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100 Nikon DSLR tips you need to know right nowTired of only knowing what half of the buttons and menu options on your Nikon DSLR actually do? Our friends at NPhoto just concluded their exhaustive series on 100 need-to-know Nikon DSLR tips. We’re fairly certain that by the time you read this list you will know your Nikon camera inside and out – and many of these camera tips will be relevant for you even if you’re loyalty lies with another brand. Have a look and see what you discover about your Nikon DSLR. We think you’ll be surprised!
You can get great shots with your Nikon DSLR straight out of the box, but your results will be even better once you start taking over the controls and making the shooting decisions yourself with manual white balance, shutter speed, lens aperture and ISO settings.
But it doesn’t end there. The Shooting menu offers additional options for extending your camera’s capabilities, such as Nikon’s Active D-Lighting mode.
And the Setup menu handles important housekeeping tasks, such as firmware updates and how your files are named.
But it’s in the Custom Setting menu that things get really interesting, because it’s here that you can tinker with the innermost workings of your camera and configure it in a way that suits your own personal style.
There are differences between cameras, of course. The Nikon D3000-series cameras (see our Nikon D3100 tips) don’t have a Custom Setting menu, and all their configuration options are merged with the Setup menu.
And, not surprisingly, there are options on the professional models, such as the D4 and D800, that aren’t available on others. We’ll indicate broadly which cameras have which features as we go along, but you may need to check your own camera’s manual to find out for sure, and to get more detailed instructions if required.
Our aim is to show just what your Nikon DSLR is capable of, and we’re willing to bet that it’s a lot more than you think!
100 Amazing Nikon DSLR Tips: 1-10
1. Exposure bracketing
Estimating the correct exposure can be tricky, especially with a high-key subject like this. With the auto-exposure bracketing function, available on the Nikon D5100 (see our Nikon D5100 tips) and up, the camera takes three shots at three different exposures, so that you can choose the best later.
2. Live View AF pointsYou can use the multi-selector in Live View to move the square AF point marker anywhere in the frame.
3. Live View zoom inYou can use the zoom button to fine-tune your manual focus. This works best with the camera on a tripod.
4. Shift AE bracketing with EV compensation
Dark backgrounds play havoc with exposure meters. But you can apply negative EV compensation first and then use the auto-exposure bracketing feature to bracket your exposures around your ‘corrected’ exposure to cover all the bases.
5. Manual focusThe camera can still tell you when the subject’s in focus using the Rangefinder feature (in the Setup menu).
6. Centre the AFIf you’re using single-point autofocus, and you’ve moved the point away from the centre, just click OK to revert to the centre AF point.
7. DOF previewHow much depth of field will you have? Press the depth of field preview button (D90 and up) to get an idea. Bear in mind that the viewfinder image will darken.
8. Quiet mode
Nikon’s Q mode disables the camera’s autofocus beep, and delays the mirror return (the noisy part) for as long as you keep the shutter button pressed down.
9. AF lock switchIt can be easy to shift the AF point by mistake, so some Nikon DSLRs (D90 and above) have a focus selector lock on the back to prevent this from happening.
10. Use the Info displayIf you’re standing away from the camera, it’s hard to see the status panel – so press the ‘info’ button to show the settings on the LCD display.
11. Auto ISOAuto ISO isn’t just for novices! It’s ideal for travel photography, when you’re shooting in a range of different conditions. On a bright day it’ll automatically choose a low ISO setting, so there’s no need to worry about quality.
12. Don’t keep switching on and offYou’re wasting your time, and your camera’s power-management features. Your Nikon DSLR will power down automatically if it hasn’t been used for a while.
13. Power-savingDoes your Nikon DSLR shut down too quickly? Go to the Settings menu and change the power-off delay time.
14. Built-in spirit levelSome Nikon models have a ‘virtual horizon’, which can be displayed via the Setup menu or ‘live’ in the Live View mode.
