It’s approaching Christmas (faster than I would like!) and it’s a sure bet that lots of “point and shoot” digital cameras will be in many peoples stockings. Hopefully, the gift givers will have charged the batteries (or provided them for those cameras that come without) and perhaps made sure that there is a media card of the right type for the camera, or else there will be some very unhappy would-be photographers on Christmas Day.
If you get past those hurdles then there is the actual process of taking the first pictures – which one of all the funny symbols does the new photographer use, and why, and will any one of them ensure that the new photographer will get any good pictures right away?
I am going to go against most of the advice on the web here – I am going to say to the new photographers – “Use the Auto setting”
Here’s why, the camera on Auto will:
- pop up or use the flash if it’s needed.
- set the “right” aperture for the scene and subject.
- choose the “right” shutter speed for the scene and subject.
- Choose the “right” white balance for the scene and subject.
- choose the “best” compression setting for the image and the cameras response time.
- do its utmost to make a properly exposed image.
And the result will be a very happy new photographer and new camera owner, with some great snapshots of the family and friends at Christmas. This positive experience will ensure that the new camera will be in pride of place in the gifts received charts.
The alternative for the new photographer is to sit down and read the camera manual (never candidates for the “Clear Instructions of the Year” award), while the batteries charge, then try to fathom out what the funny symbols actually do, then take pictures as per the manual and be really disappointed at the results. A great way to spend Christmas Day – NOT!
So, for smiles from both the gift giver and the gift receiver on Christmas Day check your “point and shoot” has batteries (some use proprietary batteries that should be already included in the package, but they may need a charge ) and if not, supply some – AA size are generally used if a proprietary battery is not supplied. Check for the right type of media card for saving pictures. Most, but not all cameras include a small capacity card to get you going and this is fine for Christmas Day.
Most cameras come with a USB lead for attachment to the computer, but it’s worthwhile checking that too. If you have the camera out of the box before giving it to the lucky recipient, you might like to set the camera mode to “Auto”, if it is at all obvious as to how to do that, to save time and frustration on Christmas Day. Many people don’t bother with filling in the guarantee card with the date and place of purchase (if required), but it’s a thoughtful touch – and don’t forget to put it back in the box. You should also hold on to the receipt in case of any problems. Generally, electronics have gotten a lot more reliable over the years, so hopefully you won’t need the receipt again.
Do this, and the gift will be remembered and used for a long time to come.
And after the Christmas dinner is just a memory, you can add some enjoyment to your gift by pointing out to the new photographer this web site, where a quick search of the site will reveal many short, focused articles on the next steps an improving amateur ( or a budding professional photographer ) can take to start to understand all the menu items, modes and functions of their amazing new piece of technology.
About the Author:
Shane Kelly is an amateur photographer living in Scotland. His web site is at http://www.shanek54.co.uk where you can find some examples of his photography, some articles on photography (and other things), who sat for a long time one Christmas day reading a lousy camera manual while waiting for batteries to charge :-(
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