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Trying to master Manual shooting

edited February 2017 Posted in » Nikon D5100 Forum
Hello, I'm new to the forum and have had my camera for years, but haven't been able to master M mode and I always shoot in Auto. So I started learning and now my photos are so dark. I can't see out of the screen, and they are too dark even when looking in playback mode. Can anyone please tell me what is going on? My opinion is that I set my camera on all kinds of setting and screwed that up. Any advise is much appreciate.


  • edited February 2017
    I forgot to add that when I go back to shooting in Auto all my subjects are blurred and the background focuses.
  • edited February 2017
    I did some you tubing and found out that the exposure was set too low in the minus. I fixed that, but I still can't figure out why my subjects are blurry in front and the background is sharp and focused.
  • edited February 2017
    Ok, first of all, let's look at the focus.

    In Automatic mode, the default is to "Auto Area" focus, in which the camera does the job of trying to figure out the subject, and focuses on it. It generally seeks the closest thing that its computer interprets as a subject, and though it can go very wrong, it guesses pretty well often.

    However, you can choose other focus areas even in auto mode, and if that has accidentally occurred, things may go awry unexpectedly. In other focus modes, there is a single chosen focus point at the start. It either stays single, or the computer tracks motion in various ways, but it always starts at that single point. That point can be moved using the rear control, and recentered with the [OK] button. First thing to do is make sure you know what focus mode you're in, and know what focus point is in effect. Because there is no lock on the rear control, it is very easy to move the focus point off center by accident, and when that happens, you may either focus on the wrong thing, or fail to focus at all because the point is in the sky. Get used to checking for where that focus square is in your screen.

    If you're out of Auto exposure mode, more choices for auto focus appear, and one of them is the AF mode.

    In "S" single servo mode, the camera finds focus, locks on it, and then stops focusing. If the camera or subject moves while you're holding the shutter button, focus does not change. You can choose only single point, or Auto Area. This is the best and most accurate mode for stationary objects. If you hold the shutter button down, you can move the camera and recompose without losing the point you put in focus.

    In "C" continuous servo mode, the camera finds focus and locks on it, but if the subject or camera moves, the AF continues to try to correct focus. Different AF area modes will influence just how that happens. Dynamic area works pretty well here. C is the best mode for moving objects, but you cannot focus and recompose, as the focus will continue to adjust as you move the camera.

    in "A" automatic mode, the camera decides on the basis of watching the subject whether to go into S or C mode. It's relatively reliable, and a good choice if you're not entirely sure what you'll need.

    You can set Autofocus options either in the main menu, or in the menu screen that comes up with the [i] button. There are two interrelated AF settings. AF mode and AF area. Check both.

    In manual exposure mode, you should see a meter recommendation on the screen, and if you want your exposure to be right, you must set the camera at least fairly close to that. Of course part of the point of going fully manual is to be able to second-guess the meter, but you need to be fairly close.

    It's a big step to go from fully automatic to fully manual. If you want to gain further control of the camera's settings, but still have the camera's (very competent) meter controlling exposure, I suggest you begin with P mode, and when you need to control depth of field, switch to A mode, at least to start.

    In P mode, the camera sets shutter speed and aperture together(and if you're also in auto ISO mode, it will set that too), but you have control over other things, including the metering mode, the starting ISO, and so forth. You can even use the rear wheel to control the proportion of shutter speed and aperture. In A mode, you set the lens's aperture, and it stays no matter what. The camera's meter sets the shutter speed (and ISO if it's on auto). This allows you to select your aperture and thus to gain control over depth of field.

    In manual mode, you control shutter speed with the rear wheel, and aperture with a combination of [+/-] button and wheel. The [+/-] button does not do exposure compensation in manual mode. If you are using Auto ISO, the camera will adjust ISO to match the meter reading, if it can. If you want truly to disobey the meter and go fully manual, you must turn off auto ISO.

    There are many ways to get to what you need. If you look at Moose's cheat sheets you will see manual mode used often, because if you know what settings to start with, manual mode can be the quickest and easiest way to get there. But you do have to start at least close to the right place, and one way you can do that is to try one of the more automatic modes, and if you get something you like, make note of what settings it came up with.

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