Cameras used glass slides starting in 1839, and film came about in 1884. The first lasting color image was produced in 1861. One hundred and twenty years later, Sony brought the first digital camera using a CCD to the market. The digital age was born.
At first, there was little one could do with photographs except make prints of them. Certainly, newspaper photographers and advertising agencies used their photos in a commercial manner, but that was the exception.
The average person would shoot a roll of film, bring it to the local photo lab to be developed, and come home with one or more packages of prints.
The very first image scanner was developed in 1957, and it had a resolution of 176×176 pixels. Even if you made a digital image of a photograph in those days, there was not much that you could do with it except to make prints or slides. With the rise in popularity of fax machines in the 1980′s, it became possible to easily transmit photographs long distances in a (comparatively) short amount of time. But still, the quality was poor and you were limited to black and white.
Nowadays, however, the market is filled with high-quality inexpensive cameras from simple point-and-shoot models aimed at the everyday person to serious digital SLR cameras for professionals or the more serious enthusiast. Perusing cameras at a local department store the other day, I came across a 16MP camera on sale for $80.
So, what can we do with the photographs apart from making prints? The most obvious answer is to use them on your website or blog. Don’t forget to make a COPY of your original image that has been re-sized and had the resolution lowered to use on your site.
Using a photo management software like Lightroom, you can create a slideshow and then display it on your iPad to your family and friends using Mosaic View.
Of course, pictures can also be shared through phones and tablets through any number of methods from e-mailing to touching the devices together, depending on the system(s) used.
Another idea is to use a print-on-demand (POD) publisher to create a photo book of your collection of photographs. This can be produced with no initial investment apart from paying for the books in advance, but beware that the costs for printing color pages gets to be very expensive very quickly. A quick check at a large POD web service shows that buying 10 copies of a 50-page photobook would cost around $30 per copy. A unique twist on this idea is to take advantage of the dramatic rise in e-book readers and put out a digital photobook that can be purchased by people worldwide on their personal devices.(Lightroom 4 has a built in Books module that is integrated with the popular PoD publisher Blurb.)
There are also online and brick-and-mortar businesses that can turn your photos into t-shirts, hats, mugs, calendars and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Having come a long way from the days of the mall kiosk with the baby picture coffee mugs, you can actually get some nice results from some of these manufacturers. Just keep an eye on the printing itself for physical items, which is going to provide the upper limit for your photograph’s resolution.
The 19th century physicist Michael Faraday was once asked “Of what use is electricity?” To this question, he replied “Of what use is a newborn baby?” With the wide variety of options available to us today when we decide what to do with our photos, perhaps one of the best questions we can ask ourselves is “Of what use is a newborn photograph?”