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Thursday, July 19, 2007

September 2007 HelpLine

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SDHC Printing Work-Around

Q) In your June 2007 HelpLine, you mentioned a person who was wondering if he could use SDHC cards in his photo printer, and you said no, he'd have to stick to using SD cards in the printer. Well, there's one work-around—he could connect the camera to the USB port of the printer and drive it using PictBridge. This is perhaps less convenient, but at least he wouldn't have to use his computer or buy a new printer.

Thomas Mosteller
Via the Internet

A) That's a great suggestion. PictBridge is a technology that allows you to print images from your digital camera directly through your printer. In other words, there's no computer involved in this method.

While this is a great work-around, there are a few issues to consider. If you've read my column in the past, you know that I'm a big proponent of card readers. I have a list of the disadvantages of connecting a camera directly to your computer. Two come into play here:

The problem of battery power—printing takes longer than downloading images, so there will be more stress on your camera's battery. Assuming your camera uses rechargeable batteries, you'll put the battery through the charge cycle more often. Rechargeable batteries have a limited life span that's measured in charge/discharge cycles. If you print from your camera on a regular basis, then expect your battery life to be shortened.

The minor concern of making sure your camera is properly supported while tethered to the printer—I've seen many setups where there's little space for the camera, posing the danger that the camera could fall and become damaged.

I'm not saying this isn't a good solution for using SDHC cards in a photo printer, I just want you to be aware of some issues.

Essential Accessories

Q) I'm looking to build on my recent digital SLR purchase, but I'm not sure where to start. Another lens? A flash? Filters? Help!

Greg D.
Via the Internet

A) This is always a tough question to answer through e-mail because there can be so many follow-up questions, but recently I viewed a number of images taken by photo enthusiasts, and the topic of accessories popped into my mind. There was one thing that could have helped a vast majority of those images: a tripod. Most of the images had that telltale blur of a handheld shot. I'm sure they looked good on the LCD on the back of the camera, and printed out at 4x6, they probably looked okay, too; but several of these images were printed at 8x10 and they showed the motion blur associated with lack of a steady camera.

While there are situations that don't allow a tripod, many situations do. Besides keeping your camera steady, there's a common side effect of tripod use (and no, it's not dizziness or drowsiness). Using a tripod makes you slow down or even stop and think.

Too often, people grab a camera, turn it on and start shooting. Photography is a creative process like writing. When you sit down to write an important letter or e-mail, do you just start hitting keys? Or, do you sit for a bit and think about what you're going to say?

Setting up a tripod, leveling it and mounting your camera gives you a chance to slow down and think about what you're trying to say photographically. So while there are many things you can do to improve your photography—understand and practice good composition, learn proper exposure—if you want to add an accessory to take your photography to the next level, support your camera with a tripod.


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