If you want to get good photos, learning how to use your equipment is a must. And that doesn't necessarily mean digging out the the owner's manual and poring over it line by line (although, I do recommend you read it at least once). You can learn about your camera by using it. You may be thinking to yourself, "But I have a fully-automatic compact camera." You may be surprised to find out that many compact cameras have more than one mode and many of them even have a manual mode that gives you fine-grained control over the exposure.
So why is learning about your camera important? Special moments are fleeting. If you want to capture them, and capture them well, you'd better be able to set your camera up quickly with the best settings for the shot. It's something that can only come from practice and an understanding of what your camera is capable of.
Some of the special modes that many cameras come equipped with are:
Portrait: This mode optimizes the camera for taking portraits of people. In this mode, the camera will keep your subject sharp while blurring background details.
Landscape: Enhances colors and contrast and increases the focus so that everything in the frame looks sharp.
Sports: In this mode, the camera is optimized to freeze action by using a fast shutter speed.
Close-up/Macro: Use this mode for extreme close-up photographs of small objects.
Night portrait: The camera will attempt to balance the background and the foreground lighting when a flash is used at night to help bring out background details.
Manual: The ultimate mode that gives you total creative control over the image by letting you set both the shutter-speed and aperture.
Try one and see how it affects the image. Practice with it. Consult the owner's manual only if you come across something unfamiliar or you want more technical information about the feature. Once you really get to know your camera, you will spend less time fumbling with and worrying about the controls and more time concentrating on making great photographs.