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You are hereHome > Articles > Getting To Know You...r Digital Camera

Getting To Know You...r Digital Camera

OK, so Santa was nice to you and brought you that digital camera you wanted. Now what? The one big advantage of owning a digital camera over a film camera is you don't have anymore film developing and printing expenses. Yeah! You can now experiment to your heart's content by taking hundreds of pictures (without first talking to your bank manager).


Ever tried that? If all you do is use Auto mode, there's not much you'll learn. But if you switch to Manual (or Aperture Priority, or Shutter Priority, or Scene Mode) and start using different settings for the same picture, you might just start understanding your digital camera, and, more importantly, what it does best.

So, let us venture outside in this cold January (for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, brrr), and select a scene (such as a branch covered with snow) as our subject.

We set our camera on a tripod because we are going to take multiple shots of the same scene, so we do not want the camera to move. We first take a picture of our scene using Auto mode. We note down the settings, switch to Manual mode, and use slightly different settings than the one used in Auto mode.

For example, we might compensate the exposure by +1/3 EV, and take a second picture. We then take a third picture with exposure compensation of -1/3 EV.

Next, we play with the White Balance, and take a couple of pictures. We turn on fill-in flash, and take another picture. We try all the different settings our camera allows us. This is going to take us some time, but that's OK because we're having fun.

We stop when we have either filled up our digital camera's storage media -- or our face and fingers are too numb from the cold to handle it anymore. We go inside, make ourselves a hot cocoa, then settle down and review all the pictures we've just taken. While we do that, we plug in our battery into the recharger for the next picture taking session.

Which picture is the best one? We note the settings. Chances are it will not be the one where we used the Auto mode setting. In the case of the snow picture, it will probably be the one we took with the extra +1/3 EV.

Now we delete all the pictures except the one(s) we like, transfer them to our electronic photo album (or personal web site), noting down (in a special small notebook, if we desire to carry it as a handy reference with us) the settings for each picture.

There, next time we want to take a picture of this particular scene (snow on branch), we know the settings to use! The settings that our digital camera needs to be set at for the best quality image in this particular situation.

We can repeat this exercise with other situations: indoors, action pictures, macro photography, sunny skies, cloudy skies, portrait, etc. At the end of these photo exercises, we will know what our camera is capable of doing well -- and, perhaps more importantly, what it does not do well. In so doing, we will gain a better appreciation of -- and respect for -- our digital camera.

Too many times. we think we need more lenses, external flash, bigger storage media, even a better digital camera so we can take those fabulous pictures we see others take. Not that extra equipment won't help make better pictures, but if we're honest with ourselves, we might just be suffering a bit from equipment accumulation syndrome.

Consider that probably what you really need this Valentine from your significant other is not a better digital camera and extra equipment, but simply extra free time to first get to know your digital camera a little bit more intimately! Of course, your signifiant other should come first.

Excuse me, it's snowing again, and I do have some more pictures to take. Battery in, touque on, mittens on, see you until next time....

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