Nov 4, 2004

Understanding Your Digital Camera

Here is a general overview to using a digital camera. It's always good to read your camera's User Manual to get a feel for its special features.

Understanding Pixels and Resolution
More pixels means better resolution and better quality picture. A Pixel is a shorthand word for a "picture element" and it represents a very small square in the image of a picture. Each picture is a rectangle made up of a large number of these pixels and when there are 1 million of these pixels it is called 1 Megapixel.

Megapixels are important because the more pixels you have the higher the quality of your picture. This is important when you decide to enlarge the image, for example, when making an 8" by 10" print. Here is a table that gives you a rule of thumb of what resolution, and how many megapixels, are suggested for making different sized prints.

5" x 7" Print 1 Megapixel
8" x 10" Print 2 Megapixels
11" x 14" Print 3 Megapixels
20" x 30" Print 4 Megapixels

Understanding Digital Camera Controls

Optical Zoom - Optical Zoom uses the physical lens of the camera to magnify the subject. The "T" means "Telephoto" and makes the subject appear larger. The "W" means "Wide Angle" and makes the subject appear smaller.

Digital Zoom - Digital Zoom refers to the ability of the camera to extend the zoom abilities of the camera beyond the physical ability of the lens. This makes the subjects appear even closer, but sacrifices some picture quality in the process.

Picture Taking Modes
Auto is good for taking most general pictures. The camera automatically sets the exposure, focus, and flash.

Portrait sharpens the subject and makes other background object out of focus to put the visual emphasis on your subject

Landscape captures subjects that are far away such as mountains and skylines. This setting sometimes causes a slow shutter speed so you need to take care to be very steady or use a tripod.

Sports/Action captures subjects that are moving. For taking these action shots it is important to "Preset" the auto-focus by pressing the shutter half-way down. Then, when you are ready to take the picture, press the shutter all the way down.

Flash Mode
Flash Mode is good for low light or night conditions. This activates the flash so it can light up the subjects. IMPORTANT: you must be close enough to the subject that the flash can do a good job of lighting it up. Most flashes work well up to about 10 feet and possibly up to 15 feet.

Shutter Mode
Shutter Mode is good for sports and action shots and works by allowing you to set the speed of the shutter. The faster the shutter speed, the better job of "freezing" the action. Slower shutter speeds will "blur" the motion.

Aperture Mode
Aperture mode is used to control which objects are in focus. If you want more objects "in focus" you will select a small aperture, which is a larger number. If you want to draw attention to a particular subject by making other objects "out of focus" you would select a large aperture, which is a smaller number.

Better Digital Photography