About your camera
Megapixels and DPI
Digital cameras capture dots called pixels using an electronic
sensor. More pixels = higher resolution = more detail and
sharper edges (good things), but cost more and take up more
storage space (bad things). Number of pixels wide x number of
pixels tall = megapixels (MP or millions of pixels). For photo
prints, at least 300 dpi is recommended.
- For Internet sharing, even 800x640 is OK.
- Standard 4x6 prints @ 300 dpi = 1200 x 1800 minimum. This
is just over 2 MP. Note that 5x8 (minimum 1500x2400, about 4
MP) and 8x10 (minimum 2400x3000, 7.2 MP) are
- Eight MP and above is common on new cameras and leaves
room for cropping or larger prints.
- Check for the best 4:6 ratio if you want 4x6 prints or you
can print using the digital ratio, which is slightly
different than 4x6. If a camera is listed at 4MP
(2304x1728), the best 4x6 print would be 2304x1536 (3.5MP).
- Resolution can usually be changed in the camera's menu.
- Resolution / Pixels: Can be 320x240 (youtube size) , 640x480 (OK for TV),
or 1040 (high def).
- Often can't change zoom or other settings while
- Only really expensive still cameras as good as inexpensive digital video
- Can be much better than still
photos of an event and easy to
Storage dictates how many photos you can take before the camera
is full. Plan for more than you can imagine using - like 1,000
photos at your highest resolution.
Digital cameras can eat batteries. If your camera uses AA batteries,
I recommend rechargeables -
environmentally friendly, and less expensive. It's easy carry two (or more) sets. Regular alkaline batteries
last longer, but cost much more in the long run. LION
(Lithium/Ion) batteries are long lasting, but expensive and
useful only in cameras. Batteries will drain while sitting
unused in a camera.
Optical zoom is a true zoom, magnified by the lens system
itself. Digital zoom is a simulated zoom that enlarges the image
reducing resolution. Optical zoom is far more important when it
comes to choosing a camera. A 3X optical zoom is common and
usually lists the film equivalent (e.g. 33mm-114mm). More
powerful zooms are useful, but may require stabilization.
Most cameras have an automatic flash, which is OK for "normal"
photographs. It is easy to outshoot
the range of the the flash. A stronger flash reaches farther but
takes more power, either requiring more batteries or depleting
them more quickly. Using flash also slows down availability for the next shot. Flashes often cause "red
eye." Many cameras have a red-eye setting or you can
edit it out. Sometimes, it is
better to turn the flash off and utilize the natural light. An
even light is better than a washed out image with shadows behind
it. Flashes should be turned off when shooting distant images,
such as at stadiums. This allows the camera to adjust the
Viewfinders / LCD
Using the LCD on the back of the camera to compose is convenient
(WYSIWYG) but eats batteries. Decide how big an LCD you want.
Composing the shot on the LCD is great, but make sure to
properly brace the camera to prevent shakes.
Image Stabilization (IS)
Optical (or mechanical) image stabilization uses a mechanism
within the camera to compensate for your movement when taking
pictures especially with a long zoom. Digital image
stabilization compensates for motion by increasing the ISO and
shutter speed. As with zoom, optical is better.
Tips for using a camera
Shutter speed (how long the shutter is open), aperture (which
field and is measured in f-number) and ISO (sensitivity of
the sensor to light) determine how a photo will look. While many
cameras allow manual control of these, most point and shoot
cameras rely on pre-programmed setting.
Some common programmed settings
Automatic - The settings that work best for the average
photograph. You are letting the camera think for you.
Portrait - Makes selected
area (face) sharp and
the rest of the image less focused.
Sports - Uses a shorter exposure to capture the
action without blurring. Works best when there is sufficient
Landscape - Adjusted to capture
distant details. Not to be confused with
or stitch assist.
Party / Children - Optimized for indoor
lights and people.
Night - Uses a longer exposure to
get more light into the camera, but watch for flaring. Longer
exposures are not a good idea if the subject is
Fireworks - Uses a very long
exposure. You will need to stabilize the camera..
Close-up or Macro - For very tight
(under 2 feet).
Snow, Beach, Backlight - Some cameras have programmed
settings for special light conditions.
Burst mode - Multiple quick
shots. Consider using with Sports mode, though it can be useful
Priority - Choose your shutter speed, aperture
or ISO and let the camera set the other two.
To access advanced settings, you might need to use the camera's
menu. Examples include white balance (which can correct for
fluorescent lights) or fully manual. Read a good book about
digital camera settings and photography before you start.
Some digital cameras have an automatic focus set on what is in the middle of the image.
focus on faces, if they can be identified, or multiple important
You can use the
two-stage shutter release
to lock in a different focal point.
Tripods and Monopods
When using settings with longer exposures or distant zooms, it
helps to steady the camera. Even pressing the shutter release can
move the camera and cause blurring. Tripods
are more stable and flexible, monopods are cheaper and easier to
carry. Many newer cameras have software based stabilization,
which is a partial substitute.
When using your digital (or any) camera
- Use the Timer to get into the photo or eliminate the blur
sometimes caused by pressing the shutter release.
- Get close. Fill the frame with
what you want more of. You can also crop the photo later.
- Keep your camera at the subject's
eye level. You want to avoid pictures taken from an
adult human eye's view, which is to say, looking down. Get
down on your hands and knees if you have to. When photographing a living
creature, it's almost always best to focus on the eyes. Make
the eyes sharp. It's where people look first.
Rule of thirds. Some cameras even show a grid as an
option. Use framing to highlight
- Where to learn more:
Lexar Tips + Lessons,
Short Courses and
After shooting, before printing - edit the photo
- Home printers (often more costly than professional
processing, but faster)
- Clicks and mortar stores (Wal-Mart
and Walgreens) or
on-line sites (Snapfish). Free (temporary) online storage and sharing. Not limited to 4x6
prints. Can include calendars, mugs, mousepads,
Sharing digital photos
- Email as an attachment. Hotmail will shrink them for easy
sending / viewing.
- Load them on your blog or social networking site.
- Photo sharing sites such as
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