By Jim Miotke

Amphoto Books, New York (2005)

White balance, mysterious icons, strange jargon. These new digital cameras take great pictures. However, it seems you need a PhD in funny sounding tech terms to learn to use them. Actually, you don’t if you pick up Jim Moitke’s Betterphoto Guide to Digital Photography.

I thought I was doing just fine with my Minolta film SLR camera. Having done wedding and portrait photography with my “antique” film camera, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings. So when the digital revolution arrived, I initially resisted the change. As time went on I started to realize not only the convenience of using a digital camera, but how I could take better pictures, if only I could learn how to use the darn thing!

There just seemed to be too many bells and whistles and a plethora of foreign terminology to wade through for this over-50 person. So my spiffy new Canon xi sat pretty much underused and underappreciated.  Sure, I was able to put it on the “auto” setting and take decent snapshots, but I knew I was missing out on taking really good photos, ones I could be proud to frame or display on one of those online sites.

Then one day while browsing the how-to photography rack in our local bookstore, I discovered Moitke’s book. I was impressed from the get-go with the easy-to-follow language in the book. It is as if Jim is right there teaching you how to use your new digital camera. So with camera, camera manual and Moitke’s book spread out on the kitchen table, I went to work on Chapter One and started to learn how to get the most out of my digital SLR camera.

Moitke starts right from the beginning with let’s turn the thing on. He then helps you understand what type of camera you are using. He then takes you by the hand and explains each feature of a digital camera and where you’ll likely find the right button or command on your digital camera. At the end of each chapter he suggests an assignment that is usually quick and easy to do. In each chapter he displays before-and-after photos to illustrate what you can do to improve your photos by using the right commands.

Continue on reading to learn the latest technical terms that may make you cringe: like RAW, JPEG and TIFF. Moitke seems to understand how intimidating these terms can be. For instance, one subsection is entitled “EXIF, A Confusing Acronym for a Very Cool Feature.” He then goes on to simplify this feature of the DSLR camera.  If you follow Moitke’s explanation of these features and locate them in the menu of your digital SLR camera, or on the back of the camera, you’ll pick it up in no time.

Once you are more comfortable with the settings on your digital camera and have practiced them in a few simple situations, you can go on to learn what Moitke has to teach you about how to utilize these settings to learn about exposure, composition and light. He also covers a number of other topics you may want to know about, like using a macro lens for close-ups, flash photography and using filters.

It’s very important, if you are to learn to use the right commands in a crunch — like when that new born is giving away that precious smile — to be able to quickly make the adjustments on your digital camera to take the best photo possible. To become adept at doing this will take practice. So start carrying your camera with you, like Moitke suggests, and start snapping away.

~ Neil Moran



Please support OutLook by the Bay with a subscription.

OutLook by the Bay magazine and this website are made possible through the support of our advertisers and subscribers. We guarantee you’ll learn something new each issue. Please subscribe today.