Who’s in Charge?

When you first pick up a digital camera and hold it in your hands, many thoughts go through your head. Initially, you might simply wonder where the power button is, or how to turn on the LCD monitor.

Soon, you reach a crossroads with two options before you. The first is to just take what you’ve learned about your camera in the first few minutes, and use that knowledge to take the best pictures you can. If you go down this path, the camera is merely an acquaintance. It is in charge, and it does the best it can to help you capture snapshots on vacation or at birthday parties. In return, you try not to drop it and maybe even occasionally clean its lens.

The other path is much different. The first few steps are the steps that everyone takes with a new camera. “How do I make the lens zoom?” “Where’s the battery compartment?” But after a short while, you find yourself in territories previously unknown. You begin to wonder, “How can I take a close-up of that flower?” or “Can I shoot a portrait at twilight?”

This book is a friendly guide for those who want to take the second path. If you go down this road, you and your camera will become close friends. You’ll get to know every feature and learn how they can help you make outstanding images. In a sense, your camera will become an extension of your vision—and that means you’re the one making the decisions, not the camera.

Chapter 1, What Is It?

The adventure begins like preparations for any vacation. You have to account for everything that’s going to accompany you and know where it is. In Chapter 1, you’ll learn about every nook and cranny on your camera. Or, if you haven’t purchased one yet, you’ll discover the features you need and—just as important—the ones you don’t.

Keep your owner’s manual handy when you first review Chapter 1. It will help you find where the flash control button is located on your particular model, for instance. Once you find it, this book will show you how to use the different flash modes to take the pictures you want, not the ones the camera dictates.

Think of Chapter 1 as a detailed map. It tells you where things are and a little about what they do. It’s designed for quick reference—answers while on the road—so make sure you keep this book with you. It’s designed to fit easily in your camera bag or your back pocket.

Chapter 2, What Does It Do?

By now, you’ve located the flash button on your camera, and you’ve even read about the different modes available, such as fill flash and slow synchro. Terrific. Now, when do you use fill flash? What is slow synchro good for?

Chapter 2 will help you answer those questions. You’re now well on your way to becoming close friends with your camera, and while you might not notice it, you’ve taken control of the situation. In the beginning, the camera made all the decisions. Most of the time they were adequate, but now you’re in charge, and your pictures are much better as a result.

Chapter 3, How Do I…?

Here you’ll learn more than a dozen important camera techniques. How do you take great outdoor portraits? How can you shoot architecture like a pro? Can you take action shots with a consumer digital camera? Chapter 3 is like an ongoing conversation between two old fishing partners, discussing the best approaches to a variety of situations.

By the time you’ve experimented with the techniques outlined in this pocket reference, you’ll have journeyed well beyond others who chose the first path. Soon you’ll be able to visualize how pictures should look in your mind, and then be able to make the camera capture those images so you can share them with others. Isn’t that what photography is all about—showing others the world as you see it?

The difference between these two paths is control. So, who’s in charge: you, or the camera?

What’s New in This Third Edition?

Digital photography has become even more exciting since I wrote the previous edition of this guide. For example, it’s now easier than ever to connect your camera directly to a portable printer, bypassing a computer, and produce 4” x 6” snapshots. So if you love sharing pictures but hate computers, digital photography is for you too.

To help you understand how this computerless connection works, I’ve added descriptions on PictBridge and Direct Printing. That way, when you shop for your next camera and printer, you’ll know to look for these features.

Another improvement we’ve seen in digital cameras is their ability to capture high-quality movies. Earlier models enabled you to record small, jerky video. Many of today’s cameras let you capture full-motion, full-frame video with high-quality sound.

I’ve added discussions about how to manage these minimovies on your computer, and even provided tips for editing them into short feature presentations. Thanks to this leap forward in technology, you can now pack just one compact camera and capture both still pictures and movies.

All of the specifications in this guide have been updated, too—everything from new formats, such as DNG and MPEG-4, to cameras with more megapixels requiring bigger memory cards.

Finally, you’ll notice that I’ve taken extra care with the illustrations. Most of them are brand new to this edition. I want to make it as easy as possible for you to master digital photography, and that means that the pictures in this guide have to be as informative as the words that accompany them.

So let’s get to taking great shots!

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