If you see a ‘?’ symbol in the bottom left corner of the LCD display, press the Help (‘?’) button for an on-screen hint.
16. Half pressing the shutter
Your Nikon DSLR starts working the moment you half-press the shutter release, fixing the exposure and the focus, but it’s only when you press it the whole way that it takes the picture. You can use this to reframe your shot without changing the settings, or eliminate shutter lag due to autofocus delay.
17. Eyepiece dioptreDoes the viewfinder information look blurred? All Nikon DSLRs have a tiny dioptre setting dial next to the viewfinder eyepiece to allow you to adjust the focus for your own eyesight.
18. Mirror lockupThe Lock mirror up command is used for sensor cleaning, but many Nikons (D7000 and up) also have a Mirror Up mode, to reduce shake in tripod shots.
19. VR settingsSome Nikon lenses have two VR settings. Stick to the Normal setting, and only use Active if you’re being thrown around in the back of a Land Rover, for example.
20. LCD illuminationShooting at night and can’t see your status panel? The power switch has an extra spring-loaded detent that activates the LCD backlight for a few seconds.
21. Average meteringAll Nikon DSLRs offer a centre-weighted metering mode, but what if you want simpler ‘average’ metering? This is a hidden option on all Nikon pro DSLRs and the D7000 amongst the custom settings for the centre-weighted area size.
22. JPEGs for burstsRAW files are great for ultimate quality, but your camera can save more JPEGs in a burst. On a D3100, say, it’s the difference between getting six shots and 100 shots!
23. Settings banksPro Nikon DSLRs let you create sets of custom settings via ‘banks’ A, B, C and D.
24. Recent ItemsNeed to change a setting you’ve just made? There’s no need to plod back through the menus because it’ll be on the Recent Items menu!
25. Reconfigure the AE-L/AF-L buttonThe AE-L/AF-L button locks both the focus and exposure, just like half-pressing the shutter release. So what’s the point of that? Well, you can also configure it to lock only the focus or only the exposure, which is much more useful. It can also be used as an AF-On button on cameras that don’t have one.
26. AF-On buttonProfessional photographers swear by it; others hardly notice it’s there. The AF-On button can be configured to take over autofocus activation from the shutter release button. Most pros find this offers a much more instinctive way of working.
27. My menuOn Nikon’s pro DSLRs you can swap the Recent Items menu for your own custom ‘My Menu’ – open the menu and select the Choose tab.
28. D7000 ‘U’ modesThe Nikon D7000 bridges the gap between pro DSLRs and amateur models. It lets you save two lots of custom settings, selected using U1 and U2 on the mode dial.
29. Set the date!Your Nikon embeds the time and date in each image, and you (or your cataloguing software) might need this information one day, so be sure to set it correctly.
30. No card inserted?It’s annoying when the shutter won’t fire because there’s no memory card inserted. Find the Slot Empty Release Lock setting and set it to Enable Release.
Posted on Saturday, December 29th, 2012 at 1:00 am under Photography Tips.
Tags: DSLR tips, Nikon, Nikon DSLRs
100 Amazing Nikon DSLR Tips: 31-40
31. ISO Hi and LoNikon includes Hi and Lo ISO sensitivity values to increase the range of lighting conditions you can shoot in. They’re called ‘Hi’ and ‘Lo’ and only given ‘equivalent’ ISO numbers because they’re slightly outside the range for accurate ISO calibration.
32.Reverse dial rotationDoes the EV compensation always go the wrong way when you turn the command dial? It just doesn’t seem right that the exposure’s reduced when you turn the dial to the right. The answer? Reverse the dial rotation in the Custom Settings menu (not featured on the D3000 series).
33. File numberingTo make sure every shot has a unique file number, set the File number sequence option to On. Otherwise, you’ll end up with duplicate file names on your computer.
34. sRGB vs RGBYou can set your Nikon to shoot sRGB, the colour space used by most digital devices, or Adobe RGB, which is better for commercial publishing. Or shoot RAW and choose later!
