Go on, chuck out your prints

You don't have to be part of the cyber generation to use new photo technologies
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The Independent Online

The net is changing the way we deal with our family photographs. In the old days, you had to take pictures and then make a trip down to your local Boots or Snappy Snaps in order to get the film developed and prints made. If you're like me, then quite often you'd procrastinate and end up sitting on rolls of undeveloped film for months. Or sometimes even forget to collect the prints for weeks.

The net is changing the way we deal with our family photographs. In the old days, you had to take pictures and then make a trip down to your local Boots or Snappy Snaps in order to get the film developed and prints made. If you're like me, then quite often you'd procrastinate and end up sitting on rolls of undeveloped film for months. Or sometimes even forget to collect the prints for weeks.

Even when I manage to get film developed, there's the issue of storage. Obviously, the best pictures would go into my album, but most of the other prints would just gather dust in boxes, never to be looked at again. All in all, it was not a very efficient way of organising my memories and, worse, prone to disasters like a leaking roof, which last year destroyed my photo collection.

My boxes full of prints suffered beyond repair and that has taught me a painful lesson: don't trust anything analogue. Since then I've been on the lookout for a more water-proof photo management system. That search coincided with having a baby, and as a typical new parent I've experienced a bout of photo-taking fever. After years of not taking a picture more often than on occasional skydiving trips, I now find myself having to produce obligatory photos every week to share with impatient grandparents spread over three countries and two continents.

It soon became obvious that it was impossible to keep up with the family demands using old photo technology. The circle of taking the picture, developing and sending it to the relevant exotic locations was just taking way too much time and hassle. Fortunately, some big players have identified a new market and are lining up their global family photo products in an innovative new way.

The first helpful concept comes from Kodak (www.kodak.co.uk), which will shortly be launching a new service. Called "Print@Kodak" the service will allow me to upload my pictures from a digital camera to their website. Kodak will then make prints and send them to my chosen addresses. Since one set of grandparents is not on the Web, this is the perfect way of getting them photos, as they are old-fashioned and like to keep "real" photos in their own cherished albums.

For the more digitally-aware set of grandparents, Kodak can upload my pictures to the Web for them to admire without having to wait for prints to arrive. That means I don't need to fiddle with Microsoft Front Page or ftp (file transfer protocol) just to share a picture with the family. Since the need to share pictures usually comes in times of high stress and low spare time, like weddings, christenings etc, it is really handy to be able to sort out the memories distribution process with a digital helping hand.

But you don't have to be part of the digital generation to use these new technologies. My neighbour takes lots of pictures, but not with a digital camera. She has three sets of grandchildren in the US, and since they are completely Net-savvy, she was looking for some easy solution to move her photo album online. We've shopped around and now she is using a Boots service delivered via Yahoo Photos. This allows her to send her film to Boots, get it developed and then they send photos by e-mail to her family. She also gets her prints for her traditional picture albums. No need to build websites and dabble with HTML editors.

I'm very impressed with the speed of both the Kodak and Boots services, embracing these new methods of managing pictures and sharing them with global families. But the most important thing to me is the fact that Web-based storage has solved my leaking roof problem. I've put all my photos into a Web-based album, so I don't need to worry about the whereabouts of my photographs - they are offsite on my internet service provider's servers in a leak-proof building.

There is a massive, as yet underestimated, demand for picture storage space as it is likely that most of us will be moving our photo collections online, in the same way that many have converted their CD collections to MP3 files.

There is even talk that broadband may allow us to store our videos online. This would improve my quality of life quite a bit, as being an avid buyer of videos, I've found myself sitting on a video collection that takes up lots of space but only gets used once in a while, thus making it a prime candidate for digitisation.

It can be done. I've seen the future on a recent visit to the house of an MD for a Web company. This guy, despite having a big collection of music, pictures and videos, has managed to shift it off to his ISP, and compressed his living space to a small box in Covent Garden. He can now move house on a moment's notice, and as all of us keep travelling to keep up with the New Economy, being able to move quickly is definitely an advantage.

It may require a brutal burial of your analog depository and ritual sacrifice of all your analogue memories, but it is a liberating process that will make you feel free as a bird and ready to move fast. So take a good look at your flat and decide what can be stored off-site, make sure that your ISP is a hardcore one, with good backup facilities and then get Kodak or Boots to take care of your photographs. Welcome to the 21st century.

eva@never.com

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