The Beginners Guide to Digital Photography
As you look into buying a digital camera, know that it will take some getting used to, and there is a learning curve associated with operating a digital camera. Once you accept this, and you are ready to dive in, you will love the options the world of digital photography offers.


Why go digital?
There are distinct advantages of digital photography:
  • Instant gratification. See and share the photo you just took on the LCD screen on the back of the camera.
  • Shoot away. Since you are able to delete photos that you do not want, you have the freedom to shoot many photos of the same scene, and just keep the one or two that turned out the best. Once you discover this, you have another great way to capture memories.
  • Every print's a winner. Gone are the days of shooting a whole roll of film to get a few good pictures! With digital photography, you only print the best shots. And you can get prints made at just as you do with film.
  • Options. Whether it's 4-by-6-inch prints to put in your photo album, homemade greeting cards printed on your inkjet printer, or sharing your photos online, digital photography opens up a whole new world of options for your memories.


What's the deal with megapixels and resolution?
When dealing with digital cameras, you'll need to become familiar with the terms "pixel" and "megapixel." Pixel is short for picture element, and it refers to the tiny "cells" that gather information in a digital camera. The term "megapixel," which is found on most digital cameras, simply means one million pixels.

Low Medium High


The higher the number of pixels, the better the resolution. The higher the resolution, the larger and higher quality prints you can make. Higher quality photos take up more space on your media card, but they will give you the best prints. This guide will give you a very general idea of what to expect in terms of megapixels, resolution and output size:

# of Pixels
Less than 1 megapixel
1 megapixel
2 megapixels
3 megapixels
4 megapixels
5 megapixels
Print Size
"Screen resolution" (good for e-mailing)
4-by-6-inch prints
5-by-7-inch prints
8-by-10-inch prints
11-by-14-inch prints
16-by-20-inch prints

Keep in mind everyone's perception is different. You may be happy with an 8-by-10-inch print made from a 1-megapixel digital camera, but your quality-conscious neighbor may think it looks too "jaggy." If you figure out the largest print size you will ever want to make, and then buy the digital camera, based on the chart above, with the megapixels to match, you will be very satisfied with your digital camera.


Which digital camera is right for me?
To assist you with finding the proper digital camera, you might ask yourself, "What will I do with the pictures?" Do you only want to post your photos to the Internet? Well, a 1-megapixel digital camera might be perfect for you! Are you planning to print your pictures on a desktop inkjet? A 2-megapixel camera would be a good choice. How about making 8-by-10-inch photos? You'll probably want to go with a 3-megapixel camera or higher. Thinking about these things will help you establish which camera is right for you.


Where do I put the film in my digital camera?
Digital cameras have removable media (or memory cards), much like floppy disks, in lieu of film. This means when you take pictures, the digital camera creates a file and saves it to this media. You can then save these files to your computer or give the memory card to a retail store to download and make photo prints, gifts or CDs or you can upload them online at Whatever you do, it is wise to make a backup copy of your photos before you take the memory card in for processing. Then simply delete the files and take more pictures.

The number of images you store on your digital memory card depends on the size (in megabytes) of your memory card, he resolution of your camera (in megapixels), and how the camera compresses the images. Your digital camera will come with a digital memory card, capable of holding a small amount of images, but you will want to purchase additional memory cards at the time you purchase your digital camera, it is important to remember what type of media your digital camera uses.


LCD and viewfinders
Most digital cameras have a viewfinder, which you look through to take a picture (just like a regular camera). Most digital cameras also have a screen called an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), which allows you to view the scene you are about to shoot, as well as see the picture just taken. If someone says "Oops, my eyes were closed," you can view the image and retake it if necessary. The LCD also gives you access to the camera's menu system, which will allow you to change the settings of the camera fairly easily.

The LCD will allow you to view all the images on your memory card. You can flip through the stored shots and delete the ones you don't want to keep. The LCD will draw a lot of power from the battery, so there may be situations (when you don't have access to your battery charger) when using the viewfinder is a better option. It is also better to use the LCD rather than the viewfinder when shooting close up, due to the accuracy of the framing (what you see is what you'll get).


File compression and file size
Your camera will allow you to adjust your image quality, so your memory card can contain both high-resolution and low-resolution images. Use the high-resolution setting when you know you will want to make large prints, and you do not plan to take many photos. Use the lower resolution setting when you want to take a lot of pictures, and will probably only want 4-by-6-inch prints, or simply to e-mail the photos to friends.