35. RAW optionsBasic Nikons shoot 12-bit NEFs, while others shoot higher quality 14-bit NEFs. The pro models offer a choice, so that you can balance image quality against file size.
36. Shake-free shots with the self-timerWhen you’re taking long-exposure night shots or close-ups with the camera on a tripod, you need to avoid jogging it when you press the shutter release. The solution’s easy – just use the camera self-timer!
37. Free SLR upgradePeriodically, Nikon may issue firmware updates to fix bugs or add new features to your camera. Check the Nikon website’s Services & Support section for updates.
38. Embed copyrightIf you take pictures for a living, you’ll want to embed copyright information. You can set up a custom copyright message on Nikon’s pro DSLRs from the D7000 up.
39. Exposure stepsDigital SLRs adjust exposure values in 1/3-stop increments, but if you prefer 1/2-stops, change the EV Steps in the Custom Settings (not on D3000-series cameras).
40. Noise reductionLong-exposure noise reduction and high-ISO noise reduction are set separately – except on the D3000-series.
41. Nikon RAW convertersEver wondered why your RAW conversions in Adobe Camera Raw don’t quite match your Nikon’s JPEGs? Only Nikon’s own software (View NX 2 and Capture NX 2) interprets the white balance and Picture Control settings exactly as Nikon intended. This can be crucial where subtle colour combinations are the theme of the picture.
42. Self-timer delayIf you’re using the self-timer to fire the camera on a tripod, you won’t want to wait 10 seconds every time. So use the Custom Settings menu to change the delay.
43. Dual memory cardsWhy do Nikon’s professional DSLRs have two memory card slots? It’s not just in case your first memory card fills up! You can use the second slot to store image backups or separate raw files and JPEGs (or videos).
44. Faster cardsWhen you’re choosing memory cards, don’t just go for capacity. You need ‘Class 6’ cards or faster if you plan on shooting full HD video.
45. AF Fine TuneUse the AF Fine Tune option in the Setup menu on the D7000 and above if you have a lens where the focus is slightly out – but make sure it’s not focus error on your part.
46. Lenses for filtersIf you regularly use filters, you need to take care when shopping for new lenses that they feature non-rotating front elements. These are lenses whose front elements don’t rotate when you adjust the focus, which would make using polarisers and graduated filters tricky.
47. FX future-proofingThinking of upgrading to full-frame at some point? You’ll need to stick to DX format wide-angles and standard lenses, but for macro and telephoto photography, FX-format lenses are fine.
48. DX lenses on FXYou can still use your DX lenses on an FX camera – it will switch to DX ‘crop’ mode.
49. AF motorsD3000- and D5000-series Nikon DSLRs don’t have autofocus motors in the body. Most new lenses have motors built in, but some older ones don’t, so check before you buy.
50. Manual focus overrideDoes your lens have an MA/M switch (rather than A/M)? If so, it offers full-time manual override – so you can turn the focus ring manually, even while the lens is still switched to autofocus mode.
51. Flash diffuserThe light from the onboard flash is quite hard, but a simple flash diffuser will soften it up. Because the light source is more spread out, you don’t get such harsh shadows.
52. Close-up filterKeen on close-ups but can’t afford a macro lens? Close-up filters could be the answer. Filter manufacturer Kood, for example, makes close-up filters in three different strengths, and you can use them singly or in combination – check your lens’s filter size first.
53. Lens hoodsLens hoods reduce lens flare when you’re shooting into the light. But they’re just as useful if it rains because they help keep rain off the lens.
54. ML-L3 remoteIt’s cheap (just £20/$15), it’s small and it fires your Nikon by infrared. It also works with most DX-format cameras, except for the D3100, D300 and D300s.
55. Get a grip!Nikon’s smaller D-SLRs don’t take battery grips, but the rest do. They provide longer-lasting power, easier handling, and in some instances, a speed boost.
