Nikon D3100 Default Settings

edited December 2014 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum

My question is slightly different. I do understand best pictures are product of multiple factors and appropriate settings (A, S, M). For that, I have bought the cheat sheets.

What I'm struggling with is default settings to produce better colors on my D3100. My images tend to look washed out compared to my brothers T3i. I'm not sure if I made a mistake by going with the D3100 or its default kit lens.

What out of the box settings should be changed if any?
As we prepare to move out of 'auto' what is the next most commonly used mode to produce better pictures (A or S)?



  • edited December 2014
    If you just want your colors to look different you can select or edit your Picture Control. By default, it's set to Standard. Some people want more saturation and use Vivid. Give that a try.
  • edited December 2014
    Others may differ on this but I think that the standard color on the Nikon is more balanced and natural than that of many other brands, which tend to overdo the saturation. If you want more, then, as @ohyeahar says, you can easily change it to VIVID. Within those coarse settings you can make further adjustments, or you can make custom changes to the standard mode. If you shoot in RAW mode, you can use a program like View NX2 to change those settings back and forth without any penalty. One picture control that is not available by choice in the D,S,A and M modes but is in post is the scenery mode, which gives some extra saturation with an emphasis on the green.

    Another thing to look at is the white balance. In many instances Nikon's auto white balance works well, but in daylight it tends to be cold. Try changing the white balance to a slightly warmer temperature such as "cloudy", or a custom white balance between sunny and cloudy, and your colors will have a little more pop. To find out exactly what pleases you most, try changing it in post processing (again, shoot RAW and it's easy to do and undo) and then duplicate what you decide in the camera.

    This is, of course, a personal choice. I am not a wild vivid colorist myself, and consider much of what one sees on the web and in magazines to be uncomfortably over-saturated. Many, including some very good photographers, would happily disagree with me.

    If you shoot a raw file and post process it, all the changes you make can be undone with the push of a button, and this is a good way to play around with settings. If you find something you really like, you can alter picture control and white balance settings in the camera later. You can also, as I recall, set profiles in View NX2 so that you can reconfigure files in bulk.

    I prefer A as my usual mode setting. If you leave auto ISO on, then you select what you want for depth of field, and the camera's meter selects a shutter speed. If it goes too slow, it raises ISO. The shutter speed at which it defaults to a higher ISO is comfortably high, and takes no account of AV. So I prefer to leave ISO manual and keep an eye on shutter speed, but for a first step, I'd try A and auto ISO. When on Auto ISO, always start on the lowest (100) speed available, and the camera will always then choose the lowest it can get away with, which is best for noise and sharpness.
  • edited December 2014
    Also wanted to mention that for sports and action, including following vivacious kids around, you will probably do better to switch to S mode, so as to maintain a fast shutter speed. Put your shutter speed around 250, and let the camera make aperture and ISO choices as needed. Depth of field will tend to be deeper than what you see in the finder, with less focus error, and action will be stopped. P mode will choose both aperture and shutter speed, with a bias toward faster shutter speeds. It can be good for off-the-cuff shooting where you want full control of ISO and color modes, but are content to let the camera see to the details. It will work well most of the time.
  • edited December 2014
    First, let’s define A-mode and S-mode.

    Aperture priority
    User control: Aperture and ISO
    Camera control: Shutter Speed

    Shutter Priority
    User control: Shutter Speed and ISO
    Camera control: Aperture

    Here’s one more mode I’ll throw into the mix

    Manual Mode with Auto-ISO
    User control: Aperture and Shutter Speed
    Camera control: ISO

    Actually when you think about it, all these modes are the same. and here’s why:

    In A-mode, you’re not really completely giving up control of the Shutter Speed to the camera. You just set an Aperture you want to use, then you manipulate the ISO to get the Shutter Speed to want.

    In S-mode, you’re not really completely giving up control of the Aperture to the camera. You just set a Shutter Speed you want to use, then you manipulate the ISO to get the Aperture you want.

    In M-mode with auto-ISO, you’re not really completely giving up control of the ISO to the camera. You just set an Aperture you want to use, then you manipulate the Shutter Speed to get the ISO you want.

    (Of course, all your settings are limited by your gear. There are maximum and minimum limits to aperture, shutter, and ISO.)

