Take photos on film, turn them digital

June 21, 1999|By Mike Himowitz

If you're traveling with a camera this summer, you'll have more choices than ever for sharing your pictures with family and friends online when you get back. And you don't need a digital camera.

A new service called Picture CD from Kodak will help your photos make the transition from film to PC without any technical expertise on your part, and once you've done that, you can log onto Club Photo, a free Web service that makes publishing your images online a true no-brainer.

The Picture CD is Kodak's latest foray into consumer-oriented digital imaging. It's a bit pricey ($8 to $11 a roll in addition to the cost of developing), but you'll get high-resolution scans of your photos on a compact disk, along with a software suite that displays the pictures and allows you to edit them, send them as e-mail, create Windows wallpaper, build a slide show or turn your photos into a variety of trinkets that Kodak will gladly provide forr a few dollars more.

If you know something about digital photography and photo editing, the main advantage of the Picture CD is Kodak's high-quality scans (1,536 by 1,024 pixels in the standard JPEG format), which provide enough resolution to make excellent, full-size reproductions on an inkjet printer. But that may not be worth the money if you take a lot of pictures, since you can probably do just as well on your own with a $150 scanner.

On the other hand, if you're a novice at digital photography, Kodak's magazine-style software (developed by Adobe Systems) provides a great way to get into the hobby. It pops up as soon as you put your CD into the drive, providing a table of contents that includes cataloging, basic photo editing and other activities. Kodak plans to change the software four times a year -- the version available through the end of July includes a clever program that will put your kid's picture on a baseball card (or football, basketball and a variety of other sports).

Aside from the cost, it's hard to find much fault with Kodak's approach. The quality of the photos is excellent, and the software is a snap to use. Kodak has signed deals with a variety of large retailers and photo finishers to offer Photo CDs, but if you're looking for a cheaper alternative, many of them offer Kodak's less expensive PhotoNet service, too.

For $5 to $6 a roll Kodak will put lower-resolution scans of you pictures (suitable for screen display) on its PhotoNet Web site so that you can easily share them and e-mail them to friends. But if you want higher-resolution images, you'll pay $1 apiece to download them. It's a good alternative if you figure you'll want to download high-res shots of only one or two images per roll. Several other photo finishers offer a similar PhotoNet service.

For information on the Picture CD, point your Web browser to www.kodak.com/global/en/consumer/products/pictureCD/. For PhotoNet information, browse to www.photonet.com.

Once you've captured digital photos, you may want to put them on a Web page of your own so your friends and family can see them. Now, creating a Web page is a lot easier than it used to be, but it still takes more geeking around than many computer users are willing to put up with.

Club Photo (www.clubphoto.com) claims it can get you up and running with a photo Web site in two minutes, and based on my experience, that's not far off the mark. With the site's Web-based album manager (you don't need special software), you can upload your pictures and add titles and captions almost as quickly as your Internet connection will allow. This, of course, varies with the size of your photos and the speed of your service. It can take a couple of minut photo if your images are large and you're working over a dial-up line.

If you'd like help cataloging and organizing the photos on your drive, you can download a free version of Club Photo's Living Album software. But if you're just interested in publishing on the Web, you probably won't need it.

The site allows you to create an unlimited number of online albums. For example, you might want one album for general family shots, another for your vacation and a third for a special event such as a wedding. The only rule is that an album will be removed if no one views it over a 90-day period.

When you're through creating your site, you and those you invite to view it will see an attractive index page with small images that serve as links to full-size photos. Don't expect fancy Web page designs or graphics -- this is pretty basic stuff -- but it's great for its primary purpose.

Since nothing is really free, how does Club Photo pay for its largess? One answer is advertising. Your Web page will have a small and relatively unobtrusive banner ad at the top. The other is that Club Photo hopes you and your visitors will order reprints and other goodies based on your pictures. My favorite: Have the image of your choice applied to the icing of Photo Cookies for only $36.95 a dozen, designer tin included.

If you don't like those limitations, you can pay a $39.95 yearly subscription fee for ad-free Web pages that don't expire. But the free service is an excellent way to get your feet wet.

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