Transferring Image Files to Your Computer

If you're already well versed in transferring images to your computer, feel free to skip to the next section. (I won't even be offended. Honest.) If you're still wrestling with transferring images from your camera to your computer, you can use any of several methods, but these two are the most common:

i Connecting your digital camera directly to your computer. When you first get your digital camera home from the camera store, you have to unpack all those manuals, CDs, and cables that come in the box. The CDs include a software utility used to transfer images to your computer; one of the cables is for plugging your digital camera into your computer so you can transfer the images. (Refer to your camera's owner's manual to figure out which connection on the camera to plug the cable into. The other end of the cable connects to your computer's FireWire or USB port.)

i Using a card reader. The fastest way to download images to your computer is to use a card reader. Card readers (such as the one shown in Figure 1-3) are devices that plug into your computer's USB port or (with some models) the faster FireWire port, providing an efficient way to transfer images — often from various cards with different formats such as Compact Flash, SD (secure digital), or memory stick.

Using a card reader to download images to your computer also offers added security. With a direct connection, there's often the worry that your digital camera's battery might go dead while the image transfer is going on. A card reader can be especially reassuring if you have a large batch of images to transfer, and want it to happen correctly the first time.

To download images to your computer, follow these steps:

1. Determine where you want the downloaded images to go on your computer.

If you're a Windows user, the easiest place to put your downloaded images is in the My Pictures folder (opened by choosing My Computer^ My Pictures). You can also create a new folder to hold your images. (More information on image management and creating image folders can be found in Chapter 4.) On a Mac running OS X, the Pictures folder is a convenient location for downloading your images to.

Figure 1-3: Card readers are the fastest, safest way to download images to your computer.

2. Plug your digital camera into the computer, using the supplied USB or FireWire cable.

Before you connect, make sure your digital camera is turned off. If you are using a card reader, make sure it's plugged into an available USB or FireWire port on you computer.

3. Turn on your digital camera or insert a card into your card reader.

Turning on your digital camera will automatically start the downloading process on your computer. If you're using a card reader, inserting a memory card into the card reader starts the downloading process automatically. Your computer recognizes the digital camera or card reader as an external device and displays the window shown in Figure 1-4.

4. Copy images to your computer.

Figure 1-4: After your computer automatically recognizes your digital camera, you can choose how to download your images.

Choose to open your folder, using Windows Explorer as shown in Figure 1-4. As your

Figure 1-4: After your computer automatically recognizes your digital camera, you can choose how to download your images.

computer recognizes your digital camera or card reader as an external device (or drive), choose to open Windows Explorer to view your images. Copy all the images shown to a folder of your choice on your hard drive.

To better organize image folders on your computer, create a new folder to download each memory card to. Give each folder a name such as "Grand Canyon photos" to describe what's inside. It's a lot better than copying all of your images to the same folder every time (trust me on this one), and it helps you organize and find your original images later.

Never move images directly from your memory card to a folder. If you use the Move command, the images will be removed from the memory card as they are copied to the folder you chose to copy to. If the copying process is interrupted during copying, you can potentially lose images! Additionally, it's better to format your memory cards in your camera to remove old images, rather than erase them with your computer. By using your digital camera to format your cards, you'll ensure you are using the correct formatting algorithm your digital camera uses.

To help ensure regret-free image transfer, make it a habit to format your memory cards only after you've downloaded the images to your computer — and have made a backup to CD or DVD. (I cover backing up images in Chapter 4.)

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