Column: Digital photography not as easy as I pictured

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If digital photography is supposed to make life so much easier, then why is it causing me so much stress?

The concept seems simple. Shoot your pictures on a digital camera, and you can immediately see what they look like. Save the ones you like, transfer them to your computer, click a few buttons, get online and order the prints you need.

It’s fine in theory. However, in reality digital photography just isn’t as easy as it should be—at least not for me. I am finding I miss the days of simply taking a roll of 35mm film in for developing whenever you happen to be at the grocery or drug store, and then picking your prints up the following week. In those days, your biggest worry was, "Do you want a matte or glossy finish?"

When I used to do it that way, I would immediately come home, date the envelope and toss it in a shoebox. Every so often, on a rainy day, I would sit down, go through the photos and put the best prints in an album. Those days are gone.

First of all, I admit that I am the queen of procrastination, which doesn’t help matters any. I’m great at getting things done but I need a deadline to do it. Unfortunately, ordering prints of my digital photos consistently ranks about No. 20 on my 20-some item list of projects to do every week.

Next to that, my biggest problem with digital photography is the lack of trust I have in technology. After I take my photos, I download them to my computer with the good intentions of ordering my prints. However, I never seem to do that, and the next time a photo opportunity rolls around, I am fearful the photos I have already downloaded may have somehow disappeared from the computer. So I don’t erase my disk; I just shoot more photos on that same one. Before I know it, my computer is loaded with 20 different groups of photos—and more than half the photos in each file are ones I’ve already downloaded.

Contributing to the fear of technology is my husband, who sometimes grabs the camera and downloads the photos to his computer. He, too, is fearful that the photos may somehow disappear, so we end up with two computers with files of photos to go through. We always intend to back up the photos on to CDs, but we never seem to do so. What in the world are we going to do if the computer croaks before we finally get these prints made?

Adding to my stress is my new cell phone, which also has a camera on it. I love having it because it means I always have a camera with me, and I’ve taken some amazing candid photos with it. But this means I have even more files of photos to deal with and get prints made. I’m not even sure I know how to download those photos on my computer.

Compounding matters is the new trend of scrapbooking. No longer is it good enough to make prints of your photos and slap them in a photo album with an ink pen note on the back. It’s almost as if you feel like you’re a bad person if you don’t create elaborate, fanciful scrapbooks complete with acid-free paper, stickers, glitter, glue and pens documenting every moment in your life or your children’s lives. However, there’s no way I can make a one-of-a-kind scrapbook if my photo prints have never been developed. See my dilemma?

I suppose I set the bar too high when my daughter turned 1 year old. I hadn’t been good about keeping a baby book, and decided to utilize my writing, photography and layout skills by creating a hard-bound book documenting her first year. It is a beautiful treasure. I ordered a copy for her and also for myself, and it was well worth every hour and every penny I spent on it. I fully intended to do another book documenting her second year, and somehow it too always seemed to get pushed to the side with the demands of day-to-day life. Now I feel obligated to make two more books for her—and I have another baby on the way, so time is going to be even more precious than it is today.

So what’s a girl to do? I suppose I’m going to have to suck it up and spend a couple of days going through my computer files, organizing and ordering photos. When they arrive, I’m going to have to slap them into good, old-fashioned photo albums with a quick  note jotting the date, occasion and names of people in the photo. It may not be as elaborate as I would like, but I fear if I don’t do it now, then someday I will be among the legions of others who must be facing a similar photography dilemma and never manage to get prints of their digital photos made. It would be a shame to not chronicle my life—and the lives of my children—simply because technology got the best of me.

Lori Smith is a staff writer for the Columbus Messenger newspapers.

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