Do you have someone in your circle of friends and family who has just gotten a new digital camera? But they are clueless as to its operation, and they have looked to you for help? Don’t despair! Here’s a quick and easy guide to assist you in teaching someone else how to use their digital camera.
Have you ever been asked to share your knowledge of digital cameras with someone who just got a new digital camera? They don’t have a clue how it works, they barely know how to turn it on, and now they want you to teach them all the ins and outs of their intimidating digital device.
The first thing you must deal with is their fear. Most new users experience anxiety over their digital camera’s odd controls and terminology. Their fear stands in the way of real learning, so it must be laid to rest. The only way to do that is with HANDS-ON training.
Here are 10 tips to help you easily teach a novice to use his or her digital camera:
- Assume the person/student knows absolutely NOTHING about digital cameras. I have made the mistake of assuming that most digital camera owners have at least a very basic understanding of their equipment. But they do not.
- Start at the beginning. This may sound ridiculous, but start with the POWER button. Show them where it is and how to turn the camera on and off. This is your opportunity to give them a warning about digital memory cards. New users of digital cameras do not know their camera must be off BEFORE removing a memory card.
- Now show them the slot that holds their memory card. Again, this is a mystery to many. Show them how to remove the card. SAFELY. At this point, I talk about memory cards getting their brains addled when pulled out of a camera while it is still ON. This tends to stay with them.
- This is a good time to teach your student about their camera’s shutter button. Many new users punch down on the shutter button without ever allowing the camera to do its job of focusing, and light metering. Ask the student to take a picture; show them how to delete this individual image.
- Now teach them about the difference between “delete,” “delete all,” and “format.” Many new users mistake the term, format, for delete, and wipe out their memory card images. I assure my students they cannot accidentally erase their images if they pay attention. Once they find the format option, I teach them how to back out of the menu without formatting their memory card. I also teach them that if they can’t remember how to back out of the format menu, they should turn their camera off. This way they will never accidentally wipe out all their precious vacation photos.
- Introduce the student to their manual. In many cases, my students arrive to class, their manuals untouched. I have them open their manuals to the Table of Contents. I’ll point out a few terms like “format” and “program modes,” “flash options” and “picture quality,” terms they must know if they are to use their camera more efficiently.I always tell digital camera owners to photocopy their entire manual. I also tell them to put the original manual away for safe-keeping. Using only the photocopied version, I suggest they bend pages, make margin notes, and use a hi-lighter pen to emphasize details they might forget.
- Next show them the physical control features (dials, buttons, and screens) on the exterior of their camera. These dials can be very confusing and frustrating for the first-time digital camera user. Be patient. They’ll get it after awhile. Make THEM turn the dials, rock their camera’s rocker switch, move their tiny joystick, or use the arrow buttons. Many students, especially seniors, are afraid of doing something wrong. Assure them it is okay to play with the controls as long as they don’t “format” their memory cards. Camera features you should emphasize (depending upon the make and model of the digital camera) may include: how to open the flash, flash option button, LCD screen display or info button, menu, self-timer, macro option, scene modes, video feature, priority options (program, manual, shutter, aperture), and the camera’s picture reviewing icon.
- Now that your student is feeling a little calmer manipulating his or her camera, it’s time for them to perform a few tasks; show them how to set the clock and the date, and how to choose the camera’s resolution or picture quality setting. As to more advanced settings like White Balance and ISO, I tell my students to leave their settings on AUTO, until they are ready to alter these settings knowledgeably.
- Show your student how pre-programmed scene modes work. Show them the icons (face, mountains, moon and star, running man, etc.) imprinted on the body of their camera (if any), and then show them how to enter the camera’s menu or function menu in search of other scene mode options.
- Now it’s time to delve deeper into the camera and explore its inner menu. Patience is a definite must when heading into this territory. Ask the person to follow along in their manual. Bend pages to assist them in finding the references later on. This is the time to introduce, that’s INTRODUCE (you don’t want them to run screaming into the night from information overload), evaluative metering, exposure compensation, bracketing, drive modes like burst, and the self-timer feature. Then again, maybe your student is not ready to do any more delving. And that’s okay. As long as they are feeling a little more comfortable with their camera, your job is done.
Following this simple tutelage, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Marge or little sister Sarah, digital camera users of any age, will be able to use their digital camera with a new confidence. The only fear left will be yours; you know the night will come when they invite you to view the 3,347 shots they took of their bus trip through Idaho.