Remember Where You Parked Your Car and More: 35 Practical Uses of a Digital Camera
Creativity, frugality, and, on occasion, desperation can inspire innovative uses of the digital camera. For example, if you have trouble remembering where you parked your car, especially when you are traveling to unfamiliar places, take a photo of the car in its space and the location signs, both emergency-preparedness expert Ana-Marie Jones and world traveler-educator-blogger Myscha Theriault tell me.
Whether it is a standalone device or part of a smartphone or PDA, don't leave home without it. Here are 35 ways to be more productive, have fun, and save money with your digital camera.
- DIY Projects
- Office Productivity
- Emergency Preparedness
- Dispute Resolution
- Business Promotions
- Explain a DIY problem to the folks at your favorite home improvement center for remodeling or repair projects. You can use images to explain your situation, accompanied with discussions of what you’ve tried and parts you’ve been using. (When John Chamberlin was having difficulties getting his new kitchen sink aligned with the existing drain connection, he took photos of his project to the plumbing specialist at The Home Depot, who then told him what connections, elbows, etc. to buy.)
- Overhaul equipment despite nonexistent or poorly written manuals. Capture images of the entire piece as well as details of gears, systems, and parts prior to making any changes or disassembling for repair and renovation. Use photos during reassembly.
- Gary Strawn, a Kona coffee farmer in Hawaii, said that his digital camera, along with the Internet, helped him set up new coffee processing equipment. Though he had spoken with several electricians, conducted his own research, and consulted with the distributor of electrical systems, he still had questions about its wiring. So he posted photos of the electrical control box and asked for help. The electrician father of a friend (who happened to have experience with industrial equipment) came to his rescue, giving him the answers he needed.
- Capture program or system settings with digital photos before making changes recommended by tech support or online guides. You can go back to your original set-up if the advice doesn't solve your problem.
- Avoid losing work completely if the computer locks up by taking a screen shot using the digital camera; you may have to do some retyping or data entry but you'll have saved critical information.
- Save meeting notes on white boards, and send electronic versions of notes via email. (Cliff Langston says, “More than once this has saved massive stress (usually mine) when an over-zealous cleaning crew overlooked our huge ‘DO NOT ERASE’ instructions!”)
- Lorena Prime recently used her digital camera to help a client, who had struggled to repair a copier for several weeks. Lorena took photos of the outside of the machine and inside where the malfunction seemed to be occurring, and then emailed the photos to a parts store. Within 10 minutes, the store staff identified and placed an order for the part. Next, Lorena hired a local fix-it person who was able to complete the project.
- Catalog your belongings including your home, cars, and pets; be sure to capture images of you (and your loved ones) in your home. You’ll have evidence that your home, family, animals, and things belong to you, which can be helpful if you have to evacuate an area, file insurance claims, or make missing-person or lost-pet reports.
- Document your medications with instructions by taking photos of labels and demonstrate the proper way to work with whatever medical conditions or physical limitations you may have by taking a series of pictures for demo purposes, which can help you get appropriate medical care.
- Keep recent photos of your family members on your camera phone (if you have one) so that if you get separated during an emergency or while traveling, you can show other people who you are searching for and quickly get a photo to authorities if necessary.
Source: Ana-Marie Jones of CARD (Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters)
Ana-Marie recommends "storing pictures in several ways (depending on your tech-talents and zeal), including online photo-sharing sites, social media sites, backed up on your hard drive, other people's homes, safe deposit box, etc."
- Get around a new city or area by taking photos of the public transportation schedules (often displayed on signs but not available in print form) and maps of archeological sites, hiking trails, amusement parks, etc.
- Organize pictures while traveling by capturing images of signs with the names of cities or sites being explored (if there is no sign, then write a note and take a photo of the note) to serve as a divider of photos.
- Show your spouse that you did unplug the coffee pot, toaster, and any other devices with a dated digital image so you don’t have to go back home and check to make sure.
- Avoid getting ripped off, resolve confusion, and give evidence of ownership by snapping photos of nearly everything such as your travel companions, the things you buy, and your luggage.
