What to do with all those digital pictures

Got a whack of photos sitting on your computer that you don’t know what to do with? Read on for great ideas

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Quick — get the camera — this is priceless! It’s your kid’s first ice-cream cone. Snap! Your preschooler’s snoozing with the schnauzer. Click! And what about the camping trip, the pirate birthday party and the first tricycle ride? “Say cheese!”

It doesn’t take long. Now you’ve got thousands of digital photos languishing on your computer. No worries. We’ve compiled easy ways to organize your pics, make stunning gifts and get crafty. Here’s how to use (and enjoy) your digital photos.

Getting started

1. Choose photo-editing software
Got years of photos stored on your computer? “Unless you organize them, it’s like having a huge box of unsorted pictures in your basement,” says Guelph, Ont.-based digital photographer Jack Kesselman.

Fortunately both Macs and PCs come with basic photo-editing programs (such as iPhoto) so you can load photos, organize them, edit pictures and create books. With a few clicks you can banish red eye in your loved ones or remove that annoying lamppost from your child’s head. Another good bet is Google’s Picasa — you can download it for free. “Experiment to see which photo-editing program you feel comfortable with,” says Kesselman. Many companies offer free trials of their software.

2. Get organized
How do you remember which digital pics (out of the thousands you have saved) turned out best? As you load photos, use your photo-editing program to flag your greatest hits, advises Kesselman. Then you can easily find stunning photos to make books or gifts.

While photos are all automatically sorted by date on your computer, they can be hard to find. Instead, make albums and file your digital photos according to theme. Try online albums for birthdays, summer trips, camp, friends, etc. If you’d prefer to store your photos on the Internet and display your best in online galleries, check out flickr.com.
Sharing your pics

1. Digital slideshow
Remember those old-fashioned slideshow parties? You’d get invited over to watch hours of your relatives’ latest trip to Bora Bora. Thanks to online slideshows, get-togethers can be much more entertaining. After a family trip or event, use your photo-editing software to make a slideshow complete with music and special effects.

2. Create a website
To share the love with family and friends, make a free website filled with your photos and comments. For privacy, you can limit who has access to the site. See shutterfly.com.

3. Book It!
Want to make an impressive coffee table book or gift for family? With your photo-editing software, follow the instructions and publish a hard or soft-cover book of your favourite shots. Budding authors can add text, sayings or just a poignant word or two. Try creating books around themes such as camping, school days, birthdays or a special trip. The prices start at about $10 for a softcover book. For a more elaborate book-making program check out blurb.com or picaboo.com.

4. Make presents
Want to wow Grandma and Grandpa? Try making a one-of-a-kind calendar featuring their favourite grandkids. Want something special to take to the office following your mat leave? Put your new babe’s smiley face on a coffee cup. Not sure what to get doting aunts and uncles for birthdays? Give a keychain, puzzle, greeting card or totebag starring the kids. Try blackphoto.com, walmartphotocentre.ca and costco.ca for instructions and pricing information. For even more people-pleasing presents (diaper bags, playing cards, blankets, ornaments and more) check out snapfish.com.

5. Scrapbook sans glue!
Not gaga for glue, scissors and sparkles? Go high-tech instead. Digital scrapbooking sites let you pop your online photos onto digital scrapbook pages with impressive results. Then print out the pages to make a book, store them online, email them to friends or post them on Facebook. For an easy program to get you started check out smilebox.com. With Smilebox you can also add videos and music.
Computer-free photo crafts

If you can’t stand communing with your computer in your limited leisure time, go low-tech instead. Just print a few favourite photos, then gather your gang at the kitchen table to try these easy crafts.

1. Short-on-time scrapbooking
Hardcore scrapbookers have entire stores, workshops and furniture dedicated to their gear. No time, energy or money? For a quickie taste of the craft, buy an inexpensive scrapbooking kit (they start at around $10). Most kits include a scrapbook, decorated pages, stickers and lettering. Grab a gluestick, print off a few digital pics and stick your favourites on the pages. All done!

2. Photo puzzles
With a glue stick or white glue, paste a large photo onto cardboard. Using a black marker, draw puzzle shapes on top of the photo. Cut out the pieces and store them in a bag. Now you’ve got a portable toy to keep in your purse — just in case.

3. Funky fridge dolls
Find pictures of complete figures (not head shots) and carefully cut out each person. Buy sheets of self-adhesive photo-magnets, usually found in packs of two, each 6 in. (15.24 cm) by 9 in. (23 cm.) Place the cut-out photo on the white backing paper of a photo-magnet sheet. Using an indelible marker, trace around the photo. With sharp scissors, cut around the outline. Peel off the white backing and press the photo figure onto the sticky side of the magnet sheet. If needed, trim any part of the magnet sheet sticking out beyond the photo. Now store your magnetic kids on the fridge.

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