What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

In a “you take photos don’t you?” moment a few weeks back, we got asked to do “official” photography for Ellie and Ben’s school across the road. The plan was for one of us to take photos of youngsters talking to Santa in his grotto, and then they got a photo each for Mum and Dad.

There’s a few problems with this though, headed by the fact I’d never done a shoot with a flashgun. Handily, I was already booked to take the 30D to Calumet on Friday morning for a clean so was able to pick their brains; I also walked out with a grip for the 30D since I’ll probably not be able to lay my hands on a 5D Mk2 until April 2009 (but that’s another story).

Next issue – the lab is a mile away. We could upload the pics but the connectivity in the school can’t be relied on and the restrictions are draconian including per-user upload/download quota which would be flattened by the 10th photo uploaded – reluctantly I fiddled with my 3G card and managed to get an upstream of about 30kbytes/s from the school making it roughly 2 minutes to get a photo to the lab. Phew. (Please note at this stage that if I was doing this more often, I’d probably invest in one of those portable pro-dye-sub printers).

I didn’t want to have to mess around with memory cards either so investigated hooking the camera up to the laptop. I’d not really used Canon’s software before but it was fun to see I could change settings on the camera remotely, trigger it to fire, all sorts of guff – which then got plonked into Canon’s own Imagebrowser software and given a filename of the child’s name and ticket. That plus a combination of a few hacked-up shell scripts meant I could largely automate the whole process from camera to lab, with time-from-shoot to it popping out the lab being around 5-10 minutes – God bless rsync.

So to summarise:

  1. Canon 30D takes photo, goes direct to computer via USB.
  2. Pick out a nice photo of the 4-5 I’ve taken and rename it with kid’s ticket and name.
  3. rsync chucks file to remote server over Vodafone 3G.
  4. Lab picks file up off remote server via rsync.
  5. Photo comes out of lab.
  6. Someone drives it to the school.

All within about 10 minutes (if you’re lucky and at the end of a batch anyway).

Nicky did the driving – wazzing to and fro from the lab and bringing prints, and apparently the kids helped. The only hitch was when I realised my camera’s USB cable didn’t stretch from laptop to grotto, but that was resolved with a couple of long USBA-B cables and a USB hub in the middle, which I only stepped on, er, twice. The biggest disaster to happen would probably have been if the 3G fell back to GPRS, but I found a reasonable point in the vestibule next to the grotto where I could blu-tak the 3G dongle to the wall and get a good signal.

All in all a good effort and largely a success.


  1. John_R in Western Australia

    December 1, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Bloody good show!

  2. April 2008? going back in time? 😉

  3. Great getting a lab that prints on site from an uploaded file.

    My local shop that did this has stopped doing it with no notice (even on its site). I uploaded a series of pictures for printing yesterday only from my wife to be greeted by saying "oh no it will be Wednesday before they will be delivered" They denied any knowledge of being able to upload for pickup within an hour. Not even an acknowledgement that the service had been discontinued.

    I must add that this store have previously provided excellent service to the point of ringing me when I had reach 6 batches for collection after I have had a morning of Photoshoping for an AmDram display.

    Changed times – I do like the idea of uploading and then going to pick them up.

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