These days, a serious photography enthusiast can spend more time in front of a computer screen than behind the lens. Besides the significant tasks of going through a multigigabyte storage card to find the best shots and then editing them so they look even better, there's also the task of sharing photos with others.
In the days of film, that meant heading to the darkroom to make prints. In the digital world, your first impulse may be to fire off an e-mail -- but because of the size of the files, that can mean very slow uploads and downloads (or complete rejection of the attachment). It's often a lot more convenient to post your photos online for viewing by family, friends or colleagues. In other cases, you still might want to turn your photos into prints or gifts, and that usually means uploading files to a site that does this for you.
I've yet to find a perfect digital workflow for sharing, any more than I've found a lens that's ideal for everything from macro close-ups to wide-angle panoramas. However, I have discovered three tools that make the process easier. Maybe they'll streamline your workflow, too.
Eye-Fi: Getting photos out of the camera
Unless you want to pass your camera around, you've got to move your files somewhere before you can share them. Of course you know how to get photos out of your camera (unlike some technophobic friends or relatives you could probably name). But that doesn't mean you actually do it in any kind of timely manner. Those summer vacation photos should be online any day now, right?
Solution: Consider an Eye-Fi card, which offers SD storage plus Wi-Fi transmission. Once you set it up to work with your home network, an Eye-Fi card can automatically upload files from camera to computer and/or the Web.
Eye-Fi cards, which are available in four different models ranging from $50 to $150, will send files to a Web location of your choice, including social sites like Flickr, Picasa and Facebook, as well as printing-oriented spots such as Kodak Gallery and Shutterfly. You can choose to keep your destination albums private until you make them public, or set the card to upload only the images you've chosen in your camera.
The cards automatically connect to AT&T hot spots and let you set them up to connect with your own existing accounts from providers such as T-Mobile and Vodafone. In addition, all except the basic Connect X2 card will geocode your photos according to where you took them. (Note, however, that I've learned not to depend on this when traveling outside the U.S., since the card relies on finding already mapped Wi-Fi networks around the globe, and Eye-Fi partner Skyhook Wireless doesn't have the same kind of coverage a GPS system would.) Serious photographers who shoot photos in RAW format instead of using JPGs can use the Pro X2 card (at $150, the priciest of the bunch).
You can manually set an Eye-Fi card to connect to multiple Wi-Fi networks. This is handy if you want the card to work when you're someplace you visit frequently. However, I've found that it can be more trouble than it's worth when traveling somewhere new for a few days, since initial setup requires a computer and card reader. By the time I've put an Eye-Fi card in my laptop to enable a new network, I might as well have just dragged and dropped my files from the card to my laptop. (And I can tell you from experience that attempting to use the Eye-Fi on a small inn's slow, limited network is often frustrating.)
Still, it's nice to come back from visiting family or friends and have my photos online before I even walk through my door.
No, it's not that big a deal to connect a cable to your camera and computer, or pop your card into a card reader to drag and drop files. But it's not so tough to get up off the couch to turn on the TV set, either, yet most of us would rather use a remote.