Accessorize Your Digital Camera!

By Patty Hankins and Bill Lawrence

Are you getting or giving a digital camera for the holidays? Perhaps you're planning on getting one in the after Christmas sales? Don't forget, to get the best out of a digital camera, there are some other things you might want on your shopping list. We have listed a few things we think are essential below.

In camera storage - the "film" for your digital camera. There are a number of formats, though compact flash is probably the most popular (others include smart media cards, secure digital cards, and Sony memory sticks). Almost all digital cameras are sold with a storage card that is way too small for them - if you can fit a number of photos on the card that comes with the camera, there is a good chance you want to consider reducing the file compression. The more you files are compressed on your card, the lower the quality of your final images. Price per megabyte of storage varies by format of the card and by how large the card is, but plan on buying something reasonably large, and preferably at least one spare card. How big is large? Many camera manuals will tell you how many photos fit on different size cards, plan on something that you can afford, but will take more than you imagine you could possibly take in a session. We have three 1-gigabyte (1,024 megabyte) microdrives, which fit in most type-II compact flash compatible cameras, and an emergency 128- megabyte compact flash card (which also doubles as our digicam storage card) for our main cameras, and we are due to add to our storage supply soon. More is definitely better here - it is better to have too much storage rather than having to stop taking photos when your storage is full.

Spare batteries - Digital cameras are notorious battery hogs, especially digicams which use the LCD on the back as a viewfinder to take your photos. It is always a good idea to have a spare rechargeable battery around (if your camera uses them). If your camera uses AA batteries, look into a good set (or 2!) of NiMH rechargeable AA batteries.

A case - Large or small, depending on how much you carry, it's nice to have something to protect and store the camera, and to carry around all the necessities like spare batteries.

A computer - Normally, this would be considered a little expensive to be a digital camera accessory, but the rest of our list requires one.

A CD or DVD writer - All those photos add up in the amount of space they take in your computer storage. Back them up to a CD or DVD. We recommend at least two copies, preferably stored in different places.

A card reader - Some come free with storage cards, others will cost you up to about $30. These devices allow you to insert your camera's storage card into the reader, which is attached to your computer (we recommend getting one compatible with USB 2.0). You can then treat the card as another disk drive, and copy all your files to your hard disk or to CD. We have found this much easier than trying to link the camera directly to the computer.

Photo editing software - How powerful depends on your level of comfort, but you should at least have software for viewing, cropping, and making basic adjustments to your photos, such as lightening or changing the color balance.

A photo printer - A printer designed specifically for printing digital photos is optional, but if you plan on having prints of a good number of your digital photos, is much easier than going to your local Walmart or 1-hour photo place. There is a learning curve to doing this right, though, so if you haven't done much photo printing, you will want to pay attention to the printer's manual and look at its settings. "Why don't my printed photos look like what's on the screen?" is a very common question on the newsgroups (say . . . not a bad topic for a future article!). There are many good printers out there in reasonable price ranges, but we have found the Epson C82 to be a good entry-level printer that can act as both a good photo printer and a document printer.

You may also find information in these articles we've published previously to be of some help in getting started with your digital camera. They can be found in the newsletter archives at http://www.hankinslawrenceimages.com

Digital Photography: Avoid Too Much File Compression (Feb 03) Digital Photography: File Size Matters (Jan 03) Get the Noise Out of Your Digital Images: Neat Image (May 03) Printing Your Digital Images: Q-Image Pro 2003 (Aug 03) Software to Organize Your Images: BreezeBrowser (Apr 03)

Patty Hankins & Bill Lawrence are the co-owners of Hankins-Lawrence Images, LLC, a digital photography company based in Maryland. HLI Photonotes, their monthly ezine, provides information and tips for photographers. To subscribe email hl_images@earthlink.netwith subscribe in the subject or visit www.hankinslawrenceimages.com.

"Reprinted from Zongoo.com Daily Press & Consumer Information"