Learning how to use a digital camera can help you perform various actions across multiple fields, from forest monitoring, geomorphological mapping, hazard identification, professional photography to casual photography. Anyone can purchase a highly-acclaimed digital camera, but not everyone knows how to use it to take better digital photos. So, to help you understand how to operate your modern cameras, we will share the steps you should take.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The first thing to do after purchasing a camera is to charge the battery fully before use.
  • If you plan on editing photos after the shoot, choose the RAW format to save the images.
  • Entry-level beginners should start by understanding the Auto and Program modes.

Steps for Preparing Your Digital Camera for Use

STEP 1SET UP YOUR TIME, BATTERY, AND MEMORY CARD

Manufacturers recommend charging the battery full immediately after buying the camera. And subsequently, use it until it runs empty, then charge. These steps are important to maintain the battery’s performance.

Next, insert your memory card or storage card into its card slot, then set the date and time by following the on-screen instructions. It is not a requirement to do this, but setting them up will help you tag the images with the date and time of recording. Lastly, format the memory card that you have added. This step helps to introduce the card and create the folders necessary to store your images and videos.

STEP 2 CHOOSE THE FILE FORMAT

All DSLRs, compact systems cameras, and some compact cameras record images in raw and JPG formats. Raw files record a lot of information compared to JPGs. That is why they are great for post-production because they are high-quality and uncompressed images. But for these images to be viewed by everyone, they require conversion to JPEG or TIFF.

The disadvantage with raw files is that you will need specific software for conversion. If you are not sure which format to pick, go for JPG. But if you want to process them later, try shooting using both raw and JPG formats.

STEP 3SET IMAGE SIZE AND COMPRESSION

Do you want to leverage the pixels on your camera sensor? Select the highest pixel count on the menu. To set the compression of your images to store many photos, adjust the compression setting marked as ‘Quality.’

The representation of this setting is different between cameras. Some people place the option next to the image size, while others list them with star ratings. For example, a low compression has a high number of stars and vice versa. You can also find a camera with the choice of Fine, Superfine, Good, Best, and so on.

STEP 4SELECT YOUR EXPOSURE MODE

Manual exposure will allow you to set the shutter speed and lens aperture as you adjust other features. On the other hand, leave the automatic for the camera. Most CSCs and DSLRs have a combination of preset and auto modes. If you are an entry-level photographer, it is better to start with Auto or Program modes.

But if you feel adventurous to try out the manual options, here is a quick tip. Use Shutter Priority in moving objects. Faster speeds freeze fast bodies, and slow speeds record blurs.

STEP 5SET THE WHITE BALANCE

White balance is present in all cameras; it makes colors appear brighter in any shooting conditions. The Auto white balance system does a great job of keeping the original colors. But for artificial light conditions, AWB systems struggle. Hence, it is better to switch to a preset mode like Fluorescent or Incandescent. These modes will help to render the scene and deliver the accurate color you need.

Most conventional cameras use a colored grid to adjust the white balance towards a particular hue. This option is ideal if you want to apply a color cast, but you do not know which color present you need. In addition, there is a color temperature over the Kelvin scale that works the same as the preset options for most cameras. For example, tungsten is at 3000K and daylight at 6500K. If you have no clue how to do this then you can easily learn how to white balance with a digital camera.

Insider Tip

Learning how to use a digital camera can help you perform various actions across multiple fields, from forest monitoring, geomorphological mapping, hazard identification, professional photography to casual photography.

STEP 6SET THE ISO SPEED

Generally, always go for the lowest ISO. In most cameras, the ISO will be 100 or 200; only a few cameras offer ISO 80. Lower ISO settings require a shot to have more exposure, and the resulting image will have less noise. If there is not enough light on the scene, you can go for a higher ISO. In addition, you will need a faster shutter speed to shoot a moving object.

Set a wide range if you shoot under different lighting conditions (e.g., ISO 100-3200). A more restrictive option (e.g., ISO100-300) can assist in noise control.

STEP 7SET COLOR MODE

Standard/Normal/Natural settings need to provide natural benefits. Keep in mind that color space and white balance also affect the recording of color. Some photographers prefer shooting in AdobeRGB since the color gamut is broader compared to the sRGB space.

If you plan on editing or printing your images, AdobeRGB is the best color space. You do not have to specify this setting even when shooting in raw format. Instead, you can specify it later on. But it is wise to set it early on to negate conversions during editing.

STEP 8CHOOSE MANUAL OR AUTOFOCUS

Most cameras have auto-focus ON by default. You can get away with this setting in general use or when shooting static objects. But when shooting moving subjects, switch to ‘Servo’ mode. Most DSLRs will track an object and focus on it, provided you have good lighting. On most compact cameras, the mode goes by the title ‘AF tracking.’

On the other hand, manual focus allows you to capture an image using the best settings. It is particularly great for macro photography. You can easily find out how to use a manual lens on a digital camera on youtube.

STEP 9DIAL-IN METERING

The metering system in your camera will choose for you the best exposure for a particular scene. The decision is made by scanning the different sections in a scene and coming up with a mix of aperture and shutter speed to produce the best result.

Suppose you are shooting on Shutter Priority or any other semi-manual mode. In that case, the camera will use the specified shutter speed and aperture to determine other settings that are unspecified.

STEP 10 SET VIDEO SETTINGS

Most cameras either use 720p, 1080i, and 1080p for HD recording. The letter after the number means that the camera is scanning either in interlaced or progressive. The former combines even lines of the next frame with odd lines of one frame, while the latter records the whole frame at once.

The interlaced format is ideal for static shots, but it will have a banding effect on moving subjects. On the flip side, the progressive options are the best; some manufacturers go only for progressive recording.

Insider Tip

Manufacturers recommend charging the battery full immediately after buying the camera.

F.A.Q.

How can I connect my camera to my PC for live streaming?

  1. Use the HDMI cable. On one end, please attach it to the HDMI output of the camera and the other one to the HDMI input of the video capture device.
  2. Use a USB cable to connect the video capture device to the PC.

Can I use a consumer-grade digital camera for streaming?

If you want to use your standalone digital cameras as a webcam, that is not possible. You will need additional hardware to Livestream using your digital camera.


How can I activate my laptop’s camera?

Click the Start button and choose Camera on the apps list. Alternatively, go to Settings/Privacy/Camera.



STAT: The expectation is that by 2025, the total revenue generated from digital camera sales hits $24.35 billion. (source)

Ryan Mcbride

Ryan McBride is a writer based in Los Angeles. He has contributed work to magazines and sites including Gayot, Spy, Paper, Ladygunn, 3AM and the Crab Creek Review. He writes consumer reviews, essays, science and tech journalism as well as literary and art criticism.

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