Where do I begin?

edited December 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
My husband bought me a Nikon D3100 for Christmas. I studied photography in college, but my mind has gone blank and I almost feel scared! So much to take in, all the dials etc. How do I just start off taking pictures outdoor or portraits of my girls at home? Thank you!


  • edited December 2015
    If you're absolutely flummoxed, then the green "Auto" setting will basically take over everything, and get some kind of picture. There are other "scene" modes that choose various options depending on what you want. If you just select the scene mode on the dial, the camera will make the rest of the decisions.

    If you studied photography in college, and still have some recollection of how F stops and shutter speeds and the like work, I'd suggest you switch to P, S, A or M mode, which will allow you to set more options. I like Aperture Priority most of the time. You set aperture, and the meter sets shutter speed. If it's on the default of "auto ISO" it will also raise the ISO as needed when the shutter speed goes too low. If you're an old timer and learned on film cameras, the main difference here is that on a digital camera you can select ISO (aka ASA) with the flick of the button, a great advance.

    The default auto focus mode is "auto area", in which the camera will attempt to choose what subject to focus on. If it tends not to get what you're after, a good starting point is to switch to "A" automatic servo choice, and "dynamic area" which will start focus on a chosen point (the default being viewfinder center).

    If you use auto ISO, start at the lowest value of 100 and let the camera choose.

    For post processing Raw files are the best, but if you're just trying to get something useful out of the camera, you may prefer JPG at first. Use the largest size and highest quality.

    The default matrix meter works well for most things, so you can leave that.

    In P ,S, A and M modes, the flash will not activate automatically. Use the button to pop it up, and it will act as fill flash without fuss.

    Check out the home page on this site, and you may find some more advice especially on pictures of kids "in the wild". The cheat sheets give more detailed settings for various options.

    If you haven't yet opened the CD that came with the camera, do so. Along with a fairly competent post processing program that manipulates Raw files very well, it has the complete instruction manual in PDF form. The printed one is not complete. You can put the PDF on you computer, or on the iPhone (I think there's an app for that provided by Nikon on their website), so you can access it any time.

    Remember that this is a digital camera, and it's made to make many more pictures than you'll probably ever make, so do not be afraid to shoot and erase. Make lots of mistakes and try lots of things. If you don't know what will happen when you change something, change it and see. Nobody but you needs to ever see the blurs and blanks and test shots.
  • edited December 2015
    That's amazing advice, thank you so much! I did learn on the old film cameras and did processing in dark rooms. I didn't think until you mentioned it, that that could be the reason why I am slightly flummoxed! I will go forth and try everything you've suggested. Thanks again!
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