56. Flashy alternativeNeed extra light but don’t want the fuss of flash? LED lamps like the Manfrotto ML240 clip to the accessory shoe and provide more light than you might think.
57. Off-camera flashYou can great effects with off-camera flash, but wireless control can be quite daunting – so get a simple external flash cable instead.
58. Get a card readerDo you still hook up your camera to your computer with a cable? Card readers are both quicker and simpler.
59. Don’t get wet! You could spend a fortune on underwater housings or bespoke rain covers, but these cheap and simple covers from Op/Tech, are just £6 per pair.
60. Take a seatIf you’re shooting sports or wildlife, you can end up standing in the same spot for hours. Fold-up Walkstools take up no more space than a small tripod.
61. Black and white filtersOld-school black and white photographers would use coloured filters to change the tonal balance in their pictures – and you can do the same with your Nikon DSLR. Select the Monochrome Picture Control in the Shooting settings menu, then press right on the multi-selector to access the Filter effects.
62. Subtle monochrome toning effectsYou can also apply toning effects to your black and white pictures. The ability to adjust the strength of these effects means that you can exercise lots of subtlety – there are no crude orange ‘sepia’ effects here!
63. Time lapseTime-lapse photography can be fascinating. Many of the latest Nikon models (D5100 and up) have an Interval Timer mode on the Shooting settings menu.
64. Auto distortion correctionAll lenses produce some degree of distortion. But did you know that as long as you’re using supported Nikon lenses, your camera can correct it automatically?
65. Active D-LightingThis mode enables you to capture very high-contrast scenes. It adjusts the exposure to capture bright highlight detail, and processes the image to bring out the shadows.
66. ADL bracketingMost Nikon models now offer ‘ADL bracketing’, where the camera takes a series of shots at different Active D-Lighting settings.
67. Regular D-LightingYou can also apply Active D-Lighting to images already saved on the memory card. It doesn’t change the exposure – it simply brightens the shadows.
68. Flexible programYou don’t actually need to switch to A or S mode for aperture or shutter speed control. If you turn the command dial in P mode, it goes into Flexible Program mode, shifting the aperture/shutter speed combinations one way or the other.
69. Perspective correctionAre your architectural shots spoiled by converging verticals? The Perspective control option in the Retouch menu can correct vertical and horizontal perspective.
70. Zoom for macrosZoom lenses have the same minimum focus distance whatever the zoom setting you’re using, so the trick is to set the lens to its maximum focal length first.
71. Miniature effect (Retouch)The tilt-shift effect is all the rage right now, where selective defocusing is used to make the world look like a model village. You guessed it – you can do this in-camera
too. It takes just a few moments to position the sharp section of the image, and you can preview the result before you save it.
72. Retouching toolsThe Retouch menu enables you to straighten, crop and retouch photos without a computer in sight.
73. Mono in rawYour Nikon has great mono effects, but it’s still worth shooting in RAW. The LCD will show the mono effect, but you’ll have all the colour data.
74. Slow sync with built-in flashFlash on its own can look pretty grim, but if you set the flash mode to Slow, the camera will balance the flash with the existing light. This works best at dusk or in poor light, where subjects in the foreground are brightly lit and the background is darker.
75. Automatic (flash off) modeIf you’re shooting in a museum or theatre, the last thing you need is the flash firing! But if you want the convenience of fully automatic operation, just switch to the Auto (flash off) mode – it’s the circular flash strike-through symbol on the mode dial.
76. On the levelNot all Nikon DSLRs offer an on-screen spirit level to help get your camera straight, but this clip-on spirit level is a cheap and simple alternative for any Nikon.
77. Deleting imagesSelect the Delete option on the Playback menu, press the right button, and choose Selected. You can now browse your saved images in thumbnail view and pick out the ones you want to delete.
78. Format or delete?Formatting wipes the whole card, while deleting only removes photos from the folder being used by the camera.
