How do I transfer my photos on my Iphone 4 to my PC?

I received my first Iphone ( my first Apple product) and am confused as to how to transfer my photos on to my PC.

I connected the phone to my PC via USB, and I synced it.

Syncing it seems to have initiated a back-up process, which backed up something on my PC, though where I have no idea. I clicked on a Photos tab, and played with that a bit as well, but I couldn't find the pictures on my phone.

I'm used to just plugging a device via USB and then going to my computer, and finding it under external storage (or maybe "additonal storage" or something alone the lines of that), then double clicking on it.

But this time it didn't appear in that area, under "My Computer".

Also, is Itunes necessary? Right now, I'm happy with the way my library of media is organized, and Itunes is confusing me a bit, maybe overwhelming a bit, and I feel sort of disarrayed.

Thank you.