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   LEARN ABOUT digital photography from first principles to advanced techniques.

Before you buy: Make sure you buy the camera which is best for you.  go there . . .
What to look for and what it does:features and functions of the digital camera.
                 more . . .
Quick-start guide: start taking pictures right away.
                 more . . .
Versatility: the choices - from pixels to paper.
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Storage media and sharing your photos.  more . . .
Essentials of photography
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Quick-start Guide

Getting you started: from opening the box to first click.

buy cameras, camcorder, lenses, books, memory and accessoriesSo now you've bought your brand-new digital camera and can't wait to get going. Obviously you'll need to read the manual to learn to use the full range of controls and features, but first here's a quick guide to get you started.

Most manuals, or a separate sheet in the box will have a contents list. Have look for this and make sure that everything you have paid for is present and correct. In addition to the camera itself, you are likely to find batteries and a charger, a memory card, a computer cable, and one or more CDs or DVDs with software.

Before you start here is a useful tip. Have a book of small-sized post-it notes to use as bookmarks until you are more familiar with the camera. They won't fall out and you can leave a section sticking out and label it with the item it is marking. Many manuals, unfortunately, are badly indexed and this will save you a little time in finding things again..

It is in the nature of rechargeable batteries that they are delivered uncharged, and need a full charge before being used. Skimp on this and you will lose capacity. See to this first. It is probable that your camera uses a common size of battery and you may already have some rechargeables or ordinary dry-cells which can be used in the meantime.

The memory card needs to be inserted in the camera, and it may have to be formatted so that the camera recognises it. This is very straightforward and usually the camera will do virtually everything for you and you just click 'ok'.

ON/OFF switch
Digital cameras vary in the time it can take from switch-on to readiness, sometimes as long as ten seconds. Remembering to switch off your camera is important, even though most will do so automatically after a time interval if not used. While the camera is on, the battery is being drained. Most will close down automatically to save power and you need to know how to re-activate. You might also find that you can alter the time of inactivity before it switches off. First though, find the switch, turn it on and watch for signs of life.

rocker switch for menu controlMost setting up and other settings are handled through a four-way rocker switch. Up and down will go through the menu and left and right into other sub-menus. Use the default setting for your first few trial snaps, then explore the options as you go through your results.

Check the modes available on your camera. There will, at the very least be one for taking the picture, and one for viewing it. Put the camera into photo mode and for now, switch everything else to automatic. Later, you can explore all of the options available on your camera to get the best from it.

Digital cameras usually have an LCD screen which is used to display the image you will photograph. There may well be a viewfinder as well, and a system of switching one or both on and off. Many people prefer the LCD screen but it is a great gobbler of battery power and you should keep it off whenever possible.

Although not strictly necessary for your first snapshots, the facility for recording date and time is very useful for later cataloguing of your photographs. You might just as well set it now and forget about it.

Similarly, unless you camera is very basic, there will be choices of picture quality. There's no need to take high resolution photographs if you are only going to email them or print postcard-size snapshots and conversely, you won't get a 10 x 8 exhibition print from a low-res picture. Setting a low-resolution (e.g. 640 x 480) will give your camera a quick recovery time and will record the maximum number of pictures on your memory card.

Once the photograph is taken you will be able to view it on the built-in LCD screen Switch from photo mode to view mode, and you can view your pictures in sequence (often you can split the screen and view four or nine at a time). At this point you can also delete unwanted pictures but don't be too hasty because the LCD screen will not show your photographs at their best, and anyway, most common faults can be corrected much easier in digital photography.

You will find that even a modest digital camera will have a whole host of other options for you to explore, but these few will get you going.

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