Getting to Know Your Camera

Get to know your camera better in this digital cameras tutorial, which offers basic and more advanced photography tips.

Getting the right exposure

Every digital camera has a sensor located behind the lens. The sensor is the part that actually captures the photo, much like the roll of film in a film camera (except you'll never take the sensor out of the camera). When you take a photo, the sensor is exposed to light for a fraction of a second, or sometimes longer. The total amount of light that is captured is called the exposure.

If the exposure isn't just right, your photo can come out too dark or too bright. Normally, your camera will handle the exposure automatically, although sometimes you will have to manually adjust the settings to get the desired result.


Whenever you take a photo, you'll want your subject to be in focus. This means your subject is sharp and not blurry. Just like the exposure, the focus is handled automatically by the camera. However, your camera may try to focus on another object, which can cause your subject to be out of focus.

Your camera's LCD screen has a focus indicator, which is a box that shows what your camera is focusing on. To prevent focusing problems, you'll need to keep an eye on the focusing indicator whenever you take a photo.

The focus indicatorThe focus indicator

DSLR cameras show the auto-focus information in the viewfinder (the window above the LCD screen). They also give you the option of focusing manually, if you prefer.

The shutter button

The shutter buttonThe shutter button

Most digital cameras have a two-stage shutter button, which means it can either be pressed halfway down or all the way down. When you press it halfway down, your camera will lock in the focus and exposure settings. After a second or so, the camera will beep to indicate that it is ready, and you can then press the shutter button the rest of the way down to take the photo.

If you simply press the shutter button down all at once, your camera won't have time to make adjustments, and your photo may come out blurry, too dark, or too light. Therefore, you should get in the habit of pressing it halfway down for every photo.

Many camera phones do not have a two-stage shutter button, so you may not have this option.