I have been wanting to start a thread on photography for a while to help those in the forum who have the opportunity to take pictures to make the most of what they take. Photography isn't rocket science but it does require some scientific and physics knowledge. There is a lot more to photography than just how much (or little) money you spend on a camera (and lens).
The principle is quite simple; expose film or a digital receiver/element/device to light and below a certain level of light it will not respond and above a certain level it becomes saturated. Digital and film actually behave in much the same way.
I will get into different setting on your camera (digital or film, it doesn't matter) Such at F stop, Film Speed and shutter speed. Exposure = film speed/digital speed Times shutter time divided by f stop.
Flash photography is actually easier in low light because all you have to deal with is the films/digital speed and the lens opening (f stop) in cooperation with you flash level; (search flash guide numbers). I highly recommend that your next camera has a flash "hot shoe" so you can operate an external flash unit and save very precious batteries and charging time.
I found this tutorial a few moments ago which goes a very long way in explaining exposure http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/understanding-histograms.shtml
Once you understand the operating principles it is possible to take excellent pictures or at least make the most out of the situation.
Much more to come and good luck. Please read the link above before posting a response.
More: will clean up later...
Film VS Digital
Very high resolution even in high speeds, incredible resolution on slower speeds.
No electrical power or electronics required (on cameras with mechanical shutter releases and hand winders.
No recording time delays Useful on high speed recording (digital is catching up).
No problems with electronic failures.
Works very well on timed exposures
Film Major Disadvantages:
Shots limited to 24+ to 36+ frames for 35mm
Need development and printing
Film degrades with time.
Slide film needs mounting and projection.
Costs of film and development.
A bad shot is wasted.
Higher speed films show grain.
Lighting white balance must be set to accommodate film composition.
Quantity of images is only limited by storage space.
Virtually no operating cost.
Cost of storage media dropping rapidly.
Cost of higher resolution cameras dropping almost daily.
Recording speed (time between shots) of cameras improving rapidly.
Images can be transfered, duplicated and broadcast almost instantly.
Most cameras can compensate white balance for odd lighting.
A bad shot can be identified and taken over immediately.
Digital Major Disadvantages
Higher resolutions require more storage space
Higher quality images require more storage space.
Higher resolutions and qualities require more recording time (this is improving rapidly).
Memory cards are not standardized, neither are card readers. But we are seeing a move to Secure Digital "SD" cards.
Running display eats batteries faster.
Using the internal flash kills batteries and locks out the next shot until the flash recharges which gets worse and worse until the batteries die. Use an external flash!
Digital cameras by their nature eat batteries, invest in Lithium Ion or a load of Nickel Metal Hydride. Cheap Zinc Carbon won't work and Manganese Alkaline aren't much better. External power is the way to go.
Disposable Lithium primary batteries get expensive fast!
High sensitivities introduce noise much like high speed film has grain.
Long shutter times allow electron noise from sensors to be recorded (turn on noise reduction filters which increase recording time, of course you are not in a hurry or you would have used flash and are using a tripod with timer already).
Most cameras have settings to manipulate the images, if used improperly could make bad worse.
Next: ISO/ASA Speed, F Stop and Shutter Speed.