Digital cameras are frankly amazing pieces of technology that can benefit almost every family - if the photos you take actually make it into print or to the friends and relatives who want to see them.
Surveys show that the vast majority of digital camera owners print their own photos, but a hard look at the numbers shows that most pictures never see the light of day after they're taken.
That's a shame, since most digital photos can be easily touched up to be some of the best images in your collection.
There is a better way.
Start by using all the capabilities of your camera. Newer models let you tag pictures for e-mailing or printing so that once you plug into your computer, the prints spit out or head out over the Web automatically. Check your manual for details.
For the rest, here's the drill:
Start by weeding out bad pictures on the camera. That'll make it easier to file the rest later. All cameras with screens offer the ability to sort through the pictures you've taken and delete selected images.
Then connect the camera to your computer. Either use the software that came with your camera to transfer the pictures to your hard drive, or in Windows open up the camera in My Computer, select all the pictures, and use the Edit/Cut and Edit/Paste menus to put them in a folder where you can find them.
Assuming you've installed the software that came with the camera, you probably have a basic picture editor and maybe even some fancy software for organizing or printing your shots. Use it immediately to fix red eye and other correctable problems.
Again, discard the images that don't make the cut now that you can see them in larger form. Once you've copied the photos to your hard drive and edited them, consider renaming them to describe what they show.
Then e-mail the ones that relatives and friends should see. Generally, that's as easy as creating a message, clicking on the Attachments button and choosing the photos you want to send.
Keep in mind that some people have incoming e-mail size limits. Ask the person who's getting the pictures what they prefer first, or use the photo editor to crop the photo or save it in a smaller size.
You also can use the Windows photo printing wizard to print your favorite shots quickly in the size you want. Just fire up My Documents, open the folder where your pictures are, click on the picture you want and click on "Print this picture" in the left margin.
That way, you can have a new photo of your family beautifully framed hours after you take it - and isn't that what digital cameras are all about?