79. HDR bracketingTo create an HDR image you can use your Nikon’s auto-exposure bracketing function, but set wider bracketing increments than usual – 2EV should do it.
80. Built-in HDRThe D5100, D800 and D4 have built-in HDR modes where two exposures are combined in-camera, capturing an extra-wide dynamic range.
81. Interpreting the histogramThe histogram display in Playback mode gives you a quick guide to whether you need to retake the picture – watch out for ‘clipping’ in the shadows or highlights. It’s invaluable for subjects which push the extremes of the tonal range.
82. Sensor cleaningIf you’ve got soft, dark spots appearing in the same place on all your photos, it’s dust on the sensor. But before you attempt to remove the dust yourself, try running the camera’s own sensor-cleaning process manually – you can do this via the Setup menu (older models don’t have sensor-cleaning functionality).
83. Dust OffIf your Nikon doesn’t have sensor-cleaning, you could use Nikon Capture NX 2 (sold separately). The Dust Off feature uses reference shots to automatically remove dust.
84. Predictable WBWith auto white balance, the camera ‘corrects’ the colours for each scene. But sometimes the colour of the light is a key part of the photo. To preserve colours, use the Direct Sunlight preset.
85. Custom WBYou can use the White Balance menu to take a manual white balance reading. The camera saves this reading until you override it with another.
86. WB bracketingWith ‘white balance bracketing’ (D5100 and up), the camera saves three images with different WB settings.
87. RAW processingIf you’ve shot raw files and you need a JPEG, use the NEF (raw) Processing option on the Retouch menu. The camera saves a JPEG along with the original raw file.
88. NEF exposureYou can adjust the exposure compensation of raw files in-camera because raw files have slightly more highlight and shadow latitude than JPEG images.
89. Instant reviewMake sure the Image Review option is switched on (Playback menu). The camera will then display the image you’ve just taken for a few seconds – long enough for you to check that it’s okay.
90. Playback infoYou can cycle through the image playback information by pressing up/down on the multi-selector. If some info isn’t visible, open the Setup menu and choose Playback Display Options or Display Mode.
91. Create your own Picture ControlsPicture Controls change the way the image is processed to tweak the contrast, saturation and tonal rendition of your pictures. If you like super-saturated landscapes,
for example, a custom Picture Control can recreate the look you like.
92. NEF white balanceIf you shoot raw, you can use the NEF (raw) Processing tools to see the effect of different white balance settings. Try using the Incandescent setting to emphasise cool, dawn light, for example.
93. Highlight warningIn the ‘highlight warning’ mode, pictures display normally, except that if any areas have been overexposed, such as bright skies, these areas flash as a warning.
94. Image commentsYou can add a comment to your photos, such as a location or model name, but it’s a non-standard data field, and you won’t see it in Adobe Bridge.
95. Format shortcutIf your Nikon has a red ‘Format’ button on the top, there will be another on the back. These offer a quick way to format your memory card. You press and hold until ‘For’
appears on the status panel on the top, then press both again to format the card.
96. Lock imagesIn Playback mode you can lock images to prevent them being deleted using the ‘Lock’ (key) button. This is in a different place on different cameras. It’s easy to press accidentally, and if you’re wondering why you’ve got some photos you can’t delete – this is why!
97. RAW+JPEG deletingWatch out! If you set your Nikon to shoot RAW+JPEG, it’s only the JPEG version that appears during playback – and if you delete this, the raw file is deleted too.
98. Playback foldersEach camera you use will set up its own folder on the memory card, and will usually only show the contents of that folder – you can use the Playback Folder option to change this.
99. Trim moviesMovie files take up a lot of space on your memory card, but you can trim them in-camera and save a copy. Then you can delete the original to free up some space.
100. Play a slideshowWhy scroll through your images manually when the camera can do it for you? Look for the Slide show option on the Playback menu – you can even choose the transition.
Thanks for reading our 100 top Nikon tips and secrets! Have we missed out your top tip or an amazing quick fix? If so, share yours in the comments below!