How to Take a Picture With a Digital Camera

Many years ago, I still recall the day when I attempted to take photos using a borrowed "good film camera."

Heading outdoors with high hopes and enthusiasm, I figured out how to turn the camera on. That was easy!

I figured out how to turn the camera on. That was easy. 

And next, how to press the shutter release button and capture my subject. That was easy.

And then everything went downhill from there!

I didn't realize that the mode dial was set to manual mode, and I had no clue what to do about that or even what M meant. 

After several attempts, a camera manual that I didn't understand, and disastrous-looking photos, I gave up and stomped my way back to the house, utterly dejected.

It wasn't until a few years later that I created the opportunity to begin anew with a camera purchase of my own. 

And even that was not without its trials and tribulations, and some days still repeat.

I know the feelings and frustrations when all you want is quickly and easily discover the basics and get snappin'.

Here, I will help you with a basic, quick, and easy checklist, step by step. 

After unpacking your new camera and after wondering, "now what?!"

Here's a basic checklist for you:

√ Do you have an SD memory card, and is it compatible with your camera model? 

The SD memory card is a device you insert into the camera chamber to record and store your photos.

Here are a few examples if you don't have any:


  • √ Locate your camera battery and charger and charge the battery according to manufacturer recommendations, and if applicable.

For example, charging is not applicable if your camera uses AA batteries.

  • √ Attach the neck strap or appropriate security strap. You can do this while waiting for the battery to charge if necessary.
  • √ Battery charged?

Great! Insert the charged battery in the dedicated battery compartment. 

  • √ Insert your memory card after ensuring the camera is turned OFF.

If you're having trouble, turn the SD card around as it will only fit when inserted correctly. 

  • √ Using the dedicated On/Off button, turn on your camera.
  • √ Format your memory card – highly recommended.
  • √ Format only if you have any images on the memory card backed up elsewhere!


                                           Camera format prompt


Formatting your memory card helps prepare the card for use in your camera. Not in someone else's camera, but specifically, yours.

And it also helps maintain the health of your memory card.

 Before formatting your memory card, make sure you have photos saved elsewhere if the card has been used. Formatting will erase all images.

How do you format your memory card?

You may need to check your camera manual, but you will most likely find it by accessing Menu Camera Setup (look for the wrench or spanner icon).

Camera prompts will help you through the formatting process. 

What's next? 

  • √ Adjust the viewfinder diopter if your camera has a viewfinder and not only the LCD screen on the back of the camera body for viewing your subject and composing your shots.

Look for a small cog or dial beside the viewfinder and rotate it until you can see clearly when looking through the viewfinder.

How do you take pictures with a digital camera?

  • √ Check your camera setting.

What does this mean?

You have settings within your camera that allow for shooting using the automatic mode (setting), semi-automatic, and full manual mode.

Camera Settings

Example of camera mode dial: M = manual mode, A = aperture priority, S = shutter speed priority, and the green auto icon. 

Your camera may use different letters, such as Av for aperture priority and Tv for shutter speed priority. 

You have settings within your camera that allow for shooting using the automatic mode (setting), semi-automatic, and full manual mode.

What's the difference?

Automatic mode - the camera takes care of the technical details, such as the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance. All you need to do is choose your subject, press the shutter release button, and take a photo.

Semi-automatic mode - you can choose either an aperture priority mode (identified with Av or A) or a shutter speed priority mode (S or Tv) while leaving ISO and white balance on auto.

You take care of adjustments to one or the other, and the camera takes care of the opposite.

For example, if you choose the shutter speed, the camera automatically adjusts the aperture setting to help you render a great photo.

How to take your first pictures with a digital camera if this is your first experience snapping away.

First of all, if your camera has a viewfinder for looking through as you take photos, you will have a viewfinder diopter.

When you adjust the viewfinder diopter, what you see when looking through it will become sharper.

To adjust the diopter, look for a small wheel of cog beside or on top of the viewfinder, and rotate the dial until what you see when looking through the viewfinder is not blurry.

This does not affect your camera's focus.

Taking your first pictures with a digital camera after the preparation:

  1. Begin in the Auto (automatic) mode (setting).
  2. Remove the lens cap from the front of the lens.
  3. Aim the camera at your subject.
  4. Gently press the shutter release button halfway down (the button you press to take a photo).
  5. Listen for the camera/lens focusing on your subject and notice how the scene becomes focused.
  6. Gently press the shutter release the rest of the way down.

You have now taken your first picture with a digital camera, and you are on your way!

After the photo shoot

                                          Example of the playback arrow and delete trash can (above)                                                  top left icons. 

You have taken a few photos - now what happens?

You'll want to take a look, I'm sure! 

The monitor on the back of the camera is used for reviewing your photos.

  •  √ Locate the playback button on the back of your camera that looks like the above example image (refer to your camera manual if necessary).
  • √ Press the playback button, and the last photo you took is displayed on the monitor.
  • √ Scroll through your images using the back arrow on the rotary dial.

The dial is usually found on the back of your camera with an arrow top, bottom, and one on each side.

See the example below.

Pressing the left-pointing arrow is how you scroll back through your photos.

Press the right-pointing arrow to return to the last photo.

And there you have it – how to take pictures with a digital camera and a quick checklist to get you started.

And without wasting time attempting to figure out everything all at once.

Bonus Tip

After a photo shoot, or at the least regularly, it's a good idea to back up your precious photos. 


  • to preserve your pictures in case of damage or loss of your memory card.
  • so that you can regularly format your memory card, as formatting erases all images from your card.
  • if you have only one memory card, you don't suddenly find yourself dealing with a full card and then frantically deleting a few photos to make room for more - which I have personally experienced and learned the hard way. And that's another reason to regularly format.

Check out the video below for a quick tip for remembering to put your memory card back in your camera. 

√ If you'd like all my top 10 tips wrapped into one so you can:

  • demystify the camera buttons and dials
  • take the frustration out of learning photography
  • put the fun in photography for you

Please click on the title of the book link or on the image below for more information and to purchase your copy of Making Photography Easy and Fun.

**As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

Return to Tutorials and Getting Started With Photography.