows Home Server
Finally, imagine having your very own Web server at home. I'm not talking about a huge, noisy mainframe operated by a team of guys with clipboards and pocket protectors. Imagine a tiny, virtually silent PC that you can tuck in a closet and control via a Web browser from other PCs on your home network. A computer like the HP MediaSmart Server, running Windows Home Server, does all sorts of cool stuff, like automatically backing up all the computers on your network and providing shared hard drive space to keep communal files for all your family members.
But the coolest thing Windows Home Server does--at least for photographers--is host a real live Web server. Just tell Windows Home Server where your photos are, and it displays them all in a photo browser that you can share with friends and family. You can share the photos for downloading as well, making it possible to host our very own little photo sharing site from the comfort of your living room. And armed with a home server, you'll never have to worry about strangers downloading your photos or the photo sharing site going offline right when Aunt Carol needs it.
Hot Pic of the Week
Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique. Every month, the best of the weekly winners gets a prize valued at between $15 and $50.
Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.
This week's Hot Pic: "Let There Be Light," by Howard Meyer, Plymouth, Michigan
Howard writes: "I used a wide-angle 18mm lens and exposed the shot for 2 seconds. The fireworks were set off on the fourth hole of a local golf course... I found the processing to be a challenge because the fireworks were grossly overexposed, and the landscape was underexposed. I found the Recovery and Fill Light tools in Adobe Lightroom to be indispensible.
This Week's Runner-Up: "Thunder Rolls," by Les Rhoades, Dulles, Virginia
Les writes: "A couple of weeks ago, I was riding a motorcycle around Lake Thun [in Switzerland]. I had just been hit by a passing rain storm, and as I looked across the lake at the famous pyramid-shaped Niesen Mountain, I could see another front pushing over the top. ... I used a Canon 40D and a tripod to keep the camera steady with my heavy 28-300 zoom lens. I also had a circular polarizer mounted."
See all the Hot Pic of the Week photos online.