NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, February 2006
10 Tips For Managing Digital Pictures On The Road
by Tony Northrup
mindshare@microsoft.com (click to email author)

Don't miss an important picture because your camera's memory card is full. Here are 10 tips to help you prevent the dreaded Out Of Memory message.

1. Delete bad pictures right away. Check your camera's screen after you take a picture. If the flash didn't go off, if someone's eyes are closed, or if the picture is out of focus, delete it immediately. Most digital cameras have a button with a trashcan icon that you can press to quickly delete the picture. Checking your pictures right away will also ensure that you got the one you wanted.

2. Delete wasted pictures every night. Everyone takes a few bad shots during the course of the day. Each night, use your digital camera to preview the pictures you took that day, and delete any pictures that didn't turn out the way you'd hoped.

3. Upgrade your memory card. The memory card that came with your camera probably isn't big enough. Typically these cards are only capable of holding about a dozen images. A new memory card is one of the most useful and least expensive digital camera accessories that you can invest in to make your experience better. This table shows approximately how many pictures you can fit onto different sized memory cards. (These estimates will vary depending on the resolution size at which you're saving your pictures.)
1 megapixel camera393121,2502,50010,000
3 megapixel camera231847371,4745,896
6 megapixel camera6502004001,600
12 megapixel camera325100200800

Tip: 1GB memory cards offer the best compromise of storage capacity and cost.

4. Buy extra memory cards. If you're not ready to replace your current memory card, you can continue to use it and buy extra memory cards. If you decided to carry more than one card, be sure to label them so you can remember which ones you've already used. There are a variety of different cards that today's digital cameras use such as CompactFlash cards, SD cards, SmartMedia cards, and xD-picture cards. Be sure to choose the type of memory card that's right for your camera.

5. Move your pictures to a laptop computer. If you take your laptop with you on the road, you can download your pictures to your computer each night, freeing up the space on your memory cards. Be sure to remember to bring your camera's cable to connect directly to your computer.

6. Pick a higher compression. All digital cameras compress your pictures before storing them on your memory card so they take up less space. The higher the compression, the more pictures you can fit on a memory card. However, high compression levels (which might be called "basic" with your camera) can introduce jagged edges in your pictures. For example, low compression levels (which might be called "fine" with your camera) will show the sky gradually fading from light blue near the horizon to dark blue near the top of your picture, while high compression levels will show the sky fading in a number of distinct stages, which might be distracting. Experiment with your camera's settings to find the compression setting that offers the best compromise of quality and capacity.

Sample PictureFineNormalBasic
1 megapixel camera0.6MB0.35MB0.25MB
3 megapixel camera1MB0.6MB0.4MB
6 megaixel camera3.75MB2.25MB1.5MB

7. Choose a smaller picture size. Most digital cameras can capture small, medium, or large pictures-these designations relate to the quality of the picture. Typically the larger the size the better the options are for printing the picture at larger sizes. If you have enough memory, you should always capture large pictures, because they'll look great when you make large prints. You can fit many more small pictures onto your memory card, however, and smaller pictures are just fine for e-mailing and printing standard prints. Some cameras show picture sizes as "Full" (which means large), "XGA", which means medium, and "VGA", which means small.

8. Use a lower ISO speed when shooting outdoors on sunny days. The "ISO speed" controls how sensitive your camera is to light levels. If you manually adjust your camera's settings, use a lower ISO setting whenever possible, because your pictures will take up less space on your memory card. For example, on my six megapixel camera, a picture taken at ISO 200 is about 1MB in size. Pictures taken at ISO 1600 are about four times larger, because the higher ISO setting has more noise, and noise reduces the effectiveness of image compression. Noise in a digital picture is random specks of color, like static on a television channel or grainy film.

Tip: If you use your camera's automatic settings or if you don't understand ISO speed, don't worry because your camera is doing the lighting work for you. You might notice that you'll be able to fit more pictures on your memory card on sunny days than you can on cloudy days, though. When the lighting is dim, pictures have extra noise in them, which makes the pictures bigger.

9. Switch from continuous to single-shot. Continuous shooting is great when you're taking pictures of fast-moving activities, because taking multiple pictures with a single button press ensures you capture the action. However, using the continuous shooting setting on your camera can cause you to accidentally take two pictures when you only meant to take one, which wastes memory. Switch to single-shot mode when you're not photographing fast action.

10. Disable interpolation. Some cameras are capable of interpolating pictures to increase the picture's size. Interpolating increases the number of megapixels in a picture by adding extra computer-generated pixels between the pixels in your camera's sensor. Interpolation doesn't add more detail to your pictures, but it does use more space on your storage card. Turning off interpolation saves space without significant disadvantages.

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