A good 'ol friend of mine took a picture of his condo to put online, and I spent about 2 minutes doing basic editing to make it look more "homey" by warming it up, sharpening foliage, and adding more definition to the mid-tones while recovering a little bit of details in the highlights:
Later on he asked:
BTW, how do you save/backup your pictures? Currently, I just copy them into two HDs.
But with my new camera, the space is filling up quick. Also, what about sharing? Do you upload your orignial pictures? 7M each?
If you just got a brand new spanking XXX megapixel camera and if you're filling up your HD fast-- you're most likely machine gunning your camera. In another word, you're taking too many pictures. Let's say you take 100 full size resolution pictures per session. For a typical [2009-spec'ed] 15 megapixel camera, that is 20MB in raw and ~2 to 8MB in JPG (depending on your setting), or up to 2GB/session. If you have a 100GB HD, you'll fill up your [2009-spec'ed] HD in a short period of time.
Are all of those pictures "usable" pictures? When I say usable, I mean are they good enough that someday, you'd be willing to spend $20/frame to print them as posters? Most likely, the answer is no. In all likelihood, you're not going to use every single one of those 100 pictures to print and to publish on the web. In all likelihood, more than 90% of those pictures will end up on the hard-drive, sitting there forever, never to be seen again.
In the old film days, people thought very carefully about their shots-- composition, lighting, color, timing. Each frame needed to be developed and printed, and each frame had a substantial cost to the photographer. Not surprisingly, for a typical photographer in the old days, each roll of film had many good looking shots (compared to today's DSLR shooters) because each frame had a cost, so a lot of thought was put into each frame before the actual shot.
Today however, people think digital is free, so they machine gun shot their digital cameras. They take one picture. Then take another. Then another. To make matters worse, camera makers today advertise that their cameras have really high frames per second, and many macho guys love it (they tend to also the ones that love BIG ZOOMs). They like to show off with their super fast click-click-click-click-click camera. It's as if they're screaming "I am a super cool sports photographer and I can make lots of photos! Listen to the super cool click-click-click-click-click sound my super camera makes!" Yeah, whatever. Maybe these guys like big zooms and fast frames-per-second cameras because they compensate for their small penis or something. I don't know. Anyways, after the session is over, people upload hundreds and thousands of bad looking family photos on Picasaweb, and share it with people who don't actually have time to look through every single one of the thousands of boring looking photos. They do so, because it's so easy to machine gun cameras, and it's so easy to upload to Picasaweb.
Unfortunately, there is a cost of taking too many pictures. That cost is time. One needs to spend initial time managing (picking/filtering and editing) pictures. If the photographer ever needs to find pictures to use in the future (wedding slide show, baby shower, etc), then he/she will have to spend a lot of time sorting through thousands of pictures. If each picture takes 1 second for the brain to parse, then 1000 pictures will cost 16 minutes, not counting software lag. If the average layman machine guns 10000-20000 pictures per year, then the future cost of time would be HOURS and even days. Lastly, there is also the time a photographer incurs on others when he/she shares bad pictures to others. I can't tell you how many times people upload 3000 [really really bad] pictures from their vacation and ask me to critique. They're incurring HOURS on me, and to their friends.
1) My first useful advice to storage woes is-- think more, shoot less.
2) Pretend that you're using a film camera. Pretend each frame costs $0.50. You need to nail your focus and exposure correctly. You have one shot. You think carefully, and make that one shot. Alternatively, if you're a macho machine gun kind of guy, you can pretend that you're a US Army Sniper. "One shot, one kill" is their slogan. You have one chance. So slow down, breath, think carefully, and make that one shot. By doing so, you will A) ensure that all your shots are well thought out, and therefore, will be spot on and B) you'll gain intimate knowledge of your camera settings, and gain knowledge of lighting in general.
3) DELETE BAD PICTURES while you're shooting. Ask yourself "Is this picture good enough that I'm willing to spend $20 to print on a poster?" If the question is no, delete it. Also ask yourself "Does this picture have good sharpness? Does it have good colors? Does it look like something that I can put up in my kid's wedding slide show? Does it look like something I can put in a yearbook?" If the answer is no, delete it. Delete delete delete.
4) DELETE DUPLICATE-LOOKING PICTURES. People often take a shot, then take another. "Smile! Click. Wait let me take another one just to be safe. Click. Wait one more." When you have a bunch of similar looking shots, there will always be one shot that looks better than the rest. If you're going to print or share the best one, you're most likely never going to use the ones that aren't as good. Therefore, delete the rest. Why keep anything that is anything but the best?
5) Share less pictures. People in the 20th century have ADD and get bored after looking through 50 pictures. In the old days 35mm film had 24 or 36 exposures-- people didn't get bored after looking through a roll of film because they had enough attention span for up to 50 pictures. But people today get really bored with today's pictures, because people shoot too many! So instead of mass uploading 3000 pictures (yes I know it's super easy to do in Picasaweb), pick out your top 20-30 and upload those.
6) If taking JPG, downsize the resolution. If your destination print is the internet, then 1600x1200 is way more than sufficient. So why waste 4700x3100 pixels on a typical 15 megapixel sensor? Taking 4700x3100 is over SEVEN TIMES the size you need for your normal 1600x1200 size. You may be thinking that you need to make big prints (300dpi). First of all, megapixels is just one equation on making good prints-- 100 lousy megapixels will look worse than 10 good megapixels (other factors affected by lens quality, lighting, etc). In general, 8MP is more than enough for 8x10 print, so no need to use 15MP if you don't need to. Downsize it.
7) Backup backup backup. Storage is cheap, but get the right type. People are now just finding out that burned DVDs only last 10-20 years. Even hard drive quality isn't what they used to be-- many break down in a matter of 3-5 years.
I personally use a consumer grade RAID-1 network drive (two mirrored 1TB hard drive) as a primary drive, and a 500GB+200GB external drive for backup. I know one of these disks will fail in a few years, so it's imperative to use RAID-1 and/or backup. Here are some datapoints: this year I had a 750GB Seagate fail after 10 months, a 1TB Seagate fail after 3 weeks. In the past I've also had a catastrophic failure of the famous IBM 60GB Hitachi Deskstar (aka Deathstar), and a EIDE Maxtor drive failure. Devices fail.
For a given price, hard drive capacity doubles every 12-18 months. For example, last year, the cost of 1TB was $200. Today, it's less than $100. As long as the rule of doubling is true (and it has been for ages), then you can buy whatever storage you need today, and buy double the capacity when you need more. For example, if you filled up your 1TB this year, just get a new 2TB this year ($200) and copy everything over to the new 2TB. Next year when your 2TB is filled, buy a new 4TB next year ($200) and copy everything over to the new 4TB drive. When your 4TB is filled, buy a new 8TB ($200) and copy everything over to the new 8TB drive. What do you do with all the old drives? Safe-format (secure format 4-8 times) and eBay. There's no point keeping a bunch of old drives that'll become paper weight in less than 5 years. High-tech means "obsolete very soon." Keep your data, throw away technology.
In short, hard drive may be dirt cheap today, but the cost of management is not. The best way to use your digital camera is to pretend that it's a film camera... every frame has a cost to it, so think more, shoot less. By doing so, you'll end up with a lot of good pictures, and save a lot of management time, while gaining more knowledge and appreciation for photography.