Sources: Ana-Marie Jones of CARD (Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters) and Tanya Graw
- Make holiday cards, invitations, and note cards using photos of family members, party honorees, or picturesque scenes.
- Watch your baby grow or the seasons change by taking a picture of the same person or scenery each day for 365 days; assemble them into a progam such as iMovie and play back at a rapid pace.
- Create a photo treasure hunt game to entertain guests at children’s parties. For example, start with a picture of the water tank. At the water tank, place a picture of the top of the avocado tree. Up in the tree, place a picture of the chicken coop, and so on.
- Share decision making for purchases by snapping photos of items you see in stores but want to show someone and come to a mutual agreement before buying.
- Make a garden wish list by getting images of plants in bloom (with name and price) for easier selection during next year’s pre-bloom shopping trip for yourself or the garden club. In the meantime, research details about growing requirements and conditions to make sure that you’ll be able to get good results with the plants.
- Comparison shop for big-ticket items, such as furniture, by snapping pictures from several views with prices and descriptions. Look at images while planning space in your home or office to pick your favorite, most functional, and color-compatible piece.
- Remember the name and contact information of selling agents by taking photos of signs on properties for sale.
- Show your roommate how a new place will look by making photos and videos.
- Record thoughts about new apartments using Notes & Photos, a new iPhone application that ties in the MyNewPlace database with your reaction to specific properties.
- Prepare for a move by documenting all the large and/or valuable items you are moving. Be ready to reassemble items by recording current set-ups (for example, photograph the backs of all the pieces in a media system with cables and wiring attached).
- Create space plans. Start with graph paper to sketch dimensions of space and furniture. Rather than creating multiple sketches after you’ve determined the best placement of furniture, take photos of various layouts to see all of your options.
- Tell your side of the story and be much more convincing with visual images.
- Gather and transmit information about vehicle accidents for use in filing insurance claims and identifying those involved in accidents. Nationwide Insurance has a Mobile Ap for the iPhone that can help speed up the accident reporting, emergency services notification, claims filing, and vehicle repair processes.
- Make a promotional video. James of Terressentials told me that he used a Canon A650IS, set on movie mode with resolution of 640 x 480 to create this video. He shot scenes that filled the camera's 4GB SD card to capacity, offloaded footage to his computer, cleared the card, and shot more footage. To stabilize the camera and minimize minor movements, he attached a tripod to the camera and let the tripod dangle from the bottom of the camera. His company used Audacity (open source software) for recording and mixing the audio tracks, which were prepared in-house before shooting the video on the company’s grounds.
- Show normal appearance of products (including variations of normal) to help prevent unnecessary, costly returns. Educating customers, prior to shipment rather than after a concern arises, builds goodwill among customers. (See Gary's explanation regarding the standard and shrink-wrapped looks associated with shipping coffee through the mail).
- Give precise directions when traditional signs are unavailable, confusing, or inconsistent with road maps or web-generated directions. Add tips right on the photos or as captions. Photo directions are especially useful for tourists who may be renting a hideaway cabin or trying to find an access point for a trail on an outdoor adventure.
- Visualize designs for potential customers. Show before and after results of redesigns to convince customers that items (such as furniture) can be recycled and renewed.
Julie Swanson, the parent of a child with a disability and a disability specialist, often communicates with non-readers through use of visual images (created with her digital camera) rather than written language. For example, she creates chore charts that depict individual chores in the order that they need to be completed, describes a drawer's contents with a photo of items outside of the drawer, and documents and displays appropriate behavior in a variety of social settings.
She also creates recipe rings, which provide step-by-step instructions for making a recipe; her ring cover shows the completed recipe and the individual rings show each step beginning with the ingredients.
Source: Julie Swanson of Your Special Child.com
As for me, my camera helped me to understand how to place my bike on my new bike rack. The rack has a bunch of movable parts and I could never remember exactly how to use them. So, after I got the bike serviced and the shop's owner kindly and properly positioned it on its rack for me, I snapped a photo of the set-up. After referring to the image a few times, I finally understood the logic behind the arrangement.
If you have practical uses for your camera, share then in the comments.