Six Clever Camera Tricks

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Photography can be a lot of things. For many people, it's just fun to take and share snapshots, and to do silly things with them. In the past, I've talked about how to make collages, mock up a magazine cover, and put yourself in a photo with Elvis. For others, photography is an art form. Take a look at the winner's gallery of our weekly Digital Focus contest to see how seriously many people take their hobby.

Let's look at photography from a completely different direction. This week I've got a list of unexpected, unconventional, and perhaps clever ways to use your camera when you're not busy photographing insects, weddings, and alien encounters.

1. Insurance Inventory

Remember how you're supposed to have a thorough inventory of all the valuables in your house for insurance purposes? Photograph them. In the old days, that would have been a big undertaking, but not with a digital camera. You can even store all the photos on a memory card and throw it in your safe or lockbox.

2. Memory Aid

How many times have you gotten lost in an unfamiliar place? I'm talking about forgetting your hotel room number or where you left your car in a big parking lot. This, my friends, is what the camera phone was invented for. Take a picture of the room number on your door. Photograph the parking lot marker post.You can refer to the picture when you return and zero in on your destination. (You could of course use your regular camera instead, if you're bringing it along.)

3. Shopping Assistant

Have you ever sent your kids to the store and they returned with the wrong item? You can write down the name of the product, or you could snap a picture of it with their camera phone and send them off with a visual reference. Come to think of it, this is a handy trick for anyone, not just the kids.

4. Portable Scanner

You need someone's class notes, perhaps, or need to make a copy of an important document--but you don't have access to a flatbed scanner. No problem; just photograph it with your camera. With a utility like Snapter, you can even straighten and correct the document so it looks like it was scanned professionally.

5. Document a Problem

My wife and went to a concert last year and when we arrived, we discovered that one of our assigned seats was broken--so broken, in fact, it was barely possible to sit in it. There was no staff to help us, so I photographed the chair disaster and contacted management the next day. We ended up getting a full refund for the show. Apply this basic idea to fender benders, damaged merchandise, and any other glitch that comes you way.

6. Keep Track of the Little Ones

I'm a bit uncomfortable including this one, but a friend suggested it. I have to admit it's a good idea, though. When you take your young ones to a public event, snap a photo with your camera phone before you leave the house. If you get separated during the day, you have an exact record of what they look like and what they're wearing.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

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: "Hay Season," by Myka Peterson, Mt. Vernon, Iowa

Myka says: "I took this photo on my farm in southern Iowa. I was outside one evening last summer, taking random photos in our yard, when I climbed up on the recently baled hay for a different point of view. I used my Kodak EasyShare C633."

This Week's Runner-Up: "Tumbleweed" by Stephen McMath, Laporte, Colorado

Stephen says that he took this photo with his Panasonic Lumix FZ-20, "in the brief period near noon, when shafts of sunlight illuminate the canyon."

To see last month's Hot Pics, visit our slide show.

Have a digital photo question? Send me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.

This story, "Six Clever Camera Tricks" was originally published by PCWorld.

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