Using the Hell out of your Digital Camera - 10 Tips for Digital Camera Owners

As time goes on, more and more people are carrying little cameras with them everywhere they go. I'm one of them. Here are a few camera tricks I've picked up through the years.

This Camera Belongs To
Digital cameras are just the right size to slip out of your pocket on the subway. While aspiring detectives will enjoy trying to track down the rightful owner by identifying restaurant interiors and concert snapshots, it is a lot easier to keep a photo with your phone number on it. I think a handwritten note says it best.

Many cameras allow you to lock a photo on the memory card. I recommend locking this one so that it is always your #1 photo and doesn't get cleared like the rest of the photos. This screen would also be a good place to put anything that emergency workers would need, like your blood type, drug allergies or organ donor status.

Until you are carrying around an Iphone or personal GPS unit, your camera can substitute. With modern 5-12 megapixel cameras, you can fit a lot of detail on a single photo, and most cameras allow you to zoom in on photos for a closer view.

If you are new to an airport, snap a shot of their floorplan in case you have to find gate L45 in a hurry. This trick is also good for keeping a shot of the Metro system.

Lately, when checking an address online, I've been snapping a photo of the Google Maps screen as an insurance policy.  I've also found it useful when describing what part of the city our new house is in. This would also be good for people who find themselves challenged with describing where on earth to find Laos.

Parking Lot
One time I lost a car in the airport long-term parking lot. Back after a three-day vacation, I was faced with 1000 twisty passages, all alike.

If you've ever lost your car, and landmarks like R25 and H12 don't stick in your memory, take a photo of the parking lot section sign, or any other landmarks nearby.

Mechanisms you are repairing
This is another insurance policy. Before you unplug your router, fix a guitar string or disassemble the lawnmower throttle linkage, snap a photo of what it used to look like. You probably won't need it, but if you have to drop the project for a few days, you might appreciate a visual refresh of what it look like when it was just a little broken.

License Plates
Did you ever get the feeling that you weren't going to make it out of a parking lot unscathed? If a certain combination of carseat+closeparking+exhaust modification sets off your "door ding" alarm, give yourself peace of mind by snapping a shot of your new neighbors.




Yellow Pages
Want to take a little info on the road? Rather than tearing out the page, snap a photo of those knitting supplies listings... and by knitting supplies, I mean drug and alcohol treatment centers.

Evidence for the Defense
Occasionally, I find myself in a less-than-lawful situation. For example, if the marked crosswalk looks dangerous or flooded, and I cross the street somewhere else, I do so with an eye towards my legal defense. To ease my mind, I will often take a photo of the offending situation, to show as evidence in the supremely unlikely circumstance that I end up in court.

Other situations which warrant a little documentation:
1. Light rail ticket machine is broken
2. Parking Meter malfunction
3. Ambulance behind me at a traffic light
4. I need to hop the fence into the childcare area of California Family Fitness because I'm being chased by a crazy ex-roomate with nunchucks.

Some people would argue that just taking such a photo would prove that I was doing something I knew was illegal, and sometimes they would be right, but if you need to defend your justifiably illegal actions, it is good to have pictures to compliment your story.




Chinese Food Menus
If you hang out with the kind of person who forgets what is available from Chinese take-out.

I didn't really have a picture of the chinese food menu, so I substituted this lid from a can of paint. This would be another good thing to use your camera for, copying a complicated code when the guys at the paint counter ask you to bring the lid from the old can.


If you are making a special trip to store, take a photo of the ingredient list.

Rental Dings
Part to the process of renting a car or a truck is the ding-check, a thorough examination of the vehicle for pre-existing damage. If you are worried about getting charged for something you didn't do, take photos of the exterior.

In the future, car rental places will do this for you (and them) and stow the photos themselves.

A Mirror
And finally, if you need to check your teeth for Cracker Jack particles, your lips for ink or see how you look in very dark sunglasses, turn the camera on yourself.

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November 23rd, 2008 

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