This photo shows a digital camera directly connected to a laptop using a USB cable. Some cameras use a USB-powered dock in which you insert the camera.

© iStockphoto.com/TwilightEye

Make the Connection for Photo Transfer

You have two ways you can transfer digital photos from your camera to your computer: The first is to send the photo files over a direct connection, either wired or wireless. The second is to remove the memory card from the camera and insert it in a card reader connected to your computer.

Most digital cameras come with some way to connect the camera directly to your computer. For most cameras, this means using a Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable. Most digital cameras come with a USB cable or a dock or cradle with a USB connector. You plug in your camera at one end, and plug the other end to an available USB port on your computer. Your computer should detect that you've plugged in a USB device. Some cameras may have another type of cable, such as FireWire, but USB is more common.

Some digital cameras now have wireless options for connecting to your computer. Bluetooth is the most common of these options. If you enable Bluetooth on the camera, a Bluetooth-enabled computer can discover and connect to the camera. Another way to connect wirelessly is over a WiFi network. WiFi is becoming popular in smartphones with built-in digital cameras like the Apple iPod.

This USB card reader can read several different types of flash memory cards.

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If your digital camera uses removable memory cards, you may not have to connect directly. Most dedicated digital cameras and some mobile phones use one of several types of memory cards. Some notebook and laptop computers now have built-in SD card readers. Others require a card reader, typically plugged in to an available USB port on your computer. Like memory cards, card readers come in different shapes and sizes.

What's your best choice to download from camera to computer? If you have several options, choose the one that's easiest for you and your devices. For example, if you have a lot of photos to move and want to preserve the battery life in your camera, you can remove the memory card and use a card reader. (Cameras usually must be running before you can connect.)

So you've got your camera or memory card connected, now what? On the next page you'll read how the computer actually receives your photo files from the camera or memory card.