5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Digital Photos

Experts share their best secrets for organizing, using, and showing off your digital photos faster than you can say "cheese!"

By Chandni Jhunjhunwala

How many times have you experienced digital photo guilt? This usually happens when people let their wonderful vacations, weddings, and birthday pictures languish in their PC. Usually, it’s because you’ve collected so many pictures over time that it becomes a scary task to organize, upload, and share them with friends and family.

Get in the habit of downloading the pictures on the same day you shoot them,” says Jenni Bidner, author of Capture the Portrait: How to Create Great Digital Photos. “This will keep your memory cards clear and ready for an unexpected shooting opportunity.” Here, photography experts share their tips for making the most of your digital pictures, so your memories won’t go to waste.

Making a Digital Photo Gallery© 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
1. Make organizing easy with iPhoto and Picasa
Apple’s iPhoto software for Mac users, and Google’s Picasa Web Albums, a free photo management web service, could save you long tedious hours organizing your photos.

Both programs now offer two cool features: facial recognition technology and geo-tagging. Simply put, this means that these programs can automatically recognize and sort your pictures by faces and places.

Helen Bradley, author of Print Magic: Creating Crafts using Digital Photos and Art, calls these photo management tools the “big dump.” Dump your pictures into the tools, tag a single picture with keywords like “Mary” or “Paris.” The program will then scan through your pictures, assign tags to all pictures that contain “Mary” or “Paris,” and cluster all like pictures together for you. Say adiós to tagging and organizing each picture one by one.

2. Leave complex photo editing software to the pros.
Opt for user-friendly tools to fix your photos. While many people try to use Photoshop or iPhoto to do their editing, Amit Gupta founder of Photojojo.com, a site featuring easy photo projects, recommends Picnik.com. Try this free website when you simply want to remove red-eye, lighten or crop out what you don’t want.

Picnik’s conveniently pulls directly from your favorite photo sharing tool—whether it’s Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, Facebook, Photobucket, or Webshots. So less time spent uploading pictures and more time fixing that tan line in your Bahamas vacation photo.

For Photoshop fans, Bidner, recommends, Adobe Elements. “It’s the simplified version of its more powerful cousin, Adobe Photoshop, but MUCH less expensive,” Bidner says. “Most of the tools work similarly between the two, so if you decide you love playing with your photos in software, you can jump up to Photoshop without too big a learning curve.”

3. Show off your favorite shots with an instant collage
We’re not talking the old-fashioned cut-and-paste project. Shutterfly.com, Picasas’ Collage Picture Grid, Mac’s Eyelife, all offer several templates to show off a group of pictures instantly. Upload, assemble, print, and frame—it’s as simple as that.

4. Want to have some creative fun with your photos?
Try these expert favorites:

  • Bighugelabs.com
    The best site out there to have fun with your photos. “It’s a conglomeration of photo applications that lets you do fun things like create jigsaws and add captions,” Bradley says.
  • Scrapblog.com
    What sets this site apart from other digital scrapbooking sites is they have a great roster of talented designers who create pre-set templates that you can use for free.

5. Photo frames are boring. Try these quick and easy ideas to display your photos.

  • Make it Decoupage: Make color copies of your favorite photos. Tear photos up. Then stick them back together like a puzzle on a flea market table, a tissue box, or even a canvas using Mod Podge® (decopauge glue that sticks to anything.)
  • Create a Poster: Send a favorite picture to Blockposters.com. They will blow it up into a 10 x 10 print and send you a PDF print. Print it out, stick the pieces together for creative wall art for a kids’ room or a dorm.
  • Scrabble Scrap: Take an old Scrabble board and cut out windows using an X-acto knife. Tape pictures to the back of the board to display through the windows. Glue letter tiles spelling out your name or a favorite phrase onto the Scrabble frame. (See detailed instructions at Photojojo.com)

More photo sites worth checking out: