Cover: Digital Photography For Dummies, 9th Edition by Julie Adair King

Title Page

Digital Photography For Dummies®

To view this book's Cheat Sheet, simply go to and search for “Digital Photography For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.


A few months ago, while cleaning my office in an attempt to put off sitting down to write, I came across the first edition of Digital Photography For Dummies, published in 1997. Flipping through the pages, I was struck by how much digital photography has changed in the intervening years. Consider these snippets from that first edition:

  • “For $800 to $1,000, you get a pixel count in the 1280 x 960 range.” Pixel count refers to resolution, which determines how large you can print a digital image. With a resolution of 1280 x 960 pixels — about 1 million pixels altogether, or 1 megapixel in today's terminology — the maximum print size is 4 x 6 inches. If you needed more resolution back then, a Kodak/Canon hybrid model offered a 6-megapixel resolution for $29,000. (No, that figure is not a typo.) Today, even sub-$100 cameras offer resolutions of way more than 6 megapixels.
  • “Some cameras suck the life out of a set of batteries in just a few hours.” This issue was a huge problem, and one that manufacturers did a good job of resolving. Most modern cameras can survive an entire day, or even days, without needing a recharge.
  • “On cameras that have LCD screens, battery consumption is even higher.” Wait — what? Digital cameras didn't have monitors back then? Well, some higher-priced cameras did, but the monitors then were nowhere near as large or as crisp as the stunning displays we now enjoy. And touchscreens weren’t even in the picture, pardon the pun.

I could go on, but I think you get the point: Digital photography has come a long way since its early years. What remains the same, however, is that figuring out how to use all the features on your camera can be intimidating. How many megapixels do you really need, for example? What's ISO? And are your pro photographer friends right when they insist that you shoot in the Raw format (whatever that means)?

The other thing that hasn't changed is that Digital Photography For Dummies has the answers to these questions and more. Completely updated to cover the latest technology, this ninth edition spells out everything you need to know to make the most of your digital camera.

About This Book

Digital Photography For Dummies, 9th Edition, covers all aspects of digital photography. It helps you assess your photography needs, determine the best gear to suit your style, and combine the latest digital-camera innovations with tried-and-true photography techniques. In addition, this book explains what happens after you get the shot, detailing the steps you need to take to download your pictures and share your favorite images online and in print.

Unlike other books on the topic, this one does not assume that you have any knowledge about photography, whether digital or film. Everything is explained in easy-to-understand language, with a little humor thrown in to make learning a bit more enjoyable.

I do assume, though, that if you're into photography enough to pick up this book, you probably own a “regular” camera — that is, one designed solely to take pictures, as opposed to a smartphone or tablet camera. For that reason, the book concentrates on helping you take advantage of features that are common to standard cameras but aren’t available on most mobile devices. A lot of the stuff I cover applies no matter what kind of camera you use, however — composition, for example, is key to a photo taken with any device, as is understanding lighting and focus.

How This Book Is Organized

As much as possible, this book is put together in a way that doesn't require you to read it in order, from front to back, to make sense of things. Instead, you can dip in and out of various chapters to get help with a specific topic. However, if you're brand-new to digital photography or to photography in general, you may find it easier to explore the early chapters, which provide some important basics, before moving onto advanced topics I cover later. The next sections preview the information in each part of the book.

Part 1: Fast Track to Super Snaps

As the part name implies, chapters in Part 1 are designed to make it easy to get better results from your camera, even if you’re a complete novice:

  • Chapter 1 helps you decide whether your current camera has the features you need to shoot the kinds of pictures you want to take. If the answer is no, I offer advice to help you choose your next camera.
  • Chapter 2 explains critical camera options, including shooting mode, shutter-release mode, resolution, and file type. Although the default settings for these options work well in most cases, you may need to adjust them for some shots.
  • Chapter 3 offers tips for getting the best results when you shoot in your camera's fully automatic exposure modes and also covers the basics of making digital movies.

Part 2: Taking Your Photography to the Next Level

When you're ready to advance your photography knowledge and skills, dig into Part 2.

  • Chapter 4 provides an introduction to photographic composition and explains which camera features affect characteristics such as how much of a scene is in sharp focus.
  • Chapters 5 and 6 are all about light. Chapter 5 explains exposure fundamentals and offers solutions for over- or underexposed photos. Chapter 6 helps you get better results when you use flash and introduces you to some alternative lighting solutions.
  • Chapter 7 explains how to achieve tack-sharp images and to use focus to artistic advantage. This chapter also color-related settings.

Part 3: Pro Tips for Capturing Specific Subjects

Chapters in this part of the book provide insider tips related to portraits, action shots, and landscapes.

  • Chapter 8 is all about photographing people, showing you camera features, lighting setups, and other tools that help you capture portrait subjects in the most flattering ways.
  • Chapter 9 moves on to action photography. Whether you want to shoot athletic events, birds on the wing, or any other moving subject, this chapter offers keys to success.
  • Chapter 10 covers tips for improving your landscape photos. It also details how to shoot special scenes such as fireworks displays.

Part 4: After the Shot

Visit this part of the book for information about picture playback and help with getting pictures off your camera’s memory card and out into the world.

  • Chapter 11 introduces you to cool playback features, many of which tend to be buried in camera menus and thus too often overlooked.
  • Chapter 12 explains options for downloading and storing photos. I also explain how to prep images for printing and online sharing.

Part 5: The Part of Tens

In the time-honored For Dummies tradition, information in this part is presented in easily digestible, bite-size nuggets:

  • Chapter 13 provides a troubleshooting guide, discussing ten common picture problems and how to avoid or repair them.
  • Chapter 14 shows you ten accessories that can make your photography life easier, more fun, or both.

Beyond the Book

When you have time to go online, visit and enter the text Digital Photography For Dummies Cheat Sheet in the Search box. The Cheat Sheet offers a quick reference guide to important camera settings.

Icons Used in This Book

Here’s a quick guide to the icons used in this book:

Remember This icon represents information that you should commit to memory. Doing so can make your life easier and less stressful.

Technical stuff Text marked with this icon breaks technical gobbledygook into plain English. In many cases, you don’t need to know this stuff, but boy, will you sound impressive if you repeat it at a party.

Tip The Tip icon points you to shortcuts that help you avoid doing more work than necessary. This icon also highlights ideas for creating better pictures and working around common problems.

Warning Read the text next to a Warning icon to keep yourself out of trouble and to find out how to fix things if you leaped before you looked.

Where to Go from Here

The answer depends on you. You can start with Chapter 1 and read straight through to the index, if you like. Or you can flip to whatever section of the book interests you most and start there.

The one thing this book isn’t designed to do, however, is insert its contents magically into your head. You can’t just put the book under your pillow and expect to acquire the information by osmosis — you have to put eyes to page and do some actual reading. With our hectic lives, finding the time and energy to read is easier said than done; but if you spend just a few minutes a day with this book, you’ll soon able to capture any subject, from a newborn baby to a towering monument, like a pro.

Part 1

Fast Track to Super Snaps


Discover which camera features make it easier to take different types of photos. If you're ready for a new camera, get the information you need to find just the right model.

Get the scoop on essential (and sometimes confusing) camera settings, including the shooting mode, shutter-release mode, resolution, and file type (JPEG or Raw).

Find out how to get the best results when you rely on your camera's fully automatic shooting mode. Also take a look at scene modes, which automatically select settings considered best for specific categories of pictures, such as portraits and action shots.

Explore settings related to video-recording features and get help shooting your first movies.