photo/filmstrip.jpgA package under the tree marked “Open Me First” indicates a special present that will be used to create photographic memories of the celebration that is about to begin. In the “old days” of film photography, it was fairly easy to unwrap the camera, load the film, look through the viewfinder, and press the shutter button to take the picture. Today’s digital cameras are different.

Although you can still frame the picture and click the shutter, there is much more to learn. Before you can use the camera effectively, you will need to know how to review your photos, how to adjust the settings, and how to delete a photo you don’t want to save. Even if you have used a digital camera before you will find that each brand and model works slightly differently. So my first tip on using your new digital camera to photograph your family gathering this year is an obvious one. My other tips will also save you a little frustration and make your picture taking just a little better.

  1. Read the manual before you start to take the pictures. If you want to surprise your recipient you might consider giving them the camera early or reading the manual yourself so you can give them some tips on how to use it.
  2. If the camera takes regular batteries, make sure you have fresh batteries of the proper size available. If the camera has a proprietary rechargeable battery, be sure to charge it up before the celebration. Also consider buying extra batteries and/or an extra battery pack.
  3. Digital cameras don’t use film. Instead they store the images on small removable, reusable cards, which are called media cards or memory cards. There are several different types of media cards like SmartMedia (SM), Compact Flash, and Memory Stick cards, These cards come in different sizes given in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB). As the number of megabytes of storage capacity increases, so does the number of pictures that can be stored on the card.The number of pictures that each card can hold will depend on the resolution used to take the picture. But the 16 MB or 32 MB cards that come with some digital cameras will hold only a few pictures. If your camera has a low-capacity card, you can easily buy a larger one. The prices on 256 MB, 512 MB, and 1 GB cards have dropped recently so you will want to consider purchasing an additional higher-capacity card. FYI, a gigabyte is equal to 1,024 megabytes. So the 1 GB card is the largest of those mentioned here.
  4. Decide the resolution of the photos before you start taking pictures. Most digital cameras can be set to take photos in different resolutions. The higher the resolution, the more room the picture takes on the media card. Taking pictures in a lower resolution will let you store more photos on your media card, but the photos will not have as much clarity as those taken at a higher resolution. Also, low resolution may be fine for printing 4 x 6” photos, but will not be acceptable for creating larger prints. If you purchase a media card with higher storage capacity, you can take your first photos at the highest resolution, then decide what setting is right for you later.
  5. Some computers have built-in media card readers. If yours doesn't, consider purchasing a card reader. This is a small device that plugs into the USB port on your computer and has a slot for a media card. You purchase one that takes the type of media card used in your camera. When you complete your photo session, you take the media card out of the camera and put it in the card reader. The card reader shows up in My Computer like it is a drive. Then you can simply drag or copy your photos to your computer. This conserves the battery power of your camera and makes transferring photos easier.
  6. Buy a case to protect your camera. Whether you choose a belt case for a small camera or a full-fledged camera bag for a larger camera, it is always good to keep your camera well cared for.

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