(Photo by Steve Hodgson / CC BY-SA 2.0)

While camera phones are the most popular devices used to take pictures (according to Flickr’s Camera Finder page), their limited storage capacity and susceptibility to being damaged or lost makes them poor long term storage devices for your photos.  Thankfully, there are many other options to choose from – whether you post your pictures to Facebook or store them on your computer.  So what do you do if you want to make a SimplePrints photobook on your phone but the pictures you want to use are someplace else?

Photos on Facebook or Instagram

Facebook has become one of the most common places we share our digital photos.  Luckily, accessing your Facebook photos through the SimplePrints app is easy!  While building your book, choose Facebook as the location of your photos.  You’ll be prompted to log in and then you’ll be able to access your photo albums on Facebook.  It’s the same process for Instagram – just choose that service instead of Facebook when selecting your pictures.  Once you authorize SimplePrints to access these services, you won’t need to log in again in the future.

Photos on your computer

(Photo by Yutaka Tsutano / CC BY 2.0)

There are a couple ways you can access pictures that are stored on your computer.  The slowest and most cumbersome way is by connecting your phone to your computer and moving or syncing the files from your hard drive to your mobile device.  A more efficient way is to use Dropbox.  Dropbox is a service that syncs files between multiple computers or devices so they are accessible wherever you need them.  While larger storage options require payment, they do offer a free basic service that should be sufficient for most home users.  After you sign up for and install Dropbox on your computer, move your pictures into your shared folder.  Once you’ve done this, you can log into your Dropbox account through SimplePrints and access your photos in the same way you would Facebook or Instagram.

What Not to Do

While it may seem quicker and easier to just take a screen capture of your pictures while viewing them on your phone, this can cause quite a few issues.  The first and most important is that screen captures are very low resolution compared to the original picture you took – even if you are capturing the image on the same device you took the picture with!  While this isn’t a big deal if you’re sending an SMS message or even posting them online, when the image is enlarged and printed it likely won’t look very good.  The second issue is that a screen capture includes everything that’s visible on your screen.  Unless you carefully crop the image, you may end up with text, borders or even your phone’s taskbar printed as well.  It’s better to use one of the methods listed in this post so you can save time and get the best possible picture printed in your book.

What about if you want to use physical photographs in your book that you don’t have a digital copy of?  It is awfully tempting to just snap a photo of the picture with your smartphone and call it day, but this comes with its challenges as well.  Photos taken this way can be skewed, blurry, low resolution, dark, discolored, include glare from your flash or other light sources and even reflections!  If not cropped correctly, you may end up with pictures of your photograph – and the table it was sitting on when you snapped a shot of it.  Whenever possible, it’s better to scan these photos and use the digital file created.  If you don’t own a scanner already, you can generally get a basic device cheap or use a service at your local copy and print shop.  There are situations when it is not possible to scan a photo – say if the photo or the album it’s in are very old and fragile or are displayed in such a way that the photo itself cannot be removed.  There are some things you can do to improve the picture you take of the photograph, but it’s not for the faint of heart and does require some planning and preparation.  Using a tripod, diffuse light sources, shooting against a solid black background and editing the picture in post processing software like Photoshop can help you get the best results.  You can also get creative with how you take the picture by having one of the subjects of the old photograph holding it or choose an interesting backdrop to shoot in front of.

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