What is the best camera?
I've been asked that question often in my years of helping people with their photos and stories. Since today is National Camera Day, let's address it again.
The best camera is the one you have with you.
That's typically been my answer, and for most of us that means the best camera now is the one on our smartphones, allowing us to take photos of everything from our hand-scribbled grocery list to our child's first birthday to the azaleas blooming in the yard. Because we don't want to miss a moment, right?
But it's time to take my answer a step further.
The best camera is the one you have with you that you're willing to use fully and with intention.
It's so easy for us to snap a photo now and forget about it. But snapping the photo is only a fraction of our role as photographer or family photo historian.
Do you know how to download your images to a computer or external hard drive, to create a central place for them so that you can find and enjoy them easily? Do you know how (and take the time) to delete the extras or the bad ones, including the grocery list once you're back from the store? Do you know how to back them up pro-actively, and retrieve them if your hard drive should crash or your smartphone fall into a toilet?
These are important tasks as well. To take these extra steps requires intention, and at least some semblance of a plan. For a while, I was on autopilot with my own images. For years I had used a proprietary software program that organized my downloads and made it easier for me to create photo books and gifts from them. But I realized that if that software crashed or no longer was supported, it could be difficult for me to retrieve my images because of the way the software stored and named them.
So I set out to export them from that program and reorganize them - all 55,000 of them - and to create a new and ultimately simpler system that I felt confident in and would continue using long-term.
My images now are saved in three places: an external hard drive, the hard drive on my computer, and in a single cloud backup. As a personal photo organizer, I recommend this method to all of my clients.
So no matter if I'm still using my first film camera, a Kodak Ektralite 10; my first digital camera, a point and shoot Canon PowerShot; my current "Big Girl Camera," a Canon DSLR; or my smartphone, I know that it's the "best camera" because I'm doing more with it than just clicking an image.
I'm also ensuring that I keep and can enjoy those images for a long time.
Do you have a system in place for downloading and backing up your images? If not, can you set aside some time this week to put what digital photos you have into one central place, either a folder on your computer hard drive or onto an external hard drive? Online storage should not be your primary backup; your primary backups should be places that you control. Do you have an online backup too? Is it active and working? Do you know how to access it? Take a half hour today to start this process.
If you need assistance, you can find help near you through the Association of Personal Photo Organizers at appo.org.