Sunday, February 13, 2011

Getting started with your digital camera

Getting started with your digital cameraWhat to do first to start creating beautiful picturesDigital cameras have really come a long way from the somewhat clunky, slow creatures of years ago. Today, you can get a pretty good compact digital camera for under $100 and an excellent DSLR for less than $1,000. Whether you're an aspiring professional, a serious amateur, or just picking up your first point-and-shoot camera, we're here to help you through the first steps you should take to get started. see also Most Wanted Unique iPhone Photography Accessories to complete this tutorial.

Getting started with your digital camera

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Getting started with your digital cameraUnpack your new camera. As you're digging through all that foam and plastic wrapping, keep track of everything that came with your camera. Don't throw away the packaging just yet! Chances are there won't be any problems with your shiny new camera, but you'll want to keep the original packaging just in case.

Make a note of whatever accessories your camera came with (or which might have been included in a gift set, if you're lucky!) and what you might need to purchase separately. Did your camera come with a memory card? What about a carrying case? Additional lenses, if it's a DSLR?

Read the manual. If you're anything like me, you probably want to just turn on your new toy and start shooting. However, it's always best to at least make a token effort to read through the manual. Your new camera probably has a lot of bells and whistles, and you'll get a lot more out of it if you take the time to read about everything it can do.

Start with the basics. Despite what I just said above about reading the manual, most basic cameras today are easy to use right out of the box. Look for the fully automatic setting, usually indicated by a green box on your camera's setting dial. This lets the camera make all the decisions for you in terms of exposure, flash, and so on and lets you just start shooting!

Getting started with your digital cameraAdd equipment and accessories. Digital cameras don't rely on film but instead save the photographs you take on memory cards. Memory cards can seem a bit expensive at first, but when you compare them to the cost of buying and developing hundreds of rolls of film, the savings quickly add up! Sandisk and Lexar are two of the most popular brands of memory cards, and you'll want to buy at least a couple of extras to have on hand. There's nothing worse than running out of memory in the middle of a special moment!

Your new camera is an expensive, relatively delicate piece of equipment, so you'll also want to make sure you have a protective case to carry it around in. There are cases to be had that fit a wide range of styles, options, price ranges, and camera types. Most also have storage space for things like extra batteries and memory cards. Lowepro and Case Logic make excellent camera cases. Looking for something more unique? Check out Etsy for handmade camera bags!

Take lots of pictures. Since you're not worrying about the cost of developing film, digital cameras allow you to take as many pictures as you can fit on your memory card, which could be hundreds! There's really no reason not to take lots of pictures.

So get out there and experiment. Try out the different settings on your camera. Take some pictures with the flash on, and take some with it off. This will help you get a feel for the limitations and options your camera has. Keep an eye out for professional photographers you really like, and pay attention to what it is that you like about their work. Try to emulate their style — imitation is one of the best ways to learn!

Get your pics off the camera. Once you've taken some pictures, you'll probably want to do something with them. There are a lot of options!

  • Transfer photos to your computer. Your camera probably came with a cable that will connect it to your computer. This will let you transfer the photos from the camera to your computer, where you can save them onto your hard drive, burn them onto a CD or DVD, or send them to friends and family. Here's a great tutorial for how to get your photos from the camera to the computer. Generally, you don't have to do much with your photos, but if you want to branch out into digital photo editing, Gimp is a great program that's free to download. While you're at it, don't forget to create some sort of file naming scheme to organize your photographs. Months from now, when you're searching for that one picture you took of Great Aunt Sally, you'll be glad you did!
  • Check out online sharing options. A huge number of websites let you upload, store, and share photos online.Picasa, from Google, is my personal favorite. It easily syncs with your Gmail contacts, and the free software makes it simple to upload your photos from your computer to the web. Flickr is another immensely popular service that we've reviewed here at Tecca. Most online photo sharing sites are free, but some do have storage or other costs associated with them. Make sure you read the fine print!
  • Print directly from your camera or memory card. Some printers allow you to print either directly from your camera using a cable or from the memory card itself. Printers such as the Canon Selphy CP800 Compact Photo Printer let you insert your memory card into the printer itself and choose, resize, and print photos directly. Don't have a printer at home? You can also take your memory card in to a photo printing kiosk at many department stores and camera shops.
  • Consider other physical printing options. Most online photo sharing sites also have printing services. Not only can you print out standard-sized photos, but you can also print your pictures onto a wide variety of objects, including tote bags, mugs, mouse pads, and calendars. Here's an article explaining just some of the things you can do with your masterpieces!
[Image credits: Peter Lindberg, Kaiban]

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