10 efficiency tips for digital photographers

Easy ways to save time, save money and protect photos

For some people, "efficiency" brings to mind a hotel room with a kitchenette. When other folks hear the word, they think about ways to work faster and smarter. I suppose I fall into the second category.

Not long ago I wrote about a few ways to be a more efficient photographer, and I concluded by asking you to send me your tips for shooting, organizing, editing, and sharing photos faster or more efficiently. Many of you responded; this week, here are the top 10 suggestions.

1. Don't Procrastinate

Delete obviously bad shots before you download them to my computer. In the past, I promised myself I would weed out the good from the bad while sifting through folder after folder of photos on my laptop, but by then the job is very daunting. These days, I make myself stop and delete unwanted pictures from my camera, and I am much happier with the scope of my photo library. --Patricia Moorhead

2. Choose Your Best Shot

When uploading photos to Flickr, be sure to upload your best shot last, since that's the one that will be at the top of the page. And remember that uploading a bunch of photo to Flickr all at once is okay, but it'll be a waste because no one will generally see all but the very last few that you upload. It's better to upload a few at a time, spaced out over the course of a week. --Susan Monroe

3. Don't Share Memory Cards

If you share a camera with someone else in your home, each person should have their own memory card. That way, instead of having to sort through dozens of photos that aren't yours just to find the pictures you recently shot, swap out the card and you'll never have to waste time that way again. Memory cards are so cheap even your kids can own their own. --Matt Boulerice

4. Don't Overtax Photoshop

I've found that when using Photoshop, it's best to only open a few images at a time. Opening many large digital images at once will slow Photoshop down, sometimes to the point that everything slows to a crawl. --Matt Boulerice

5. Make a Simple Tripod

I may have read this here, but it bears repeating. You can make an incredible tripod (monopod?) for free, and it's small enough that you can always carry it with you. All you need is a quarter-inch bolt, some string long enough to reach the ground, and a small weight for the bottom. Screw the contraption into your camera, stand on the bottom to keep it taught, and most camera shake is eliminated. Alternately, you can use a retractable key chain instead of a string--that works great too! --Tom Schmidt

6. Resize Before Sharing

Don't share your photos at their full size. Whether you upload your photos to Flickr, Photobucket, or even Facebook, larger file sizes mean long load times for you and your viewers. Your high-speed Internet connection might be able to handle 8-megapixel photos in a flash, but Grandma might still be on dialup. Use a program to shrink them down to screen size or smaller. --Emily

7. Make Smaller Copies

After I download my full-size photos from the camera, I immediately use software to reduce all the images to a smaller file size, and I move the originals into a folder named "Originals." This way, I already have the images in a smaller size that I can e-mail to friends or upload to photo sites, but I still have the originals for printing or editing. --Kyle R Paschall

8. Back Up Your Photos

It is really important to back up your photos often. All you need is an external hard drive and a free program like Sync Back. --Ezra Kennedy

9. Make Duplicate Backups

Before I delete the photos from my camera's memory card, I download them both to my computer and to an external hard drive. I organize all photos by date, and every new year I make two sets of CD backups of that year's photos. I keep a complete set at work. This way if some disaster strikes my home, I still have a complete set of my photos. And this system works: A few years ago, I was wiped out by Hurricane Andrew, but I didn't lose a single photo. Many people don't realize how important their photos are until they lose them. --Lester

10. Shoot Faster

If you are disappointed by how long it takes your camera to take a photo, try holding the shutter halfway down and hold this position until the perfect shot comes along. There will be less of a delay before the shutter actually opens. This is a great if you are photographing kids or animals that never stop moving. Beware, though, that this step locks the focus, so if your subject is moving towards or away from you, you might need to let go of the shutter and then press it down halfway again occasionally. --Cassy Simon

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