Ok – you just received that new digital camera for Christmas, your birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, your anniversary, or just Happy Tuesday (or whatever day that you bought it for yourself).

You pull it out of the box, put in the batteries and memory card and start to point it at everyone around you who immediately start to duck for cover.  They hold their hands in front of their faces, make threatening and/or obscene gestures towards you all in an attempt to get out of having their picture taken.

It doesn’t matter if it is a simple point and shoot camera or an expensive professional digital SLR.   You probably don’t know how to use all the features and functions available.  The owners manual and quick start guides get thrown away with the packaging and all of a sudden you are on your own.

Then comes the questions for the beginner.

  1. I thought I could set this camera on a timer so I can be in the picture.  How do you do that again?
  2. What quality setting should I set the camera on to blow up a picture to 8×10?
  3. How do I get the images off the memory card?
  4. What do I set the camera on to take an action photo?
  5. What is white balance again?

Or even the questions that a professional photographer might have, like:

  1. How do I set the camera to trip the flash at the end of a long exposure?
  2. How do I set a remote flash to be the master, but continue using TTL exposures?

Do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes going through the owners manual before putting on the shelf.  Even if it is just familiarizing yourself with what is in the manual, it would be 30 minutes of time well spent.

Another option to learn how to use your digital camera would be to take a class.  Many photography stores offer a basic photography class that teaches elementary exposure, covers the basics of your camera, and talks about how to get images off of the memory card in a format that they can print for you.  They will even sell you many accessories and the intermediate and advanced classes :-).

Most camera vendors also offer videos that talk about the features of their cameras.  Nikon has a line of “Nikon School” DVD’s that have a movie about how to use their cameras.

Finally, Magic Lantern offers many 3rd party books on specific cameras if your owners manual didn’t provide you the information that you need to learn how to use your camera.

The cameras today are amazing.  What you can get for $100 would rival what you might pay thousands for a few decades ago.  Many of the newer cameras even have the ability to do some elementary image touch up right in the camera.

However, the most expensive professional cameras can be relegated to a simple point and shoot if you don’t know how to use it – although you will impress those around you by pulling out that expensive piece of equipment.