Tips for a Beginner

edited April 2013 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
Hey everyone! My wife just got me my dream gift, the D3100. I've wanted a DSLR for years! I've familiarized myself with the camera, read the manual, watched the Nikon School DVD and it's all so exciting and overwhelming!

What do you suggest I break myself into this new world with? I have plenty of nature around me. Should I play around with shutter speeds, aperture? I know the trick is to just practice with it, but any beginning tips would be appreciated. I went on a hike today (before watching the video) and got a bit overwhelmed that I don't know how to work my camera at all!

I look forward to hearing your experiences! Thanks!

These are the lenses I have to play with: 18-55mm VR, 55-200mm VR, and 50mm f/1.8G


  • edited April 2013
    Welcome! You can use the 18-50mm as general walk around lens. The 50mm is superior for portraits. Try to shoot wide open for neat blurred backgrounds. The 55-200mm will probably be your best lens for nature or action. Try to get the fastest shutterspeed available to stop motion. You can practice with kids , pets or wildlife. Just remember to use continuous focus in action.
  • edited April 2013
    In the beginning you can use auto and watch what settings the camera gives you. When you want blurred background, usually you need a small f number. In aperture mode A you set the f-number (so called depth of field) and the camera handles the rest. I personally use mostly A mode, and for action, s mode.
  • edited April 2013
    First thing I would do is find forums like this one ( as well as online people who do videos to help teach you things and give you homework assignments that will push you to learn specific things.

    Also, don't get too overwhelmed trying to learn ten things at once. Focus on one thing at a time. Start with the basics, composition, rule of thirds, leading lines, and learn your triangle (Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO). Mess with them one at a time and learn how each one affects the photo as well as the other two.

    Practice and have fun enjoying the learning process. :)
  • edited May 2013
    I actually love using the 55-200mm for portraits because it gives a very smooth defocused background and the extra focal length compresses the foreground and background more than the 50mm f/ 1.8 (which I also own and love).

    I would recommend getting comfortable in shutter priority, aperture priority, and program auto mode. That's a great way to learn how the different settings (shutter, aperture, iso etc.) work together without getting overwhelmed, since the camera will still control most of the output. Also, you should consider experimenting with the 18-55mm at 18mm, 35mm and 50mm with the same subjects to see how focal length affects an image. For instance, taking a portrait at 18mm can give you a dramatically different feel than 55mm, because you can get more of the surrounding environment into the image or use the exaggerations created by an 18mm lens to take some silly (if at times unflattering) portraits.
  • edited July 2013
    For a good teaching website with short videos that are well documented and catalogued try this one:

    This website is free and the guy is a practicing photographer, not a journalist as on some sites.
    Go through the beginner first and watch one a day and then practice what you learned.

    There are various good books published by photographers on this camera and it is well worth investing in one. Read it through like a novel, then start again and practice different aspects of the camera. As Adelphos said, "walk don't run", it will come to you eventually if you have patience. You suddenly reach that Eurika moment, when everything is starting to drop into place, then you really start to learn. It is a steady build up of your knowledge and experience. You don't need a lot of fancy lenses until you have mastered the camera and even then the 18-55mm is a good all around lens.

    Also, you can borrow some good general DSLR photography books out of your local library, which will explain light, exposure etc. Each author tackles it differently and comes across to different people. I think I have read about 25 books in the last 2 years.

    Good luck and enjoy learning.

  • edited July 2013
    Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies by Jim Doty is an absolute must have if you want to learn in a simple and concise way how to use your DSLR. It's full of easy to follow tips that you can try out to get the perfect picture and is good as an aid memoir as you get more experienced. I also agree about the website mentioned by Bluestar. Mike Brown is a genius and explains things in a simple easy to understand way. I highly recommend both these sources of instruction.
  • edited July 2013
    Thank you all for your feedback! I will definitely check out the resources you have suggested. I took your advice and played with aperture and shutter speed. The other day I decided to go manual and work my way through the proper settings, and I think it helped me get a hold of some of the concepts and rules that were bouncing around in my head!

    Taking my camera out today for a bbq. I will keep on practicing and I look forward to getting more comfortable with this camera as each day passes! I will keep you all posted and will ask more questions I'm sure!
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