The cheapskate chancer's guide to photography

With five-megapixel digital cameras slowly edging under the crucial £100 barrier, and the price of storage media in freefall, it’s suddenly possible for anyone to become a decent photographer. How?
Step one is to buy yourself a reasonable camera. There’s no point spending a fortune; they aren’t generally built to last any more, and besides, you just know a smaller and smarter model will come out as soon as you’ve spent the money. I’m a careful purchaser, and I’ve got three obsolete digital cameras sitting at home as it is (not counting cameraphones!). Amazon is always a good place to do some price research.
Around £100 will buy you the camera you need. Aim for the highest numbers of megapixels and optical (not digital!) zoom – but spare a particular thought for the type of memory card. The different manufacturers favour different formats; and if you’ve already bought into one type of card, for other devices you already own, it makes sense to stick with that.
SD cards are probably the most flexible, and are getting ridiculously cheap. Amazon has a Viking 1GB SD card for a real bargain price of £13.20 – on my 5MP camera, that’s enough for nearly 400 photos, even at top quality. And that’s the key to it, folks.
In the old days, you had maybe 24 exposures per roll of film, meaning just 24 chances to get it right. With a 1GB card on board, capacity is no longer a concern. You can take 24 pictures of the same thing, maybe on a rapid-fire function if you have one – and, unless you’re really unlucky or really incompetent, at least one of them should be half decent anyway.
The more megapixels, the more slack you have. If you’re starting with a 5 megapixel picture, you have scope to trim bits off the sides, and still have enough pixels to make a large, good-quality print. Plus you’ll have the luxury of being able to review your photos on the camera’s built-in screen, as you take them. If you can’t make something of even one of your attempts, try again.
I’m not saying you’ll be deposing the Guardian’s star snapper Dan Chung. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from his (excellent) blog, it’s that even the pros rely to a large extent on technology and luck. Don’t be ashamed of doing likewise yourself.