Stop me if this sounds familiar: You took a bunch of photos of friends, family or pets over the summer and then copied them over to your computer for safe keeping. Perhaps you emailed the odd one to a relative, turned another one into wallpaper or printed a third for a photo frame at the office.
But for the most part, your computer's C: drive has become a digital shoebox.
Your computer can do so much more for your memories than provide a convenient storage solution for them. Aside from scrapbooking, the following are five ideas to unleash your photos in fun and creative ways.
Pick your favorite photo and create a jigsaw puzzle to play on your PC. This is a breeze with free programs such as Jigsaw Puzzle Promo Creator and Jigsaw Puzzle Lite, both of which let you design your own one-of-a-kind digital diversions by simply importing photos from your hard drive (such as JPEG image files). Choose the number of pieces and then play away. Some of these programs let you email the jigsaw puzzle to friends to see if they can complete them.
Proudly display your memories in a place you visit a few times a day: your fridge. You can do this effectively by purchasing magnetic sheets of paper, usually found at business stores like Office Depot or purchased online, which can be fed through any regular inkjet photo printer (seriously). Then, cut them down to the appropriate size and/or shape, and next thing you know you've got magnetic memories to display in your kitchen. Or why not include them in holiday or birthday cards to friends and family?
Not only can you enjoy your photos on your big-screen HDTV instead of a small computer monitor, but you can add music, narration, transition sequences and special effects. Create a sentimental slideshow by using software built into your operating system, such as Windows Movie Maker or iPhoto/iMovie for Mac users (part of iLife). When you're done, upload it to social media sites like Facebook or YouTube, or burn it to a disc to watch on a DVD player. Tip: Be sure to use the "Ken Burns" effect for slow pans and zooms across your still photos.
Photobooks, cards, posters and more
Don't forget the Internet offers a handful of places to upload your photos and create a personalized gift sent to your door, such as coffee mugs, t-shirts, mouse pads, stationary, aprons, playing cards, business cards, calendars, hardcover albums, huge canvases and so forth. Heck, you can even order a hockey puck with your family's photo on it. Popular websites -- such as Yahoo!'s Flickr, Snapfish, Shutterfly and Posterjack (see dog canvas photo) — can handle these fun photo projects. On a related note, Apple's Cards app lets you create and mail letterpress cards personalized with your own text and photos, right from your iPhone or iPod touch, while Gelaskins.com lets you create high-quality laptop, smartphone or tablet skins with your own uploaded photos.
Edits, filters and effects
While you should never mess with your original shots, make a duplicate and have some fun with software that cleans up your shots to make them shine. Whether you use your computer or mobile device, one option is photo editing software to crop photos, rotate or resize them, adjust light and color, remove unwanted subjects, and so on. A second option is adding filters and other special effects, such as making your photos look like a vintage black-and-white or sepiatone shot (or '70s Polaroid), an Andy Warhol-inspired print, impressionism painting, stained glass window, and so on.