12 unusual uses for your digital camera

It’s hard to imagine a vacation or a gathering of friends and family without a few cameras flashing. After all, digital cameras make it quick, easy and inexpensive to create and share images.

However, they aren’t just for capturing people and places: they can serve many practical functions as well. Get your camera out of its case and try one of these practical tips.

Around the house…

Take a home inventory. We should have an inventory for insurance purposes, but digital cameras can make the process of documenting your home’s contents much less tedious. Experts advise starting with a whole room to provide context. Next, go in a little closer on the items — and don’t forget to open up cupboards, closets and drawers as well. Spend a little extra time documenting expensive and rare items, including identifying information like serial numbers, manufacturer’s label or china pattern.

When you’re through, burn your pictures to a DVD or copy them to a flash drive, portable hard drive or memory card. Make sure your record is labeled and tuck it into your safety deposit box until it’s time for an update. (For more tips, see State Farm’s href=”http://www.statefarm.com/learning/loss_prevent/learning_loss_homeinventory1.asp” target=”_blank”>Protect your property with a home inventory.)

Map your garden. Where are the tulips planted? What plants come up where — and when? Taking stock of what you have can help you better plan your garden, especially if you’ve recently moved. Take pictures of your gardens throughout the growing season so you’ll know what to tackle next year — and avoid overspending on plants you don’t have room for.

Another tip: Blow up some of your favourite snaps and put them in a simple frame for an inexpensive seasonal decoration.

Track your home improvements. Updates add value to your home, but do you remember when you replaced the windows, or gave your living room a fresh coat of paint? Create a journal on your computer or in an album to track all of your home improvements, redecorating and renovations — and show off a little with before and after pictures.

Sell your stuff. Turning your clutter into cash? Savvy sellers know that posts with pictures generate more interest than those without them. Buyers like to see what they’re getting, especially if you can show different angles and close up details.

If you decide to sell consignment or through an auction, many places prefer to see a digital picture before you bring the item into the store. Email a picture of your item, or take your camera into the store with you. (See 10 ways to sell your stuff for more ideas.)

Document a process. Want to remember that perfect floral arrangement or table setting? Or recreate last year’s display of Christmas lights? (Or the steps you took to produce any of these things?) We think you get the picture here.

Also, before you rearrange a room or take apart a piece of equipment, take a “before” shot to help you return things to their original state.

Match your décor. Will that chair work in your living room? Does that décor item match your home’s style? Next to a measuring tape, your camera is the go-to tool in two ways: 1) Take pictures of your space with you to show the salesperson; or 2) take pictures of items at the store (if permitted) to take home to show other members of your household.

On the go…

Know where you’re going. Maybe we can’t carry maps in our heads, but with a decent view screen and zoom we can carry them on our cameras. How? Create your own small map — including walking, driving or transit route — using an online service like Google Maps or MapQuest.com. Make a digital image of the map using a screen capture program (or the “print screen” button on your computer). Use your photo editing software to crop the map, and then save in JPEG format to transfer to your memory card.

And if you don’t have a photographic memory, snap a shot of an onsite map (like subway maps, trail guides or stadium diagram) while you’re on the move. (Tip: use a high resolution setting so you can zoom in.)

Avoid rental car scams. Worried about being charged for damage you didn’t cause? Due to car rental scams and questionable tactics from some companies, travel experts recommend making the rounds with your camera before your leave the lot — and when you return the car. Make sure any existing damage is documented — and double-check any bills or invoices you receive later on.

Help find lost items. The airline loses your luggage… But how accurately can you describe your bags on the claim form? A picture can fill in the details your memory may miss — like the number of pockets, label and any distinguishing characteristics. (The same applies to any other item you might lose when you travel.)

Photograph your travel companions. Travelling with children or an adult with special needs? Snap a photo each morning before you head out for the day. If you’re separated, you’ll be able to provide show authorities a picture — complete with what your companion is wearing — rather than relying on memory to provide a description. (For more tips, see Keep kids safe abroad.)

See through different eyes. We typically try on shoes and clothes standing in front of a mirror, but that’s not how others will see us. Try some different outfit combinations and see how you look — especially in items like formal wear or clothing with interesting details round the sides and back. (Try to create a natural and comfortable pose for best results.)

At home, try setting up a tripod and use your camera’s timer function. Many stores will allow you to take pictures too, but be sure to check with sales staff first.

And if there’s no mirror in sight, turn the camera on yourself to check on your make-up or see if there’s spinach still stuck in your teeth. (You may feel a little silly, but it will work in a pinch.)

Preview your new glasses. It’s a classic problem: trying to choose new frames without the aid of your specs. That’s why some optometrist offices now have the technology to take a picture to show you how you look in different pairs. Call ahead to see if your clinic or store offers this service, and pack your digital camera if they don’t.

50Plus.com asks: What additional uses have you found for your digital camera? Continue this in the comments!

Additional source: PCWorld.com