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Digital Photography: Practical Tips For Beginners.

Many digital photography beginners are intimidated by the complexity of the camera manual and never learn to use their camera properly. By knowing what you need to know, and what you don't, you can simplify and enjoy the learning process.

So, you bought the best digital camera you could afford, with every intention of finally learning to take better photos. All those features sounded great while you were in the camera shop. Then you took one look at that inch-thick manual, full of technical terms and complex detail, and thought 'Maybe I will stick with auto after all'. After all, if you make a mistake, you can just delete it, right?

Does this sound like you? Don't worry, you are not alone. Camera manuals reflect the technical power of modern cameras, but they are intimidating to any beginner who just wants to take a decent photo.

Digital cameras are like most computer programs; you may find you can get by with about ten percent of the available functions. So don't get tied up in knots trying to understand everything. Just learn what you need to know, and learn it well, and you will be well on the way to being a better photographer.

Here are a few tips that may just take the complexity out of photography for you.

Tip #1. Stick with the basics. In the days of film, good photographers used SLR cameras with two main settings; aperture and shutter speed. These were the ingredients of all great photography. Today, cameras come with hundreds of features, but guess which ones you really need to understand? That's right, aperture and shutter speed.

If you can understand these two settings, you are halfway to becoming a better photographer. Your manual (I never said you could throw it away) will tell you which buttons to press on your camera. However, to really understand what these settings are all about, don't rely on the manual. There is plenty of information out there; workshops, websites, books and ebooks can help.

Practice has never been easier than it is today. Most cameras have semi-automatic settings, called 'aperture priority' and 'shutter priority,' that allow you to operate one setting while the camera takes care of the other. This is a great way to practice a skill without fear of getting too many failed exposures.

Tip #2. Learn from your mistakes. If you just delete every photo you are not happy with, you are missing a golden opportunity to learn from your own experience. Photos you consider 'rejects' actually contain useful information - you really can learn from your mistakes!

Let's say you are experimenting with aperture. Try photographing a scene three times, with three different aperture settings, for three slightly different results. Instead of keeping your favourite and deleting the others immediately, you could transfer them to your computer and take the time to examine them properly. You can see how each setting changed the look of the picture, and which setting worked best for that subject. Now you can learn from your own results, not from some theory in a book.

Did you know that if you right-click your mouse over a photograph on your computer and select 'properties' you will find a lot of information embedded in the file? You don't have to keep a note of the aperture/shutter speed information; your photo does it for you!

Of course in the long term you don't want to keep every single photo you take, but you might want to keep a folder of 'learning photos' to refer to later, with maybe two versions of each subject you experiment with. To make it even easier, rename the pictures with relevant titles, for example: Wildflowers/Small Aperture, Wildflowers/Wide Aperture; Waterfall/Fast Shutter, Waterfall/Slow Shutter.

Tip #3. Learn The Art As Well As The Technique. Every problem in photography cannot be solved by the camera. Experienced photographers know that good lighting and creative composition is often more important than up-market technology. A poor photograph is not always the result of poor technical ability; more often it is the result of bad lighting or lack of creativity in the composition. Yet daily I meet people who think that all their problems would be solved by a better camera, or some mysterious technique they are yet to learn.

Remember what I said in Tip #1; aperture and shutter speed are the fundamental skills, and with a little practice, they are not hard to learn. Master them and you are halfway there. The key to becoming a really good photographer is a balance of technical knowledge and artistic skill. Practice bothFeature Articles, and soon your friends will be coming to you for photography tips!

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Andrew Goodall is a professional nature photographer with a non-technical approach that makes learning easy. Find Andrew's ebooks on photography for beginners at . Learn even more by signing up to the free online newsletter!

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