Digital cameras will compress the pictures you take so more can fit on your memory card. The higher the compression you use, the lower the picture quality of the image. You can change the level of compression depending upon how you are using the photos. If you are taking pictures to e-mail, you may want to use the highest level of compression, while you will probably want to use the lowest level of compression when shooting to make prints. A good general rule of thumb when shooting pictures you plan to make into prints is to set your camera at the highest resolution setting and the medium compression setting.

This guide will give you a very general idea of what to expect in terms of megapixels, resolution and media storage:

Storage Card Capacity
# of pixels
1 megapixel
2 megapixels 7-15 16-32 32-64 48-96 64-122 128-220
3 megapixels 5-10 10-20 20-40 30-60 40-90 64-150
4 megapixels 2-7 5-16 10-32 25-48 40-64 70-128
5 megapixels 1-5 3-12 8-28 15-36 24-58 38-92

These ranges are only estimates of how many images will fit onto the given size of memory card. This will vary depending on the compression setting of the camera, which is usually adjustable. The higher the compression used, the more pictures will fit on the memory card - at the sacrifice of picture quality.


Most digital cameras come with computer software to edit and to prganize your images. Thes programs will assist you in correcting and manipulating the brightness, sharpness and color of your photos. The possibilities for image editing and manipulation are limitless once you become acquainted with the program.


Using the flash
Both traditional and digital photograpy require good lighting for good results. Most digital cameras have a flash capability, but digital cameras are less sensitive to light than traditional film cameras. I you are shooting indoors or in a low-light situation, even with the flash, you should move close enough to the subject for the flash to be effective (no more than 10 feet away). If this is a concern, some digital cameras allow you to use accessory flashes or studio-type lighting, which are available at

If you set your digital camera on Auto, the camera will attempt to determine the need for flash based on the lighting conditions, but you still should use the manual setting when appropriate (such as using the flash in bright sunlight to reduce intense shadows). Using the flash will concume more of you battery power, so keep you spare set of rechargeable batteries charged and ready to go.

Avoiding red eye
Red eye is caused by an electronic flash reflecting off the back of the eye, making the eye look red. Many digital cameras offer red eye reduction settings, but this will also delay the time from when you click to when the photo is actually taken. Also, keep in mind red eye can be easily removed with image-editing software either on your home computer or at



Card readers
After filling your memory card, you may want to download the photos to your computer. Most digital cameras allow you to do this with a cable that connects your camera to your computer. Another way to transfer photos from your camera to your computer is with a card reader. Card readers are like an external disk drive that will allow you to access the images on your memory card, just as you would with a floppy disk. This is one of the easiest ways to get the images from your memory card to your computer, and it helps save battery power. While some cameras come with a card reader, most do not, and you may need to purchase one.

One of the issues with digital cameras is the issue of power. Digital cameras require a lot of battery power, especially when using the LCD screen on the back of the camera. When you buy a digital camera, rechargeable batteries are a must. Some cameras come standard with rechargeable batteries, while others do not. Either way, you will want to make sure you have at least two sets of rechargeable batteries.

There are several different rechargeable batteries on the market. NiMH _ an abbreviation for nickel metal hydride _ will perform the best, allowing you to recharge the batteries at any time while still holding their capacity. Lithium ion batteries also hold their capacity fairly well. NiCad _ an abbreviation for nickel cadmium _ are more temperamental, creating a "memory effect" if not charged properly. NiCad batteries will lose their capacity over time, so if given the choice, choose NiMH or lithium ion batteries.

Like traditinal cameras, there are many accessories you can purchase at for your digital camera: batteries, auxiliary lenses, filters, bags, tripods, adapters, cables, memory cards, and inks and paper to name a few. We are happy to assist you with accessories to meety your needs.

Classes offers digital photography classes. These classes will introduce you to the digital terms, equipment, and techniques to learn how to use your digital camera to take goopictures. Classes may teach you how to compress your files, upload to the Web, edit your images, etc.

Fun Features
Digital cameras, image-editing software, websites and the like all offer some sort of fun features to change or enhance your photos. From digital borders to postcards to morphing your face with the body of an animal, the world of digital photography allows you to stretch your creativity and have a lot of fun in the process. The possibilities with digital images are limitless!


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