Delving into the world of photography can be intimidating for a first timer. What type of camera should I buy? What else do I need? What is zoom? What is macro? Relax. Here's a quick guide to get you started.

First, let's look at the camera. You can choose to go with either an SLR or point-and-shoot. Each camera has its benefits. Digital SLRs use interchangeable lenses that give you flexibility for different types of photography whereas point-and-shoots have fixed lenses and are generally easier to use (and less expensive). For example, an entry level SLR like the Nikon D3000, which includes an 18-55mm lens, will run you around $600 compared to a decent point-and-shoot like the Nikon Coolpix L110, which costs about $200. If you're looking for something for general picture-taking, a good point-and-shoot will suffice. If sports and action photography is more what you have in mind, you may want to spend the extra money on an SLR.

Consider an additional lens if you do buy an SLR. Certain lenses allow you to take different types of photos. For instance, if taking landscapes is your forté, you might want a wide-angle lens [source: Sheffers]. Or you might be interested in a macro lens for close-ups of flowers or a telephoto zoom lens for capturing wildlife from a safe distance. Before spending that extra money, look at the capabilities of the lens that comes with your camera. You might be surprised at what your SLR can already do.

You'll also need a memory card to store photos on. The cards depend on the camera you buy. Most point-and-shoots use Secure Digital cards, whereas SLRs tend to take CompactFlash. The larger the size, the more photos the card can store before you'll need to download them. If you plan on taking a lot of photos between each transfer to your computer, buy a card that's at least 2 GB.

Other items you'll need are a camera bag, lens filters for an SLR and cleaning cloths. Find a bag with ample storage for what you plan to use with your camera. If you buy an SLR, get a bag with storage room for additional lenses. Filters will screen out UV light, which improves image quality, and they also protect the camera lens.

Your final item may be a beginner's guide to photography. Two options are "Digital SLR Cameras & Photography for Dummies" by David. D. Busch or "How to Photograph Absolutely Everything" by Tom Ang. These types of books teach you how to use the various settings on cameras and how to get the most out of your photography.