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Recommended shooting mode

edited March 2017 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
Hi all. I'm brand new to photography and have been reading different websites about what is the best mode to start in. Some say never shoot in P, others say always A, but never the icon modes. Most of my shooting is cycling photos or rugby, but sometimes landscapes and views.
Is there an ideal start point for shooting everything or change modes for different types of photos, likd S for fast moving sport, then A for landscapes? Hope this makes sense. Any advice would be great. Thanks.


  • edited March 2017
    I would not say never to use P, which can be a handy standby setting for quick point and shoot needs. P allows you to control most aspects of the camera, but chooses both aperture and shutter speed. You can use the back dial to vary the proportion between the two.

    P, S, A and M are the only modes in which you have full control of all the other functions of the camera, including focus mode and area, ISO, metering, white balance, and so forth, and for that reason they are to be preferred whenever possible.

    I tend to like A mode myself, choosing the aperture manually, letting the camera choose shutter speed, and keeping an eye on the setting. If the shutter speed goes too low, I up the ISO (auto ISO turned off). A works well for landscapes most of the time. Since aperture is so important to depth of field, I like to have control of that one first, with shutter speed less of an issue unless it goes too slow to hand hold, or not slow enough to blur moving water. Once you're used to the controls, A mode works quickly. Of the various pluses and minuses of the D3200, the placement of the Fn button, which you can assign to manual ISO, is very good.

    For sports you're probably better off in S mode, in which you choose a shutter speed that freezes motion (usually 1/250 or faster for people, but the faster the better), and let the camera choose the aperture. This is somewhat more limited, in that if the camera hits the aperture limit of the lens, it will underexpose unless you have auto ISO set, in which case it will up the ISO as needed. If you're doing this, you should test to see what your own taste is for high ISO noise, and set the upper limit for auto ISO in the menu, otherwise it will go up to HI and be very noisy.

    Deciding what focus mode to use for sports can be a matter of taste, but generally you will need continuous servo, and for starters probably dynamic area, though single point can work too if you're good at panning a single player. Single point should work well for individual cyclists, as it will allow you to aim for the cyclist's face, which you then track. Multi-point will work, especially when the subject is further away and harder to track, but when he or she is close, you run the risk of shifting focus from the face to some other part of the moving subject, such as a hand on the handlebar, and ending up with a blurry face.

    You can access the two settings for focus mode and area in the [i] menu very easily. Note that in S single servo mode, only single point and auto area are available. In A mode, others are available but may not always be used. In C mode all are available. Use S mode when shooting a stationary subject, such as scenery, and when you want to focus and recompose. Use C mode for sports. A mode lets the camera choose between the two, and works much of the time, but not all the time. The main use I've seen cited for this one, other than as a kind of beginner's mode, is for wedding photography, where people tend to alternate suddenly between standing still and moving. The D3200 may focus a little more sharply in S mode, but is a little more forgiving in C mode and less likely to fail to fire owing to focus loss.

    For difficult subjects, such as backlit figures, animals on the snow or the beach, dark shadows, and whatnot, you will likely either have to use exposure compensation or manual mode (with auto ISO off, or the meter will simply adjust ISO). One way to approach this would be to take a picture in P, S or A mode, and look at the histogram and settings it came up with. Transfer those initial settings to M mode, and adjust the exposure as needed. If you have the "overview" enabled in image replay, you can check the exposure with the histogram after each shot.

    If you're shooting difficult subjects such as bicyclists against a varying background, you may also find that manual mode works better. Find an exposure setting that gives you the right exposure for the cyclist, and stick with it, and the camera will not shift its exposure when the background changes. If you stick with one of the automated (A, S or P) modes, try setting the meter to spot, and aiming at the cyclist's face.

    The spot meter occupies the same spot as the focus point, wherever you have placed the focus point. On this camera, it's very easy accidentally to move the focus point, as there is no lock on the control. Use the [OK] button to recenter it, and check frequently to make sure it's where you want it.

    I'll end here with my frequent note that the instruction manual for the D3200 is seriously abridged and basically worthless. The complete manual is on the CD that came with the camera, along with View NX2, which allows you to manipulate Raw files to some degree. It's also available on the Nikon web site, along with an app that allows you to put it on a smart phone. There are still a couple of gaps in the manual, but it's far far better than the printed one, and it's easy to read in PDF form.
  • edited March 2017
    Thanks very much bruto. Fantastic amount of info there for me to digest.
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