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All about how to transfer your images from camera to computer

If you’re happy with your present method, stick with it!

My own method is pretty simple and basic, and gives me total control of downloading and storing image files.  I simply carry a cheap memory card reader (less than £3 delivered from Ebay BuyItNow or which means I can download from any camera to any computer with no special software.  But in the following paragraphs I outline some of the myriad other ways of tackling this simple task, so I do hope I don’t cause too much confusion – if in doubt or you have other ideas, please let me know!

If you don’t want to use a computer at all for the time being, probably the best solution is to take your memory card to a high street photographer or chemist who will not only print your pictures but also copy them onto a compact disc.  Some shops have a “kiosk” where you can individually preview your images for printing/cropping/etc.

1) The software bundled with your camera may be the best way forward if you are new to digital and not too familiar with computers but it can also pose problems later on, e.g. if you have two or more brands of camera used on one PC, or perhaps after upgrading to a different camera brand.

If you don’t use your camera’s own software you may have to find solutions for the following:

  • Movies may not transfer correctly
  • Image rotation info may not be correct requiring manual correction
  • “Protection” and “print” info – if you use these in camera – won’t be copied across
  • If you use RAW, you need to especially vigilant but there’ll other things to learn anyway!

Note: The camera software also installs a device driver so that when you connect the camera to the USB port, the memory card inside the camera is treated as though it is an external drive just like a USB memory stick or card reader.  Obviously, if you use a separate USB card reader, you don’t need this camera driver.

 2) Both Windows and Mac computers now contain excellent inbuilt photo features so you can browse folders (or directories if you have been using computers as long as I have) to see thumbnails of jpg files which you can then move or copy as you wish…

  • Using a Windows mouse, “drag” a file or collection of highlighted files from one drive to another to simply copy the files: a USB memory stick or card reader counts as one drive and your computer C:\ hard disk drive as another.
  • However when “dragging” between one folder to another one on the same physical drive (e.g. within your C:/ drive), the files will be moved unless you also hold down the CTRL key while you do it.

This can be rather tricky and unpredictable using a laptop’s mouse pad so I recommend an external USB mouse for safety ( and less than a fiver online): alternatively use the keyboard shortcuts for cut (CTRL x), copy (CTRL c) and paste (CTRL v) after you’ve highlighted your block of files.  The big advantage of this method is that it works on every Windows computer and  you remain fully in control.

You can also augment the inbuilt Windows image viewers with freeware or open-source programmes that are intuitive and totally safe to use – more on this another time but I routinely use Faststone Image Viewer as it instantly displays RAW and photoshop psd files.

3) Other software solutions frequently encountered (and are often unwanted and uninvited) are due to printer or photo-editing software that wants to take over your PC.  Much printer software is very poorly written and not properly supported over the medium term.

I love Photoshop Elements for serious adjustments and editing at a budget price, although I personally steer well clear of it for any downloading purposes because it is too tightly integrated with how you store and manage your files (more about which in a future blog).  However I know some people welcome having PS Elements as the “… ultimate media management hub”, especially if they are very disorganised to start with!  Picassa (a free download from Google) is highly rated by many but again I don’t like the way it takes over your files so you don’t know what’s where.

4) Some rather more pricey software is available from Adobe which sets the industry standard and is very popular with many experienced amateurs.  This includes Adobe Lightroom which will interwork very well with their Photoshop/Photoshop Elements editor, and Lightroom is much more affordable now it has been reduced to just less than £100.  You may have noticed I don’t like spending more on software than my camera!

Do remember that when editing your jpg photos to always save them as a new file name: never overwrite your original file as every time you edit and save, you will lose image quality because of the way the jpg file compression works – but more about this at a future date.

Finally, having downloaded your photos, what do you do with the memory card in the camera?  Obviously if you use a software package, you will probably find an option box somewhere to either delete or keep the photos in camera.  Personally, I would recommend only ever copying from the memory card so you have an extra backup of your pictures in-camera for a while: with today’s cheap multi-gigabyte memory cards, you can store thousands of jpg’s so perhaps you would only need to wipe your card just before going away on a special trip or holiday.  Obviously this is not practical if you use RAW due to their much much bigger file sizes.  And the best way to wipe the card completely is by reformatting it in your camera using the camera’s own menu – never ever do it via your PC – and take a test shot to make sure it’s worked.

Chris W

Do PLEASE email me with comments so I can get some feedback and encouragement to expand these articles – or perhaps you would like to help.

Updated Nov 2012

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