Cockeyed uses for your camera

Craft & Design
Cockeyed uses for your camera

Rob has some clever tips for how to use your digital camera.

For the past five years or so I have had a pocket camera with me every day. I find lots of uses for it, and the rapidly taken, easily accessed photos. Despite the massive collection of physical photos in slide, print and negative form that I have, the ones I can actually use are the ones that are saved on my Flickr account, tagged and parked in sets. Notebook pages, step by step sequences of projects, before and after, student work, whatever I feel like shooting.

The first decent digital camera I had was the Nikon Coolpix 990. Eventually that one died when I got run down by my daughter and her friends on a sledding hill and I needed to replace it. I figured out that my Nikon Coolpix S4 had a setting for making audio recordings, which got me experimenting with podcasting. Before the S4 fully died, I got its’ replacement on the eve of a trip to South Africa and Malawi. When I was trying out my Canon S515, I discovered the great use of making video. It is amazing to me just how useful a $400 camera is. These moderately priced cameras are so much better than my old Nikon N90 slr ever could have dreamed to be. While I miss the interchangeable lenses, I have no regrets about leaving my enormous camera bag stowed away. My recent pocket camera is an HTC Dream, or G1, with a 3 megapixel camera. The images are not perfect, but better than many phone cameras. For me, it has become essential that I have a camera with me all the time.

How do you use your digicam to support your making? What are your tips for how to use your camera? Is it worth lugging around a pricey DSLR, or do you need the smallest, lightest, most simple camera? What is the best model for your uses? What do you do with your photos? Where do you park your photos? What software do you use to edit, store, manage, all the zillions of pictures you take? Join us in the comments, and of course, contribute your photos and video to the MAKE Flickr pool.

18 thoughts on “Cockeyed uses for your camera

  1. Ryan Skanes says:

    I agree that a camera is almost essential in making and re-making things, as many people including myself do constantly.

    For me, I use a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-18 with a 35mm equivalent lens. It’s not an DSLR, but its got a big enough lens and sensor to allow me to do some of the photography things I enjoy. However, it’s about half the size of a real DSLR which means that I bring it EVERYWHERE with me.

    I take pictures of materials, tools, project ideas, schematics, the working project itself for progress, and many many more things. It’s so easy to be going to school in the mornings and see something on my way that makes me think of a good idea, and to remember it I just snap a quickie picture and download it later when I’m back home that night, then I can write the idea/addition down and make the proper plans.

    So how does everyone else use their cameras? Since everyone these days has one, even on their phones.

  2. Gene Scogin says:

    One thing we do in our office is after we have had a very productive meeting, we take a picture of the whiteboards in the conference room and then email them to every one who participated (especially when someone phoned in)

    Another useful thing is to take pictures of computer screens to record bios setting or kernel panic data.

    We also take a picture of the electric meters every month as a check against the electric bill.

  3. Kevin says:

    Whenever I travel I usually have to park my car at the local airport. I try to park next to one of their parking lot marker and then take a picture of it. That way I don’t get stuck trying to remember where I parked when I return.

  4. archvillain says:

    Whenever I take apart something electrical to modify – an mp3 player for example, I take a few photos of it opened up while it’s still in its, ahem, working state. This is because during the course of the project, as things are constantly changed (or accidentally dropped), wires might break off, or other unexpected events, and it’s reassuring to have a record of where those wires are supposed to be re-connected.

    I’ve been doing this for years, and to date I have never needed to reference the photos, but the simple fact that I have the photos is a psychological advantage – I can work quicker and with less hand-wringing and worry because I know that even if something did go wrong, I’ve the records necessary to fix it, so FULL STEAM AHEAD!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Your “Canon S515” is really the S-5is, isn’t it? (I have an S-3is, so I noticed the typo.)

  6. Matt Andrew says:

    I have had 5 digital cameras since 1999 and I have collected 45GB worth of images and videos.

    To keep up with the enormous quantity of data, I have found that it is useful to sort them in three categories: sorted-by-date (and by-event, so that I have a day-by-day record of trips that I’ve gone on and events experienced with friends), sorted-by-subject (so that I have a place to organize photos of individual things like whiteboard pix and things I’ve made where it doesn’t matter when they were taken) and sorted-by-location (for pix of the view from places that I frequently go or have lived in for a certain period of time).

    I have also developed a set of perl scripts to (among other things) recursively invoke imagemagick to take this enormous set of pictures and convert the originals to lower resolution versions so that I can put them on digital picture frames and send to family members and friends. (downconverting to 320×240 will let you fit more than 20,000 images on a 2GB memory card)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Phone cam takes care of product & shelf price tag for when the kids want to know what I want for Christmas or birthday. I have a list ready to send ’em. But :( they haven’t bought me ONE thing off the list yet. I can’t figure out why they ask. (It isn’t cost, cuz some are in the $3-5 range.)

    Canon S-3is takes photos of disassembly of repair jobs, letting me see when I took WHAT out.

    + stuff around town to bring up at city council meetings. I take along a battery-powered photo frame to show the council (battery pack replaces the wall wart for this occasion) whatever signage has problems or bad markings on curbs or street surfaces or traffic signals’ bulbs out with street sign(s) showing.

    + when my flat-bed scanner was out & replacement wasn’t purchased yet. Careful photography of mag & book pages produces readable copy for attachment to email to friends to illustrate a point.

  8. tmfark says:

    I shoot the model/SN wiring tags on my appliances and save them away. Makes trouble shooting/parts ordering much easier when you’re not laying on your back with a flashlight in your teeth.

  9. Hackius says:

    I use my cellphone camera for everyday use. At 5MP it’s just fine and good quality too. For better quality I use my SLR.

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