Digital cameras are a distinctly different kind of technology compared to their analog, film forebears. Here's an overview of equipment that's vital to taking pictures with digital cameras.
Power is a primary concern with digital cameras. The gorgeous, glowing LCD screen that lets you immediately review your images is very useful, but it also sucks a lot of power. So whether your camera uses rechargeable lithium-ion packs or AA batteries, make sure you always have spares on hand, lest the fun come to an abrupt and disappointing end.
Flash memory cards, which store picture files, are equally critical. Flash card prices have dropped rapidly in the past few years; today, you can buy one with several gigabytes of storage (enough to store hundreds or thousands of images) for less than $10.
Digital and film cameras use contrasting technologies, and perhaps the most obvious difference is the process that occurs after you shoot. Film goes into a processing machine or darkroom, while digital images transfer directly into a computer for editing.
Some cameras let you edit shots as you take them, but before you can really work on digital images, you have to move them to your computer, either by connecting your camera to a PC via USB cable or by inserting your flash card into a flash card reader. Some readers are built directly into computers, while others are separate, external devices that use a USB cable. External readers are handy in that you won't drain your camera's battery as you transfer files.
Once you have the images on your computer's hard drive, you can manipulate the pictures. Image editing software isn't always necessary, especially if you're skilled at creating nicely exposed photographs. However, many photographers use editing programs to adjust brightness and color or to add any number of special effects.
After you tweak an image to perfection, don't let it waste away on your hard drive. Making a hard-copy print gives you a chance to hold your pictures and really see them in a personal way that no monitor can duplicate. You can print digital images at your local superstore or pharmacy, of course, or you can invest in an inkjet printer and produce prints at home.