Digital Photography Lesson 3: How to Transfer Your Photos to a Computer

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In this section, we will learn how to move your photos from your camera to your computer. If you purchase a camera, it will probably come with software that will enable your computer to import and view your photos. Follow the instructions for installation carefully.  You can also use freely available software from other sources, such as the HP Photosmart software we'll be using in this class.

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Making a Folder on Your Computer to Store Your Pictures

You may have a folder on your computer called "My Pictures."  It is usually a subfolder of "My Documents," which is a standard folder in Windows computers.  However, this is just a suggestion.  You can use this folder, or you can create a different folder.  The important thing is to have a place to store your digital photos so that they don't become scattered.

Take a look on your computer to see if there is a "My Pictures" folder.  To do this, click on the Start button in  the lower left hand corner of the screen.  Can you see a "My Documents" link?  If so, click on this and see if you now see "My Pictures." 

If "My Pictures" exists, it works well to use this folder to store your digital photos.  You can make subfolders inside it to represent dates, places or topics.  If it doesn't exist, you can instead make subfolders inside "My Documents" to store your photos in.

To make a new folder inside "My Documents," do the following:

  1. Open My Documents
  2. Under File and Folder Tasks, click Make a new folder. A new folder is displayed with the default name, New Folder, selected.
  3. Type a name for the new folder, and then press ENTER.

You can do the same thing to make a new folder inside "My Pictures" by first opening "My Pictures."

How to Transfer Your Pictures from Your Camera to Your Computer

There are usually three options for transferring your pictures. You can remove the memory card from the camera and insert it into the memory card slot in your PC. You can insert the memory card into a separate reader, which in turn, is connected to your PC. Or, you can attach a cable from your camera to your PC. The most common way is with the cable attachment, and that is what we will show here.

Side of camera showing USB Connector PortUSB cableComputer USB port

The connector cable camera end plugs into the camera and the other end connects to a USB port on your computer.

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Connecting the Cable

To follow the sequence below, you must have some new pictures on your camera. Do the following while your camera is OFF. Note that each end of the cable is different from the other.  Simply slide the camera end into the USB port on the camera. It should go in easily. If it doesn't, turn it over and try again. It is like fitting a puzzle piece into place. The other end will fit into the USB port on your computer.

Try This:
Slide the connector cable into the port on the camera without attaching it to the computer. Feel how the connector fits in. It should slide in easily and sit firmly in the slot. Try it several times.

Once you connect the cable to the camera, connect it to the USB port on your computer. It  should slide in easily. Now turn on the camera. The computer will recognize the device and give you a message.   A menu will pop up on your computer screen.

Choosing an Import Option

Menu on computer showing options for photo import

In our class, we are using the HP Photosmart program.  Click on the HP option.  Next, you will need to choose where you want your pictures to be imported from. Select the camera by clicking on it.

Dialog box to choose where to store photos on computer

The HP Photosmart program will open.  Before you import your photos for the first time, check the import settings.  Do this by clicking on the word Settings in the top right area of the window:

Exploring Settings in the Photosmart Program

HP Photosmart Settings Button

When you click on settings, you will see a new screen with various options.  We will first choose whether to delete your photos from the camera after they are imported.  This is usually a good idea.  Click on the box to "Delete photos from device after import" if it is not already checked.

Setting for whether to delete photos

Next, tell the program where to store the photos.  It will suggest a place, but you could use the "Other Location" button and the folder icon to browse to a different folder if you wish - perhaps the one you created in the first part of this lesson.  Or, you can just notice where your pictures are being stored for future reference.

Setting for where to store photos

Another option lets you choose how photos will be organized inside the main folder. Choose between month and day.  Most people would choose month, unless you plan to take a lot of photos.

Setting for how to organize photosImport all button

Importing Your Pictures

Finally, click on "Import All" in the lower right part of the screen. Your photos are now stored on your computer in the folder you chose, and erased from your camera. To double check this, close the screen and reopen your photo program. Look in your library, and make sure you see the photos you just downloaded.

Try This:
Take several pictures. Turn off the camera. Connect your cable and turn on the camera. If this is the second or third time you are doing this, you don't need to click on Settings again. Just click on the HP option, and then click on Import All in the lower right. Once the photos are in the photo program, turn off the camera and disconnect the cable. Close the program. Reopen the program and be sure you can find your photos. Do this several times to ensure success.

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Transferring From the Memory Card

To download photos via your memory card, pop the memory card out of the bottom of your camera. Depress the card with your fingertip and it should release quickly and easily. Pull it from the slot. Slide it into the memory card slot in your computer (not every computer has one). A green light should appear next to the slot. Open your photo program (a menu may appear listing it as a choice) and there should be a button to click that says import photos. Click it. Another menu will appear. It will ask which device to import the photos from. Click the icon for removable device. It will take a moment, but your photos will then appear on your computer screen. Click import all. Your photos are now on your computer and can be seen using your photo program.

Note that whatever you do - DO NOT remove the card while the camera is on and especially when the camera is writing to it (like after you've taken a photo). Not only will this cause you to lose data on the card, but it will occasionally render a card useless.  Also do not remove the card from the computer while the computer is reading from it.  There is a way to safely remove storage devices from the computer.  It is called the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon, and can be found in the lower right portion of the computer screen, near the time. It looks like this:

Safely remove hardware iconWhen you click on it, it should display the words "Safely Remove Hardware."  You may need to choose which attached device you want to remove.  Choose your device or click on the message, and it will tell you "Safe to remove hardware," or it will tell you to wait.

Transferring From a Memory Card Reader

Another way to transfer pictures to your computer is to use a memory card reader.  Below is a picture of one.

Memory Card ReaderWe won't cover this option, but it is a handy way to transfer pictures, especially if you have several cameras in the family.


Any time you are transferring photos, either by memory card or cable, it's important to turn off the camera before either connecting it to the computer, disconnecting it from the computer, or removing the memory card from the camera.  Never touch the metal components on a memory card as this could cause static electricity which could destroy data.  Always click on the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon in the system tray on your desktop before removing a memory card or memory card reader from the computer. Remove the memory card or reader when instructions say that the hardware can safely be removed. Removing the memory card while it is still being read by the computer could damage data it contains or even the card itself.

Interesting Tidbit

Digital photography originated with NASA's efforts to transmit photographs from space.  One of the early experimental digital cameras was developed in 1973 at Kodak - it weighed 8 pounds and had only 0.1 Megapixels.  A typical consumer camera today might have 10 Megapixels and weigh only a few ounces.

Vocabulary and Glossary

To move digital information from one device to another. Can be interchangeable with upload, download, import or sideload.
USB Cable
A cable that fits in the USB port of a computer, often having a smaller end for a camera or other device.
USB Port
A rectangular slot in a computer that accepts a USB cable.
Memory Card
A small rectangular storage device that can be removed from a camera and inserted into a computer, reader or printer to transfer pictures.
Memory Card Reader
A device designed to accept memory cards of various formats.  It is usually plugged in to a computer via a USB port to transfer pictures.
My Documents
A standard folder on most Windows computers.  It is usually suggested as the place to store documents created by the computer user.
My Pictures
A standard folder within the My Documents folder on most Windows computers.  It is usually suggested as the place to store pictures.

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More Information

Reviews of purchased photoediting sofware programs:

Reviews of free photoediting software programs:

How to download HP Photosmart:

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