Eleven Clever Tips for Digital Camera Owners

You've got the technology in your pocket, so make the most of it

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.

Maps

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 Lots

One time I lost a car in the airport long-term parking lot. Back after a three-day vacation, I was faced with 1,000 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

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 looked 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+close parking+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-roommate 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 complement 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 a 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.

Recipes

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

Rental Dings

Part of 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.