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Digital Photography III
August 2005

I can always rely on sound advice from readers of this column, and my pieces about digital photography have produced a great deal of it; I will try and distil some in a later column. Another thing I can be sure of is that you will politely, but firmly, put me on the right lines if you think I am barking up the wrong tree - as happened last month.

I wrote that you should have a computer if you have a digital camera to allow editing and printing of pictures. This sparked a stream of charming emails from Oldies suggesting that I am way behind the times. All over the country, they pointed out, shops are installing machinery that does away with the need to have your own computer. You simply take the camera into the shop and ask them to print everything on your camera, or connect it to a machine that lets you look at your pictures, adjust or delete them as you want and then order prints. It's much like it was with old fashioned film, but with the benefit of the editing process.

Well, this is all absolutely right, and you don't have to use your computer at home if you really don't want to. Nevertheless I still think that it ties one hand behind your back and, worse, costs you a lot of money.

Choosing which pictures you want and editing them a bit before printing is, in my view, the main benefit of digital photography. My local Boots, however, will charge me 49p per picture to do this, if I have fewer than 50 to print. So not only do I have to queue to use the machine, I then have to display all my pictures to the other people in Boots, and pay through the nose (£17 for 35 pictures), and still have come back again tomorrow to pick them up. Admittedly it's 20p per picture if I don't want to do any editing, but that's still expensive.

Compare this with the online service I get from, for example, I can upload or email all my pictures to them for nothing (from home), and tinker with them to my heart's content on their website (from home), and order exactly the prints I want at 10p each; they will probably arrive by post tomorrow (I never left home). That's cheaper, easier, quicker and more convenient than Boots. What we used to call a no-brainer, I would have thought.

Now I would not dream of suggesting that you should buy a computer just for your photography, and if you have no other use for one I would even advise against it. But if you have a computer anyway, I think you should use it.

It all demonstrates my theory that as more and more aspects of our lives are transacted in a language that computers understand (digital cameras, radios, TV's, phones, CD's, DVD's and more) so we are moving to a point where a computer will become the central point for all this, with tentacles reaching out from it in the form of the equipment we actually use, like cameras.

The truth is that in due course not to have a computer will be like not having a telephone. It is, and will remain, perfectly possible to exist very happily without one and many do. But it does make it harder to intermingle with the rest of the world - or at least to take advantage of much that is out there.

Mind you, it's quite tempting, now that I come to think of it - think of the peace and quiet…