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Organize (and tweak) vacation memories in a digital format

January 22, 2006|Jain Lemos | Special to The Times

GETTING images out of your camera and into your computer is the first step in organizing your vacation record.

Because most travelers like to keep their loads light, taking along a portable or stand-alone storage unit is a smart way to do just that and allow you to view, edit and save pictures until you get back to your home computer. For a few hundred dollars, you can store 30GB of information -- that's thousands of JPEG images.

Most digital cameras allow you to download images to your computer. Once images are safely transferred, you can categorize your files.

The camera automatically assigns a number to each photo and creates a folder on the computer that houses the images. Before you start editing, do two things:

* Create a separate master folder in an easy-to-find place on your computer. You might name it by country or state, for example, "Italy2006."

* Pull out your maps, guidebooks and caption information and create subfolders to match your shooting itinerary. Name subfolders by city or town ("Genoa") and then by situation ("Genoa, Children Playing) or location ("Genoa, Museo di Palazzo Reale"). Add a few extra subfolders named "favorites" or "art shots."

Now you are ready to begin choosing the "keeper" shots. Study the shot by opening it to the largest view possible. If you want it, choose "save as" and file the image in the appropriate subfolder.

Making them better. Most digital images can be improved with a little alteration. Your camera's software should have some basic tools. Typically, these allow simple adjustments of color, brightness and contrast.

To enhance photos further, you'll need photo-editing software such as Corel and Adobe. Starter programs begin at about $400.

These include tools for red-eye removal, sharpening, tinting, panoramic assembly, adding text, removing objects, dodging, burning and dozens of other manipulating actions.

With JPEG images, every time you make corrections and save the image, information is lost, so tread lightly.

Note that computer monitors have different color calibrations. Also consider the natural and artificial light in your work area.

As you study each shot, check the overall exposure and make adjustments. See if converting color to black and white makes the shot more dramatic. Cropping is a valuable tool for improving the composition of a shot.

Putting on a show. Adding structure and narrative to travel photographs -- whether electronically or in a traditional album -- is the last step in completing your picture-taking journey.

Placing images in a specific order for viewing, called sequencing, will make the strongest impression.

A natural sequence is to order the images by day and time. Mixing close-ups with scenic shots provides balance. Start with an establishing shot followed by details.

Writing captions takes some thought but will be easier if you've taken good notes. Establish a format and stick to it.

You can print images and prepare them in an album or use a slide-show program to share your photos.

When you are ready to go the online route, try using some new technologies. PhotoJam (, FilmLoop ( and Kodak Easy Share Gallery ( are fun and have free versions of programs and services that can make sharing your pictures online easy.

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