Planning To Be Without Your Computer

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Photography without your computer is, as I have recently discovered, cumbersome.  The short version of my story is that I’ve been having some troubles with my laptop as of late, and I had to have it sent in to be fixed.  I’ve been without it for about 5 days now and I’m expecting to be without for at least two more weeks.  I never would have thought I’d miss it that much.  After all, there’s still my wife’s laptop and a somewhat dated (but incredibly dependable) desktop machine in the basement.  I surely could do without my laptop for a little while, right?  Wrong.

Looking back, there are a number of things I should have thought of before I packaged my laptop to be sent to the factory.  I have certainly learned from my lack of forethought.  It’s too late for me, but perhaps these tips might help you in case you’re planning to be without your laptop for a while:

  • RAW Users Beware – If you shoot RAW, you’re using a proprietary format of your camera’s manufacturer.  Even if you have access to another computer, you may still not have access to your photos unless you are able to download software.  But don’t expect to be able to plug the memory card into the local drug store’s photo kiosk and get access to your photos.  Chances are, you’ll be out of luck.
  • Different Display – Even if you never set up a color profile for your now absent monitor, realize that any other computer may have a different color profile and you could be tricking yourself.  If you can’t profile the borrowed display, it’s best to let your workflow wait until your dependable display returns.  And remember, color profiling is software driven…so hooking your monitor up to a borrowed computer won’t solve your problem.
  • No History – While your computer is away, you won’t have access to your library of past works.  I’m sure you created backups before sending your machine away, but it may be worth burning a CD/DVD of your unarchived and readable works so you can reference them if you are able to continue your workflow while your primary machine is away.
  • Shrinking Memory Cards – They aren’t really shrinking, of course, but the space available will.  After all, you’re not downloading your shots every day, and even if you are…you’re probably not deleting the shots from the card because you’ll want them on your machine when it’s back.  Don’t place all your eggs in one basket, spread your shots out across all your memory cards just in case something happens.  Better to lose only some of your shots rather than all of them.  If you’re able to, download them to the loaner machine as temporary storage until things are back to normal.
  • No Alternate Machine? – You want to view your shots, but you don’t have a spare or loaned machine to use.  No worries.  Most digital cameras come with video converter which allow you to plug your camera directly into your TV.  quality is certainly far better if you have an HD TV, but you’ll even be able to plug into old Analog TVs with video inputs.  I don’t advise using a TV to judge your shots.  It’s good enough, though, to allow you to see if you got the shot you wanted or not.
  • Don’t Use Public Machines – While it may be tempting to rent time at the cyber-cafe or public library, I don’t advise carryign out any part of your workflow on a public machine.  Your workflow will be handicapped, the displays aren’t dependable and there’s always the chance that you’ll leave something behind (a file, a card, etc).  Unless you have a client beating down your door, it can wait until your faithful machine is returned.
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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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