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Settings for on-the-go

edited April 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
Just got my D3100. Haven't had much time to play with it and I'm planning to take it on a two week trip. What I would like is having it set up for anything that comes my way; that is if its possible. I do know based on searches that there are particular situations that would require different settings, but I was just wondering what I should change in the settings that would allow me to “get the shot” in most circumstances. I'm completely new to using a DSLR so not sure if there's a general setting that I can have it on to just take out the camera on the spur of the moment and take a shot. Any help or advice would be helpful either with the settings or what mode to use as well. I have 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses. Which would be better to keep on the camera? Also what's the difference between these lenses? I mostly will be taking photos of my family and occasional scenery pictures.

Comments

  • edited April 2015
    This may depend a little on how familiar you are with the camera's controls and ability to change things quickly. For example, I favor manual ISO with the function button assigned to ISO, while others might not. If you have any chance at all, practice as much as you can. Get familiar now with what you can and cannot do in a hurry. Some settings are easily managed with buttons, others fairly easily with the "i" button menu, and some rather inconveniently with only the "menu" button. The more you practice, the better you'll get. A digital camera allows you to take many wasted pictures and erase them. Experience pays.

    My usual "on the go" setup would be to use the 18-55mm as the main lens, switching to the longer lens when you're likely to need reach. The 18-55mm will include more in its field of view, and be more likely to get scenery and closer shots of people, street photography, and the like.

    Because flash is often a bad idea, not only for photographic but social reasons, I would not default to any mode that causes flash to occur without warning.

    My "on the go" setting is usually aperture priority ("A" mode on the top dial), with the 18-55mm lens preset at f/8, (which is good and sharp, and gives relatively good depth of field), and a starting ISO of 100 if it's sunny, 400 if it's a bit dim. With manual ISO setting, I keep an eye on the shutter speed. If it goes too slow I'll either go to a smaller F stop or to a higher ISO. If you have auto ISO set, you can start with ISO 100, and the camera will up it as needed.

    In ordinary circumstances, I find matrix metering works well, but switch to spot when shooting faces or animals in snow or beach settings. For AF I usually set it to A mode (camera chooses single or continuous) and dynamic area. There are all sorts of reasons to choose different modes at different times, but this seems the most reliable setting most of the time. When using Dynamic Area focusing, your initial focus is on the single point you select. This is usually the center, and you select with the control on the camera back. It is easy to reset accidentally, so to re-center it, push the "OK" button. Check the finder for the telltale red spot frequently.

    If you are explicitly shooting scenery, you can switch to "scenery" mode, and it will change your AF setting and also give you slightly more saturated greens. I would not use it if you get good results in A mode, but if you find focusing unreliable this can help, and allows you to return to all your previous settings when you go back to A mode.

    In aperture priority, if you pop up the flash manually it will give you supplemental flash as needed, but it won't pop up unexpectedly.

    Aperture priority ("A") mode is basically a step more control than "point and shoot" because it allows you to set many things the camera would otherwise take over, but the camera's meter still works dynamically and keeps things well exposed most of the time.

    Make sure you keep your battery charged, and take a spare if at all possible, and have plenty of memory. If you can, shoot in Raw mode, and this will allow you to make some corrections easily that are hard to do well on a JPG. The View NX2 program can do this, and it and many others can convert raw files to JPG for sharing. If you do shoot in JPG, save in the largest, highest quality version you can. Ignore advice of some to shoot only small compressed versions. You can make a big dense file smaller later, but you cannot make a small file bigger.

  • edited April 2015
    Thank you for your advice. I have an entire month so I will take that time to try out your tips and also to familiarize myself with the camera.
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