Don't Lose Your Camera Phone Photos

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Derrick Story

Derrick Story
Apr. 12, 2004 01:24 AM

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When I was immersed in Digital Photography Hacks, I got hooked on camera phone and PDA picture taking. This realm of photography is in its infancy now, but is quickly emerging as a new medium.

It's the photographic equivalent of Billy Ball -- Billy Martin's hit and run approach to baseball. You can photograph life as it dashes by and never break stride. Camera phones, PDAs with cameras, and even tiny digicams are more likely to be in our pockets when something interesting happens, and therefore increase our odds of getting the shot.

But then what do you do? There isn't exactly a smooth workflow established for managing those candids. Here's what I've worked out for my Mac OS X digital hub. You can substitute as needed.

The glue that connects my workflow is Bluetooth. This personal networking technology makes everything easier, especially file transfer among devices. In my previous weblog, Bluetooth Phones and Mac OS X in Perfect Sync, I explain the setup I use and why I like it. The Bluetooth-enabled Palm Tungsten T2 has emerged as a key player in photography workflow. Here's how it works.

  • Take photos with camera phone.
  • Send them via Bluetooth to the Palm.
  • Organize them by category in the Photos application on the Palm.
  • Make sure that the Photos conduit is enabled so your images are transferred to your Mac automatically during the next HotSync
  • Manage the downloaded images on your Mac using iTreo, which is a nifty iPhoto-like application that reads the images you just downloaded from the Palm to the Photos folder..
  • Transfer the important images to iPhoto by simply dragging them from iTreo to iPhoto.

This is the complete workflow; you can pick and choose parts of it as it suits your needs. For example, you might be happy with iTreo as your desktop viewer, print manager, and organizer for your photos. I prefer iPhoto to be the final destination because I'm religious about archiving those libraries, and iPhoto makes that easy.

If your phone takes a memory card, you could use that to move the pictures to the PDA and Mac instead of Bluetooth. This is especially important for users of the Treo 600 and others who don't have BT networking, but do have memory card slots.

You could also send images directly from your phone to the Mac and drag them into iPhoto, bypassing the Palm altogether. But I like having the Palm in the equation for a couple reasons.

It's fun to view pictures on the Tungsten thanks to the bigger screen and slideshow capability. Also, I can quickly organize the pictures by category as I receive them from the phone, and those catagories persist for the rest of the workflow. And since I have the Palm with me most of the time, I can fiddle with the shots in restaurants and waiting rooms without having to lug around my PowerBook.

I want to say a bit more about the iTreo app too. When I first discovered it, iTreo only worked with Treo organizers (hence the name). That seemed like a shame for such a cool tool. I contacted the developer, Florent Pillet, and asked him if he could expand the app the read the Photos folder in my Palm directory (Home > Documents > Palm > User > Photos). He fiddled with the app and came up with the 1.2 version that I think is terrific. It's free to try and $12 to register -- quite worth it.

iTreo uses the same categories you established on your Palm to organize the images. It also exports to a variety of formats, displays the images beautifully, handles printing of the pictures, and enables drag and drop directly into iPhoto. It's much better than staring at a bunch of file names in your Photos folder trying to figure out which is which.

As camera phones improve in quality, devising easy ways to manage their pictures becomes more important. You don't want to lose a cool shot because you can't remember where you put it. In this sense, camera phone photography is really no different than any other type of shooting. Find a system that works for you, and stick to it.

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit