Before you shell out for a new camera, take a close look at the one feature you've probably never used to its full potential.

This article appears in the February 07 issue of PC Advisor, onsale now in all good newsagents.

These days it seems that everyone has a digital camera. At most Nolan gatherings there's often a little pocket of relatives supping beer and comparing the size and megapixels of their latest foray into the world of digital photography. But it has always struck me as strange that people spend their hard-earned cash upgrading their camera for extra features that they never use.

Most people, my family members included, just leave their digital cameras set to auto then point, click and let it make all the decisions for them. That's great if you always shoot in naturally soft light conditions with subjects that don't move around. For those of us in the real world it's time to wrestle some control back from our little digital friends.

One of the features that many digital camera users don't understand or don't bother to use is by far the simplest and the most effective – the flash. Simply knowing which of your three flash options to use can produce amazing results. And things get even better if you know when to use it and when to turn it off.

Ever taken a shot of an amazing night-time panorama simply to find you end up with a black photo, with the beautiful lights in the background reduced to colourful dots? This disappointment could have easily been avoided by doing something as simple as turning off your flash. Which is why in this month's I have given a few examples of when to turn your flash on and off. Another trick to remember, which also appears in the magazine, is that white looks different in varying light sources.

During the day the sun will be your main light source, but in the evening the light will probably come from a bulb. Our eyes can filter and process these different versions of white light, but a camera can't. Not without a little help from you and its white balance settings, that is. These simple controls will stop your photos appearing green, orange or worse under certain light sources.

So with a slight twiddling of your camera settings you'll soon be using your delete button less and less. It may even be time to learn how to print off some of your masterpieces (yes Dad, I mean you)!