How do digital cameras work?


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How do digital cameras work?

Two women are amazed at the photo they have taken with their digital camera

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This activity will help you find out how digital cameras work and how to use some of the different features.

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The front of a camera

Digital cameras work very much like a film camera. You point the lens at what you want to photograph, look through the viewfinder and press the shutter button to take the photo.

If you've set the camera to use the flash, it will work out how much light there is and whether the flash is needed.

The front view of a camera highlighting the main features
The back of a camera highlighting the display screen and the viewfinder

The back of the camera

Now let's take a look at the back of a digital camera.

Display screen

As well as a viewfinder, digital cameras have a display screen. On most cameras, you can look at the display screen to see what you're about to photograph without having to look through the viewfinder.

You can then use the display screen to review the pictures you've just taken and delete any you don't like.

Feature dial

Digital cameras have a dial that lets you choose the different features you want to use. You could set it to automatic and let the camera do all the work for you, or you could choose one of the other settings.

For example, there might be a specific setting for taking pictures of people or objects moving at speed to make sure the image doesn't come out blurred.

The back of a camera highlighting the feature dial
The back of a camera highlighting the navigation buttons

Navigation buttons

There are also navigation buttons. These can perform a number tasks. They can let you move around menus, scroll through photos and zoom in to have a closer look at the photo you've just taken.

Using your memory card

There will also be a slot in your camera for your memory card. All your images are stored on this until you delete them.

The number of images you can store on a memory card depends on the size of the images and the size of the card. Most cards can store hundreds of images before you need to transfer or delete any.

Camera memory card
A camera is connected to a laptop via a cable

Back up your photos

It's a good idea to save pictures regularly to your computer though, just in case you lose or damage your camera while you're out and about.

You can do this by taking the memory card out of your camera and putting it in your computer's memory card reader (if it has one), or by connecting the camera to your computer using a special cable.

Keeping a copy

Why is it a good idea to transfer photos to your computer?

Select two of the options below

You can save them in case you lose or damage your camera

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You can send them to friends or load up to social media

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This is the only way to view the photos

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While you can definitely view the photos on a computer, you can also see them on the camera's display screen.

Some kids take some holiday snaps out the back of their panel van


You've completed the How do digital cameras work? activity.

You've learnt what the main parts of a digital camera are, how to take digital photos, how digital photos are stored on your camera and that you should transfer your photos to your computer after taking them.

In the next activity, How can you get the most out of a digital camera?, you'll find out what you can do with your photos after you take them.