Today’s guide – Photo gift guide for makers, hackers and more – Part Deuce: Editing and Sharing Photos! Make sure to check out part one (Taking Photos gift guide for makers, engineers & more – AN ADAFRUIT ELECTRONICS GIFT GUIDE)!
Dedicated Hard Drive (Prices vary by size — numerous vendors)
It’s a wise idea to keep all your photos on a dedicated hard drive, physically separate from your OS and applications. Store all your originals and edits on this drive, and don’t use it for anything else. At least once a year, you should buy a new one, copy the most recent photos onto it, then remove and store the original in a secure place (like a safe or safe-deposit box at a bank). These are your original photos, so you should take care of them.
If your going the safe deposit box route, consider buying a smaller 2.5″ laptop harddrive, which takes up less space. Remember that this drive is only used for storing and loading photos, and not for constant use, so you can get away with a 5400RPM model that has a smaller cache.
Color Calibration Package ($130, B&H Photo and Video)
Your monitor sucks. Well, maybe it doesn’t suck, but it’s not as good as it could be. If you’re going to be editing photos, or even if you’re just staring at the screen for long periods of time (can you say EagleCAD?), you should get one of these.
A calibrated monitor is indispensable when it comes to editing photos. On their own, most monitors have a very strong blue-to-green color cast along with poor tone and color rendition. A monitor calibrator analyzes the output of the monitor against a fixed standard, generates a corrected profile, and gives this information to your video card, where it is applied to the output.
The corrected color and tone mean that things look more like they’re supposed to, whether it’s photos you’re editing, movies you are watching, or whatever. If you spend a lot of time in applications, you’ll find a calibrated display is easier to look at, because the greys and whites of the windows actually look grey and white.
Be warned: the first few times you use a calibrated monitor, the greys and whites will look reddish, because you’re used to a blue-tinted display. But eventually, you’ll wonder how you ever got on without one.
Tablet – Wacom Intuos Large 8×12 Tablet ($499 list, B&H Photo and Video)
These things are great for photo editing, as well as drafting in CAD software. Fair warning though: if you use one in public, you will be “that guy”.
What can I even say about Photoshop? What was once just a proper noun has become a verb and an adjective. Photoshop r0cks! There’s very few closed-source software packages I actually like, but I have to say that Photoshop is one of the best programs I have ever used, and one of the few programs I actually think is worth what you pay for it. GIMP is very nice, but I still have to recommend Photoshop. Sorry, Stallman.
RAW processing software:
Adobe Lightroom ($299 direct download from Adobe)
Apple Aperture ($199 direct download from Apple)
For processing of RAW images, I use Adobe Lightroom. Now, to be fair, I have a PC, so I sorta have to use it. If I had a Mac (or a Hackintosh), I would seriously consider Aperture, because it’s an excellent program too (and $100 cheaper). I used to use Photoshop to convert files from RAW, but since I started using Lightroom I find I do 90% of my work in half the time, and I only use PS for more involved editing. If I just have to color-correct, crop, and downsize I can do all of that in LR.
Noise-reduction software: Noise Ninja ($69 – direct download from PictureCode)
Both Lightroom and Aperture have good noise reduction capabilities, but if you’re dealing with serious noise, you need a specialized kind of software. The aptly named Noise Ninja does just that. It works on all kinds of noise — B&W film grain, color film grain, luminance and color noise, and they have an ever-expanding library of camera noise profiles to choose from.
ExpressCard Card Reader ($24 – B&H Photo and Video)
If you take a lot of photos, you need one of these. I used to use a USB 2.0 card reader, which transferred data at about 4-5 Mb/S. Then I got one of these. It routinely transfers at over 20 Mb/S. Very handy when you have a few 8 Gig cards to download. The model pictured above is for CompactFlash cards. There are models available for SD cards (“11-in-1” models), but I’ve never used them, so I can’t recommend them. But chances are if your laptop is less than 3 years old, it already has an SD card reader built in.
Flickr Pro account ($25/year from Flickr)
I thought Web 2.0 was supposed to be free? Yeah… no.
But a Flickr Pro account is one of the few website subscriptions that are actually worth it. If you take a lot of photos and share them, you should consider it. It’s great for sharing your projects because you can organize all your photos and videos in one place, share a slideshow and label stuff for documentation.
Costco Membership ($50.00 – Costco)
Believe it or not, one of the best places to print your photos is at Costco. Yes, I am serious. Costco has very good lab facilities and very reasonable prices for prints. The one near me (which I use regularly) runs one of the cleanest c-print lines I’ve ever seen. Even better, most locations put their printer profiles online so you can be sure they’ll look right when you send them to print. You can upload your photos via their website and pick them up in a few hours, or have them mailed to you. It’s a pretty good deal.
Also, have you tried their olive oil? It’s fantastic!
Have other suggestions? Post up in the comments!
The long term – really long term – storage of photos (and other digital data) is an interesting problem.
An issue with the “hard drive in a vault” approach is finding something compatible to plug it into a decade or three down the road. SATA connectors could easily go the way of the dodo when multi-terabyte “hard drives” are a 5mm^2 chip on your phone’s motherboard.
Think about it: What would do with a ’90s SCSI drive? A Jaz cartridge? An RP06 pack from the ’70s? A 2400′ magtape?
I have a couple of servers on my network that I keep everything on… by keeping everything on-line I ensure that I don’t end up in the situation described above. However, this doesn’t address the issue of fire… I suppose what I really ought to do is build a couple of redundant servers into some fire-safes and install them into an underground, non-combustable (cinderblock & concrete perhaps?) vault (I’m already on top of a 1200 foot high hill, so flooding isn’t really much of a concern – run a drain pipe out sideways and it’ll naturally stay dry, even without a sump pump).