    Like I said before, all of these semi-auto modes are the same. In any of these modes, you control 2 variables while the camera adjusts the other one. Which you use depends on personal preference. You just need to ask yourself which 2 variables you want to manipulate.
  • edited December 2014
    Indeed, it's all a matter of preference. For myself, I generally want most to control aperture and ISO. I leave ISO manual, use aperture priority, and if the shutter speed goes out of my preferred range I either rethink the aperture (basically using A as if it were P, but doing the programming myself), or up the ISO when aperture is important enough. I have the front option button set to ISO, so it is very easy to alter quickly. All the modes can be used to substitute for the others if you keep an eye on what the camera is doing. You can shoot in S mode and still aim for your preferred aperture simply by varying shutter speed until the right aperture occurs, just as you can shoot in A mode and aim for a preferred shutter speed. The first auto exposure cameras were mostly A, and some S, and doing this became very common.

    The one mode that is not so useful with auto ISO, it seems to me, is M. M mode is most important if you want to produce a result that is in direct contradiction of the camera's meter. In auto ISO, if the meter thinks you're underexposing, it will raise ISO to compensate. Though you can usually overexpose, the meter will defeat attempted underexposure.

    It is true, of course, that you can use M mode to control ISO, but there are few instances where higher ISO is an advantage. The lowest ISO you can get away with will give you the best dynamic range, sharpness and noise-free signal.

    I do suggest that if you want to keep more control over ISO but still use it on auto, you experiment with your own ability to hold the camera steady with the lenses you have. The camera's auto ISO default setting is 1/30 of a second, not accounting for VR. If you can get good results at a lower shutter speed with a VR lens, it's a good idea to alter that setting so that the camera is not so quick to boost the ISO. You will see a blinking signal when the auto ISO is called on. The chosen ISO is not shown, so you will not be sure what ISO the camera has chosen unless you read it in the EXIF information for the image.
  • edited December 2014
    Today’s cameras offer multiple ways to do the same thing. Consider these 3 scenarios:

    Scenario 1
    I’m in daylight and I want to use f/16 and ISO 100. How do I do this?
    A-mode: Set Aperture to f/8. Set ISO at 100.
    S-mode: Set ISO at 100. Slow the shutter until Aperture is at f/8.
    M-mode w/ Auto-ISO: Set Aperture to f/8. Slow shutter until ISO is at 100.

    Scenario 2
    I’m in daylight and I want to use 1/125 and ISO 100. How do I do this?
    A-mode: Set the ISO to 100. Adjust Aperture until Shutter is at 1/125.
    S-mode: Set Shutter at 1/125. Set ISO at 100.
    M-mode w/Auto-ISO: Set Shutter at 1/125. Adjust Aperture until ISO is at 100.

    Scenario 3
    I’m in daylight and I want to use f/16 and 1/125. How do I do this?
    A-mode: Set aperture to f/16. Lower the ISO until Shutter is at 1/125.
    S-mode: Set Shutter to 1/125. Lower the ISO until Aperture is at f/16.
    M-mode w/ Auto-ISO: Set Aperture to f/16. Set Shutter to 1/125. Let the camera lower the ISO.

    Those with a keen eye will recognize that these scenarios are in fact, identical. Applying Sunny 16 Rule, the exposure setting that the camera will arrive at will be f/16, 1/125, and ISO-100. I presented 9 methods, each of which will arrive at exactly the same setting. So which mode should you use?

    Answer: It’s up to you and what you want to adjust.

    Scenario 1: Aperture and ISO are important to you. Use A-mode.
    Scenario 2: Shutter and ISO are important to you. Use S-mode.
    Scenario 3: Aperture and Shutter are important to you. Use M-mode w/ Auto-ISO.

    Again, they are the same. Understand how each one works and pick the one that right’s for you. Don’t feel like you’re limited to one mode! I routinely switch between modes depending on subject matter.

    That said, there are drawbacks with using M-mode with Auto-ISO on D3x00 camera bodies.
    - The ISO that the camera selects for you is not readily available for you to inspect. That is, you have no idea what ISO you’re shooting at until after you take the shot and you inspect the EXIF data. Only on higher end bodies such as D5x00, D7x00, and FX cameras, the ISO value is displayed and updated in real-time in the viewfinder as you’re composing.
    - On camera bodies there’s only one command dial. You lose the ability to quickly adjust Exposure Compensation since that dedicated button is now used for Aperture. Only way to change Exposure Compensation is to dig into the menus which slows you down.
    - With shots where you want to shoot at ISO-100 mounted on tripod for maximum image quality. While it’s possible for you to manipulate the aperture and shutter speed to get ISO-100, it’s much easier to just use Aperture or Shutter Priority to lock in the ISO at 100. This is especially true for D3x00 bodies since the auto-ISO value is unknown.
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